The Docs Project uses Lead Writers as a focal point and single responsible person to ensure a document meets deadlines for translation and packaging.
We project in the future that a CMS tool could automate many of the tasks of a Lead Writer. Currently, it is necessary for the Lead Writer to gain experience in Docs Project processes and tools, as well as guide the completion of writing, editing, and translating.
Responsibilities of a Lead Writer
Simple answer: everything.
The idea of a lead writer is similar to a project manager. It is someone who is ultimately accountable for making sure something is brought to completion. That is different from being responsible for each part. Multiple people can share that responsibility, but only one person can really be accountable.
This is a big request to ask of a person volunteering their time. It's similar to owning a software package, except I think it is generally harder. It is actually more akin to being the lead developer in an upstream project *and* the downstream packager.
Currently Lead Writer is accountable for ...
As of December 2008:
- Work with project leaders to set schedule for each release
- (Help) recruit additional writers
- Parse the work for the document into individual responsibilities other writers can take on
- Ensure all of that work is done in time for the schedule
- May have to do the work yourself if no one takes on the job or is unable to complete in time
- Deliver translation files according to the schedule
- Edit or coordinate editing
- Final polish, packaging (if done), and publication (on docs.fp.o)
Ideally in the future the Lead Writer is accountable for ...
This is post-CMS and with new automated processing still in the ideation stage:
- As above, except:
- Once the schedule is set, it can be fixed in to the CMS
- Self-service for writers/editors to take on at-will
- Connect with project-wide recruitment
- Minimizes chances of things slipping between the cracks
- Translation files, packaging, and publication automated
Qualifications of a Lead Writer
- Be able and willing to be accountable for something from start to finish
- Project management
- Do not need to be a highly accomplished writer or editor, but able to recruit and direct people who can do those tasks
- Stick around or have been around long enough to fully understand the job and be somewhat self-sufficient
- Enthusiasm and patience, especially patience
- Ability to nag without making enemies
Typical time investment for a Lead Writer
Hard to know other than personal experience, but these estimates are currently accurate (Dec. 2008):
- For six of the months of a year (non sequential months), the work load is small, maybe a few hours a week of organization, writing, recruiting, and collaborating with related sub-projects.
- Presuming a reasonable amount of organization and tools that don't waste time, during the more active of the six months, it should be:
- Five to ten hours a week for four+ months
- Ten to fifteen hours a week for the weeks leading up to freeze and release
The full tool set can be learned on the job. DocBook XML with either the fedora-doc-utils or publican toolchain (or both?). Wiki gardening may be helpful. Comfortable with using or learning multiple SCMs, in specific, git, svn, and cvs are used currently.
Reasons to be a Lead Writer
Why do all this?
Presuming that one already wants to contribute to Fedora and is balking at the potential time commitment, consider these fulfilling aspects:
- Good for your career. Red Hat has already hired from within the Docs Project, and other companies may do the same. Your noted abilities as a contributor to an important upstream means you are valuable for many employers before they hire you.
- If you want to write and publish books, it's an impressive resume builder. In fact, because our work is openly licensed, you can use it as the basis for a larger work.
- If you do your job well enough, you reduce the workload by splitting it amongst many other people. Take the release notes as an example. That was a full-time person's job that we have turned in to a few hours work each release for most of the contributors involved.
- It is actually rather fun, most of the time ...