Distributed Authorship in the CUED help system

Since its inception in 1994, several authors have produced help system pages. Our oldest page was last modified at "1995-01-06 12:41:20 GMT". Roughly 30 new pages are produced each year. Pages are modified much more often - as of writing (Feb 2010), 77 pages were changed in the last month.

Currently the author with the most pages has about 3000, followed by authors with 1200, 300, 100, 20, 15, etc - i.e. a small number of people write most of the pages. Initially a few central pages were owned by webadmin and the rest were in folders owned by individuals, making for easy management and identification of ownership. Each page mentioned its author, so bug reports could easily be directed to the right person, and (except for the top level) folders didn't contain files with a variety of owners.

There are disadvantages to this (e.g. when people leave, their pages need to be moved) but when we tried having more central pages authored by a role rather than an individual, mail to that role-name was left unanswered. It can take over a year for an incorrect sentence to be removed from a page, even with reminders.

Multiple authorship introduces other problems too - the standard of the HTML varies widely, and also when an author produces a new page they need to tell other authors to link to it.

In 2009 we experimented with a WordPress solution. The advantages are that

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March 2010
Tim Love