Using a Wiki for Collaborative Documentation TOSW - Presenter Notes

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These are the notes being used for a presentation on Using a Wiki for Collaborative Documentation TOSW.



  1. dial in to phone num. at 11:45
  2. Have demos, documents ready to go on machine I'm presenting on
    • gwibber and noisy stuff off
    • windows minimized save browser and emacs
    • Stand-alone browser ready with:
      • front page
      • sandbox page

timeline / outline

  •  :00 - :03 -- Introductions
  •  :03 - :05 -- Focus of talk, goals
  •  :05 - :10 -- Wiki collaboration methodology
    • generic & specific
    •  :10 - :25 -- Demonstration of methodology
    •  :25 - :35 -- Wrap-up

Focus of talk, goals

This talk presents a collaboration methodology that uses a wiki and a common set of practices grounded in the open source way. The goal of the collaboration is community documentation, which is content created by a community for its own purposes/needs.

For example, I was at OSBridge last week, and each session page has a wiki link. Audiences members are encouraged to use it for taking session notes, and multiple people can edit parts of the notes simultaneously. At certain conferences I've seen a very high degree of session note taking, so the conference is literally documenting itself as it proceeds. I can refer back to a discussion or decision that was reached in one of those sessions, using the realtime log/minutes created by the audience.

In Fedora, we use this for the release notes. In TOS, we use it for a textbook. We use it for TOSW, which we are going to use today.

This content, when ready, gets converted to DocBook XML and configured to be processed by Publican, which is a tool made and used by Red Hat Content Services on all our product documentation. That gives us HTML, PDF, epub, etc. XML is a great format for translation and fits directly in with established l10n practices, such as

By the end of this talk, you should know:

  • How to use a wiki for collaborative documentation.
  • How to create a set of interlinked pages, such as a book or guide.
  • How to edit MediaWiki pages.
  • Why and where you might want to use this methodology.
  • Have an invitation to help edit/write The Open Source Way.

Wiki collaboration methodology

We are building on what Wikipedia teaches us. So, we point to their how-to and why information.

  • MediaWiki help pages provide syntax information and best practices on page authoring:
  • Fedora Project grew up special rules
    • to handle our unique situation
    • to make it easier to convert wiki pages to DocBook XML so it can be processed by the same tools that build RHEL docs.
  • Examples
    • Fedora release notes
    • TOS textbook
    • TOSW
  • Building a book with three chapters
    1. Create a new page to be the top-level of the book by typing in the URL or making a stub link. The name should be descriptive, natural language, not CamelCase, and not redundant (e.g. adding Fedora to the name of a guide on
    2. Edit the new page. Introduce the book, scope, etc., then create a table of contents that are stub-links to the chapters.
    3. Add it to at least one category immediately. It may have its own self-named category, too.
    4. Create the second-level nested sections
      • Each page is itself the first-level nesting
      • Use Review to check for syntax mistakes
    5. Save at this state because:
      • Save often is safer, less work lost
      • Once saved, you are more likely to share the URL
      • Once saved, it shows up in the wiki recent changes list
        • Release early, release often
      • The work you save is the work others have to build on
        • You may have reason to go suddenly, leave it so others can pick up where you left off.
    6. Each sub-section can now be edited independently.
    7. A common trick with wiki pages is to stub out all the sections.
      • Gives an outline to work against.
      • Makes it easy for others to work on part of the outline.
    8. Collaborators dive in where they see fit and/or where agreed. For example, a few writers might work on a chapter together, each working on different sections, then cross-editing.
    9. Using MediaWiki version control you can take a snapshot of a particular moment in a document, then continue editing the latest content. This is how TOS' 'Practical Open Source Software Exploration' worked.

Going to a printable form

  • For TOSW, Fedora Project, Teaching Open Source -- we use a tool that lets us automagically convert the wiki pages to XML files. It does about 85% of the structural work to get documents that work with Publican. The content may need some or a lot of inline editing, depending on how much markup occurs in the paragraphs. (More so for more technical content, usually, or for heavy references to user interfaces, etc.)
  • Converting_to_DocBook_XML
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