Mallard Documentation

Did anyone watch The Office last Thursday night? Early in the episode, Dwight gives Jim a wood duck with a walkie-talkie built-in so Dwight can spy on Jim.

Jim: Thanks for the duck

Dwight: It’s not a duck, it’s a mallard!

This had me chuckling thinking about Mallard documentation. For the record, mallards are a much more beautiful duck than wood ducks.

There’s been a lot going on in the world of GNOME documentation. Mallard has been getting a lot of buzz, in the #docs IRC channel, on Twitter and identi.ca, the mailing list and blogs. People have taken notice of the new Empathy documentation with its new layout and focus on topic based documentation.

Here’s just a few of the things going on:

  • We’ve expanded our monthly GNOME Docs meetings, and we’re practically meeting every other week now. We’ll be having a working session in our next meeting November 8th focused on what a new GNOME User Guide (Shaun hates calling it a User Guide!) will look like for GNOME 3.0. Shaun came back from the Boston Summit with lots of ideas and discussions around user help and the work we’ll need to do for GNOME 3.0.
  • Milo Casagrande, author of the new Empathy help, recently blogged about his experience in writing the Empathy help. He includes the process he went through, writing per page topics and also includes code samples. If you’re looking into getting involved in writing GNOME documentation, his blog is a must read.
  • For the GNOME 2.29 cycle, I’m committed to writing new Tomboy help in Mallard as well as adding help to Banshee for the first time. I’m starting with Tomboy as its help is a bit more basic than Banshee which has more advanced features. I’ve created a docs branch in Tomboy’s GNOME git and have been adding pages over the last week or two to get up to speed on Mallard. I have to say, writing docs in Mallard is ten times easier than Docbook. The XML markup just makes sense and is so much simpler than Docbook.
  • For Banshee, I have a git branch on Gitorious. I’ve checked out the code again after not working on it for a couple of months and have started working on it.
  • Nigel hooked some members of the Docs team up with Google Wave invites. It’s been interesting trying out Wave for collaboration for Docs writing. Not so much writing the actual documentation, but it’s been helpful for planning the pages, which is the most important part of any writing. With us half a world apart we haven’t really had a chance to use Wave for real time collaboration which I think it’s more suited for, but it’s been helpful. At this point a wiki would probably work just as well, but I do like the threaded view which makes it easier to see when changes or updates were made in Wave.
  • Shaun is off working feverishly on a new Yelp help browser for GNOME 3.0. Details are scarce at this point, but he seems excited.
  • We’ve also launched ProjectMallard.org. It’s our goal that the Mallard XML schema is used in more than just GNOME. It’s early in Mallard’s development so no big announcements, but it’s helpful to think about user help in FOSS on a greater scale. The webpage is just a place holder at this point, but we have plans to add information on what Mallard is, how to get started including code samples, tools, specifications, extensions and more.
  • We’re planning on having a GNOME Docs meetup in Chicago on November 9th prior to the marketing hackfest. Jim Campbell from XFCE might stop by but unfortunately Nixternal of KDE fame will be out of town.

Now is a great time to get involved with GNOME Documentation. Stop by on IRC in #docs on GimpNET or join the mailing list, we’d love to share what is going on with Mallard and how we are planning to make user help a better experience.

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