books Why I write about open source software

We interviewed one writer to learn their story about how they got started writing about open source software.

Don Watkins is a longtime technical writer about open source software. We've interviewed Don before about his technical writing as a passion project. Don is also part of the creative team behind, a new article-based community website about open source software. We asked Don about his background and why he started writing with

What's your background in writing about open source?

I’m a retired public school teacher employed for twenty-seven years as a school district technology director at a small PK-12 school district in New York State. In that assignment, I taught students and staff about technology and how to use it.

In the process, I became familiar with Linux and open-source software and saw the unique opportunity it presented to those who used it to level the playing field. After retiring in 2013, I got involved with the local and regional public library system, where I began to teach younger patrons and librarians how to use Raspberry Pi computers and how to write programs on them with Python.

You are a prolific technical writer about open source software. How did you build your writing skills?

I started writing articles for in 2015 about my love of open source and contributed nearly three hundred pieces. While I was writing for I was approached by the editors who asked me if I would like to improve my writing skills. I told them I would, and over the next almost eight years, I became more proficient as a writer and was allowed to diversify the topics I wrote about within the open-source community.

This led me to interview several individuals from diverse backgrounds and also allowed me to explore the nuances of all things that are open in software, hardware, and ethos. As a writer, I benefited greatly from copy editors who reviewed and refined my work.

When ceased to be an avenue for my writing, I began to look for ways to improve the punctuation and accuracy of what I produce, which led me to use Grammarly. I have been a good speller for most of my life, but I never bothered to learn the art of punctuation. I purchased a premium account, which is quite reasonably priced, and it has been a boon to my technical writing. It points out where I’ve made mistakes in punctuation and usage and allows me to improve my writing.

I use Grammarly when I edit other folks’ articles at, and it’s been beneficial. Having a background in Linux and open source is also beneficial, as I need to know if the correct commands are being used in an article that provides the reader with a ‘how-to’ to perform specific tasks in an operating system or the use of an application.

You mentioned, which is a new website about open source software. How can new authors contribute articles to

Currently, our workflow at is quite simple. We have five editors who review content created by folks who write for us. We have a mailing list for editors where we ask our peers to review what has been written. When we’ve assured each other of the accuracy and completeness of a particular article, David Both schedules it for publication on an open day. 

A good editor has to be a good speller or have the technology to spot improperly spelled words. Punctuation and syntax are equally crucial to producing technical articles that will be used for resource materials by the folks who come to rely on the content we produce every day on our website.

Patience and the ability to adequately and politely explain how an article needs to be improved is important. Encouraging others to share their unique perspective on a particular topic or task is important.

Most folks suffer from Impostor Syndrome and don’t think they can write or are good enough to create a good copy. It’s our job as editors to encourage others to write and to look for ways to improve their writing. 

Thanks to Don for this informative interview about technical writing for a new open source community. You can follow the new open source community at