I first got involved with Ubuntu docs around the time the Ubuntu 11.04 Beta was released. That was a very busy time as GNOME 3.0 was being finalized and Ubuntu 11.04 was switching to Unity by default. The GNOME Docs team had undertaken a massive rewrite of their user docs using the new Mallard topic-based format. The official Ubuntu documentation then was currently a snapshot of the GNOME docs but it was a bit outdated, missing a lot of the finalization work done by the GNOME volunteers at a recent hackfest.
I had been interested in contributing to docs for a while and seeing the documentation as seriously incomplete was the motivation I needed to step in and figure out what I could do to help. We had to merge in the latest GNOME improvements and rewrite the docs to mention Unity instead of GNOME Shell. We didn’t meet the normal deadlines (which meant the translators didn’t have a chance to do much by release day) but we shipped a nice update to the user docs for Ubuntu 11.04. I provided a lot of help and I wasn’t the only one.
But after 11.04 Jim moved on to contribute to GNOME directly. (Jim bucked the stereotype by switching from XFCE to GNOME when GNOME3 was released.) I would periodically remerge the GNOME work back into the Ubuntu documentation. I ended up being by far the major force keeping the Ubuntu documentation updated. Meanwhile, I was also contributing to the community in other ways by getting involved in packaging (especially GNOME) and contributing back to Debian and to GNOME itself. I also helped get the Ubuntu GNOME project going because of the widespread demand for a GNOME flavor of Ubuntu.
I’m very sad that life and my other responsibilities are pushing me to need to give up some of my responsibilities. I am stepping down from my Docs team responsibilities now. I will still be around for the next few weeks to help pass the torch to anyone who wants to take my place on the Docs team. After that I will be withdrawing my ~ubuntu-core-doc membership as well. This is a very sad moment for me and I’ve been putting it off for a while.
I was able to help Benjamin Kerensa and Kevin Godby today with some of their work to get the 13.04 user documentation out the door. Maybe they’ll help lead the next round of keeping the docs up to date; maybe others will help too. While most of my work involved the Ubuntu user guide, the other flavors of Ubuntu can use help too. I’m happy to see Doug Smythies and Peter Matulis take charge of the Server Guide. Pasi Lallinaho did a major rewrite of the Xubuntu docs last cycle. And the other flavors can use your help too.
If you’re interested in getting involved with Ubuntu documentation, jump in and get involved. Coordination happens in IRC on #ubuntu-doc and on the mailing list. Good English skills and organizational abilities are a must and you have to be willing to work with a format that looks similar to HTML and XML. To coordinate, we use bzr as the revision control system. You’ll need to learn that too but you don’t need to know how to use it from the start. You do not need to be a programmer.
Also, I strongly recommend you look into attending the Open Help conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, in June. I went last year and it’s a great opportunity to meet the GNOME docs team (and contributors from other projects as well). The accompanying hackfest allows you to work with others and get a lot done in a few days.