Britta Gustafson
What if U.S. federal agencies decided to reuse and contribute to open source software projects built by other agencies, since agencies often have similar technology problems to solve? And what if they hired technical writers with open source community experience to write documentation for these projects? That would be pretty cool. Also, that’s my work. I'm part of 18F, a digital services consulting team within and for the federal government, and all of our work is open source.
I’ll explain surprising and rewarding aspects of working on documentation in government, through the lens of the cross-agency eRegulations project I’ve been working on. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau started it, our 18F team (in the General Services Administration) adapted it for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and we’re adapting it for use by two more agencies.
I believe open source software development with good documentation aligns with core values of our government: work by the government belongs to the people, so it should be as transparent as possible, open to input from the people, and reusable by the people. The implementation of those values is the complicated part, of course! I’ll explain how we get stuff done at both the big-picture level (how laws and government economics shape our work) and the day-to-day details (how we work across teams to get useful information online).

The original video is available here.

Check out How big should your documentation repo be? by . Here is an excerpt:

How big should your documentation repo be, especially if you have multiple products in your documentation? Although you could put all content into the same repo, it might be easier to have lots of little repos. Jekyll accommodates this architecture quite nicely through gem-based themes.

The full article is available here.

Check out Just in time documentation – some pros and cons by Ellis Pratt. Here is an excerpt:

Bri Hillmer has written two articles on Just-In-Time documentation ( and This is an alternative to what she called Just-In-Case documentation. The idea…

The full article is available here.

This is an in-class exercise done in English 352, Technical Writing, at New Jersey Institute of Technology. The directions were to split into groups of four or five, each with a bag of Lego. Each group builds an object and then writes instructions to re-create that object.

The part that is filmed is when each group came to the front of the room and tried to build a different groups object while reading the directions aloud.

The purpose of the assignment is to get some practice doing group work, for class members to get to know each other, and to find out what instruction strategies succeed and which fail (and to discuss why).

This exercise was adapted from a Gurak/Lannon textbook.

To view in higher resolution, click “View in HD” in lower right.

The original video is available here.

Check out Chapter 2 of the adventures of Trilby Trench by Sarah Maddox. Here is an excerpt:

Have things improved, or is Trilby Trench still in a pickle? Read A Word If You Please, chapter 2 to find out!

A Word If You Please is the first book in an online fiction series about Trilby Trench, tech writer and action hero. Don’t worry if you missed chapter 1 – you can still read it and…

The full article is available here.

Check out Jump over these obstacles to website personalization by Antti Hietala. Here is an excerpt:

What do you think are the primary obstacles that prevent companies from personalizing their website?

  • Unproven ROI?
  • Don’t know who to target?
  • Tools are difficult to use?

Nope. Those were my guesses but they all proved wrong.

“We haven’t managed to get started”

In 2016 we interviewed 50

The full article is available here.

Check out Columbia State is Looking for MANY Adjuncts for the Fall 2017 by njoying. Here is an excerpt:

Columbia State is looking for some, well ok,  A LOT of adjunct English instructors for the Fall in 2017. The courses are in Columbia state’s five campuses. We host classes in Clifton, TN, Lewisburg TN, Lawrenceburg , TN, Franklin, Tn and Columbia.
PT Faculty can teach up to 3 Classes and we…

The full article is available here.

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