Write the Docs: Kenneth Reitz – Documentation at Scale

I’m at Write the Docs today in Portland and will be post­ing notes from ses­sions through­out the day. These are all posted right after a talk fin­ishes so they’re rough around the edges.

Kenneth wrapped up the set of talks before the afternoon break. He works for Heroko, a web application deployment company. He’s also a member of the Python Software Foundation and an active member of the community. He seriously contributes to about 18 projects and has around 100 little experiments.

His talk focused on language, and how it works within documentation. Spoken language is what allows us to express ideas to one another. Our written language abilities then allow for us to express those ideas over a historical time scale. As we’ve developed these skills the human hardware hasn’t changed, but the software’s been upgraded.

As we’ve evolved our ability to communicate with one another has expanded from one-to-one conversations to one-to-many. The printing press, for one, gave the ability for a single entity to communicate to an extremely large mass of people. This continued with newspapers, books, television, and radio. This formed the narrative of “the public.”

The next step in communication is many-to-many. This format is inherent to the internet. If you have access to the internet you have access to a universe of information and ideas. The implications of this shift are huge.

Documentation doesn’t have to be about a software workflow or open source project – it can be used to convey ideas much larger than yourself. Its information architecture is inherent and a powerful tool for developing ideas over time. Finally, it enables us to develop ideas on a longer timeline and with more people than we’d ever be able to do by ourselves.

Kenneth works on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Python, an open source project that’s outline and curated through a combination of Github and Read the Docs.