Six months ago, I left my life as a freelance documentation consultant and joined Red Hat in the Open Source and Standards group. I mostly loved freelancing, and I wouldn’t have given it up for just any job. Red Hat brought me on to go into the various upstream open source projects that fuel our products and build up their communities and processes for documentation. The job description might as well have been “Pay Shaun to do what Shaun loves doing.”

I could never have predicted the incredibly fun challenges I’d face. I’ve been primarily concerned with oVirt, GlusterFS, and FeedHenry. But I’m also keeping a watchful eye on projects like OpenStack (along with Red Hat’s RDO offering), ManageIQ, Ceph, CentOS, and Fedora. The ecosystem of projects that Red Hat contributes to is vast and always growing, so there’s certainly no shortage of work to be done.

I’ve learned quite a bit about the different documentation workflows being used in the wild. The systems I helped build up for GNOME are fairly heavyweight compared to most open source projects (though certainly not the most heavyweight). Workflows using lightweight formats, GitHub, and continuous deployment are very compelling and help reduce the barrier to entry. On the other hand, they offer little for multiple versions, status tracking, reviews, and translations. People talk a lot about barriers to entry, but I also like to talk about barriers to retention. Sometimes making things for new contributors makes long-term maintenance a burden.

I’ve tried bridging this from both directions: working more rich metadata into existing lightweight processes, and making the editing and deployment story easier in the Mallard+Yelp ecosystem. Of course, I have to prioritize real work for deadlines, but it’s given me interesting new weekend challenges as well.

It’s been an exciting six months with an incredible team. I’m looking forward to the next six months.