There are bound to be questions that come up again and again ... some are basic how-to question (How do I submit my plug-in to the repository?) and some are more obscure question about the nature of WordPress itself (How can I use a closed-source library with WordPress?). Some of these questions will be immediate referrals to outside resources (where a quality resource is available), but should others be housed in our own FAQ?

Judging from the amount of discussion/debate/plate-throwing that goes on regarding the GPL, I see this as a potential recurring issue on the site. No one really takes a stab at answering any of these GPL-related questions in the codex, and even the GNU is intentionally ambiguous when it comes to discussing certain licensing implications.

So, are there certain frequently asked WordPress questions that we want to keep in our FAQs? What are they?

(This is marked as community wiki, so please only one response per answer).

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3 Answers

Are we talking about the static FAQ page? I would keep this clean and only put questions about this site there.

What do we expect from this list?

  • If you want to use it to prevent duplicates, you expect every user looks there first. What percentage of visitors will do this? We already have an automatic duplicate question search when you start typing your question. But this only works with questions in the Stack Exchange system, not with the text of the FAQ.
  • If you want a list of most popular questions (which is probably a good indicator for frequently asked), you can sort the questions by votes (starred questions). If you want more detail, you can use the data explorer (once it includes the beta sites).
  • If you want a list of stuff you should know about a topic, we have the tags for that. Tags can only be changed by people who have more than 500 rep (only in the private beta everyone can edit them), so there should not be much abuse that cannot be resolved in meta, or in extreme cases by user bans.

Or, in reverse, Why I think a static text is not the best way

  • You can hope people will read the FAQ first to prevent beginner questions, but I suspect they will not. Certainly not if the FAQ it too long. And a short list of questions might not include the question they have.
  • I suspect most people search for answers via a search engine, and if they phrase their question in a totally different way, they will not hit the FAQ. If all FAQ questions are SE questions, we can easily close them as duplicates, so future searches for this formulation will hit that page, with a clear link to the "real" answer page.
  • The FAQ is not included in the search for duplicate questions, or even in the site search. Yes, this can change, but you will need good reasons to convince the owners why this cannot be handled via regular questions.
  • Will we put all questions on one page (since there currently is no way to use sub-pages)? This will make a very long list, if we want to include FAQ questions on different subjects (admin, theming, plugins, ...). People will need to search the list anyway, so why not split them up in different questions? Or do I have a wrong idea about how people read FAQs?
  • The FAQ will need to be curated, which requires discussion about what to include and what not, and in what order. But by definition, a FAQ contains (or should contain) those questions that are asked most frequently. As I said, we already have a good proxy for that. Yes, more views could be requested, and if they are useful for all sites, they probably will be implemented.
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I have a problem with a faq tag as being the only way to get a good curated list. For one, a list of questions by tag are not presented concisely enough (i.e. spread over many pages) and for 2.) anyone can tag with faq and we'd be constantly having to removing tags. StackExchange is great but there are many use-cases it does not yet address well (another being to find a list of top questions and top answers across all users? The tools are limited to the past 30 days.) –  MikeSchinkel Aug 26 '10 at 22:44
    
@Mike: I updated my question so it includes more arguments. For your 30-day observation: I see this as a good way, since it makes sure we don't have questions that we once popular but now not longer relevant in the list. –  Jan Fabry Aug 27 '10 at 6:11
    
@Jan, good points. I think we should encourage visitors to the site to use the search functionality before asking questions (that encouragement is really already in place), instead of encouraging them to read the FAQ to see if their question is in a list there. The search function will always be up to date, and it will be easy to see on the results page how many votes and answers each potentially relevant question has, thus further helping a searcher sort out the quality posts. –  tnorthcutt Aug 27 '10 at 13:53
    
@Jan: I strongly believe most of the best answers will be relevant for years to come let alone months. And the "no longer relevant questions" well that's what a good set of moderators will handle. @tnorthcutt: Maybe, but currently StackExchange search is absolutely awful. I've looked for my own answers and can't find them using the search, and I know what I'm looking for!. IMO the only viable way to search StackExchange is using Google. StackExchange needs lots of work in the findability department. That said maybe I'll just create my own index on my soon-to-be relaunched blog. –  MikeSchinkel Aug 30 '10 at 6:38
    
