[ Home ]
This started out as a very simple idea. Probably all organized FAQs started that way. The thought went like this: wouldn't it be easier to capture the answers I was typing, as were many others, several times a day or week to answer the exact same questions and then just paste the answers back into newsgroup replies? The goals were to uniformly answer the FAQs in a readily accessible way for all newsgroup readers.
So off I went to start capturing classic answers from my Sent Items into a text document. After about a page or two of these were collected, it was pretty obvious where this was headed and the text document was not there. Yet another Microsoft Access "quick little database project" was born.
Just pasting the same answers to the group several times a day or week rapidly seemed like a not-so-good solution, so the database sprouted a text formatting routine. The first full text posting of the FAQ to the newsgroup occurred 10 February 2002. The plan was to re-post the text form approximately monthly in hopes some posters might find it and not need to post FAQs, and find their answers faster, besides. Well, that was the hope anyway.
As the FAQ grew, several things happened: first, the size of the document started to get pretty unwieldy and inaccessible due to readability issues on a big text document. Second, it became pretty clear that the original distribution scheme of posting the text file directly into the newsgroup was less than ideal. Various words and phrases tended to result in the Microsoft news servers swallowing the document whole, apparently thinking it was spam. This complicated posting it, while searches for the "magic words" had to be undertaken. Besides that, it was not getting archived by groups.google.com.
In hopes of solving some of these problems, the existing text formatter was rewritten to generate some brute force HTML code. The HTML version was posted as an attachment to the text posting. Of course, large messages with attachments further complicated posting and propagation. Two of the three original goals were proving too hard: readily accessible answers for newsgroup readers were not being provided.
Around this point, consideration of migrating the FAQ to a web page started. My initial reaction to the thought was uniformly negative:
Several readers volunteered to post the HTML document on their web site, and one of them did with my permission, but the permanence issues remained and the problem of how to synchronize the websites of the volunteers with the database was ever-present. One volunteer, Paul Long, went ahead and posted an HTML version in March of 2002, but we never developed a path to keep this one current. Last I looked, Paul's page is still out there, but his copy dates back to 02 November 2002.
Finally I took one of the volunteers up on it and Rick Bollar posted the HTML version to his web site in June of 2003. This rapidly proved the value of a web presence when many posters started posting answers to FAQs in the form of hyperlinks directly to the appropriate bookmarked question on Rick's page. These links will live on in the newsgroup archives for a long time.
In September of 2003 the "swen" virus hit, Microsoft tightened the filters on their news servers, and posting the full FAQ to the newsgroup ceased.
As the FAQ continued to prove popular, synchronizing my updates with Rick's postings complicated getting timely updates on the web. Also, the continued growth complicated access to it due to the size and bandwidth cost of the monolithic file. These factors combined with reduced costs of web hosting and domain registration services, availability of tools like MySql and php, and my curiosity about data-driven website development brought us to where we are today: the umpm FAQ Home Page which "went live" in late March of 2004.
Money 2005 heralded some changes for the umpm FAQ Home Page. Since I refused to use Money 2005 and passed on Money 2006 as well, providing accurate and appropriate answers for questions coming from current versions started proving difficult. Worse, the whole thrust of the application, hence many user's questions, began to change in directions I wanted little to do with. As of this writing, I am likely to transition to Money 2007, but not for any positive reason like it actually doing anything for me that M02 didn't do as well or better. Oh, and I may be about to be assimilated by the Borg. Once again, time will tell how this all plays out.
Last update: 9 February 2007
If this kind of stuff is important to you: