The NetBeans Community Docs Program Wants You!

November 2007

Are you brimming with ideas for tutorials that other NetBeans users might find helpful? Do you often blog about best practices for working in NetBeans or about shortcuts in the IDE? When browsing mailing lists, do you readily give tips and advice to other users? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then the NetBeans Community Docs Program just might be the thing for you.

Launched in March, the Community Docs Program encourages NetBeans users to take an active role in growing the community's knowledge base. It calls on community members to contribute tutorials and screencasts, to answer user FAQs, translate existing documentation into other languages, and more. In this interview, program manager James Branam discusses the program's current state, how it works and what community members need to know about submitting a good tutorial.

James BranamThe Community Docs program started about eight months ago, what's the status of the program now?

We expected some contributions from the community, with the number of contributions growing steadily. However, support was strong from the start, and the present number (60) has exceeded all expectations. As a matter of fact, we've reached the point where additional help is needed to handle contributions. Amit Kumar Saha, the newly-appointed Community Docs Contribution Coordinator, has really stepped up to help in this important effort.

How do you find contributors?

Most are found by going though blog entries about NetBeans, contacting the blogger, and encouraging participation. The author then puts the blog entry into wiki format and links to it from the main Community Docs wiki. If any help is needed to complete this process, Amit or I step in to provide assistance. In almost all cases, the blogger is excited about being able to contribute. In the future, we would like to see more unsolicited material. Interested contributors can email me: , or Amit: .

Submitting Tutorials to the Community Docs Program

1) Visit the Community Docs Wiki to make sure a similar tutorial does not exist.

2) Let or know you intend to contribute.

3) List the tutorial in the Community Docs in Progress box.

4) Write the tutorial!

What makes a good tutorial?

Usefulness more than anything. How can the submission help someone else? Can it answer a question, provide steps for performing certain tasks? Is it written so that others can follow its steps easily? Would you yourself find it useful? The ideal Community Docs submission is one that fills a gap, a knowledge hole, if you will. Whether or not a contribution is solicited, unsolicited, requested, or simply offered out of the blue has no bearing on its overall value to the community. Community members will decide how useful a submission is if it meets their needs.

Any recent examples?

Two tutorials that immediately come to mind are Creating a Basic MIDP2.0 Game Template by Glenn John Geronimo and Ruby Development on NetBeans 6 by Amit, our coordinator. Both tutorials are clear, employ a lot of well-sized screenshots, and show the user how to perform interesting tasks.

Do you reject submissions?

We have turned down submissions due to redundancy. It doesn't make sense to have two contributors submit tutorials that are almost identical in topic. Of course this happens very rarely; it's a good idea for potential contributors to browse the wiki to make sure similar tutorials don't already exist. In general, community members are very good about determining what should be submitted.

Which is preferred: pitched tutorials or topics selected from the Wish List?

Tricky question. I have two things to say about this: If a tutorial is on the Wish List, it was put there because a community member needed help with a certain task that the tutorial would address. So the Wish List matters. On the other hand, pitched tutorials are just as important in that they bring new ideas to the Community Docs program. It's like a community member saying: “Hey, look what you can do with NetBeans!”

Need Ideas About What to  Contribute? Check Out These Topics from the Wish List:

Creating Modules: How to Add Support for Refactoring

Importing a JBuilder Project into NetBeans

Using the Tapestry Framework with NetBeans

Integrating JDIC Components with NetBeans

Can contributors expect to see their work featured on

There's a possibility. has a content team that maintains the site; depending on their needs, they can select tutorials from the Community Docs' collection. Tutorials are also sometimes featured in the NetBeans Weekly Newsletter. I have no say in both of these processes, but I welcome the publicity for the Docs program and its contributors!

Being Community Docs Manager is not your only role here at NetBeans. What else keeps you busy?

I'm also responsible for Web online Help and tutorials, Release Notes, and representing the Docs team at several meetings. I also blog about NetBeans.

Is there a particular tutorial that you would really like to have?

Anything on importing Eclipse projects to NetBeans is a top priority. Amit Kumar Saha, the Community Docs Coordinator, is busy working on this.

Amit SahaTell us a bit more about Amit.

Amit is a developer and blogger from Kolkata, India. After his second contribution, he asked how he could do more and I came up with the idea of the Contribution Coordinator, someone in the community who could help out, and eventually take over the program. I've really enjoyed working with Amit. His enthusiasm for NetBeans is a huge asset for the community, not to mention the hard work he has put in.

What's the next phase for the program?

Naturally, getting more quality submissions. It's important for community members to see and fill the needs themselves. It's their community, and it can only be as good and as self-sufficient as they want it to be.

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