DSL Documentation Project

From DSL Wiki

This is the long and vaunted history of the DSL Documentation Project.

It all starts in late 2004, when I (SaidinUnleashed, aka J.P.) had an Idea to start a page documenting DSL, and presented the idea to my friend tronik (Will) who would be able to provide the hosting.

And thus our story begins...

The Indie Days

In late November, or maybe early December, Will and I came up with an idea for an offsite database of how-to's, tips, tricks, etc for DSL. So we set upon the quest of designing a site to access this. Okay fine, Will did the site, I did the document structure and most of the documents, and how they would be read onto pages. Background stuff like that.

Eventually, after probably 2 weeks, we had a crude, but working system going, with a simple php css frontend to the documents. We figured we were ready for a little test run, so we put a link in the topic of the irc channel that just said "DSL Documentation Project" and the address of our site. Since almost no one was in the irc then, compared to now (still way more than when it was just me, tubamann, and multichill, all alone except for the occasional newbie), we got a few dozen hits over the first few days, got some new ideas and improved, got some feedback from a few people (names withheld ^_^ I have my reasons), made more improvements. Had a nice little development process going. And we were enjoying it.

After our week-long "frying pan" test, (and me breaking the css. Will said he won't ever let me touch php again. I thanked him. XD) we had a still functioning, fast, but kinda ugly little site with about 20 documents. We thought we had it going, so we started planning for a New Year's day launch of the doc site.

Between cups of egg nog, family gatherings and other Christmasish things, we started cleaning up the backend, which was uglier than the frontend (and that took a LOT, let me tell you), and finalizing the layout and file structure, and cleaning up the code (not the appearance, just neater code ^_^) of the frontend. We had planned to have a nicer frontend for the launch, but Christmasy things prevented that, so I decided that I'd rather keep the launch date, without the pretty css we were designing (read "Will was designing it, and I'd yell at him when it broke in Dillo"), rather than wait a week or so, and not have it all cool and all on New Year's.

So after a few last-minute tweaks to the file structure, at about 12:15 New York time (Had to watch the people in NY party first :p), I posted this topic in Ideas and Suggestions, announcing the presence of the doc project.

The community responce was quite good, I thought. We immediately got a few suggestions of things we had overlooked. Then John invited us to move into the new Drupal system he had installed while we were toiling in the midst of a php blizzard, so we moved to the main site.

The Drupal Days

This was a huge deal. Now, when I wanted to add a Doc, I had a nice web-based form to do so, and although the auto-parsing database Will had set up did the work of putting the link in the proper place in our system, the web entry form made things so much faster that it was, well, way faster to use the Drupal. Even if I had to edit 4 other pages to get the page linked up right, it was faster.

We rewrote and condensed several docs, combined a few, and really did a ton of cleanup to everything, since we no longer had to deal with the setup we had, and had the time. Generally prettied everything up.

So that was my Christmas break. Not like I had anything better to do really. I was recovering from having my wisdom teeth pulled, so this was about the extent of my activities, except for bleeding, for most of that time.

Under the Drupal system, the Doc Project grew a lot. We went from a handful of short docs to over 100 pages of very detailed documentation. We started to realize that the heirarchical organization system of the drupal was not enough for our needs. It wasn't indexed or searchable, the submission interface was rather flakey, and making complex docs with tables and pictures was a pain. We needed a new system.

Moving to MediaWiki

I set up another indie site, a MediaWiki, to experiment, and found it to be highly superior (and more reliable) to the Drupal system we were using. So, I started pestering John to set up a wiki for the Doc Project to use, an low and behold, on July 27, 2005, the official DSL Wiki went online.