Mike, I think your memory may be playing tricks about how long it took us to restructure the 'Contribute Your Knowledge' section -- the relevant forum thread is at Contribute Your Knowledge Improvements (16381)
. It was a year elapsed, but it was not
a year of work.
You and I started discussing the shortcomings of that section on 12 November 2018 (based on my less-than-satisfactory experience on finding information I needed which you thought was hiding in plain sight).
By November 13 we had moved on to discussing how it might be restructured.
By November 17 we were starting to implement our ideas in a set of pages parallel to the live ones; the target structure continued to evolve as we worked and could see what made sense and what didn't.
The two of us continued to collaborate on content and structure until Dec 17 (one elapsed month after the draft structure was agreed). Over the Christmas/New Year period we took a break; you then weren't able to come back to it until 17 November 2019, and the new pages went live on December 7th. It could have happened much earlier, leaving some final touches to be done, which is always the way with a KB, but I wasn't confident with the final steps involved in putting it live and retiring the old content. Ironically, we didn't cover that in the documentation we produced but if any restructuring is planned in the current KB, there will need to be some guidance produced so one individual is not a bottleneck.
So just over a year elapsed end-to-end but 4-6 weeks of actual (sporadic) work
Scaling that up to the Family Historian section: 1 year of work if we were doing it on the existing platform
. Migrating to a new platform should be easier (or why would we do it?), especially if we can script some elements of the migration.
I learned quite a lot from revamping the Contribute Your Knowledge section.
- Creating content should be straightforward. On the present platform it’s cumbersome, and involves learning a platform that I will never use anywhere else (even if I had the opportunity, I might choose to shoot myself first). I still can't generate even simple content without having the 'Contribute Your Knowledge section' open as an aide-memoire, and I'd consider myself a very experienced web content-creator. I'm not surprised that few people contribute once they understand what is involved. Minor edits to existing content is comparatively easy but not problem-free -- there are all sorts of gotchas, especially for those unfortunates with experience of more modern platforms.
- Restructuring page/sections should be easy. On the present platform it’s a nightmare; and creating the links, indexes etc. that should help users move around it is a manual task and so prone to error. The whole edifice depends on editors remembering the right magic incantations to put in at the right places.
- Maintenance should be easy. In particular it should not depend on a single person. (Or 2, but one is heavily committed elsewhere).
- A widely used modern platform is needed to support 3. The platform for our KB is 20 years old, and maintaining and updating it is critically dependent on a single person, even if it claims to be 'open source'.
- The KB must provide a high “hit rate” for all users to get their answers. The user’s first two keystrokes must inspire confidence they’re delving into the KB in the right direction. Our current KB structure is not fit for purpose -- for an inexperienced user looking for an answer to a focussed question, finding that answer is hit and miss. Did the content creator remember the magic incantations? Has the user read the mind of the content creator, so they know what to search for? Is the user willing to wade through multiple pages to find the simple answer they were looking for? Or will they fall at the first hurdle and go: sod it, I won't bother... or I'll ask at the forums and be chastised for not navigating all the way through the labyrinth to the answer I need and/or for not having the right learning style. We must also learn from and act promptly on feedback from users if finding their answers proves elusive, incomplete or unclear.
In summary: the current platform is (a) not fit for purpose for content creators or consumers; (b) introduces risks we should not be willing to run; (c) is too dependent on individuals with unique experience.
So, a new platform is where we're headed
Jane wants to move to a WordPress platform as a strategic choice, supplemented by plugins that support a best-practice knowledgebase (with all the baked-in features that entails). She has identified a starting point (Wordpress, Pods, maybe EchoKnowledgeBase) -- already spun up for me to prototype -- and I shall spend some weeks prototyping/refining the platform. Within a year (give or take) we will be migrating to a WP-based solution -- hopefully earlier, depending on when we have a stable platform.
Using Wordpress will allow us to leverage the skills of content creators with relevant skills (people who already use WP or another modern content management system such as Drupal -- yep, that's me) as well as people who want a simple intuitive interface to add their knowledge.
Wordpress is so widely used we're unlikely to run out of support, or to end up dependent on a single expert who understands the platform.
Wordpress plus add-ins allow us to automate adding content and links in the right place, easily modify structure, have unpublished content for work-in-progress... in short, have all the content-management features of a modern content-management system.
Yes, but it's all hard and difficult.
We can script some migrations, especially if work has been done in the current KB to restructure things according to a new set of style and structure guides. Ditto download links.
We can progressively migrate content in the old KB and leave links behind that point to the new KB, so the two co-exist.
I still think the opportunity to review aged KB content with a critical eye to our style and objectives is invaluable.
Why not just restructure what we've got?
The current platform has unacceptable risks. And it doesn't have a long-term future. It isn't an option to maintain the status quo.
However, some restructuring on the current platform (and editing to conform with a new style guide) would ease the migration.