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Documentation and Commenting Your Code for Open Source Projects #piday #raspberrypi @Raspberry_Pi

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Here’s an excellent piece by Alex from RasPi.TV, sharing a number of different approaches, opinions, and suggestions for how to document your code — a crucial aspect of participating in open source software and the Raspberry Pi movement!

Well worth reading, finding gems, arguing your case — this is important stuff.

…From observation of the computer industry going back to 1987, when I did a pre-university year at IBM Scientific Centre in Winchester, it seems that the very brightest and best programmers (software creatives) are often not very good at or not very keen on documenting their work.

I think the reason for this is often misunderstood. Poor documentation is a source of great consternation in the world of Linux. In fact it’s a large part of the raison d’être for RasPi.TV. We, the users, often feel that the geniuses who write awesome software can’t be bothered to write good instructions for it because…

  • it’s beneath them
  • they’re lazy
  • they think “it’s obvious how it works unless you’re a retard”

…and, in some cases, there may be some truth in some of those statements. But I suppose the real reason is different. They find creating and writing great software quite a stimulating and fun mental challenge. But, for them, writing instructions is totally boring. And since, when we have a choice, we all naturally shy away from doing things that we don’t enjoy, a lot of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) remains…

  • undocumented
  • badly documented, or
  • incompletely documented (or permanently out of date docs)

I think it’s the nature of the beast. Free software is free because someone enjoys writing it. But once you’ve sweated long hours over debugging your code and it finally works just as it should, you feel like it’s finished. At that point, the thought of going through it all to show people how to use it may well seem quite repellent. “I’ll have a rest and do it next week.” You think to yourself. But next week a new and interesting programming challenge comes along and the documentation gets swept under the carpet and forgotten about…..

Read more.

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