Documentation Redux

156 hours.

That’s what it took to track down a solution to a problem with some Open Source software.  The software was written in the early 2000 time frame, the last documentation update was in 2006.  The scenario that we were designing was documented on a page written in 2004.

The issue we ran into must be something that someone else has stumbled into because it is a very basic piece of the operation of this piece of software, but, in perusing all of the available documentation, using google to find any possible references, looking through all FAQs, committed code, mailing lists, etc. the solution presented itself on a page last updated in January of 2000.

A three line mention.

That’s it.

The author of the FAQ written in 2004 that describes the process and documents every step save for one very important part.  The three line mention in another FAQ, coincidentally written by the FAQ author in an email that was sent to a mailing list and included in someone else’s FAQ.

This is the inherent cost in Open Source.

We’re not using this software in an odd manner — in fact, the feature we were trying to use is one of the three fundamental uses.  The software hasn’t changed much in the last 4 years, but, it just goes to show you that documentation is easily forgotton in the Open Source world.

Would I have it any other way?  No.  I prefer open source because we can develop solutions that give us a competitive edge, and, if we need to, we can change the code to fix problems that the developers won’t fix.

Often times our requirements are based on a business case which conflicts with some of the purist open source coders.

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