Open Mic Spotlight: Diane Fleming

julie_austin 065This post is part of the OpenStack Open Mic series to spotlight the people who have helped make OpenStack successful as we celebrate the third birthday of the project. Each day in July, a new contributor will step up to the mic and answer five questions about OpenStack, cloud, careers and what they do for fun.  

Diane Fleming is a long-time technical writer who began contributing to OpenStack docs about a year and a half ago. She lives in Austin, TX where she performs in local theater productions, gardens, swims, and enjoys drinking local micro-brews – not necessarily in that order.

1. What do I do when I’m not obsessing over and working with OpenStack?

Obsession is one of my middle names. When not working on OpenStack, I like to obsess over my (grown) children, my garden, and creative writing. Lately I’ve been making pickles using the veggies from my garden. I hand out jars to my friends at the pub. I’m certain I’m going to kill someone (by accident of course) because I didn’t process the jars correctly. No one has died yet, probably due to the amount of delicious micro-brews that they consume at the pub.

2. What other OpenStack developers and contributors deserve a shout out?

Anne Gentle! I’ve gone to a couple of OpenStack summits with her and she draws contributors like a pub draws beer-drinkers. (I recommend Green Flash West Coast IPA at the moment.)

She’s the doc lead for the OpenStack community and I work with her directly. She can put out fires, mentor new contributors, fix and review bugs, give presentations, organize events, and keep up with her fabulous blog even when not wearing her Wonder Woman costume.

3. Are there any skills that you think are critical for OpenStack developers in the next 5 years? What specialties will be most useful? Valuable?

In addition to coding skills and git expertise, communication and writing skills are key. In the open community, people tend to be less specialized. Everyone is a writer and a presenter these days. Good writers make writing look easy, so everyone thinks they can write. Writing in a colloquial style might be fine for an English-speaking audience, but it’s difficult to translate chatty, casual technical documentation into non-English prose. Other things that good writers bring to the table are: the ability to express concepts simply, reduced redundancy, great organization, and chunking of material so that it can be reused.

4. What’s the most critical feature you think cloud software needs to be widely adopted over the next year? 

This is more of a best practice rather than a feature, but it’s essential that developers separate resources from code logic for translation purposes. Don’t hard-code error messages and user interface strings inside the code. Separate these resources into separate files. Also, when developers submit code, I recommend that they submit a first draft of the documentation, even if it’s just an outline. Documentation shouldn’t be an afterthought – it should be part of a code commit.

5. What is the most important contribution you’ve made that will make OpenStack users happy?

Cleaning up the navigation on the api.openstack.org/api-ref.html and docs.openstack.org sites. The api-ref.html page now has a jump menu that lets you navigate easily to each project’s APIs. Also, you can get to all the books from a single web page rather than having to click through several pages.

6. What is your biggest hope for the OpenStack community in the next 5 years? What would be really, really amazing? 

It would be great to have more female leaders and contributors in the OpenStack community. Also, contributing to OpenStack should be easier. People who don’t code, but who do have user-interface expertise, writing skills, project management expertise, and so on, should feel comfortable about contributing. Right now, contributing to OpenStack can feel intimidating for non-programmers. But people from all backgrounds potentially have something to contribute.

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