Documenting Your Knowledge in Large Projects

Everyone of us knows the pain of bad or missing documentation. It’s a critical element for onboarding, knowledge transfer and knowledge conversation within a software project. If you’re in a five person team, tasks are done asynchronously and there are quite a few repositories, modules, services or however you call it, there is no way without documentation. You must fill the gap of missing knowledge of your colleagues to craft good software.

To solve this problem we require three things:

  • Our common and distributed knowledge about our modules, domain and tech
  • Commitment to our Definition of Done: We are only “done” when things are documented
  • Good structure and tooling for the resulting documentation

The first two requirements are given if you are willing to do this. For the last one, I started to create and develop a tool: moddoc, standing for modular documentation.

Approach

Moddoc makes some assumptions:

  • You work for some project and organize everything in the folder company
  • The project consists of multiple modules (or whatever) belonging together in subfolders, e.g. (company/module)
  • Your modules have a doc-directory (company/module/doc) containing an index.adoc file as entry point
  • There is module-specific knowledge (e.g. knowledge about a REST-service)
  • There is common knowledge which relates to more than one module

If you fulfill them, it rewards you with the ability to build a single PDF file containing everything in a well structured way.

Implementation and Usage

To try it out, download or fork moddoc as another module of your project hierarchy. It will contain your common documentation (common/), configuration (config.json and common/modules.adoc) and brings you the needed build tool.

To generate the resulting documentation, install the dependencies with npm install, make sure to have the asciidoctor-pdf ruby gem installed and hit npm run build to build it.

There you go. Feel free to comment your opinion and ideas or insert issues!

Written on October 12, 2016