Running a Docs Workshop at DevConf

With Bara Ancincova of Red Hat docs fame, we ran a docs workshop at this year’s DevConf in Brno. It was mostly a follow-up to to a Fedora documentation hackfest held at Flock 2014 in Prague. Quite a few people showed up Saturday afternoon, which was a nice surprise, given that docs sessions are usually not among the most attended at a technical conference.

Some of the topics we touched included:

  • DevAssistant. Slavek Kabrda joined us to give a short presentation about what DevAssistant has to offer when it comes to kick-starting your projects. Based on the ideas we first explored at Flock, Slavek and Jaromir Hradilek started to hack on a new assistant that will mostly serve people who are getting started with DocBook, the Publican toolchain, and Fedora documentation. However, there is nothing preventing us from making a step further and including support for other documentation projects, formats, and toolchains, if there is interest (and people willing to help out).
  • The plan is for DevAssistant  to be able to create a complete writing environment that would let you set up a basic structure for your new documentation project, with templates and different content types.
  • DevAssistant works well in both CLI and GUI mode. While developers and some documentation writers might prefer to work on the command line, newcomers often prefer a GUI option. Both options, however, provide an integrated solution that lets you work within a single app (and write in a text editor of choice). This means that DevAssistant aims for both the developer and documentation writer audiences, which often overlap anyway.
  • Building documentation. We talked about Jenkins, which is typically used in a software development environment.  Since Jenkins can run pretty much any commands available on the server, it can also easily be used to take care of your continuous documentation builds. This makes docs QA’ing and reviewing so much easier.
  • Pavel Tisnovsky is working on Jenkinscat, a dashboard for Jenkins to let you easily manage documentation builds.
  • Publishing documentation. This is a long-standing issue in Fedora. We explored the idea of using Jenkins and Jenkiscat for Fedora.
  • Testing your documentation. In this segment, Jaromir Hradilek talked about Emender, an emerging test automation framework for documentation. Its goal is to allow you to run a number of tests against your (semantic) documentation. Ultimately, this can save tons of time on the docs QA front, especially when you are maintaining a huge and ever-increasing number of documents for different projects or products.

A number of great ideas were put forth for future documentation events which I hope we could organize later this year.

2015 Winter Docs Hackfest

I’m here in lovely Cambridge for the winter GNOME docs hackfest. This time, the docs team is sharing a room with the Developer Experience (DX) hackfest, which provides us with a great opportunity to reach out to GNOME developers for expert’s advice.

Yesterday, Christian Hergert presented a new GNOME IDE in development, called Builder:

Builder comes with a feature-rich text editor that can also be useful for documentation writers who often author documents in XML.

Cosimo Cecchi showed us some of the downstream changes the Endless team made to gnome-user-docs and gnome-getting-started-docs. For me, personally, the most interesting part was their feedback on the GNOME docs style and content. Endless seem to target their product to a slightly different customer, still, they appear to have data on their users that the upstream project lacks. The GNOME help suite, written by different authors and in different style over the course of many years, is actually targeted at multiple audiences, spanning from quite inexperienced desktop end-users to skilled users who need to troubleshoot VMs in GNOME Boxes.

Shaun McCance showcased some of the cool features of Ducktype, a new lightweight syntax for Mallard. Although still a work in progress, this new syntax brings to the world of Mallard docs the flexibility of formats such as AsciiDoc or Markdown, which are now gaining strong popularity in both the developer and technical communication communities.

The docs team focused on squashing the bugs filed against GNOME Help and application help, and on content improvements in different areas of the desktop documentation stack. Jim Campbell worked on changing the structure and layout of Files help. He also worked with Jana Svarova on VPN docs for the GNOME sysadmin guide. Jana went through the docs feedback ML archives, responding to user comments and filing new bugs. Kat worked on application help with Jim and fixed a couple of bugs in gnome-user-docs. I worked on triaging docs bugs, and then on reviewing and updating some parts of GNOME Help and the sysadmin guide.

