2019 GSoD: the Google Season of Docs

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:

Blender Today segment on YouTube

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!


The Blender Foundation applied for this, see here:


Hm the season of docs webpage definitely gives the impression of it being more focused on developer documentation rather than end user one, but then it never clearly says it.

Well guess it is still win either way if there are good applicants but yeah.

I took an admittedly quick skim over the Google site and did not get this impression.
It does seem to imply technical docs.
Do you have some direct links regarding end user doc?

Please point to some examples. The only instances of the word “technical” I can find on the site are combined with the word “writer”. The job description of “technical writer” does not only apply to “technical” documentation (quite the opposite) as there is no separate term for “writer of documentation for non-technical users”. A quick Google search produces this definition:

Technical writers are skilled wordsmiths that typically develop product manuals, how-to guides, website help sections, journal articles, and other content that distills technical information with ease and clarity. … To make processes easy to understand and products a breeze to use.


In fact the primary job of tech writers is to transform technical information into a more understandable form. “Technical documentation” might be seen as the sort of thing one programmer would produce for other programmers on the same team to consume. But GSoD is explicitly not for programmers to write documentation, it’s to connect outside tech writers with programmers so the writers can document the work of the programmers allowing for easier consumption of the product by its users (if a core Blender programmer applied to be a writer in this program, they would likely be rejected because that’s not what Google is trying to enable here).

For Blender this absolutely means that it should apply to end-user documentation because that is likely to have the most impact, and is exactly the goal that Google has in mind. So the real purpose of GSoD is almost the exact opposite of “only for internal technical documentation”.

Examples is what I was looking for - something that refers explicitly to end-user docs and not technical documentation.

The definition of tech writer is not the question. We are looking for evidence that GSOD is about creating end-user docs rather than API or architecture docs for developers. Simply saying it does not make it so.

The example projects do seems to be basically docs for users and guides for new contributors. There is no example about documenting code architecture for developers.

For many open source projects, users are often programmers or system administrators. But I also see no indication that the Blender user manual is excluded from this program.


Thanks, Brecht.

As an aside, when I was first getting started with Blender development, I found Ton’s hand-drawn architecture documents extremely helpful for understanding the program. Much easier than rooting through the header files trying to piece together the data structures.

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Can use any (human) language? Google web page not say if need use English language or can choose. We need Blender documents use local language.

The announcement on twitter seems pretty clear about it

Announcing Season of Docs, a new program that connects technical writers with open source projects!

We hope Season of Docs will help technical writers get into developer documentation, while also helping open source projects improve their docs.

Ermahgerd. What if we just highlight it differently?

Anyhow, I have now emailed the GSoD people for clarification and will report when I hear back.

You’re probably just seeing what you want to see (and that probably goes for me as well) so if you hear back, by all means share!


Via season-of-docs-support@googlegroups.com…

Hallo Gavin

Season of Docs is definitely targeted at end-user documentation for consumers of the OSS product. (The words “developer documentation” in that tweet refer to the more technical type of developer-focused products that OSS projects tend to develop, as opposed to consumer applications. It can be hard for tech writers to get experience in that kind of developer-focused product.) It’s also fine for a Season of Docs project to focus on internal developer documentation if that’s what the open source organization needs. And also fine to focus on documentation for a consumer app too. :slight_smile:

Basically, Season of Docs acts as the go-between for the technical writers and the open source orgs. The orgs can define the docs they need, and the tech writers then work with the orgs to develop the docs. We at Season of Docs don’t try to dictate what type of docs people develop.

Sorry about the confusion!

Best regards

Sarah Maddox


Nice!! thanks for getting in touch with them!

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Well, we’re not on the list. Would be nice to know if there was any feedback on the reason. Very disappointing as this was a huge opportunity and Blender probably has more opportunity for improved documentation than many of these projects!


Maybe next year…

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