Season of Docs fostering open source collaboration with tech writers

Exciting news: Google Open Source has announced a new program called Season of Docs. I’m excited because the goals of this program reflect two passions of mine: to help technical writers get started in the world of open source software, and to help open source projects build great documentation. I’m also excited because I’m on the program development team for Season of Docs.

Season of Docs sets up a framework for open source projects to invite technical writers to work on the projects’ documentation for a few months.

Technical writers bring their documentation expertise to the open source project of their choice. In return, mentors from the open source organization help the technical writer gain an understanding of their open source community, processes, tools, and code.

A golden collaboration

When technical writers contribute to open source projects, both parties benefit. The open source project gains good documentation and improved contribution procedures. The technical writer gains experience in open source software, developer-focused products, new tools, and the ways in which open source communities work. A golden collaboration.

Open source is great. Some of the world’s most-used software is open source: the Linux operating system, Firefox web browser, LibreOffice, Apache web server, to name but a few well-known brands. Large companies like Microsoft, Google, Red Hat, and IBM contribute to, as well as use, open source code.

Open source ideology is great too. People share code in public repositories, collaborate on making the code better, invite others to join their communities… yet, all too often, people expect those newcomers to understand the product, the code, and the community’s values with very little good documentation.

Why the dearth of good docs? It’s clear from GitHub’s Open Source Survey that open source organizations know the value of good documentation, so why are there so many gaps? Because writing documentation is hard.

But wait… there are people who know how to do it well!

Many technical writers are keen to gain experience in developer-focused products such as APIs, SDKs, and various programming languages and tools. Technical writers look for opportunities to explore cloud computing, machine learning, hardware, and more.

When a technical writer wants to expand their resume or look for a new role, the advice is sometimes to build a portfolio by contributing to open source. But that’s not easy. There are so many open source projects out there. Where do you start? How can you be sure your contributions will be useful to the open source project? Who can help you understand the contribution procedures, the product, and the code?

Season of Docs gives technical writers and open source projects the opportunity to work together within a structured program.

Let’s go build great open source docs!

How does Season of Docs work?

First up, open source organizations apply to participate in Season of Docs. The list of accepted organizations is then published on the Season of Docs website, along with the ideas each organization has proposed for technical writing projects.

Then technical writers explore the list of participating open source organizations and their project ideas.

As a technical writer, you can decide which open source project you’d like to work with. It’s a good idea to get in touch with the open source organization to chat about their requirements and your own ideas. You can contact more than one organization if you like.

When you’re ready, you submit your application to participate in Season of Docs, including your project proposal and the name of the open source organization you’re interested in. You can submit more than one project proposal, but only one will be accepted.

If your technical writing project is accepted for Season of Docs, then you as a technical writer will work with your chosen open source organization for a few months (starting in September 2019) to complete your project. You work closely with your open source mentor for the duration of the program, to ensure successful completion of your project.

At the close of the program, the successfully-completed projects are published on the Season of Docs website and on the Google Open Source Blog.

When can you start?

Open source organizations can start applying to participate in Season of Docs from April 2, 2019, and the website will show the list of participating organizations on April 30. Technical writers then have the opportunity to examine the list of participating open source organizations and explore the project ideas proposed by the organizations.

Technical writers can start applying to participate in Season of Docs from May 29, 2019.

The Season of Docs timeline shows the key dates and what happens in each phase of the program.

Want to learn more?

Take a look at the Season of Docs announcement on the Google Open Source Blog, or dive into the guides on the Season of Docs website at g.co/seasonofdocs. Join the mailing list at season-of-docs-announce to stay informed about when applications open and other important program events.

About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 12 March 2019, in Google, Season of Docs, technical writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. harrietwantsajob

    This is great news! I’m a technical writer learning API documentation, and it’s really tricky to 1) find the right open source project and 2) feel like you’re making a worthwhile contribution. I’m excited for this!
    Would you recommend any particular preparation for technical writers before May 29? I’ve done Peter Gruenbaum’s API course, the ‘idratherbewriting’ API course, and I’m also learning Python and JavaScript (as from what I can tell these are the most useful and commonly used at Google).

    • Hallo Harriet

      It’s great to know you’re excited about this program. I’m excited too! It looks to me as if you’ve done a lot of the right sort of preparation already. Season of Docs will include a variety of open source projects. We’ll know more about the specific participating proujects once the applications come in from the open source organisations. We’ll publish the participating open source projects on April 30th. At that time, you’ll be able to explore the projects and see what interests you.

      You could also explore the codes of conduct, contribution guidelines, and docs of various open source orgs, to get a feel for the variety of projects out there.

      Cheers
      Sarah

      • Harriet Balfour Evans

        Hi Sarah,

        That’s great to know! Really looking forward to seeing the projects when they come up, and in the meantime will take a look at those guidelines and docs you’ve recommended.

        Thanks so much,
        Harriet

  2. Ditto Sarah — excited to know that Google is creating such a space for 2 things dear to me — techcomm and OSS. I hope to make it.

    • Thanks AshishG. It’ll be great when we publish the list of participating open source organizations with their project ideas. Then you and others interested in taking on a tech writing project can see what’s available and start working on project proposals.

  3. Hi Sarah,

    The Season of docs looks very promising and hope it will bring a new season / gateway for the tech writers to expand their wings. Looking forward to it.

    Thank you,
    Altaf Ahmed

    • Hallo Altaf

      You’re right, this program does give tech writers new opportunities. I’m so glad you’re looking forward to it. The program also gives open source organizations the opportunity to attract more tech writers to work with them. That’s exciting too.

      Thanks for commenting!
      Cheers
      Sarah

  4. Hello Sarah,
    Interesting program ! Excited to join The Season of Docs.I am more interested in API documentation and mobile technology documentation.

    I am looking forward for this program.

    Thanks
    Deepali

    • Hallo Deepali
      Thanks for dropping by, and it’s great to know you’re interested in taking part in Season of Docs. We’re aiming to have a diverse set of open source organizations participating in Season of Docs. As an interested technical writer, you’ll be able to take a look at the participating organizations from April 30 onwards, and then get in touch with the organizations that interest you. You’re right, it’s going to be interesting! I’m looking forward to it too.
      Cheers
      Sarah

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