Google Season of Docs logo

This week, Google announced the 50 organizations taking part in this year’s Google Season of Docs (GSoD). I wrote a “Tech Writer’s Guide to Google’s Season of Docs” for TechWhirl’s Tech Writer Today magazine to invite writers (perhaps even you) to explore the program.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Google’s Season of Code program. Google started Season of Docs in 2019. Here, technical writers and open source organizations meet up and improve a variety of help docs. North American writers who successfully complete their selected project receive a $6000 stipend from Google. Writers in other countries get similar stipends based on their relative cost of living.

The article is something of a condensed version of the program’s own technical writer’s guide. I also offer some advice on how to select a project and complete the application.

GSoD is something I would have loved to get into when I was a baby tech writer. Sadly, Google barely existed when I got started. Today’s Google may not have “Don’t be evil” as a motto anymore, but this is a positive boost for a variety of open source projects. Of course, the ultimate beneficiaries are the users of the software, so it’s good for everyone! By the way, the WordPress doc team is involved, so you can help improve those documents.

Go read the article, go see the final reports from last year’s GSoD, and then start exploring your ideas for improving open source documentation. You have until July 9, 2020 to apply to the program.

Meanwhile, you can find more of my best work for TechWhirl in my portfolio.

The Great Chicago Fire, an artists rendering, ...
Chicago was on Fire! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a terrific time with the Independent Writers of Chicago last week. What a lively group! They took my instructions that this was an interactive presentation to heart. Folks were so engaged, and asked so many questions, I barely got halfway through my planned talk. Nonetheless, have a look at the complete slide deck (click the link if the embed isn’t working):

Build Your Author Platform talk at Independent Writers of Chicago

To those of you who attended, you’ll enjoy these slides more than what you saw that night.

The Big Four social media sites

I focused my talk on why having a website (like this one) is important, and connecting with the most important social media sites:

The slides will give you a hint on why these are the most important, and pros and cons for each service.

But can you make money with it?

Karma as action and reaction: if we sow goodne...
Karma as action and reaction: if we sow goodness, we will reap goodness. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Much of the conversation focused on the fundamental question for any freelance writer: Is social media really a valuable investment in time? One writer noted that she set and achieved a goal to get 10,000 Twitter followers, but that she found it impossible to communicate effectively with that size crowd. Not discouraged, she divided her followers into lists based on who shared her content and other criteria. She, in turn, spent more time reading and sharing posts from the folks who supported her.

I also pointed out that many agents and publishers use audience size as a way to decide whether a new author is willing to do the marketing work needed to sell books today. No audience, no sale.

New places to build platform

One thing I wish I could have shared is my time-honored advice for social media success: get in early! I’ve told this story often, learned by way of the Most Influential Person in Technical Communication, Tom Johnson. In short: One of the main reasons I was once on the list of Most Influential that Tom was #1 on is that Tom and I both discovered – and posted to – Twitter early.

Eight years ago this month, some friends came back from South by Southwest to spread the word of the usefulness and fun quotient of the 140-character mini-blog tool. I signed up, and the rest is certainly history. (Psst…you can follow me using the button on the right).

So let me hook you up with two (relatively) new services that I’m on. I have no idea whether they will become household names over time, but if they do, I want to say I helped.

  • Ello: This service was the hottest thing in the blogosphere for a week or so late last year. Not unlike Google+, this ad-free zone was torched by the same bloggers and journalists for not dethroning Facebook quickly enough. Nonetheless, this beta service continues to grow, add features, and remains pretty interesting. I’ve got invites…
  • Known: I learned about this site by way of a comment on an article by Dan Gillmor
    Dan Gillmor, American technology writer and fo...
    Dan Gillmor, American technology writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    on Medium. I haven’t done much here, and don’t entirely get its purpose yet, but you might find it interesting too. Gillmor (one of my tech-journalist heroes, BTW) calls himself “a big fan.”

Thanks again to the Independent Writers of Chicago (especially Tom Kepler, James Kepler and David Steinkraus) for inviting me to speak, and providing such a great audience. Oh, the pizza was great, too!