Fueling innovative software
July 15-18, 2019
Portland, OR

Writing tutorial: Using blogging and great documentation to grow your open source project

9:00am12:30pm Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Open Source
Location: D138/139/140
Secondary topics:  Open Source

Who is this presentation for?

Open source maintainers and individuals who are interested in technical writing. Appeals to any level of programmer.



Prerequisite knowledge

This talk is technology agnostic, basic written communication and grammar skills are helpful, but not completely necessary for this talk.

Materials or downloads needed in advance

Laptop is helpful, but not necessary. A writing utensil would also be great.

What you'll learn

The audience will learn:
  • How to find a consistent voice in order to engage a specific audience
  • Why they should blog and create strong documentation
  • Strategies for coming up with a blog post topic
  • Tips for creating engaging and understandable content
  • How to start building and growing a community of readers who will become contributors


Writing blog posts and strong documentation for your open source projects is crucial for growing both a user and a contributor base. Your writing is the most effective way to communicate why and how people should use your project. But, you’re a software engineer, not a content strategist! How can you effectively target the people you need to with your blog posts and documentation? Also, how can you accurately communicate the goals for your project? This workshop will take you through the writing process, from deciding who you’re writing for through what happens after you press publish (or commit to GitHub).

We will start by discussing why strong documentation and blog posts are important for open source projects, and we’ll look at some projects who have great content strategies. We will then we’ll discuss who your project’s target audience is — whether that’s new developers or specialized experts. Then, we’ll discuss how to come up with blog post topics, how to make that content engaging and understandable, and how to reach that audience and grow a following.

This workshop will be very hands-on, and attendees will leave with the following completed worksheets:

- A completed worksheet about your target audience and how to reach it
- A list of possible blog post topics
- An outline of the types of documentation needed for your project
- An outline of a blog post

Photo of Alison Spittel

Alison Spittel


Ali is a programmer, teacher, and writer. She works at DEV as a software engineer. You can read her writing, which had well over half a million readers last year, at dev.to/aspittel. She moonlights as a lead instructor at General Assembly.

In addition to contributing to the open source DEV platform at work, Ali also maintains Learn Code from Us, a platform that highlights technical content creators who are members of underrepresented groups in tech.

Ali is also highly involved in the DC Tech community where she’s the Tech Director for Women Who Code, and is the founder of the Art + Code Collective and the tVue Vixens DC chapter.

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