Working at Rackspace with OpenStack

I’m finishing up my first partial week as a “Racker” – that’s what employees at Rackspace are called. I’m a special sort of a racker, a stacker, because I’ve joined the OpenStack team as the OpenStack Technical Writer. My wiki apprenticeship and open source documentation experiences with FLOSS Manuals gave me great training for this new role. I’m extremely grateful to get this opportunity.

My first day orientation was great – we got great stories of the startup days, met interesting, passionate Rackers, and toured the facility that is a re-claimed 1.2 million square feet mall (we’re only using 200K of that space in an old Mervyn’s). There’s even the world’s largest word search plastered onto the wall. It’s tough to solve while riding on an escalator.

As I talked to Rackers, I was constantly reminded of my recent read of Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness. Apparently it’s on the book club list at Rackspace but I’d say they are already a textbook case study with their fanatical support.

As it turns out, Sarah O’Keefe’s post asking if “all your followers are belong to us” asked some appropriate questions related to my experience, starting as a new employee. While there is no official blogging policy at Rackspace (yep, I asked), I was asked to write my introductory post shortly after accepting the offer, and Content Stacker, Reporting for Duty is the result. Here are the first couple of paragraphs:

Well, hi there. Glad you could make it. Let me introduce myself. I’m Anne Gentle, the newest addition to the hardworking OpenStack team. And I’m so eager to get started I can barely contain myself. I’ve been in lurker mode for a few weeks and now it’s time to reveal my role – I’m the OpenStack Technical Writer.

How did I get here? I first started working in open source a few years ago, and I applied my technical communication skills gladly because there is often a gap in documentation and support in open source projects. I became a big supporter of FLOSS Manuals, where we write free manuals for free software. We work in a wiki and in Booki, a new collaborative authoring platform. We also employ a book sprint technique where we focus collaborative authoring efforts into week-long sprints. I’ve helped with a few book sprints and think it’s a great technique for open documentation.

Where do I go from here? Today I want to start outlining some documentation strategy to get your feedback and tweak it. We’ll be testing doc efforts as we go and likely start with the Object Storage area. Read more

If you think it’s intimidating staring at the blank “page” on your computer screen, imagine my quaking insides this week as I stare at the freshest new wiki I’ve ever faced – wiki.openstack.org. I’ve got a strategy started that I outlined in my introductory post, and executing it with this community is going to be the fun part.

5 Comments

  • September 12, 2010 - 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Hallo Anne
    Oh, it sounds like such a great job! I see that the wiki is powered by MoinMoin. I’ll be very interested to read your experiences with it. Have a great time getting to know all the Rackers and Stackers!
    Cheers, Sarah

  • OpenStack Wannabe
    October 22, 2010 - 12:13 am | Permalink

    Just wanted to say that I was happy to hear you sign up for actually documenting the installation of OpenStack Swift, but I have to say that the docs for Austin fall pretty short of the “developer” “Swift All In One”. What is going on behind the scenes? Pate Deploy?

  • October 23, 2010 - 9:15 am | Permalink

    Not much behind the scenes as I’m as open as possible about the docs, but I just haven’t put the details in the Swift installation yet. I have tons of notes and sat with one of the Swift developers while he configured the lab installation for the Austin release, so I just need to get those in a web page. But which one? Some of the struggle is that each tech doc web property – wiki.openstack.org, nova.openstack.org, and swift.openstack.org are at different quality/maturity levels. Lots of web content to keep up with! You like the SAIO page – is the rest of that site not up to par? Or are you concerned about the wiki? I’d love your input. Also, do you mean paste deploy? :) That info’s in the deployment guide, sourced in RST, at http://swift.openstack.org/deployment_guide.html.

    Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it!

  • Keet
    March 10, 2011 - 5:50 am | Permalink

    Still lack in installation part. The openstack should be straight forward on installation part which should like web base installation method and Web Interface is one which will help for the product to hit in opensource market.

    Even openstack should look into to Web Management concept.

    Thanks,
    Keerthi

  • March 11, 2011 - 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Yes, the installation experience is something we’re all hoping to improve. Thanks for the comment, we’re continually looking for areas to make OpenStack straightforward for lots of users.

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