Open Source is, Well, Source Code

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David Erickson posted an entry I meant to write for years. Open source is great at a lot of things, but let’s face it, documentation is often incredibly lousy. I’m spending a lot of times these days looking at what we can and can’t do with our PHP/Wordpress/OpenAds toolset. Sometimes it really feels like a root canal to get answers to seemingly simple questions. MSDN is far from perfect, but it’s heaven compared to, say, how variable scoping is defined on the site, empty pages in the WordPress codex, or confusing PAN/MMM roadmaps (though OpenAds is at last starting to clean its house on that front).
For-profit companies built around open source projects need to understand this is a critical missing piece. Unlike David, I don’t have high hopes that users are suddenly going to turn into good documentation writers. This is a tedious, time-consuming job and you need to keep the content updated. It has to be funded because it won’t work as a labor of love. Yes, you can buy O’Reilly books, but I don’t think the book market alone solves it.
(Sorry, my comments are broken and won’t be fixed for a while, please comment on your own blogs!)
Somewhat related from the archives: Open Companies More Important than Open Source.
02/02/08 update: Bottom line, all weblog apps suck in some way.

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