Tech musings and other things...

Linux Docs Docked?

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In my Internet and sysadmin travels, I find it necessary from time to time to seek out documentation on a particular subject in the Linux world.  Sometimes I need something specific to Linux, sometimes a package on Linux, but always technical and many times detailed.

For the longest time (since my Linux infancy in 1995), I have used the Linux documentation project to find important HOWTOs.  As a community, we have prided ourselves on a ubiquity of documentation and support, but I found something both interesting and alarming at the same time on my last visit to TLDP.

In 2010, there have only been 12 documents of TLDP modified and in 2009 a mere 5.  That means that in nearly two full calendar years, there have only been 17 documents modified in the project.  As many of you already know, 24 months is an eternity in Internet time (much less regarding the growth and progress of a major OS like Linux)

While I am confident that many of these docs are solid and still stand on their own, it does concern me that documentation hasn’t changed much and other projects' documentation stores are starting to see similar atrophy.

Certainly, with each release we find a new set of release notes and subsequent additions to documentation.  However, as we go on I find more often than not that a project will have a fundamental change that should really be covered in TLDP or at least documented at the documentation level (rather than the release note level) and simply never has it happen. In these cases, you find a “collective knowledge” of people on the support mailing list that “just know” something to be true, but those new to the project or the list may never know it because it isn’t written down somewhere.

Remember the age-old wisdom:  "If it isn’t written down, it never happened."

For those of you on a project, please consider your documentation.  It may be a time for a rewrite.  It happens precious little (if the TLDP is to be believed) and really needs your attention.  There are countless volunteers out there who may not be coders, but use your product and would be ecstatic to be counted as one of the team simply to do documentation for you.