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Calling out superrockstars considered harmful

Just a quick response to “Top Open Source technical writers on the Web”.

First, I’m sure the intention was well-meant.  Thanks for trying to uplift open source technical writers.

Second, I put in a comment response on the blog entry, which was more self-serving than helpful:

Not sure what the metrics used are … but it is worth mentioning the group of writers at the Fedora Project. In terms of sheer number of pages and breadth of content, this is the upstream for all Red Hat product manuals:

Probably more than a thousand pages of CC BY SA 3.0 Unported licensed content.

Third, I really want to say — all this rockstar stuff is plain wrong.

It doesn’t inspire people and get them fired-up to get on the next top-ten list.

It drags down morale.

It is even a harder hit wherever there is a cross of passion and volunteer time.

Ask an artist if they love seeing a list of top artists in their region or media?  Unless they are on that list, I’m sure the answer is unpublishable in this family friendly magazine.

Call out group efforts and thank all those involved in no particular order and without leaving anyone off the list?  OK, that works.

But tweets to your homeboys when they do something you love in your community just makes all the people even peripherally involved in that effort feel left out.  Forgotten.  As if they don’t belong.

I’ve been wanting to say this for a long time.  I think it’s a basic idea that many Fedorans agree with.  But I didn’t want to be mean to fellow community leaders with good intentions who don’t realize their basic idea is off mark.

So, DMN Communications poster, please don’t feel singled out.  I am motivated to write this because I feel personally saddened that all the hard working writers who work through the Fedora Project are going to feel a bit marginalized from that top-ten list.  Ironically, isn’t the marginalization of open source writers in general the very reason you wrote the list in the first place?

Let’s not replicate the top-ten lists of late night TV and technical publishing.  We aren’t in competition with each other for popularity, OK?

(Updated to say “thank all those involved in no particular order”, with the “no” added; it was intended to be there, blame my editor.)