My Feedster Contest Entries

Okay, so, I said I’d write more about my contest entries later and I was hoping that later would be like next month, but since news about my awards has been circulating on at least two librarian discussion lists and a few weblogs this week, I feel like I should scribble something now.

When I first saw the contest announcement on Scott Johnson’s blog, I thought of a bunch of things that would make neat entries, but I’m limited by my lack of programming skills. Of the two documentation options, "Best Feedster Advanced Search Documentation" appealed to me far more than "Best Feedster Documentation or Tutorial for RSS Newbies." I had an idea for a wildcard entry, too. I sat on my hands for a while, not sure whether I’d actually enter the contest. And with my schedule this fall, finding time to do anything was going to be tricky.

How to Search in Feedster
I blocked out some time for the search documentation. "Best Feedster Advanced Search Documentation" is rather open ended. I wasn’t sure if that meant they wanted someone to rewrite what’s currently there or to create documentation for the Advanced Search. I decided I could do both on the same page. I also realized the formatting made someone scroll down before getting to any content on the page, so I altered it.

I tried to keep in mind the people who want to know all of the details about searching in Feedster and those who might be in the middle of a search and need to know quickly how to do something specific in Feedster, like group concepts, or if Feedster allows certain functions.

As I went along, I tested the features and my examples in Feedster to make sure what I was writing actually worked. It seems pretty sloppy to me when I try something in search engine documentation that doesn’t get any results in the search engine. I found some bugs and asked Scott Johnson what to do about them. He suggested that I log them with what I was working on, so that’s why they’re in the documentation. I’ve learned that some of the bugs have been addressed, but I don’t know specifically which ones.

It turned into a massive project because I kept trying to figure out if something just wasn’t working for me or if I was finding bugs.

I realized that while the search features aren’t limited to the advanced search box, the way a novice searcher might interpret the title of the document could lead him/her to conclude the nifty functions are only good in the advanced search boxes. I reworked the page to make it clear the searches should work in the basic and advanced search boxes. Since librarians often whine about how people don’t know how to search, I threw in some easy search tips for good measure. (I wonder if anyone will actually benefit from that …)

I got nervous when I saw someone else had entered in the category.

An Introduction to Feeds
When I submitted the search documentation, I told Shimon Rura. He noticed there was still a little bit of time left before the contest deadline and that no one had submitted anything for the "Best Feedster Documentation or Tutorial for RSS Newbies." He encouraged me to write just anything and submit it since no one else had. For all I know, he was joking. I took time during my lunch break to scribble some notes and go through Feedster’s RSS and Syndication Basics. I think their tutorial is really good, so I can’t figure out why they want something else instead of that.

I decided to expand the terminology to include Atom and other kinds of feeds, since Feedster doesn’t just limit itself to RSS feeds and I’m a stickler for making the distinction. One of my criticisms of their Web site is that they don’t do a really good job marketing Feedster’s features and services and explaining how people can take advantage of them. I tried to weave what Feedster offers into the tutorial.

I’m surprised it was the only submission in that category. I don’t particularly like it. I kinda of meant it as a joke (quatsch) and am surprised people like it as much as they do. I would have approached the tutorial much differently had I had more time and taken it more seriously. Perhaps I really do a better job with limited time and less content.

Postponing the contest deadline definitely worked in my favor. I would have had to finish the search documentation rather abruptly and I wouldn’t have done as good of a job on it as I did with the extra time. I also wouldn’t have written the feed documentation. It’s a shame I wasn’t able to submit my third entry, but if Feedster runs another contest next year, maybe I’ll do it then.

And yes, none of the Feedster links work on either of these docs. I borrowed the code from Feedster’s site with the thought that if they really liked what they saw, they could just grab the text and toss it onto their Web site. The links should work on Feedster’s network.

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