Documentation: Quick and Easy

Short Form
Scheduled: Thursday, June 28, 2012 from 1:30 – 2:15pm in B202/203


Whether you’re just rolling out a new project, or you’re maintaining ten years and three major versions of legacy code, good documentation is vital for your users. But writing good docs doesn't need to be a long, painful process. This talk will get you started - and finished! - in no time.


Whether you’re just rolling out a new project, or you’re maintaining ten years and three major versions of legacy code, good documentation is vital for your users. But even when you know it’s necessary, come on, who wants to actually write docs? It takes too long, and it’s no fun anyway.

Writing docs doesn’t have to be a bore. This presentation give you all the tips and tools to create great docs quickly. From first drafts to final revisions, it’s all in here – we’ll discuss how to get started, how to build on what you already have, and even some ideas for attracting volunteers to help document your project.

And, getting involved with documentation is a great way to contribute back to your favourite project. It’s easy to get going, and a great way to get appreciated! If you know how to use the software to do what you want, you’re ready to go. The most important thing is being how to explain what you’re doing – but we’ll also take a look at some of the commonly-used tools of the trade.

So if your favourite project’s documentation is not quite there yet (and let’s face it, whose is?!), this talk is for you. From her early days in Open Source, contributing drive-by translations and docs to projects she was using, to her work as a technical writer at Google, to her recent experience writing four books in three days (no really!), Noirin’s wealth of experience will help you get going from wherever you stand.

Speaking experience

Noirin has spoken at Open Source conferences across the world--from Brisbane to Copenhagen, Portland to Paris. Open Source Bridge is still her favourite though!

You can see some video of her speaking at or


  • Noirin

    Noirin Plunkett

    The Apache Software Foundation


    Noirin Plunkett is a jack of all trades, and a master of several. A technical writer by day, her open source work epitomizes the saying “if you want something done, ask a busy person”.

    Noirin got her open source start at Apache, helping out with the httpd documentation project. Within a year, she had been recruited to the conference planning team, which she now leads. She was involved in setting up the Community Development project at Apache, has previously acted as Org Admin for the Google Summer of Code (with more than 40 students!), and continues to contribute to projects as diverse as Infrastructure and Incubator. She sits on the boards of both the Apache Software Foundation and the Open Cloud Initiative.

    At home in Ireland, Noirin was a volunteer with the St John Ambulance – since moving to Switzerland, she’s had to find new ways to help save the world. Happily, open source has opened more than just technical doors, and when Christchurch suffered a devastating earthquake earlier this year, Noirin’s knowledge of OS disaster management software meant she could quickly step up to co-ordinate the night shift of volunteers working on the Christchurch Recovery Map at .

    When she’s not online, Noirin’s natural habitat is the dance floor, although she’s also a keen harpist & singer, and an excellent sous chef!


      • Title: Text Lacks Empathy
      • Track: Culture
      • Room: B202/203
      • Time: 2:303:15pm
      • Excerpt:

        Have you ever written a nice friendly email and gotten a reply that seems like they read a whole different email?

        Textual communication has special problems. This talk will help you mitigate them: ensuring that what you mean to say is what is understood; interpreting messages that seem totally out of whack; and increasing empathic bandwidth.

      • Speakers: Michael Schwern, Noirin Plunkett