It's 2014, and Open Source Documentation is Still Lacking
TechRepublic is out with an interesting collection of open source disappointments for 2013, and one of the items listed is continuing lack of proper documentation for open source projects. "The developers of open source software have to understand that end users need help, and the first place they need to turn is the project documentation," the story reports. "This is especially true when you've crafted a rather complicated piece of software."
Indeed, this remains a sore point for all kinds of open source projects, but there are some important steps being taken to improve documentation for FOSS projects, and some of them are going on outside of project communities.
Regularly here at OStatic, we provide updates on trends in free documentation and tutorials for popular open source platforms and applications. One of the best resources for finding free open source-related documentation is FLOSS Manuals. It's an ongoing effort to build online guides for open source software. Recently, for example, the site has added useful documentation for a number of projects that may interest you, including the ownCloud cloud sync-and-share cloud computing framework, and Scribus, which is a powerful open source desktop publishing program.
We've also produced collections of the best online tutorials for top open source projects, and you can find a big grab bag of them in this post. For example, if you want to dive into the GIMP graphics application, check out Gimp-Tutorials.net, which includes video tutorials and much more. You can also find many find many tutorials for Red Hat, Debian, Fedora, OpenSUSE and more at Unix-tutorials.com. I'm also a big fan of W3Schools' many online tutorials on developer-focused topics.
There have also been some interesting propositions for movements within the open source community toward collaborating on better documentation. In his OStatic post "Where's the Summer of Documentation?", Joe Brockmeier wrote:
"Google has been running its Summer of Code program since 2005. It has reached out to hundreds of open source programs and distributed millions of dollars to try to encourage more people to get involved with open source. That's great, but it doesn't address the pressing need that many projects have to develop more docs to go with the software they already have."
Indeed, it would be good to see some of the deep-pocketed tech companies put together organized, collaborative ways to produce better open source documentation. It's amazing that as 2014 begins, documentation is still so poor.