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O'Reilly Network: Open Source Convention Report: Open Documentation Summit

Jul 17, 2000, 23:48 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Frank Willison)

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"The goal of this meeting was to gather together those people who are interested in finding a way to improve the documentation that accompanies open source software. Some of the issues involved are controversial and have generated friction among various camps in the Open Source development community and publishers. Representatives of all the camps were invited to the summit. Lots of open source documentation groups participated: the Linux Documentation Project, GNOME, KDE, FreeBSD, BSDI, SourceForge, Samba, OASIS, Los Alamos National Labs, Python, and Open Content. Naturally, all the O'Reilly Open Source and XML editors filled the remaining chairs. Controversy at the summit, however, was constructive and minimal."

"The major conclusion reached by attendees was to standardize on DocBook/XML as the canonical format for open source documentation. The role of DocBook, however, is to be the storage and exchange format. Different projects will use it in different ways, but all will provide some form of their documents in a standard DocBook format."

"There really wasn't another solution to consider. Even the Free Software Foundation is working on converting documents in TeXinfo, their current format, to SGML. Most commercial documentation projects use proprietary products like Word or Frame that are just inappropriate for Open Source projects. Furthermore, they and other formatting alternatives lack the expressive richness of DocBook. One of the key characteristics of any Open Source solution is that it has to be able to express every important distinction across many environments, technologies, formats, and languages."

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