What Drupal documentation means to me

Last Friday Dries announced that Steven Peck (sepeck) had decided to step back from his leadership role on the documentation team. Steven and Dries asked me to step into those big shoes and I accepted. All I can say is that I am glad that Steven isn’t going away. 🙂 I’m honored that two people I respect so much have thought me worthy of this title. I will definitely hearken back to the many lessons I have learned from them both and strive to not disappoint.

The Drupal project has long stood out for copious amounts of documentation. With the redesign under way and exciting work going on for Drupal 7, there is a feeling of great change in our community. Of course, Open Source in general and Drupal in particular thrives on change. Drupal has been growing and shifting and I’ve been feeling lately that the leadership of Drupal in the Open Source community is not confined to just our software and our community, but that Drupal documentation can and should become a leader in the field too. We’ve got a passionate community of people from all over the world, with more varied skills than I can name. We have all of the pieces to not only create even better docs for Drupal, but to push documentation in new directions and set new standards for Open Source, both in quality of content and in organization and focus of our community efforts. I truly believe that the team I have worked with for the last two years is a top-notch group of people and together we will be a “best practices” example for how to “do docs right.”

Dries outlined the responsibilities of a team leader in his post and while I am determined to further all of those goals, here are some immediate areas of focus for me personally. Everyone should bring their own passions to the table – you don’t have to be a designated “lead” to make important things happen. So, here are my targets, to which I welcome and encourage you to add your own:

  1. The Getting Started guide: This guide was given an amazing foundation, laid by sepeck. He spent many, many days, weeks, months forging the initial guide for Drupal 5. He saw a great need for a tightly organized document to lead people through those first, sometimes harrowing, steps of using Drupal. We need to continue the care and feeding for this most invaluable resource. We need to keep it up-to-date and I’d love to see more of this central documentation directly accessible from within Drupal itself; maybe something like a new Help system in core or even a documentation module that uses the Advanced Help module in Drupal 6.
  2. Improving tools on The redesign of is going to change a lot about our home for the better. It is long overdue and the excitement is palpable. As a community we need to pay keen attention to the changes we make and I am particularly attuned to a documentation wish list. How can we use this opportunity to not only make it easier to read the docs, but also make it easier for everyone to help tend our garden? The easier it is for us to maintain and care for our handbooks, the nicer it will be to stroll amongst them.
  3. Lighting the path to help: Many people have a lot of enthusiasm to help but do not know how to apply it. One of the great things about Drupal is that it is an Open Source do-ocracy. It can be one of the most frustrating as well. For people who do not feel comfortable just striking out on their own, it can seem too intimidating – the carousel is spinning too fast and requires too much bravado to jump on. For others, they may charge ahead and, in all earnestness, step on the wrong toe or accidentally kick someone in the shin. That can often lead to a bad experience for everyone involved and hamper further efforts to get involved. While I hope that the new Getting Involved guide will be the start of a better “lighted way” for folks, I want to spend a goodly amount of time focused on the iterative process of giving folks a clearer path to helping with the documentation, which will hopefully improve the documentation about documentation. 🙂

These are three salient goals right now. Underlying all of these is another, which is not so much task oriented as it is attitude. I am buoyed not only by the greater changes in the Drupal community right now, but the real energy, insight and desire of the documentation team I get to work with every day. I feel that we have great opportunities before us and I am inspired to plow ahead with gusto. My current working mantra is “Throw it on the wall and see if it sticks.” By this, I mean that I want to try new ideas, try old ideas in new ways, stretch boundaries and see what works. If things don’t work, look at why, but then move on. Drupal has thrived on this attitude for many, many years. It is certainly nothing new that I bring, but I want to really encourage people to play in the finger paints – get your hands dirty and see what beautiful and sometimes unexpected things you can make. We can not only make Drupal more accessible and understandable, but we have the community – the people, knowledge and desire – to make real change in what the world expects of Open Source documentation. Feel free to join in the fun.