Frequently Asked Questions

 

WHAT ARE FAQs?

Q. What does FAQ stand for?

Answer. FAQ is an acronym for Frequently Asked Questions. It is also sometimes used as the singular Frequently Asked Question (Although when was the last time you heard only one question?). Some have called it Frequently Answered Questions as well. This isn't necessarily correct, but it isn't necessarily wrong either. It effectively has the same meaning. A compilation of Frequently Asked Questions (and their answers) is referred to as a FAQ list or FAQ article. Sometimes the term FAQ itself is used to refer to the article - as an example, I refer to this article as a FAQ about FAQs. The term FAQ has a meaning of its own that could almost qualify it as a word of its own. Sometimes, FAQs are full of answers. Other times they are policy statements for USENET groups, without the Question and Answer format that is popular. FAQs fall into the realm of articles called "Periodic Postings". In addition to FAQs, other articles or compilations of information are posted and/or archived.

Q. How is FAQ pronounced?

Answer. FAQ is pronounced three ways: 1. By pronouncing the letters individually: F - A - Q 2. As a word: fack 3. Obscenely: "figure it out on your own". The first two pronunciations are the most common, and are used about equally. Some will say F - A - Q if they are speaking with someone that really doesn't know the Internet. Those who are lazy (me for example) will use "fack", since it is easier to say. Often when initiating a conversation it is useful to say F - A - Q, and then once the subject has been established, "fack" should be sufficient. You will notice that in this document I use the phrase "a FAQ" rather than "an FAQ". This is because most of the time I say "a fack" instead of "an F-A-Q". Feel free to use whichever pronunciation you prefer and don't let anyone bully you. Both ways are acceptable. If you use the third way... well, you're on your own.

Q. What do FAQs contain?

Answer. FAQs are compilations of information which are [usually] the result of certain questions constantly being asked (posted) in a newsgroup - hence the name FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). It seems that those who frequent USENET are a polite bunch. In my house, the "frequently asked questions" that my three rug rats come up with are usually referred to as stupid questions or pestering. There is a lesson to be learned from this... before asking a question in a newsgroup or mailing list, make sure that you've checked out the appropriate FAQs. A frequently asked question can be a stupid question if the answer is posted right in front of your face in one or more FAQs. Sometimes a FAQ or periodic posting is compiled as a result of extensive research on a specific subject. A convenient way to share the information with others is by posting the article. In this case, the article might not really be a FAQ - that is, it isn't necessarily based on frequently asked questions. However, the term FAQ is sometimes used as a catch all term for articles, periodic postings, compilations, etc. It is becoming common practice to refer to some "off-line documentation" as FAQs. Yes, it's true, off-line documentation still exists, I actually saw some a little while back ;-). All sorts of stuff now comes with support-staff-written FAQs, whereas they would have been called Q&A sections before. Many of the FAQs found on USENET or the Internet today (including mine :-) could actually be considered NSFAQBTIWTS - Not So Frequently Asked Questions, But Things I Wanted To Share (thanks to Robin Getz for this gem). I've also seen them referred to as LFAQ (Less Frequently Asked Questions). Is there no end?! Where is Chicken Man, now that we need him?

WRITING A FAQ

Q. Who may write/compile a FAQ?

Answer. Anyone - no rule exists about who may or may not compile/write a FAQ. If there is a need for the information contained, your FAQ will be appreciated.

Q. Why write a FAQ?

Answer. The Internet (and USENET) is frequently referred to as the Information SuperHighway. You can argue the merits of this analogy, but you can't deny that there's lots of stuff out there. The big problem is finding it - and I mean BIG PROBLEM. It might be more accurate to refer to the Internet as "the large, multi-storied, over-crowded, Information Parking Lot." And the attendant is away! One thing that I've discovered in the short time that I've been on the Internet, is the willingness of those who frequent USENET to help others find their way around this great big wonderful mess. A FAQ is a good way to help lots of good folks at the same time. The first FAQ that I wrote was as a result of my search for information on Intel 8051 microcontrollers. I couldn't find anything for a long time. I used Archie, Gopher, and lots of other methods that I either read about or that friends recommended. In addition, I scanned the appropriate newsgroups. However, all that I could find were the same questions that I was asking. I nearly came to the conclusion that the Internet was a waste of time. After compiling a few facts, I put them together in a small article (under 5K) and posted it to a few USENET newsgroups that seemed to have a reasonable connection to the subject matter. In a short time I was inundated with Email. Readers of my FAQ from all over the world sent additions and corrections for the FAQ, requests to post to other newsgroups, kind words of appreciation, offers of free software and literature, and even a job offer. Today the FAQ is over 100K in size and two other FAQs were born from the leftovers from this first FAQ. As a result of this modest effort, I have learned a lot. I have more than enough information about the 8051 microcontroller, I learned my way around the Internet, and I have made connections with a number of really nice people. Even more, my FAQ had a snowballing affect. Several other people are now either maintaining or starting FAQs on other microcontrollers. In a short time, if a newcomer to the Internet is looking for information on microcontrollers, a pile of information will be immediately available, without the need for months of searching. Hopefully, the same will be true about the subject(s) that you are interested in.

