There is a tremendous amount of information available “out there” on Carrara – through the forums, YouTube videos, personal websites, etc. While this is wonderful, it also creates a number of problems. And these problems are the source of my biggest frustrations with the product.
1) The User’s Guides only covers about 30% of what I need to know. And 80% of what is in the guides I may get to someday, but not today. (BTW, the primary User’s Guide (V7) is now 5 years old.) And conducting a web search for a specific topic, to learn more about a certain technique, or to get an answer to a specific question, can be very time consuming. Since I use Carrara as a hobby, I don’t have a lot of time searching for what should be more readily available.
2) The Daz3D forums contain a TREMENDOUS amount of useful knowledge, experiences, how-to suggestions, techniques, and tips about how to use Carrara more effectively. But I find purely most of this information purely by accident while reading through the various threads. Further, I doubt I would have found this information using a Google search. Some users, such as Dartanbeck, post tutorials and other material on the forums, but it is difficult to know whether this is an effective way to reach the user community.
3) It is hard in advance to identify the best sources of information about a specific topic. I might have to scan 5-10 locations to get information I am looking for.
4) Information about Carrara is not organized by level of expertise. You might have to scan a number of sources that cover things you know to find what you are looking for.
This is not a complaint thread. However, I assume that others are experience similar problems and have similar frustration. What is needed is a way to better organize, and supplement, all of the information that is available.
My personal vision is that there could be a Carrara wiki that would become a community-based resource, symbiotically shared by everyone in the community. More specifically, I envision the Carrara wiki to be a place people could (1) share their knowledge, discoveries, techniques, and tips about Carrara with others who are struggling to understand how to use the tool, and (2) get answers or ideas about how to use Carrara more effectively, whether they are a beginner or expert.
I do NOT envision the wiki to be (directly) a replacement for either the Daz3D forums or the Carrara user guide, though the guide is sorely out of date. Instead, the guides and forum threads should be referenced appropriately within the wiki pages.
Here are some ways I see the wiki site being different.
1) Unlike the user guides, the wiki would be organized by how people think and work with the application. That is, I like to imagine the wiki as more of a “how-to” guide, rather than a document that provides a list of Carrara features and windows with technical descriptions.
2) No one person would guide or direct the wiki. There would be no leaders, committees, or control groups deciding what is in or out, or how information is to be presented. Everyone participates in an egalitarian and equal style!
3) The wiki would be organic. It would grow and flow constantly and dynamically, morphing and changing to fit the needs of the user community.
4) People would be able to edit and add new pages as needed, or to the same pages, same paragraphs, and even the same sentences. For example, you might be reading information someone wrote, and have a thought about how an idea could be expanded. You can edit it directly and insert your thoughts on the spot!
5) The wiki would contain a web of interconnecting internal links, as opposed to just a hierarchical or sequential structure of information. Any wiki page can link to any other. This allows users to surf through the pages of information via links; that is, the interconnecting links become MORE important than the hierarchical structure of the site. This also reduces duplication of information.
6) The wiki would also contain a lot of external links and references. The wiki would not duplicate what has already been created and captured (in text or video) elsewhere, just reference it. The wiki then would become a way to capture and organize quality information that is already on the internet.
7) The wiki could be used to conduct community surveys on a variety of topics. It could even potentially become a communal voice to help Daz3D prioritize upcoming features and fixes.
8) The knowledge shared would be communal. Authors would contribute not for personal gain or recognition, but because they want to see the Carrara community thrive and grow. Everyone wins when we all produce better results!
For the first year owning Carrara, I waited for Daz3D to publish a revised User’s Guide. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it isn’t going to happen in the near future. Besides, I would rather their expend their limited resources on enhancing the product as opposed to writing guides.
Further, I would not expect Daz3D to be responsible for collecting all of the personal experiences of its users and creating a comprehensive guide. This has to be the responsibility of the user community. We should steward our own community knowledge!
A Call To Action:
So, last week, I did some research on free wiki hosting sites, and took the initiative to start up a Carrara wiki on Wikia.com. Over the past week, I have been testing the host’s capabilities - services and features. Now with 10 wiki pages started, I believe the site would be adequate to meet the Carrara community needs. It is a very small start, but I am confident it is quite possible to create a great wiki.
Here is the link to the wiki. Go to the wiki site, check it out, and then post your thoughts on this thread. http://carrara.wikia.com/wiki/Carrara_Wiki
I invite EVERYONE to get involved. It is human nature to value what we contribute to. Once you begin adding to the site, you will want it to succeed, and you’ll begin to encourage others to contribute.
A Call For Discussion:
What I believe is needed to discuss at this point (ordered by my personal priority).
1) Carrara Wiki – Should there even be a wiki site for Carrara? Is there enough interest that one should be created?
2) Hosting Site –Is Wikia the right location to create a wiki? In the week I have used it, I found it simple and easy to use, and it seems to offer a number of features. But if anyone has experience working with another Wiki hosting site, now is the time to discuss and decide!
3) Structure – How should the information be presented. I started a basic structure, but others need to offer their thoughts and suggestions. For example, it makes sense to present information based on the readers’ current experience level with Carrara – such as: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. My frustration working with the User’s Guides, as an intermediate experienced user, is that it is hard to sift through all of the beginner and advanced level material to get an answer to a basic question.
4) Content – It seems to make sense to start with identifying and linking (as external links) some good, already-existing tutorials and step-by-step descriptions, lessons learned, and other tips. And then using the wiki pages to fill in the gaps.
5) Format – Should there be a standard look and feel? If so, how should that look? It is easier to establish a format early rather than late (which would require a lot of rework). I have my own thoughts, but am interested in hearing others’ thoughts.
Are there other points that need to be addressed?
Thanks for reading this thread. Please add your thoughts.
Tip: If you do decide to add to the wiki, I suggest you create a Wikia account before editing. I don’t think that is essential, but it is easy to do, and it makes it easier to see who is adding materials to the pages.
I will continue to add to and expand the wiki over the coming weeks and months, as I have time.
Measures of success:
Finally, here are some ways we could measure the success of the wiki. The first two are easy to measure.
1) Continuous increase in the number of hits per month
2) Continuously growing number of pages
3) People begin referring to the wiki on the forums
4) People get others to contribute their knowledge to the wiki