In the past two weeks, I’ve received around 10 emails asking for my advice on various topics. Sometimes these are questions that have easy answers. Some are asking for more involved advice that I’m happy to offer. Others are asking for things that would require an unreasonable amount of time and effort on my part. I wish I could answer everyone, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
I always feel terrible when I can’t respond to people, but I’m getting more and more overwhelmed by the number of questions I receive, and at least 3/4 of the questions I get would be better asked elsewhere. So I’ve created a Frequently Asked Questions page that offers information on some of the big topics I’m asked most often with suggestions on where to get help.
It’s interesting that in this era where social software has allowed us to benefit from the knowledge of many, we’re still very big on looking to “experts” in this field. Tools like electronic mailing lists and forums (that allow people to get advice from a large group of people interested in a specific topic) seem to be rapidly losing audience in this profession. There are times when it makes sense to ask a question of an individual, but often, these questions would be better asked of a large group of people with varied experiences.
When it comes to most technology questions, you’re much better off querying the hive and getting advice from people with varied experiences. I know MediaWiki very well and choose it for projects mainly because I’m so familiar with it and because I know it’s a stable open source project. That doesn’t mean it’s always the best software option for every situation. Twiki may be better for your library. DokuWiki may be better. So you’re better off asking people who have used lots of different wikis what they think might best meet your needs. Mine should just be one voice out of many.
Hopefully the FAQ will help people find the help they need and will give me back what little is left of my free time.