Writing Open Source Convention 2009

The Writing Open Source Convention (aka Woscon) took place in June, 2009 in Owen Sound, Ontario. The conference was conceived by Emma Jane Hogbin, a documentation contributor to a number of open source projects, including the Linux Documentation Project, Drupal and Ubuntu.

The GNOME Foundation, through a donation funded by Intel, sent four GNOME documentation team members to the project: Shaun McCance, Phil Bull, Milo Casagrande, and Paul Cutler. There were a total of sixteen attendees, with representation from such projects as GNOME, BSD, XFCE, Ubuntu, Drupal and more.

The conference ran over three days, and each day had a different focus. The first day included keynotes from five speakers:

  • Fame, Fortune and Technical Writing by Dru Lavigne, Author
  • Information Architecture: panning for gold by Lynda Chiotti, Information Architect
  • Learning styles and documentation to match by Belinda Lopez, Instructional Designer
  • Cat Herding 101: Community management in Open Source by Addison Berry, Documentation Lead, Drupal
  • Licensing and Authoring by Megan Langley Grainger
  • More information on the presenters and their presentations is available here.

Each talk offered key takeaways that can be applied to the GNOME Documentation team, but in particular:

  • The importance in planning your writing and understanding the message you want to deliver in creating documentation (Information Architecture)
  • Understanding your audience, including their learning styles and creating personas for your audience (Learning Styles and Information Architecture)
  • Creating a welcoming community
  • Licensing and Authoring helped us understand the challenges we face, and confirmed our approach, as we move GNOME documentation from the GFDL to CC-SA 3.0 with GNOME 3.0

The second day was in the form of an "unconference", similar to a Barcamp. There were a number of roundtable talks and presentations, including:

  • Introduction to Project Mallard and Pulse
  • Making documentation easier for translators
  • FLOSS Manuals project (http://flossmanuals.net/)

  • Creating certification programs for free software projects
  • Community management

Throughout all of these talks and presentations, it was helpful to learn that all of our open source projects share the same challenges, from community involvement to translation challenges.

The third day of Woscon was a hackfest. The GNOME documentation team was able to accomplish:

  • Develop an action plan for the documentation team for GNOME 3.0, including:
    • GNOME 2.28
      • Add Mallard support for GNOME 2.28 in Yelp and gnome-doc-utils
      • Write Empathy documentation in Mallard as a proof of concept
    • GNOME 3.0
      • Revamp documentation from task based documentation to topic based
      • Write a new GNOME User Guide as topic based documentation using Mallard
        • Used a mind-mapping exercise to determine topics and begin development for a new user guide
      • Write a new GNOME Accessibility guide as topic based documentation using Mallard
      • License the new documentation above as CC-SA 3.0
  • Hackfest
    • Created new Empathy documentation using Mallard (http://gitorious.org/empathy-mallard)

    • Triaged GNOME User Docs Bugzilla, touching 36, almost half, of all open bugs, closing 26 bugs, and committing 16 updates to the user guide
  • Community
    • Committing to regular team and community meetings to track status
    • Creating sub-teams, including writing, editing, and translations to make it easier to get involved
    • Updating the GNOME Docs Wiki pages on live.gnome.org to reflect the team changes, and add tasks to make it easier to get involved

One of the biggest benefits coming out of Woscon was the various open source documentation projects coming together to create a new community. While the GNOME team worked on the tasks above, other conference attendees were transforming the conference registration site into a full blown community site so all of us would be able to continue to communicate and share best practices among projects. Another group started work on a brand new open source style guide that documentation projects across free software could utilize. All of these tools will be able to be leveraged over time, and it was exciting for us within the GNOME community to be able to be present at this first conference.

We would like to thank the GNOME Foundation and Intel for this unique opportunity. It is our belief that by attending Woscon, we were able to improve the GNOME Documentation team through what we learned, GNOME users through the documentation we have started to change and write, and we were able to join a larger community we can also learn from.


Shaun McCance, GNOME Documentation Project Leader

Phil Bull

Milo Casagrande

Paul Cutler

Blog Recaps

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Conference Recap:

DocumentationProject/Community/Woscon2009 (last edited 2009-06-30 03:39:46 by PaulCutler)