Documentation is a vital user-facing component of all serious projects, open-source and otherwise, but it is often overlooked—-or, worse, dealt with in fire-drill mode just before going to manufacturing or market. However, documentation is a project’s backbone. It is often what users and OEMs see first, and it is also the place you want users to look when they have questions or problems (so they don’t have to call you).
Making documentation approachable is a non-trivial task. Like the finish on a restored car or a piece of fine furniture, it can make a clunker look like a million bucks, or it can put your diamond irretrievably in the rough. This short presentation addresses the process of managing the documentation portion of your project, with special attention paid to open-source issues as well as those of community-based development. Subjects include internal project documentation, published APIs and their accompanying SDKs, and end-user documentation, and the four critical issues that must be addressed in each component.
Jeff Osier-Mixon is a technical writer, developer advocate, and community manager at MontaVista Software LLC, a market leader in embedded Linux. Jeff blogs about open source issues at http://jefro.wordpress.com (Jeff’s Open Source Resource).
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