Doing documentation in open source is often hard, doing it well is even harder. All projects have to struggle with this in some way and, in true open source community spirit, why don't we get together and help each other? I'm excited to spread the word that the open source world is going to get its very own documentation conference. I've been in on a new conference/unconference/sprint being planned for this June up in the great province of Ontario, Canada, called Writing Open Source. The idea was born last fall between a few conversations that Emma Jane Hogbin had with myself and Belinda Lopez. Emma was all crazy-talking about a whole conference just focusing on documentation and I couldn't resist such an awesome idea. Then the talking turned into planning, we got a space (in a library, no less!), some totally awesomely delicious catering, a domain name and now registration is open!
As much as my cohort and friend walkah takes digs at sprints ;-), I myself am a huge fan, caught up in the giddy wave of "getting shit done" while hanging around with a bunch of geeks eating Pringles and ice cream. With the Knight Foundation awarding me money to make it happen in the name of all documentation goodness, I am getting ready to rumble.
I know I'm a bit late on the monthly challenge this time around, but between the Usability sprint and Drupalcon I've been a bit too hectic to get a post written up. So this will be a short month, but hopefully we can rock it anyway. This month the focus will be on spiffing up our handbook by reviewing what we have and applying the style guide to it. Much like how the coding standards make working with Drupal code a lot nicer (especially for newbies), having consistency and clarity in our handbooks will make it easier for people to understand the firehose of information on any given page. I found that the best way for me to learn Drupal coding standards was to review existing code and help fix it. This month's task should not only help us clean up the docs a bit, but also get more people familiar with the fact that we even have guidelines as well as tucking some things into the back of their minds for next time they write or edit.
At the Drupalcon DC keynote I was in for a bit of a shock. After Dries had delivered the State of Drupal and its general rockingness, Jose Zamora from the Knight Foundation took the stage. He started talking about the Drupal proposals that were submitted last year to the Knight Drupal Initiative (KDI), one of which was mine, for doing Drupal documentation sprints. I had been informed that the board meeting necessary for the decision about which proposals would win funding wouldn't happen until next week so I figured he would just talk about it to spread the word about Knight. Well, turns out he had a surprise: he had confirmed the winners and I was one of them. The Knight Foundation has awarded me $50,500 to make Drupal docs kick ass this year.
For a quick summary, the money will be spent to cover three basic things:
A grand tradition of Drupalcons is to end with a day of sprinting. Sprints are most often associated with a bunch of hackers chewing on code. Well, our community is more than code or coders. We are a rich community both in people and in the broader work we do to keep Drupal-land humming smoothly along. At this Drupalcon, like the last two, we'll be having an all-day documentation sprint on the last day, March 7. This year we will be a bit more organized and we have a whole room set aside just for us. And just who is "us?" This year a big goal of mine is to really get the word out that everyone can help with docs. We need people from all skill sets, backgrounds and languages; newbie to code ninja. Documentation work is not just about writing. Even taking one hour to hop in to help will push Drupal forward in leaps and bounds.
The Drupal Association (DA) is getting ready to vote on new members next week. We are looking for more people to help carry the Drupal community forward. But what does it mean really? I know when I was accepted last year as a Permanent Member, I had a very fuzzy idea of what I was getting into and what was expected of me. For folks out there that are thinking of applying or wondering if you even want to, I thought I'd share my experience over the last year to try to give a little more insight into how it works and what we need.
Aside from general docs work, like the monthly challenges and our current projects, my main priority the last few weeks (and into the foreseeable future) is getting a new Help system into Drupal 7 and making it kick behind. The patch to get the base system in is very close and we just need a bit more work to tip it over. Drupal 7 is aiming to be one incredible release and it is now time to really focus hard on things to make it useful to mere mortals: usability and documentation. If you care at all about the everyman in the CMS drama, then it's time to put on yer grown-up pants and get to work.
What needs to be done right now
Currently what we really need are reviews and feedback. Here are the major pieces we need eyes on:
I had a great time at SANDcamp this weekend. It was great to catch up with friends I hadn't seen in a while and I met lots of cool people. Most of the time I was trying to suck them into the Drupal community. ;-) My keynote was "It's the people, stupid!" and I've attached the slides here. I had great feedback from the presentation and we had some recurring jokes from it running through the weekend. I also want to thank everyone that stopped by the documentation sprint. That was a blast. We got lots of new eyes on the docs and I got most of the demo site for the new core Help system patch set up (more on that in a day or two).
This weekend, I'm headed out to sunny San Diego for my first Drupal event of the year, SANDcamp. I can't wait to see my friends, meet new people and generally geek out for a few days. I'm excited for a lot of reasons and while basking in the warmth of SoCal is definitely something to be excited about, there will be lots of Drupal goodness too. We're looking to have around 100 Drupalers come together from all over for two full days, for free even. If you haven't signed up yet, you better get on it.