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Rahul Sundaram was unhappy that he might be volunteering his work to document authors that restrict their documentation with a non-free license and indicated what he thought would be acceptable licenses. Rick Moen described what those licenses were and their problems (like the DFSG-freeness of GNU FDL 1.2). Rodolfo J. Paiz was of the opinion that license of a document is an individual choice and volunteering for a work with a license that one does not like is not obligatory. David Lawyer and Greg Ferguson explained the recommendations of The LDP.
Q: The classical question first: how, why and when did you get involved?
A: Well I've always been a bit of a docco [Editor's Note: that's a documentation maniac]. Unlike many of my other technically oriented friends, I actually write notes when I'm trying to install software. And then I go back and check my notes to make sure things are correctly documented. It makes life a lot easier if I ever need to install that software again. Just to give an example: In the first year that I was running Debian Linux on my laptop I had to re-install the system about half a dozen times. (Yes, I'm as shocked as you are.) Each time my notes improved and I got a little faster at performing each of the required steps.
The first publicly available documentation I wrote for a specific application was for ht://dig (a great little search engine). The document was very well received by my client at the time, and by the ht://dig community. Although my documentation had always been appreciated at work, this was the first time I'd received recognition from a community of users.
My first document accepted to the LDP was the ACPI HOWTO. Originally, it was just notes on the installation process, that I made for myself. These I submitted to various mailing lists to confirm their accuracy. I got lots of good feedback and Sebastian Henschel asked me to publish them on-line for the ACPI4Linux team. Werner Heuser suggested I submit the document to The LDP. Tabatha did my language review and started sending me really polite emails suggesting that maybe I'd like to be a technical reviewer. The next thing I knew I'd volunteered to re-write the Author Guide (a total of about nine months work) and suddenly I was a full fledged technical and meta data reviewer.
My original ACPI HOWTO now needs a major revamp for the 2.6 kernels, and I've been gearing up to work on that. Ariel Glenn will be helping me with the re-write (a process I'm actually looking forward to now).
Q: I took the liberty of going through your CV. As far as your employment is concerned, you seem to do fairly well and in accordance to the subjects you studied while at the university. But then for TLDP I see you reviewing the USB Flash Memory HOWTO and the BLFS document, and authoring the ACPI HOWTO. How did you grow an interest for these?
A: At this point I'm doing two types of reviews: metadata and technical. For the technical reviews I need to know something about the topic that I'm reviewing. I currently have a USB key chain and a USB camera, so it was a good match for me to review Niko's USB Flash Memory HOWTO.
The meta data reviews look at a different set of things, specifically the markup of the document (does the DocBook/LinuxDoc validate?) and the license the document is released under. There's a bit more to it than that, but those are the two things that take the most time on a meta data review. When I'm doing a meta data review I tend to scan the document for technical/language inaccuracies as well, but I don't spend a lot of time on it.
Then I have a third set of responsibilities: authoring documents. I'm currently an author on three documents at The LDP: ACPI HOWTO, The Author Guide and the Reviewer HOWTO. The first (ACPI HOWTO) was simply a document that I wrote from my own notes on a specific problem that I had to solve. The second two documents are more "process" documents for The LDP. There are a lot of volunteers at The LDP, many of whom perform critical roles in the publication of documents. I've been working on getting some of these processes documented so that if a volunteer ever wanted help, or decided to retire, there would be instructions on how to perform that volunteer's tasks.
Q: Did you ever have difficulties or encounter restrictions, being a woman at TLDP? And the eternal question: What should we do to get more female volunteers? What should men do to get more women to join this and other Linux projects?
A: The only restriction I've found is that I get to do more work! The men on the list are good at discussing the overall direction of The LDP while the women seem to be better at processing new documents for their collection into the LDP (and removing old/out of date documents). When it comes to processing documents I work primarily with three women and Greg Ferguson--that's not to say that there aren't any male volunteers! They just aren't the ones that I do the most work with for the processing of documents.
Then I look at the work I do on the overall picture and it's mostly men (and two women). Saqib Ali and David Horton have helped me a great deal with the tool and document transformations. Greg, as I mentioned above, is responsible for publishing documents. Stein Gjoen and I have had many interesting conversations about library-friendly document storage and meta data. Most of the licensing discussions are headed up by the men on our team.
As much as I would like to say that it's the men who need to do something to get more women involved, I think it's really up to the women. Yes, there are some male bozos out there, but there are some female ones too. Generally my advice is this: when the bozos behave badly, let them know what is wrong about their behaviour; then thank them for their help when they are being good. If a group has an overwhelming number of bozos, find a new group. There is not a single Linux group that I've quit because of men behaving badly.
So how do we get more women involved? Good question. I don't have a lot of tech-oriented female friends. And those who are tech-oriented are too busy working to consider switching operating systems. It's a long, slow process, but I think as sophistication of Linux desktop applications grows and then surpasses the applications available on Windows/Macs we will see more women involved with Linux. Certainly I came to Unix/Linux fairly late. I was a Machead growing up, then switched to Windows for university. I tried Linux in 2000, but the applications I needed weren't stable enough for me at the time. I tried again in 2002 and have been here ever since.
Q: What could TLDP be doing better, according to you?
A: I know how much work is involved because I am a reviewer, but... I would like to see the entire collection reviewed. I would like to have the volunteer power to review every document on its one year anniversary. At that time the document would be either kept in the collection "as is", removed from the collection, or kept with certain conditions (for example my ACPI HOWTO needs to contain information about the 2.6 series kernels). The review date would be based on the document's anniversary, not based on the "last updated" date.
That and having mugs for sale. The t-shirts are nice, but what I really want is a mug.
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The LDP Weekly News is compiled and edited by Machtelt Garrels and Y Giridhar Appaji Nag with help from several other people.