This is a belated post on the Open Help Conference in Cincinnati, OH that I had the chance (thanks for sponsoring me, Red Hat!) to attend this year. It took place from June 14-15 at a nice venue provided by Garfield Suites Hotel. The Conference was followed by the GNOME Docs Sprint from June 16-18.
The Open Help Conference is much smaller in attendance than some of the large industry conferences for technical writers out there. This actually allows the attendees to actively participate in many talks and discussions, similarly to what you can usually experience at unconferences. It was the Conference’s primary focus on docs communities that made attending each of the sessions very relevant to those of us who work on open source documentation.
Along with people representing other open source companies and communities (this included Eric Shepherd from Mozilla or Michael Downey from OpenMRS), there were also two fellow Red Hatters attending (Rich Bowen and David King). We had quite a few people from GNOME Docs, too. The Conference was organized by Shaun McCance who did a fantastic job running the whole event as he found time not only to take care of the venue and catering, but also of the social events on both conference days that took place in his lovely hometown of Cincinnati. Thanks again, Shaun!
Open Help Conference 2014 Hackfest
The Open Help Conference 2014 Hackfest followed an unwritten tradition in the GNOME Documentation Project of having two GNOME docs hackfests or sprints annually. Unlike the sprint held earlier this year in Norwich, UK where the team worked mostly on updating the user help for the upcoming GNOME 3.12 release, the Cincinnati hackfest focused on finishing the GNOME System Administration Guide. We managed to completely rework the overall structure of the guide and redesigned the index page for the guide, following the earlier design mockups prepared for GNOME Help by Allan Day.
The restructured System Administration Guide now features the following main groups of topics:
- User Settings (Lockdown, Pre-seed user defaults, Pre-seed email/calendar/groupware, Appearance, Setup)
- Login Settings (Appearance, Session, Management)
- Network (NetworkManager, etc.)
- Software (Apps, Extensions, Management)
- Troubleshooting / diagnosis
More details can be found on the Guide planning page.
Other things that caught my attention during the conference:
Shaun’s plans for the future include an additional input format for Mallard-based documentation – so called Duck pages. A Duck page is essentially a plain text format based on Mallard XML that doesn’t use the often distracting XML syntax. Duck pages should make it easy to author single-sourced topic-based documentation with a Markdown or AsciiDoc-like syntax. Unlike Markdown and others, Duck pages aim to not only allow for quick creation of rich-formatted docs, but also to contain data necessary to integrate the document with the rest of your Mallard-based documents.
Shaun also presented another tool that he has been working on: Blip. It is a web application to monitor documentation projects that use SCM repositories. Some examples include:
Blip lets you not only browse through individual modules in your documentation project, but it also mines data to present information about contributors, their commit or mailing list activity, and much more.