Whether you code as a hobby or in a professional capacity, you may have considered using open source documentation at some point. Doing this not only means making the documentation accessible to everyone interested in your project, but also actively allow for user contributions and improvements.
Such a concept may seem daunting or even counterintuitive for any developer. This is especially true for those who wish to have complete control over the fine details of their project, and how such details are perceived by the programming public. However, making your code’s documentation open source carries with it several unique advantages that can have a positive impact both on the usability and health of your code, as well as the developing community in general.
Here are four of those advantages.
You make your code easier to use and adopt.
Considering that one of the biggest advantages of hosted API documentation is that it can significantly improve an API’s user adoption rate, making your app’s documentation open source can also make it easier for users to integrate your code into their projects. This is because doing so allows those users to create improvements to your documentation that can make it more accessible and understandable to others, especially those who are new to coding. These improvements can be as simple as giving your text additional proofreading, making elaborate descriptions more succinct, or just rearranging the contents into a more intuitive and logical order.
You increase your code’s visibility in the general coding community.
When your app’s open source documentation makes it easy for your users to utilize and adapt your code, it also makes those users more likely to recommend your code to others. This will increase awareness and appreciation of your code while allowing your hard work to benefit others. As a result, you will receive more positive attention and acclaim from the general coding community and build a reputation for yourself as a credible developer.
You foster a sense of community and collaboration around your code.
Another benefit of having open source documentation for your app is that it fosters a sense of community and collaboration with your users. As they are empowered to help improve your code’s documentation, they will also begin to feel that they have a stake in its ongoing success and improvement. This can result in them offering genuine and sincere feedback to both your documentation and the code behind it, which can greatly assist you in patching out bugs and other serious flaws.
You will receive fewer questions on how to utilize your code.
Many developers often have to struggle with users continuously filling their inboxes with questions or requests for help. Reading and answering all these questions can take up a significant amount of time. While you can avoid these questions, it may also create a false impression among new users that you are aloof or detached from your project. This can potentially hinder your reputation as a developer.
However, you can easily remedy this by making your app documentation open source. By allowing your users to help improve your documentation, you are also creating a visible community that has expert knowledge of how your code works and how to use it. As such, when a new user encounters your code for the first time and reads your documentation, there is a greater chance that they will interact with your community first before directly going to you. Any questions they may have about your code that are not answered by your documentation may then be fielded by your community of users.
Open source documentation is more useful than you may think
Making your documentation open source may seem like an intimidating choice, especially if you’re accustomed to developing on your own or writing your documentation in a specific and closed way. However, by allowing other users to come in and collaborate with you through your open source documentation, you can reap the benefits listed above, all of which can have a significant and positive impact to your coding career and future projects. In fact, many modern tech companies like Stoplight recommend it. Try it out and see for yourself what open source documentation can do for you.