Closing the documentation gap

This morning on StackOverflow, someone asked a question about invoking constructors through extended RTTI. It happened that I’d had to work out a way to do that a couple weeks ago, and it took me about 5 minutes to find the code, strip out a few specific details and type up a solution.  I got an accepted response, a few upvotes, and a very interesting comment from the author:

“Thanks again Mason! You (and the other folks here at SO) pretty much close the documentation gap. Thank you so much. + 1”

Now, StackOverflow is a wonderful resource.  I’ve been using it and loving it ever since Jim McKeeth introduced me to it about a year and a half ago.  But I’ve never really thought of it that way.  It makes me wonder.

StackOverflow has been a huge success ever since it was launched.  It’s what Experts-Exchange should have been.  But I sort of got the impression that it’s supposed to be for asking somewhat difficult technical questions, whatever “somewhat difficult” happens to mean to you at your current level of competence.  If Delphi users are instead using it to compensate for bad documentation, maybe there’s a more appropriate way to go about doing that?

I know that Embarcadero has a documentation wiki set up.  Ideally, that’s where documentation issues ought to be resolved.  Perhaps there would be some way to create a request/answer system for improving the quality of the documentation on the wiki?  There would need to be some way to create documentation requests, a way to respond to them and tie your responses to doc wiki pages, and some way to actually bring users in and get them to participate.  Does anyone have any thoughts as to how this could be accomplished?


  1. Joar Bølstad says:

    Hi Mason,

    It was me who asked that question. I couldn’t have agreed more, why Experts-Exchange failed to realize what they could’ve become is beyond me. And you’re absolutely right regarding the docs as well: the documentation issues should have been solved directly in the wiki. Except for pricing, I believe the lack of documentation to be the single most important drawback of Delphi.

    I think inquiry driven documentation would be very interesting. Documentation based on questions would necessarily answer real world problems. To elaborate a little around your suggestion, consider the following:

    A user asks a question in some forum connected to the wiki. The question will enter a question pool. Volunteers can choose to answer questions from the pool, either by creating a new section in an existing article in the wiki (frequently) or create a new article if the question/answer calls for this (rarely). Finally, the question in the question pool will be automatically attached to the submitted content. Right?

  2. Jim McKeeth says:

    Maybe a better solution would be for Embarcadero to have a tech writer go through Stack Overflow’s Delphi questions and where appropriate import the interesting bits into the Doc Wiki, then do a little cleaning and copy editing. More often then not a question answer pair like is found on Delphi would be out of place for the Doc Wiki.

  3. Yogi Yang says:

    There is a facility in SO to make a question, answer, etc. as Wiki.

    Can’t Embarcadero just borrow this contents from SO by paying a small fee?

    Such a feature should also be implemented into Embarcadero News Groups so any question/reply marked as Wiki should automatically get filed to wiki in some way.

    Just an idea!

  4. […] was reading Mason’s post about Stack Overflow closing the Delphi documentation gap where he advocated Embarcadero setting up a new feature of the Delphi Doc Wiki so people could […]