OpenHelp Conference write-up

Ted Cox ted.m.cox at
Tue Oct 6 04:57:43 UTC 2015

Last week I attended the OpenHelp Conference and Sprints [1], a
five-day gathering of documentation writers and community managers
focused on improving documentation in the open source world.

Attendees represented Red Hat, Mozilla, GNOME, Ubuntu, Canonical, and
FreeBSD. I was joined by Svetlana Belkin (belkinsa) of the Ubuntu
Documentation Team.

Sessions took place Saturday and Sunday in a fluid, un-conference
format, resulting in open discussions throughout the weekend.

Janet Swisher from the Mozilla Developer Network spoke about lessons
learned over 10 years of community development. The presentation,
which was based on a blog post from earlier this year [2], focused on
MDN platform changes from MediaWiki to DekiWiki to Kuma, and how the
number of community contributions fluctuated throughout those changes.

Janet also led a session where attendees signed up for MDN and
followed the Getting started guide [3] to-do list to make

Jason Porter of Red Hat, and Shaun McCance, GNOME Documentation Team
Lead and the OpenHelp Organizer, both spoke about lightweight
documentation tools. Jason talked about AsciiDoc [4] and AsciiDoctor
[5]. Shaun spoke about Ducktype [6], a lightweight syntax for Mallard.
Lightweight doc tools are (relatively) easy to write and read, and can
be output to a variety of formats.

Warren Block from FreeBSD used several real-world examples of problems
that often pop up in documentation: too much information, not enough
information, or information in the wrong place. He also handed out

I spoke about experiences as a new contributor to Ubuntu
Documentation, including how our team encourages new contributors and
where I think we could improve. Our getting started guides, active
email list, and regular meetings are helpful. I feel we could use a
to-do list. Also, learning Launchpad/bzr/XML take some time and may
discourage other new contributors.

The sprints took place over three days. I focused on closing bugs on
the Server Guide, but ended up closing other bugs as well. The
ubuntu-server channel provided help on technical questions. Doug
Smythies also closed several bugs during and after the sprints.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to attend OpenHelp and for the
support the Ubuntu Documentation Team provided before and during the
conference. OpenHelp provided great ideas on how we can increase
community participation and improve our docs. I'll elaborate more on
those ideas in tomorrow's meeting.







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