openDOC: Automating Documentation – A New Approach

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I don’t have to tell you that SUSECon 2016 started today in Washington D.C. – I am sure you are already more than aware of it. One of the first sessions – in about 30 minutes – will be done by the SUSE documentation team lead Markus Feilner. This session could become something very special, because Markus will put on discussion a new approach to documentation, breaking the perception that a rolling release cannot be documented.

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I’ve emphasized it several times before: Documentation is essential for (not only) software products. But sometimes the challenge is: for certain topics or technologies, there are tons of information available – current, outdated, good, bad, etc… . Forums, mailing lists, Wikis, release notes, Git commit comments, QA tools like Open QA or the SUSE Build Service and many more sources deliver an abundance of resources that offer indicators for documentation. And we struggle to dig through these sources, because the data is neither collected nor structured nor viewed at all. Going through tons of information “manually” is a tedious work.

But modern knowledge management tools can collect the data, analyze and structure it, add semantics and put it into a format that a community, a company or an OSS corporation can benefit from – receiving a usable basis for further work with minimal human input. Imagine a website similar to Stack Overflow or Reddit (but open source and company-independent) with automated input, ranked by interest (views), relevance of the information, and discussion thread length. The input triggers could become an open project, like Open QA’s tests.

A “Documentation Gardener” could then pick up the most important information and tasks and move them to an organized Wiki or Enterprise Documentation, at the same time helping the community and spotting pain points of the community. This is a vision that could become true sometime soon– and it would help to ease our lives in the open source world.

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If you would like to contribute to the development of this idea and carry the vision further, but you could not make it to the session, no worries – Markus will be at SUSECon during the entire week. No matter if you have additional thoughts or feedback – or if you just would like to argue for or against this idea with Markus, you can find him (frequently) at the openSUSE booth. And if you are not at SUSECon, just drop us an email at doc-team@suse.com to kick off the discussion.

Disclaimer: The text at hand has not been reviewed by a native speaker. If you find typos, please send them to me (meike.chabowski@suse.com) – or if you like them, just keep them :-).

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Meike Chabowski
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Meike Chabowski

Meike Chabowski works as Documentation Strategist at SUSE. Before joining the SUSE Documentation team, she was Product Marketing Manager for Enterprise Linux Servers at SUSE, with a focus on Linux for Mainframes, Linux in Retail, and High Performance Computing. Prior to joining SUSE more than 20 years ago, Meike held marketing positions with several IT companies like defacto and Siemens, and was working as Assistant Professor for Mass Media. Meike holds a Master of Arts in Science of Mass Media and Theatre, as well as a Master of Arts in Education from University of Erlangen-Nuremberg/ Germany, and in Italian Literature and Language from University of Parma/Italy.