Stamporama FAQ Maintainers' Manual

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Formatting your FAQ File
Contents of your FAQ

Formatting your FAQ File
Maintaining the data for a Stamporama FAQ file is very easy, but a few simple rules must be followed:

  1. Data must be maintained in a plain text format. That means it must be maintained with Windows Notepad, Wordpad, Excel (forced to print out a *.txt or *.prn file) or some other program that does not use any of its own formatting. MS Word and other word processors that normally include formatting will work, but only if forced to save the file as plain text (in Word, choose MS-DOS text with line breaks). If in doubt, ask the Webmaster.

  2. The data content must follow a specific format and contain some "markers". The marker we use is a series of three "plus" signs (+++):

    • First Line of the file must contain:
      FAQ name+++Maintainer's name+++maintainer's email address

      for example:
      Postal History FAQ+++Roy

      notice the "+++" characters separating the information. Do not include any extra spaces.

    • Questions and answers.
      Each question or answer will be indicated by a marker, on its own line. +++question will mark a question following and +++answer will mark an answer following.

      Example FAQ file:

      Postal History FAQ+++Roy
      How do I start collecting Postal History?
      Roy Lingen suggests Start by acquiring inexpensive covers 
      that catch your eye. Try lots of different areas. Look at exhibits, 
      either at stamp shows or on-line. Notice that almost all collections 
      have a "theme". Think about different themes that may hold 
      some appeal and acquire a few covers. Follow up on the theme 
      that catches your interest the most and find out everything you 
      can about it.
      Next question
      Next answer

  3. Filenames. Each FAQ is given a short name by which the server calls it. For example, the one above is called "postalhistory" (all small letters!). You will be given a short name for your FAQ when you begin maintainance of it. Your FAQ must be maintained and uploaded with a specific file name. The file name will be "faq-shortname.txt". Notice it's all small letters. That is very important. The server will not recognize your FAQ file if the file name is not exactly correct. In this example, the file name is "faq-postalhistory.txt"

  4. Upload your newly edited FAQ file using the form at this link (you will also find it on the FAQ Index page) and that's it, you're done! The server takes it from there. Go to your FAQ through the FAQ Index page and you will see your changes and "Updated ..." with a new date and time.

Some Enhancements

The program that generates the final FAQ page the user sees will ignore all line breaks and blank lines in your text file, so you don't need to worry about lines or how many spaces between question and answers. It will provide all it's own formatting of questions and answers. But what if you want a paragraph break within an answer? -- for example, to separate two different responses to the same question. Leaving a blank line in your text file won't do it, because that will be stripped out.

There are some easy to remember "tags" that can be used to force the program to recognize formatting you want included.

<P> forces a paragraph break.
	Roy answered: I would go about it this way .... 
	David answered: My preference would be ....

Without the <P> tag, regardless of how many blank lines you left, your answer would end up looking like this:
Roy answered: I would go about it this way .... David answered: My preference would be ....

With the <P> tag, your answer will appear the way you intended:
Roy answered: I would go about it this way ....

David answered: My preference would be ...

Useful tags are:
<P> new paragraph, as described above
<BR> causes a new line, but without the extra blank line.
<B>  </B> causes anything between these two tags to appear in bold text. Notice that both tags are required, and that the second one has a slash: "/"
<I> </I> same idea, but creates italic text.

If you know HTML, you will recognize these tags. All HTML tags will work, and be maintained in your data file. You can even use more complex structures like lists, links and images etc., but please refrain from using Table structures or any other tags that might affect the overall page layout.

If you don't know HTML, don't worry -- you don't need it. Making a note of the two tags above, <P> and <BR> , for the times you want to force a new line is quite enough.

Contents of your FAQ File
The FAQ file is yours -- you are the "boss". You can include whatever you like, but we would like to offer some suggestions.

  • It's supposed to be Frequently Asked Questions, or in other words, common questions. The answers should be useful to a wide cross section of people. For example, a discussion of the catalog varieties of a specific obscure stamp are not what we (as a club) are looking for. But, turn it into a general discussion of the significance of varieties in general, and you have our attention.

  • Keep answers short, and questions even shorter. A short, specific question is the best, rather than one which gives a whole background for the question. For example:

    I know nothing about stamps. How do I get a valuation?

    is better than:

    I inherited a bunch of stamps from my grandmother. They're all in the attic and are really old. Some are stuck to the pages. What are they worth?

  • Don't leave out the real "Beginner" questions. One of Stamporama's greatest goals is the promotion of the joy of stamp collecting to as many people as possible -- and beginners are a big part of that goal. A good idea is to try to arrange your questions in order of increasing sophistication.

  • Don't think your FAQ has to be all "your" answers. As maintainer of a FAQ, we're looking to you to collect answers to questions. If you know enough about the subject to be able to answer them all yourself, that's a bonus, but it's good to have other peoples' opinions too. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that you have to know everything about this subject. When a question is asked, a willingness to ask others, or to do a bit of research is a much more important characteristic of a good FAQ Maintainer than knowing all the answers. As a matter of fact, the best FAQ Maintainer will probably be the person with the most desire to "run and find out" about their chosen subject.

Faq Index Page

Last update: Aug 8, 2002