Tuesday Nov 24, 2009

LISA Feedback: The Tower of Babel

Some of the comments we received at LISA 09 pointed out that BigAdmin's content was difficult to navigate.

I agree.

Particularly for new users.

BigAdmin started as a way to provide information you couldn't find anywhere else, was built from the ground up, has evolved to meet the changing needs of sysadmins, and has gotten a bit messy.

Kinda like your own desk. It looks like hell, but you know exactly where everything is.

But pity the poor bastard who has to fill in for you.

One day soon, we hope, BigAdmin will get a chance to clean up the clutter.

Because for now you have to work with what we've got, I'll use the next few blogs to explain how the content is organized, how to find things, and what is in which pile.

But first I want to talk about the problem that BigAdmin is trying to help you deal with. Because only by understanding that problem will you understand the logic behind BigAdmin.

If you are not interested in this brief history lesson, go straight to What Is BigAdmin and How Do I Use It?

A Brief History of Content

From the moment God said, "Let there be light" until a few years ago, a means of commerce came into being that was so effective it spread across virtually all cultures of the globe: You gave somebody a pile of cash and they gave you a product and its documentation. The simplicity of that transaction was breathtaking.

The documentation was particularly cool if it came in a big ol' 3-ring binder. Why? Because you could open it up and lay it flat right beside the product. There has never been a better delivery vehicle for documentation than the 3-ring binder. Not even stone tablets.

But then high-tech became cool. And Cool dictates that 3-ring binders are Not. The result? The information that used to live in that 3-ring binder is now distributed across online documentation sites, magazine articles, books for sale at Amazon, wikis that may or may not be up to date, blogs that may or may not know what the hell they're talking about, forum discussions that may or may not be answered, websites with content of questionable credibility, the product interface, and maybe even labels on the product.

More than once I have fantasized about getting my buddies together, putting it all in a big pile, lighting it on fire, and dancing around it with spears and painted faces until we were all back to the simplicity of the Stone Age.

So What Are We Doing About It?

BigAdmin wants to be your three ring binder.

We can't reverse the course of history, but we want you to come to BigAdmin first and let us take you to where the content is. We are continuously searching for the resources to help you do your job and organizing them so you know where they are. That means docs, support, training classes, blogs, wikis, discussions, articles, videos, books. Sometimes we publish the content ourselves, sometimes we point to other places where it has been published. Whatever, wherever.

How are we doing? When you consider what information a sysadmin needs to adopt, deploy, and integrate Sun technologies into a heterogeneous environment, we have a long way to go. We simply don't cover enough of Sun's technologies in enough real-world scenarios. There is so much we are not aware of. Our interface is not nearly dynamic enough. Our information architecture is a bit sloppy. And as you have pointed out, our navigation is confusing.

But we're running as fast as we can to catch up. So far, we have:

  • Over 3500 resources, both original content and links to content.
  • Almost 10,000 entries in the HCL.
  • A list of more than 11,000 applications that run on Solaris 10.
  • Thirty landing pages for sysadmin topics that first give you an overview of a topic and then link you to all the resources we know about. Some of them, such as the Patches Hub are pretty good. We're working on more.

How to Send Us Suggestions

There's a lot more to do, but we can't do it alone. As Robert Weeks explained in The History of Bigadmin Part I, BigAdmin was patterned after the community bulletin boards of yore. It's all about sharing what you know. How can you help?

  • Tell us about any content you find useful.
  • When you have a specific improvement or find an error on a particular page, use the Feedback mechanism at the bottom right of the page (look for the little plus sign). Just remember that a lot of the pages we link to do not have the little plus sign.
  • Use our Suggestion Box. It's also available from the blue menu on the right of every BigAdmin page.

Next blog: sections, collections, and topic hubs.

- Rick

Friday Nov 06, 2009

Feedback from LISA 09 in Baltimore

This should have been the sign at the entrance to the BigAdmin Birds Of a Feather (BoF) session at this year's Large Installation System Administration (LISA) Conference in Baltimore earlier this week.

Mike Barrett, who was kind enough to fill in for me, got hit with a lot of complaints about the difficulty of finding content at Sun's sites in general and BigAdmin in particular. I heard the same message at last year's LISA conference in San Diego. Some of the problem can be fixed with better coordination between different groups inside Sun, some with improved design on BigAdmin, and some with a little more knowledge about where the content is. If you don't want to wait, you can start here:

What Is BigAdmin and How Do I Use It?"

So, in upcoming blogs, I'll take each of the comments that we heard from you, and tell you, as directly as I can, what BigAdmin is going to do about it. Based on the tenor of the dialogue at LISA's BoF, I'm sure any comments you post will be direct, as well.

Hopefully this dialogue will result in better content that's easier for you to find.

- Rick

Thursday Oct 29, 2009

Don't Wind Up Looking Like This

It really sucks when you screw up in a public way. Private screwups? No big deal. Public screwups? Thanks to IM, cell phone cameras, texting, Facebook, and other marvels of modern communication, those who screw up in public get skewered in public.

Frustrate the sadist bastards with a little education:

Attend the 2009 LISA Conference in Baltimore Next Week

While you're there, check out the Solaris Security Summit. It might keep you from making an unfortunate decision or two.

The good folks from Solaris Marketing put together this Solaris LISA page to highlight the Solaris-related activities at LISA.

Don't forget to drop by the Solaris booth. We'll have live demos of cool Solaris technologies plus BigAdmin on its very own computer. If you have any questions about where the juciest Solaris 10 content is on BigAdmin, drop by and ask me. Or drop by the BoF on Tuesday night (details on the Solaris LISA page).

If you're really, really, really not sure whether you should spend the money to go to LISA in this economy, mull it over while you watch The Hula Dance from The Lion King in a bunch of different languages.

- Rick

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