How to: XXXXX”

This is the daily work of a teacher. That’s so obvious that we who do/have done it almost forget we’re doing it. Teachers generally also do the How to: job in small pieces. We want our students to practice a few steps at a time so they can internalize a skill before taking on the next bits. We teachers even write worksheets, sometimes with illustrations, to make the learning easier after the students have gone home.

I just spent four days at Linuxcon10 in Boston, mixing it up with very smart software developers. Linuxcon is the conference sponsored by the Linux Foundation. Most of the talks are technical. I was out of my depth; I admit it. But I was there partly to volunteer at the showcase table for the KDE Community. Telling people about how I use KDE tools was in my comfort zone. It was a bit like teaching. It was fun.

Earlier this year, I completed an online training for the KDE Userbase. The instructor, Anne Wilson, took a small group of us through the steps of adding to the Userbase. We learned the basics of editing a Userbase wiki page, dealing with each other in a Userbase forum, and completed the open-ended process by selecting a topic and adding it to the wiki. [Link to the description of the course I took] You don’t even need to know how to use a wiki. The course covers that, too.

So what does that mean to readers of this blog?

Well, honestly, I’m assuming most of you are either educators or people interested in using a computer with students and doing that with open source software. If that is who you actually are, you are in a great position to add value to the open source universe.

Open source draws lots of coders, people who want to build a great software tool. Their passion for coding doesn’t always translate into writing end-user documentation. They might feel comfortable writing program specifications and details of how to interface with the program at a technical level. They are serving the end user but their focus is getting the tool out the door.

If you teach, you probably write a little. If you use KDE, and you teach and write a little, you are a prime candidate for adding something to the Userbase Wiki. Set up an account. Get involved with a training session. Write some user documentation. There’s never enough of it.

What if you are not a teacher? You can still write KDE Userbase documentation. It is short stuff. If you’ve used a tool that’s not mentioned, write up a how-to. Add it to the Userbase.

Another nice thing about the KDE Community is that it is “upstream” and you can make a contribution no matter what distribution you use: Fedora, Kubuntu, openSUSE, Arch, it doesn’t matter. KDE stuff works on Gnome distributions, too, you know. Don’t let “fanboy” arguments keep you away.

If you decide to make a Userbase contribution, start here: http://userbase.kde.org/KDE_UserBase:About

Aaron Siego is one of those people who code, and write, and he is a KDE contributor. He recently wrote about his Userbase experience.
http://aseigo.blogspot.com/2010/08/making-writing-documentation-enjoyable.html

What if you are not a KDE user? There are MANY other community projects out there. Look around. Find one which focuses on the software you use every day. Add to their documentation pages.

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I am headed off to LinuxCon in a couple of weeks.

I need some guidance. What presentations should I be sure to see? I plan to attend the mini-summit for Teaching Open Source which is on Monday the 9th (before the official start of the conference itself). I’m also going to be a volunteer at the KDE table. I want to make the most of the remaining time. I don’t think I’m really up to the technical level of some tracks…Kernel, heavy duty programming, etc.

If you have suggestions, I’d appreciate it.