Google has a new program this year, similar to the Google Summer of Code in structure, but different in terms of its goals and who can participate. The new program is called the Google Season of Docs, and its purpose is to bring together skilled technical writers and open source projects to improve the documentation for those projects.
Just like GSoC, in GSoD open source software projects apply to be mentor organizations and come up with potential projects, and once an organization is selected to participate, tech writers can submit proposals for these or other ideas just as students submit coding ideas for GSoC.
Unlike GSoC which is only open to students, GSoD is specifically for anyone who can write quality documentation. As a writer you don’t even need to be deeply familiar with the open source project you’re going to work with, as the idea is that the writer is paired up with a developer who helps the writer understand the software and then they translate that knowledge into good documentation.
Writers who successfully complete their projects receive a stipend from Google that varies by country ($6,000 in the US for example) so this is Google basically offering to pay for your open source project to be better documented!
This is an incredible opportunity for Blender, and I know Ton has said it’s something they’re going to pursue, but I haven’t seen any discussion about it anywhere yet, so I’m making this thread to help spread the word and give people a place to discuss ideas.
The timing of the GSoD program is just about perfect to produce results in time for the 2.81 release.
One thing I want to mention is a misunderstanding I’ve heard a couple times, including Dalai Felinto’s comment here:
that the GSoD is not for end-user documentation but only internal technical documentation. I believe that’s not correct and perhaps is confusion based on the term “technical writer”. If you read the Google site and look at the proposals that other projects are putting together, it’s clear that the GSoD can definitely be used to produce and improve end user documentation.
Big comprehensive 3D applications like Blender (or Maya, Max, Houdini, Lightwave, Modo, etc.) are so loaded with features and ways of accessing those features that hardly anyone is a true expert at using them to the level of skill that is possible (3D DCC apps have among the highest “skill caps” of any software). I think for any of these products you could do a major release that consisted of nothing but really good improvements in documentation and users would think it was the best feature release ever, just because it showed them how to do things they didn’t know they could do, or showed them more efficient ways to accomplish things they’d been doing for years.
Maybe it’s not quite the understatement of the century to say that not everyone loves to write documentation, but it’s true that many developers would much rather be coding than writing docs. This is something the GSoD is trying to address directly, with the goal of bringing together people who enjoy (or are at least good at) documentation with the open source developers who create the projects that need better documentation. Rather than the developers spending a lot of time writing instead of coding, they can pass the knowledge on to people who can do the writing and the associated grunt work of formatting and publishing that always goes with it.
So I think Blender is just about the perfect open source project to be taking advantage of the new GSoD program and we should try to get everything out of it that we can.
Oh, and “documentation” doesn’t just mean tedious old reference manuals, but it could be anything that’s possible with current technology. So think up some cool ideas!