I would like to thank Collabora for providing the venue and catering, Kat and Philip Withnall for running the hackfests, and the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring me.

It’s been great to see old and new faces from the community, now off to Brussels for FOSDEM, then back to Brno for DevConf!


L10n & Docs at GUADEC 2014

At this year’s GUADEC, there will be a number of sessions relevant to people interested in GNOME localization and documentation:

  • On Monday, Kat will give an update from the docs team called Documentation: state of the union. Her talk will detail what has happened in the documentation realm since GUADEC 2013, so be sure to attend.
  • Team Reports on Saturday will include localization and documentation.
  • There will be a screenshot automation BoF on July 30th. Vadim Rutkovsky from Red Hat’s Desktop QE has some sweet surprise for you, translators!
  • Finally, on July 30th and 3Ist, Daiki Ueno and Alexandre Franke are planning to organize an i18n hackfest to work on translation tools, spellcheckers, dictionaries, input methods, and related fields.

I’ll be arriving tomorrow evening with Christian Schaller and other desktop people from Red Hat Czech and leaving on the 31st – hope to see you all in Strasbourg!

sponsored-badge-shadow guadec-2014-badge-large


Open Help Conference 2014

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!

You can check #openhelp and Michael Downey’s excellent notes to learn more about the different talks and sessions held at OH.

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:

Duck Pages

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.

  • An example of a project profile with complete data on branches, commits, authors, included documents, and more: Gnome User Documentation
  • An example of of a user profile with personal stats: Shaun McCance

Fedora Docs FAD 2014

The Fedora Docs team recently organized a FAD (Fedora Activity Day), with the goal to work on areas such as attracting new contributors, mentoring, providing HOWTOs for writers, and preparing the project’s infrastructure to migrate from the old Publican 2-based publishing system to Publican 4 and Koji.

The FAD had two meeting locations, one at Red Hat’s office in Raleigh, NC, and the other one at Red Hat’s office in Brno, Czech Republic. We set up a teleconference call that also allowed remote people to participate.

Other docs team members have already blogged about the progress we made over the course of three days. There is still a lot do, and you are welcome to join the fun.

At the FAD, I also published a new revision of the Fedora Software Collections Guide, which serves as the official manual for people getting started with Software Collections (SCL) packaging. The guide can be useful not only for Fedora packagers, but also for people packaging for EPEL 5, 6, and 7. The SCL packaging guidelines are currently being approved by the FPC and Marcela drafted a proposal to include the first SCL (ruby193) in Fedora 21. Even though SCLs are not yet officially supported in Fedora, you can already get the ruby193 SCL from the Copr build system.

Thanks to all the FAD attendees, and to Red Hat for taking care of us throughout the event, for providing the meeting space and great catering!

For Czech speakers, I also put together a short report which you can read on

GNOME Docs Hackfest 2014, Norwich, Day 2

Today is the second day of the GNOME Documentation Hackfest 2014. A group of community documentation writers is here in rainy Norwich, UK to work on getting GNOME’s help updated for the upcoming 3.12 release.

Today I am going through the bugs filed against the system-admin-guide in gnome-user-docs, and putting together a list of topics that are not yet updated or covered in that guide. Andre already updated or closed many of the bugs (thanks, mate!), so the bug pile for the guide now looks slightly better.

There is also some not-yet-upstreamed system administration material written for GNOME 3.8 and RHEL7 Beta that we published as a part of RHEL7 Beta product documentation. Since the 3.8 upstream release, there have not been many major changes in terms of what we want to have covered in the GNOME system admin guide, so I will be syncing our downstream docs with the upstream guide and updating the docs as needed. The goal is to release a reasonably complete system administration guide for GNOME 3.12, mostly following the outline detailed on the original planning page.

The hackfest wiki page highlights some of the other areas that we plan to work on this week.

