The Faq-O-Matic is a CGI-based system that automates the process of maintaining a FAQ list. It allows visitors to your FAQ to take part in keeping it up-to-date. A permission system also makes it useful as a help-desk application, bug-tracking database, or documentation system. Jon wrote an article about the FAQ-O-Matic that appeared in the USENIX ;login: newsletter: http://www.usenix.org/publications/login/1998-6/faq.html.
This documentation itself is, naturally, maintained with Faq-O-Matic. Hence the weird title. If you see anything that can use updating, please do fix it! If you just want to play around, check out the (Xref) Playground.
A mailing list is very good because it gets together people who have questions with people who have answers.
A mailing list archive is even better, because it lets thoughtful people with Frequently Asked Questions search for an immediate answer, and avoid bothering the people who have answers. Unfortunately, the answers in a mailing list archive become stale over time, are disorganized, and are hard to sift from the conversational noise of the mailing list.
A Frequently Asked Questions list (FAQ) is even better, because the people with questions can be a little lazier and still find their answer right away. Unfortunately, maintaining a FAQ list requires effort; if the people with the answers become lazy, the FAQ list becomes stale.
I wrote the FAQ-O-Matic when I found myself frequently answering a certain question on a mailing list. The FAQ for the list had become stale (its creator's interest had succumbed to laziness), and I knew I was far too lazy to take over maintaining my own FAQ.
So, in a triumph of laziness, I wrote the FAQ-O-Matic. The idea is this:
- People with answers can submit them to the FAQ, but
nobody is responsible for knowing all the answers.
- People with corrections can make them to answers, but
nobody is responsible for coordinating corrections.
This worked pretty well, but the first FAQ-O-Matic tended to become disorganized, since no-one was responsible for its structure. So I added commands to move answers and categories around, plus a Moderator feature that lets one person keep track of changes to the FAQ by e-mail:
- A person can keep a subset of the FAQ organized, but he
or she doesn't have to know all the answers or organize
the whole FAQ.
So a FAQ-O-Matic is something that lets the members of a community share the tasks of entering, correcting, and organizing frequently-asked questions and answers. Many folks have found other uses for FAQ-O-Matic, treating it as a general collaborative editing tool.