I love it when a pet project comes together

Especially when I don’t have to do all that much work. Let me explain …

Last year, I got the idea to put together a FLOSS Manual that covers Chromium, the Open Source version of Google’s Chrome Web browser. When I approached Adam Hyde of FLOSS Manuals about writing this manual at the book sprint at Toronto Open Source Week, he was intrigued.

But Adam strongly suggested that the sprint focus on Thunderbird, instead. Having annoyed Adam enough in the past, I complied. Mainly to keep the peace, and partly because I was interested in documenting Thunderbird.

Until earlier this year, the Chromium manual sat on the back burner waiting for me to find the time to start it. That’s when Edward Cheung, a student from Seneca College’s technical communication program, got in touch with me. Edward was wondering if there was a FLOSS Manuals project he could contribute to. In a case of being careful of what you wish for, I had one for him!

Working together, we created a table of contents and Edward put together a project plan. Then I cut him loose. After a lot of work, the manual got written and finalized. The results are better than pretty good — heck, I even learned a thing or two about Chromium!

Edward did a bang up job pulling this manual together. What impressed me most is that Edward took a lot of the initiative after I cut him loose. There was no hand holding. He gathered information, approached subject matter experts, and wrote most of the manual himself.

I wasn’t just someone barking orders. I did some writing — mostly the sections of the manual that cover Linux. But Edward did the bulk of the work. And he did it with minimal supervision. He only approached me when he had some questions or ran into a problem. Which wasn’t too often.

And I have to extend a big thank you to Mark Hancock who helped edit the manual. Mark’s edits really helped tighten up the text and helped keep it consistent.

The final edits and cleanup were completed last week, and overall the manual is looking good. If you’re interested in reading it, you can find it here.

Open Help Conference update

Open Help Conference Unless you haven’t been paying attention, we’ve been talking and tweeting about the upcoming Open Help Conference quite a bit lately.

Scheduled for June 3 to 5, the Conference:

is a three-day event bringing together people who work on open source or community-based documentation and support. Combining traditional conference presentations with discussion forums and open-participation sessions, the Open Help Conference is a unique opportunity to learn, share, work, and have fun.

And there’s still time to participate. How? If you’re interested in speaking at the conference, you have until March 15 to submit a proposal. If you’re just interested in attending, you can get an early-bird discount until February 28.

Why not give the conference a try. You never know … you might just learn something!

For more information, email Shaun McCance at syllogist@syllogist.net.

Want to speak at the Open Help Conference?

Open Help Conference If you do, then you’re in luck. The call for proposals is now open.

That said, you’ve still got time to put in a proposal for a presentation or session. The conference is looking for any topic related to user help, including documentation, video demonstrations, user support, writing and build tools, localization, and accessibility. A free software/Open Source software angle is preferred, though not essential.

For more details, visit the Open Help Conference Web site. Or, email your proposal to Shaun McCance at syllogist@syllogist.net.

Remember to provide the following in you proposal:

  • Your name
  • The title of your presentation
  • A brief abstract

You’ve got until March 15, 2011 to submit your proposal.

About the Open Help Conference: Scheduled for June 3-5, 2011, the Open Help Conference is a three-day event bringing together people who work on open source or community-based documentation and support. Combining traditional conference presentations with discussion forums and open-participation sessions, the Open Help Conference is a unique opportunity to learn, share, work, and have fun. The organizers can also provide space for team sprints after the main conference.

For more information, visit the conference Web site.

Open Help Conference: a different kind of tech comm gathering

At WritersUA earlier this year, I met Jim Campbell and Shaun McCance. Jim and Shaun do a lot of documentation for a few Open Source projects – including GNOME and XUbuntu.

While out for dinner one night, the subject of conferences came up. We talked a bit about Open Source-specific writing conferences for a while, and things seemed to be left at that.

A couple of months ago, a message from Shaun found its way into my inbox. The subject? Something Shaun was putting together: a three-day conference in Cincinnati focusing on documentation for Open Source. He asked me if I wanted to get involved, and I immediately said Yes!

Shaun’s brainchild is the Open Help Conference. Scheduled for June 3-5, 2011, the conference will bring together people who work on open source or community-based help and help tools.

This isn’t going to be a traditional or even typical technical communication gathering. The Open Help Conference will combine the best elements of a formal conferences, unconferences, and camps. The conference will include traditional presentations, workshops, and open-participation sessions.

While the conference is still in the planning stages, Shaun has a solid group of people working with him. I’m definitely looking forward to this one.

The conference Web site is bare bones at the moment. But keep checking the site for more information about the speakers and the schedule. And if you’re interested in sponsoring the conference, contact Shaun.

Photo credit: Dmitry Goygel-Sokol from Photoxpress

Recapping FSOSS 2010

On October 29, I attended the Free Software Open Source Symposium (FSOSS) at Seneca College here in Toronto. This was the second time that I attended FSOSS, and once again it was an interesting experience. Even when you take my presentation crash and burn out of the equation.

While I only sat in on three sessions this year, and only one of those sessions had any relation to technical communication, I learned quite a bit.

Here’s what I heard and learned.

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Sprinting to a manual

As you may or may not know, I helped organize a two-day FLOSS Manuals book sprint at this year’s Toronto Open Source Week (held at Seneca College).

If you’re not familiar with a book sprint, read this for details.

This book sprint came about because:

  1. For the last two years, I’ve been promising Adam Hyde (head honcho of the FLOSS Manuals project) that I’d take a more active part in a book sprint
  2. I thought that this would be an interesting event to hold at Toronto Open Source Week

This time around, the goal was to complete a manual for the Mozilla Thunderbird email client. I hosted the book sprint in Toronto, and Adam Hyde took overall control from Berlin (where he lives).

It was an interesting two days, to say the least. Here’s a summary of what went down.

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