Ubuntu documentation at UDS: A summary

Now that my week at the Ubuntu Developer Summit is over, and I have completed my safe flight back, I thought I would write up a blog post about my experience while I complete my recovery from jet lag.

My week at UDS was a challenging week. A great week. A week in which I had great discussions around docs, met lots of cool people, and wound up expanding the limits of what are normally considered acceptable sleep patterns.

I had three docs-team sessions during the week. I also attended two sessions about cloud-related documentation, and another session on server documentation. The three docs-team sessions focused on the team strategy, our goals for the 11.10 release cycle, and evaluating a web-based documentation platform.

Team Strategy

The inspiration for the team strategy discussion is the Xubuntu Strategy Document. Have you read it? When Cody Somerville first wrote it, part of me was like, "Are you serious? Did you write this yourself?" It seemed too complicated. In practice, though, I’ve seen the Xubuntu team reference that document while making decisions time and time again. I think a similar document would benefit the docs team, too. I’m preparing a draft document based off of recent team discussions, and will be sharing it in the next week.

Team Goals for the 11.10 Release

The team goals session was pretty great. People in the room, and people listening in via the audio casts, gave helpful input. There was more focus on the Ubuntu wiki at UDS than I anticipated. Some of our goals for this cycle include creating a strategy document, contributing to upstream docs projects, refactoring our team wiki, testing of documentation accessibility, testing a preferred help layout, doing stable release updates for docs and translations, squashing boogs, adopting a consistent coding style, updating our style guide (or picking an existing one), and doing some of the initial work in revamping help.ubuntu.com.

It sounds like a lot, and it is, but some of it is already a work in progress. We will make these goals explicit during our next team meeting.

Web-based Documentation Platform

The group behind this project is Pronovix, a Drupal consultancy. I knew that their project was using Drupal and DITA, but I wasn’t sure what *their project did*. They had some of their staff based in Hungary, just a short trip away from Budapest, so I thought it was worth getting in touch to learn more about their approach and how it might benefit us.

DITA stands for the Darwin Information Typing Architecture, an XML syntax developed by IBM that specializes in content profiling and content reuse. The advantage of content reuse with a tool like DITA is that it allows you to write something once, write it well, and reuse it most everywhere. That is the idea, at least. Implementation of DITA can be difficult. Their project has promise, but the toolchain isn’t currently packaged by any distro other than OpenSUSE. Harald Sitter (Mr. Apache Log File) felt that this very much limits the likelihood of upstream adoption.

Even with that in mind, we are going to seriously evaluate their platform. It was very considerate of this group to make a trip to demonstrate their project, and we want to be supportive of everyone who is working in open source documentation.

There are quite a few irons in our fire, and we’ll have to get word out about our activities somehow. Our progress will likely be presented via a new Ubuntu Documentation Team blog. We think now is a good time to start one up, so look for more info on that soon, as well.