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  1. #1
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    How to notify readers of content changes?

    I just published a web site that contains drafts of documents I'm working on. They'll be updated frequently, and I need an easy way to inform my readers of changes to the documents that concern them.

    The obvious solution to this problem is RSS. I assume it's not too hard to support RSS in the Apache HTTP Server -- I haven't researched it yet -- but I think that's not what I need, or not all I need, because it isn't fine-grained enough. When I change a document, my readers will want to know what changed. Did I rework the whole thing, add a particular topic that may or may not interest them, or fix a typo? Is there an automated way to deliver that type of information?

  2. #2
    Mouse catcher silver trophy Stevie D's Avatar
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    Whether you can rely on RSS depends on whether your target audience will all be using it. You can include a message with the URL in each post, so you can manually insert a note as to what has changed.

    The other option is just to have a "changes" page where you list all recent changes, and link to the relevant pages - again, you would have to do this manually. I think it's unlikely there would be any automated tools that could accurately summarise what changes you had made into a useful format.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Wizard webcosmo's Avatar
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    You should post some sort of blog, changelog, with the latest changes, and also you could e-mail the most important changes you have done.

  4. #4
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    Not exactly what I had in mind

    Steve, webcosmo, I appreciate your offered suggestions, but they aren't what I'm looking for.

    I asked about an automated way to deliver fine-grained change information. Writing a description of everything I've written after I write it does not fill the bill.

    Actually, that approach puts an extra burden on the reader as well as on me. If she decides that she does want to look at the changes, she still has to find them. In the worst case they're scattered throughout the document, and she has to reread the whole thing -- or even compare it line by line to the previous version, which I'll have to take care to make available -- even though my blog or whatever describes the changes in general terms.

    I'm dreaming of a tool that highlights changes on demand, something like Track Changes in Microsoft Word. That's not necessarily the only solution that would work, but it illustrates the type of solution that would work.

  5. #5
    It's all Geek to me silver trophybronze trophy
    ralph.m's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orthoducks View Post
    I'm dreaming of a tool that highlights changes on demand, something like Track Changes in Microsoft Word. That's not necessarily the only solution that would work, but it illustrates the type of solution that would work.
    You can do that with Google Drive docs. It has the same features of change tracking as in Word, but it's online, so you can link to it.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orthoducks View Post
    Steve, webcosmo, I appreciate your offered suggestions, but they aren't what I'm looking for.

    I asked about an automated way to deliver fine-grained change information.

    [..snip..]

    Actually, that approach puts an extra burden on the reader as well as on me. If she decides that she does want to look at the changes, she still has to find them. In the worst case they're scattered throughout the document, and she has to reread the whole thing -- or even compare it line by line to the previous version, which I'll have to take care to make available
    Ok, I've tried to focus on the relevant points you are making here. However to give you a better answer I think we need some more information.

    1. What format are your documents in? Ie: html? Microsoft word? PDF? Other?

    2. Do you want to push out the changes via some push mechanism like email or rss or is that only to alert them to revisit your website? If this is correct do you want to email them just the changes all the whole document with the changes highlighted?

    3. What framework/language is your website currently developed in?

    The answers to these questions matter as it can make the solution easy or hard.

  7. #7
    SitePoint Zealot AirFor's Avatar
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    It depends entirely on the questions above, but you can use things like comparison tools. I don't think this is a process that could be automated however, unless you could use a script to replicate what changes you are making and place them somewhere else.

  8. #8
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    I had the same problem. Ended up writing a script that retrieved the last save date of every page on the website and listing them in order, so I always have a list of the last 15 updated pages on the homepage. Works a charm, saves hours and hours of hassling about updating that info manually.


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