@Jan Fabry: Based on our respective comments on this question I thought this comment by Jeff Atwood was particularly relevant: chat.meta.stackoverflow.com/transcript/message/146876 and chat.meta.stackoverflow.com/transcript/message/146927 and chat.meta.stackoverflow.com/transcript/message/146927 –  MikeSchinkel Sep 7 '10 at 23:22
    
@Mike: Those links don't work for me - was is a members-only room? And the last two links are the same, which is probably not what you meant. –  Jan Fabry Sep 8 '10 at 5:46
    
Sorry, probably was private. Here's what Jeff Atwood said "I do not think our engine is good at faq "questions" of the type that make up the community faq.. a hairy furball of linked questions", "I think it is OK to have some questions tagged faq on your meta, but do not rely on it as "the faq" because .. well, that just doesn't work" and "anyway, the main point here I want to make, is do NOT look at the "stack overflow community faq" as something worth emulating. While it is OK to have a few faq tagged questions on your meta, that's not a good strategy for "the faq" in the general sense." –  MikeSchinkel Sep 8 '10 at 21:32
    
@Mike: Did that conversation discuss the difference between questions about the workings of the site and questions about the topic of the site? Because I still think our FAQ should explain how this site works, nothing more. And indeed, the distributed FAQ on MSO may not be the best system, but it is still a FAQ about SO, not about programming in general. If it would be easier to get answers on frequent programming questions in the FAQ than on SO, there is something wrong with the whole SO system. –  Jan Fabry Sep 9 '10 at 14:00
    
@Jan Fabry: Yes, it discussed that in depth. What they did not want was a FAQ about how the site works, they (Robert Cartaino & Jeff Atwood) want people to discover how it works by using it. They were much warming to using the FAQ for frequently asked questions. Actually they also suggested using the wiki at the top of the tag pages too. –  MikeSchinkel Sep 10 '10 at 0:10
    
@Jan Fabry: Also, they said explicitly not the FAQ on SO. –  MikeSchinkel Sep 10 '10 at 0:24
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GPL

One question I guarantee we will get time and again will be regarding the GPL and compliance for plug-ins and themes. What version of the GPL does WordPress use? Why can't I use GPLv3 with my plug-in? Can I use an aGPLv3-licensed script in a theme I plan to sell?

These kinds of questions will have specific answers and, hopefully, we'll be able to refer people back out to external sources. But as evidenced in the deep comment thread on the above-linked question (and all of the discussion we see on forums and mailing lists), it would be nice to handle this issue in one spot and be done with it.

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That's a process of which it looks the wordpress project itself is a bit uneducated on as well. But it's in the process to get better now: hakre.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/…; core.trac.wordpress.org/ticket/14685#comment:39 - or maybe let's say, "obviously more realistic" which can only be helpful. –  hakre Aug 26 '10 at 8:43
    
Doesn't the fact that there is so much discussion prove that there isn't one single authoritative answer yet? How would placing a static text in the FAQ provide more information than an answer that can be discussed and updated in the regular SE system? –  Jan Fabry Aug 27 '10 at 5:41
    
I'm starting to agree with Jan. I think this is not an area when should address except for on specific questions about it. –  MikeSchinkel Aug 30 '10 at 6:40
    
Could we at least collect a list of related links to point people at? Whenever we discuss/debate GPL, the conversation goes on forever and clutters the site ... I don't want to see endless lists of repeated/recycled debates of the same points. –  EAMann Aug 30 '10 at 15:35
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WordPress FAQ within the WordPress Answers FAQ

I've been thinking about this same thing.

I think that we should put a lot of WordPress-specific information in the FAQ. More specifically I'd like to see a long list of topics with a curated set of links to the best questions/answers on each topic as determined by the moderators.

And I'd expect this would be an ongoing project to surface the best Q&As that do the best job of answering (F)requently (A)sked (Q)uestions (oh the irony! :)

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I am still not convinced how the moderators could create a list, sorted by topic, of the best questions and answers that is better than the existing system where they already can re-tag, re-phrase questions and let everyone vote on questions and answers. What would your proposal add to this (and how would it scale and stay up-to-date, given the other duties of the moderators)? –  Jan Fabry Aug 27 '10 at 7:48
    
The existing StackExchange system is great for inspecting the trees. OTOH it's severely lacking in it's ability to provide various higher-level views of the forest. That said, I've got to have help in maintaining the list or it won't happen here. And if nobody else is interested I might just create that list on my own website/blog. –  MikeSchinkel Aug 30 '10 at 6:43
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