Q. What subjects are appropriate?

Answer. Just about anything. If you see the same questions always popping up in your favorite newsgroups, a FAQ might be needed. First, look in the USENET archives and ask in the appropriate newsgroups if such a FAQ exists. If there is no FAQ, and you know the answers (or at least a good number of them), do yourself and everyone else a favor. Compile the questions and answers together in an article, and post it regularly to the newsgroup. Just as important, make sure that your FAQ is made available to the right audience. This means carefully choosing which newsgroups to post it to. Often, requests from other newsgroups will inform you that others are also interested in your FAQ.

Q. How important is accuracy?

Answer. If you are maintaining a listing of all of the Gilligan's Island episodes (yeah, there is such a FAQ, and it's great!), the chances of causing serious damage to someone are pretty slim. However, as a purely hypothetical example: - if you are maintaining a FAQ on the Pentium processor - you claim that the Pentium is 100% accurate and bug-free - someone reads your FAQ, bases a project on this information, and encounters a bug that has terrible consequences - at the least, you will be considered vermin by your dear reader - at the worst, you might find yourself being sued by same Some FAQs are in the business of sharing information about different products. This can be a bit touchy when trying to convey quality or usability. Care should be taken when relying on opinions (even, or especially, your own) or hearsay. Try to check out the details the best that you can. You might consider stating if an item is opinion or fact (whatever that is). Be open for suggestions. The inclusion of a disclaimer might be called for, although it really shouldn't be necessary (see section 4.2).

POSTING/DISTRIBUTING A FAQ

Q. How do I post/distribute my FAQ?

Answer. If you only need to post your FAQ to one or two USENET newsgroups (or mailing lists), then you can just manually post it whenever the posting date rolls around. It is also possible to cross post it to several groups at once. Check with your system administrator for more details on how to do this. Some sites don't keep their news around for a long time, so your posting might disappear from those location sooner than you planned. For this reason, and to allow general access to your FAQ, it is a good idea to archive it somewhere if possible. This might be on a friendly ftp site that agrees to keep the current copy available for ftp'ing, on a mail server, or on your own system (as long as others have some sort of access). If your FAQ is to be posted to a large number of newsgroups, then it might be a good idea to take advantage of the faq-server set up by the *.answers team. The faq-server can be used to automatically post any periodic posting that is first approved by the *.answers team. It allows automatic posting at set intervals to as many newsgroups as required. A big advantage of using the faq-server is that it is quick, easy, and automatic. Check with the *.answers team for more details on this.

WHAT ARE FAQs?

Q. What does FAQ stand for?

Answer. FAQ is an acronym for Frequently Asked Questions. It is also sometimes used as the singular Frequently Asked Question (Although when was the last time you heard only one question?). Some have called it Frequently Answered Questions as well. This isn't necessarily correct, but it isn't necessarily wrong either. It effectively has the same meaning. A compilation of Frequently Asked Questions (and their answers) is referred to as a FAQ list or FAQ article. Sometimes the term FAQ itself is used to refer to the article - as an example, I refer to this article as a FAQ about FAQs. The term FAQ has a meaning of its own that could almost qualify it as a word of its own. Sometimes, FAQs are full of answers. Other times they are policy statements for USENET groups, without the Question and Answer format that is popular. FAQs fall into the realm of articles called "Periodic Postings". In addition to FAQs, other articles or compilations of information are posted and/or archived.

Q. How is FAQ pronounced?

Answer. FAQ is pronounced three ways: 1. By pronouncing the letters individually: F - A - Q 2. As a word: fack 3. Obscenely: "figure it out on your own". The first two pronunciations are the most common, and are used about equally. Some will say F - A - Q if they are speaking with someone that really doesn't know the Internet. Those who are lazy (me for example) will use "fack", since it is easier to say. Often when initiating a conversation it is useful to say F - A - Q, and then once the subject has been established, "fack" should be sufficient. You will notice that in this document I use the phrase "a FAQ" rather than "an FAQ". This is because most of the time I say "a fack" instead of "an F-A-Q". Feel free to use whichever pronunciation you prefer and don't let anyone bully you. Both ways are acceptable. If you use the third way... well, you're on your own.

Q. What do FAQs contain?

Answer. FAQs are compilations of information which are [usually] the result of certain questions constantly being asked (posted) in a newsgroup - hence the name FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). It seems that those who frequent USENET are a polite bunch. In my house, the "frequently asked questions" that my three rug rats come up with are usually referred to as stupid questions or pestering. There is a lesson to be learned from this... before asking a question in a newsgroup or mailing list, make sure that you've checked out the appropriate FAQs. A frequently asked question can be a stupid question if the answer is posted right in front of your face in one or more FAQs. Sometimes a FAQ or periodic posting is compiled as a result of extensive research on a specific subject. A convenient way to share the information with others is by posting the article. In this case, the article might not really be a FAQ - that is, it isn't necessarily based on frequently asked questions. However, the term FAQ is sometimes used as a catch all term for articles, periodic postings, compilations, etc. It is becoming common practice to refer to some "off-line documentation" as FAQs. Yes, it's true, off-line documentation still exists, I actually saw some a little while back ;-). All sorts of stuff now comes with support-staff-written FAQs, whereas they would have been called Q&A sections before. Many of the FAQs found on USENET or the Internet today (including mine :-) could actually be considered NSFAQBTIWTS - Not So Frequently Asked Questions, But Things I Wanted To Share (thanks to Robin Getz for this gem). I've also seen them referred to as LFAQ (Less Frequently Asked Questions). Is there no end?! Where is Chicken Man, now that we need him?

