Project News & Status Updates

Here’s a somewhat quick run-down of some projects with-which I’ll be participating, and some other projects that, while I might not be a direct participant, I am curious to watch develop.

Xfce Updates

I see the LXDE project get a good amount of attention lately, in large part (I think) because it uses somewhat less memory than Xfce.  Xfce is still going on strong, though, and plans are in the words for the eventual release of Xfce 4.8.

Jérôme Guelfucci recently provided a brief update on what’s going on with Xfce, and one of the big things is a push for updated documentation.  I’ll be contributing to that, and will likely be borrowing some of the user-help topic "stubs" that have been put-together by the GNOME Documentation team.  I’ll be sure to share any relevant topic stubs with them, too.

Jannis Pohlman has also started the process of forming an Xfce foundation.  Jannis notes that this would make Xfce a legal entity with a board of directors, and that it would help to raise funds through sponsors and other contributors for hackfests and other events.

My Documentation Projects

Lately I have been continuing work on gedit documentation and have also done some initial work on updating the Ubuntu Packaging Guide. I should have the gedit docs well-drafted within another week or so, but I welcome suggestions and contributions with regards to the Packaging Guide.

Thus far, I’ve drafted the Packaging Guide in Mallard, and although Mallard is XML-based, it is much simpler than DocBook.  It is not difficult to learn, and you can draft-up a nice-looking, topic-focused documentation set with it rather quickly. I also know that there was a UDS session about the Packaging Guide today, so I welcome any feedback that resulted from that session, too.

Other Documentation Projects of Note

In non-Linux-help news, there are a couple of interesting DITA-related projects that I’ve been wanting to mention. If you haven’t heard of it before, DITA* stands for the *Darwin Information Typing Architecture*, an XML-based syntax originally developed (and later open-sourced) by IBM. The toolkit that processes the syntax, the DITA Open Toolkit, is Java-based, though, which I think has somewhat slowed its adoption in the Linux community. (Currently, only OpenSUSE packages DITA and the DITA Open Toolkit, but their implementation is a bit broken, perhaps due to an outdated version of Saxon in the OpenSUSE repositories.)

When people ask me what the big deal is about DITA**, I like to point them to this white paper (PDF).  It seems to provide a pretty clear picture of what DITA can help you do, even if it does make it look easier to implement than it is in real life.

There are a couple of DITA tools on the horizon that look to make it a bit easier to work with, though.  A group of Drupal developers are working with DITA developers to build a Drupal-based DITA authoring platform.  From what I can tell, it will be released under an open-source license.  They are just in the planning stages now, but I’ve relayed the Ubuntu Documentation / Ubuntu Manual / Ubuntu Learning Team’s requirements from what we talked about this past summer when considering the Ubuntu Learning Center.

Also, Don Day, the chair of the OASIS DITA Technical Committee, has put together a Free-as-in-Freedom web-based DITA platform.  It’s in its early stages, too, but you can get a look at it here. You can log in as a guest, and then select topic tools from the bottom of the page to have a go at editing the document.

A Docs Conference?  In Ohio?

Finally, there is word on the street about the possibility of a docs conference in Cincinnati during the first weekend in June.  I’ve expressed interest in helping with planning and organizing that conference.  For now I will keep my calendar open, and will post more news here as conference plans solidify.

*Whenever you do a Google search for DITA, it’s typically a good idea to exclude the phrase "Von Teese" from your search query.  That is, unless you want your documentation searches to also include results for a fabulous burlesque dancer / entertainer. If you do want dancer / entertainer results in your documentation search queries, then make sure to include the phrase "Von Teese" in your queries.

** Generally, people do not ask me about DITA.