Tech Writers Slow to FOSS?

It seems that some tech writers are slow to adopt open source — Why technical writers aren’t using FOSS. Bruce Byfield outlines several interesting reasons in his article, but here’s one that jumped out at me:

Another point that may be difficult for members of the FOSS communities to understand is that, although tech writers often keep typically long corporate hours and may work alongside FOSS programmers, few express any inclination to learn more about computing or to gain more control over how they spend most of their days. In retrospect, that is perhaps unsurprising, since, despite the hyphen in their job description, two-thirds of tech writers see themselves as offering skill in putting words together rather than expert knowledge. But, at any rate, many assume that, if they were to explore FOSS, they would have to do so on their own time[emphasis added]

Well, there’s certainly benefit to adopting open source tools, principles, and work behaviors in your own time (which is what I did before I got this job), but here at Sun most of us don’t have to do that anymore. We are part of so many open communities now that these concepts touch a very large number of employees.

On OpenSolaris, for instance, our documentation team has an open community, they discuss things on an open list, they are taking contributions (bugs, RFEs, feedback, and entire documents) from non-Sun community members, they have a published roadmap, and they are releasing the source for their books (two just released recently with more to come). So, the Solaris technical writers are literally part of an open documentation community now, which they run with non-Sun community members. They don’t have to explore this on their own time.

This trend of opening our sources, development processes, and tools is taking place across many groups at Sun.