Common Documentation

There are some exciting projects running. One of this is the web-based system for translating open source software into any language: Rosetta – this is not the same, although similar to the project with the same name The Rosetta Project (which is is a global collaboration of language specialists and native speakers working to build a publicly accessible online archive of all documented human languages). Both do link to the Rosetta Stone as an inspiration.

Many things have changed in the software world. Not only there, but from my perspective the principles invented here are now copied to many different fields in society. It becomes more and more obvious that licenses are becoming more and more important to share more easily. Everything seems to be about sharing nowadays: if you take DRM or if you take peer-to-peer. The approach may be different in different companies, the philosophies may defer… some do like to have more control than today, others rather would love to have more freedom. I like to call the ‘other guys’ the ‘control freaks’. Property is an important part of our current (western) social systems. Although it is an achievement, if you view it from a historical perspective it stands in the way of progress nowadays. Because of the rhetoric progressive people are using they are often simply seen as some communist like the creative communist logo“creative communists” (creative commons) .

What does “sharing” mean? And why does the common property understanding is in our way? Because you have to ask for permission, because you not just can use things. You have to waste time on making sure that you can use some parts you find on the internet. Often the time to find out if you can use it and to integrate it right is greater than dealing with the content itself.

I am happy to see these no projects finally trying to bring software projects like Rosetta together. Also Wikipedia with its great success. We still have obstacles as Wikipedia is mainly GFDL content and documentation of OpenOffice.org is PDL – others like their content licensed as CC-BY.

I think in documentation we could be by far better than we are today. I would expect the OpenOffice.org documentation to update automatically from internet and to include parts of the Wikipedia. This is not possible right now. I don’t know why they choose the PDL instead of the GFDL, that is used for most open source projects. Projects like Abiword and Koffice, Scribus, Inkscape, GIMP need to document some important terms as well. Do we need them to do this all by themselves? Is it important or necessary that we have three or more teams reinventing the wheel? We allready share a lot of code where possible. But still there is more sense or creating the own software than to work together. This is especially stupid when it comes to documentation, becaue most programmers don’t like to document. This means we must all be happy if somebody writes some good explanation.

I would like to encourage all documentation folks in the different projects to come together in order to workout some really good documenation. That might even be a good basis for some good books. There is still much to do for the Tutorials for each application. And why not see it like this: Your users might use GIMP for working on the images, use Inkscape for making a nice vector graphic and use your office application or Scribus to put all together. The quality of each step and the better the understanding of the users on each step, the better the results will be.

I would again suggest to use freedesktop.orgfor this kind of collaboration. I would use the term “CommonDocumentation”

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