WRITING A FAQ

Q. Who may write/compile a FAQ?

Answer. Anyone - no rule exists about who may or may not compile/write a FAQ. If there is a need for the information contained, your FAQ will be appreciated.

Q. Why write a FAQ?

Answer. The Internet (and USENET) is frequently referred to as the Information SuperHighway. You can argue the merits of this analogy, but you can't deny that there's lots of stuff out there. The big problem is finding it - and I mean BIG PROBLEM. It might be more accurate to refer to the Internet as "the large, multi-storied, over-crowded, Information Parking Lot." And the attendant is away! One thing that I've discovered in the short time that I've been on the Internet, is the willingness of those who frequent USENET to help others find their way around this great big wonderful mess. A FAQ is a good way to help lots of good folks at the same time. The first FAQ that I wrote was as a result of my search for information on Intel 8051 microcontrollers. I couldn't find anything for a long time. I used Archie, Gopher, and lots of other methods that I either read about or that friends recommended. In addition, I scanned the appropriate newsgroups. However, all that I could find were the same questions that I was asking. I nearly came to the conclusion that the Internet was a waste of time. After compiling a few facts, I put them together in a small article (under 5K) and posted it to a few USENET newsgroups that seemed to have a reasonable connection to the subject matter. In a short time I was inundated with Email. Readers of my FAQ from all over the world sent additions and corrections for the FAQ, requests to post to other newsgroups, kind words of appreciation, offers of free software and literature, and even a job offer. Today the FAQ is over 100K in size and two other FAQs were born from the leftovers from this first FAQ. As a result of this modest effort, I have learned a lot. I have more than enough information about the 8051 microcontroller, I learned my way around the Internet, and I have made connections with a number of really nice people. Even more, my FAQ had a snowballing affect. Several other people are now either maintaining or starting FAQs on other microcontrollers. In a short time, if a newcomer to the Internet is looking for information on microcontrollers, a pile of information will be immediately available, without the need for months of searching. Hopefully, the same will be true about the subject(s) that you are interested in.

Q. What subjects are appropriate?

Answer. Just about anything. If you see the same questions always popping up in your favorite newsgroups, a FAQ might be needed. First, look in the USENET archives and ask in the appropriate newsgroups if such a FAQ exists. If there is no FAQ, and you know the answers (or at least a good number of them), do yourself and everyone else a favor. Compile the questions and answers together in an article, and post it regularly to the newsgroup. Just as important, make sure that your FAQ is made available to the right audience. This means carefully choosing which newsgroups to post it to. Often, requests from other newsgroups will inform you that others are also interested in your FAQ.

Q. How important is accuracy?

Answer. If you are maintaining a listing of all of the Gilligan's Island episodes (yeah, there is such a FAQ, and it's great!), the chances of causing serious damage to someone are pretty slim. However, as a purely hypothetical example: - if you are maintaining a FAQ on the Pentium processor - you claim that the Pentium is 100% accurate and bug-free - someone reads your FAQ, bases a project on this information, and encounters a bug that has terrible consequences - at the least, you will be considered vermin by your dear reader - at the worst, you might find yourself being sued by same Some FAQs are in the business of sharing information about different products. This can be a bit touchy when trying to convey quality or usability. Care should be taken when relying on opinions (even, or especially, your own) or hearsay. Try to check out the details the best that you can. You might consider stating if an item is opinion or fact (whatever that is). Be open for suggestions. The inclusion of a disclaimer might be called for, although it really shouldn't be necessary (see section 4.2).

POSTING/DISTRIBUTING A FAQ

Q. How do I post/distribute my FAQ?

Answer. If you only need to post your FAQ to one or two USENET newsgroups (or mailing lists), then you can just manually post it whenever the posting date rolls around. It is also possible to cross post it to several groups at once. Check with your system administrator for more details on how to do this. Some sites don't keep their news around for a long time, so your posting might disappear from those location sooner than you planned. For this reason, and to allow general access to your FAQ, it is a good idea to archive it somewhere if possible. This might be on a friendly ftp site that agrees to keep the current copy available for ftp'ing, on a mail server, or on your own system (as long as others have some sort of access). If your FAQ is to be posted to a large number of newsgroups, then it might be a good idea to take advantage of the faq-server set up by the *.answers team. The faq-server can be used to automatically post any periodic posting that is first approved by the *.answers team. It allows automatic posting at set intervals to as many newsgroups as required. A big advantage of using the faq-server is that it is quick, easy, and automatic. Check with the *.answers team for more details on this.