I would like to thank Kat & Dave for organizing the hackfest and letting us stay at theirs for the week. Thank you so much! I would also like to thank the University of East Anglia for providing the venue, and the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring me to be here.


GUADEC 2013 in Brno

Today was the last conference day of GUADEC 2013 and I have to say that being involved in the conference organization and volunteering has been an amazing experience. I want to thank my fellow organizers, our volunteers and all the people who offered their help to make GUADEC in Brno happen. You were great!

This year’s program included a number of talks related to community outreach and documentation. On Thursday, Kat and Sindhu talked about how to get involved in community efforts such as the GNOME Docs. At the Newcomers Workshop organized by Marina and others, I had a chance to meet our newest member of the Czech localization team. Our team, just like pretty much any other, needs fresh blood, so I was more that happy to see so many newcomers attending GUADEC, including those who are also interested in other aspects of the project than just coding.

At the GNOME Foundation AGM on Friday, Sindhu gave an update on GNOME documentation and I talked about what GNOME Localization has been up to since the last GUADEC in A Coruna.

Kat gave a talk on documentation on the third day. Later that day, we had a lightning talk session and I talked a bit about Getting Started video tutorials that we introduced in GNOME 3.8. Today, Marta gave a presentation on the developer tutorial for GTK+, followed by Jeff Fortin who gave a talk on PiTiVi and showed us some really funny videos.

It’s probably needless to say that conferences like GUADEC are special in that you can finally meet in person other members of the teams that you are involved in. Seeing familiar and new faces is always nice.

Next week

Next week we plan to have a docs hackfest, which will be focusing on the GNOME Desktop System Administration Guide. GNOME translators also plan to discuss some hot topics in GNOME i18n, such as broken translations for the website, a l10n workflow for translating Git submodules, auto-committing translation files to GNOME Git repos etc. One of the outstanding issues we had appears to be already fixed – big kudos to Matthias for that.

If you are interested in GNOME docs or l10n, be sure to join us for the shared docs & l10n session we will have on the morning of the 6th. So, see you next week!

Damned Lies Developers

As many people around the GNOME Translation Project know, we are in need of new developers who are willing to work on our translation platform Damned Lies to fix various bugs that we are fighting with, and hack on new features.

Gil Forcada, who was recently added to Planet GNOME (welcome!), also posted some wonderful news about possible new contributors who, if all goes well, will start working on Damned Lies in the near future. Read more on Gil’s blog.

Translation BoF at GUADEC: Pictures

Gil, Andre and Rūdolfs already blogged about Monday’s Translation BoF / meeting at GUADEC 2012. We had quite a few items on our agenda list to discuss as you can see from the output of our brainstorming session on this wiki page put together by Gil.

Around ten people attended the meeting, with a (not so) surprisingly strong presence of Galician translators. All in all, this was an excellent opportunity to meet other GNOME translators in person after we have been working together on the same translation project for several years.

Enough said, let’s have a look at some pictures now.

Pictures taken by Florian – thanks!

And big thanks to the GUADEC 2012 organizers who really did an excellent job! They surely set high standards for the GUADECs to follow. So, see you in Brno or Stuttgart next year! ;-)


Brno Doc Sprint Update

If you are contributing to GNOME documentation, probably you already read about the Brno Doc Sprint (and the Developer Conference) that takes place in Brno, February 17-21, 2012, at the Faculty of Informatics at Masaryk University (from February 17-18) and at the Red Hat Czech Office (from February 19-21).

For those of you attending this documentation event, the organizers have special arrangements with one of the hotels near both doc sprint venues to provide the attendees a discounted rate. See the Developer Conference wiki page for more details.

To be able to receive the discounted rate, please confirm your attendance by January 9, 2012 on the doc sprint wiki page.

Please also remember to fill in your arrival and depart dates, and, since the special rate is for double-bed rooms, your roommate.

See you all in Brno!

The Developer Conference 2012 poster