Google Season of Docs/Proposal


Migrate BRL-CAD's Documentation Infrastructure[edit]

Our organization focus for the 2021 Season of Docs entails migrating our doc infrastructure from Docbook XML. Alternative [Google_Season_of_Docs/Project_Ideas|project ideas] may also be considered, but please discuss it with our dev team. Please come chat with us. You may also direct any questions or comments to

About BRL-CAD[edit]

BRL-CAD is a powerful cross-platform solid modeling system for 3D computer-aided design and graphic visualization. Currently standing at more than a million lines of code and hundreds of staff-years investment, BRL-CAD has nearly 40 years development history (since 1979) and is in production use by more than 2000 organizations around the world. BRL-CAD is represented, used, and developed by a collective of industry, academia, and government participants from all over the world.

In all, BRL-CAD has more than a million words of documentation across hundreds of manual pages, dozens of tutorials, hundreds of wiki pages, dozens of technical papers, and other resources. There are literally thousands of features created over decades of development. BRL-CAD's set of current manuals, guides, tutorials, and other documentation are listed on our website wiki and included in our repository].

About Our Doc Infrastructure[edit]

Technologies Difficulty Contacts
BRL-CAD has extensive documentation infrastructure using Docbook XML whereby we "compile" them into HTML, PDF, and other formats. This approach helps ensure docs remain up-to-date, without syntax/structure errors, and allows the documentation to be composed and reused in different ways (e.g., an tutorial on some topic might get embedded as an appendix in one document or a chapter to another). That said, the underlying format is tedious to write and hard for contributors. We'd like to migrate to a newer system like Antora or Docusaurus or MkDocs, converting everything over while still retaining build system integration.


Docbook XML, AsciiDoc, Markdown, Antora Medium morrison, rossberg, yapp, Sahib

Scope of the Migration Project[edit]

This project attempts to modernize our infrastructure migrating existing documentation from Docbook XML to AsciiDoc in Antora. For this project, we anticipate and are planning to prefer Antora due to previous evaluation, but are open to discussion and [Google_Season_of_Docs/Project_Ideas|alternate project proposals]. Come talk with us interactively at

What is in scope?[edit]

The minimum scope of the project is migrating our existing Docbook XML docs in our repository. This includes:

  • Successfully completing onboarding outlined in our contributor guide
  • Developing a migration plan for mapping Docbook XML structures to AsciiDoc
  • Setting up a preliminary custom output style for BRL-CAD in Antora
  • Mocking up a manual conversion of our About document
  • Representing translations in Antora for all docs already converted to other languages
  • Coordinating with others on partially automated conversion from Docbook to AsciiDoc
  • Coordinating with others on feedback and issues identified
  • Documenting the essential steps required to migrate a document
  • Setting up an instance of Antora on
  • Configuring Antora and/or Github for online editing by anonymous contributors
  • Working with dev team to establish required Github and/or CMake logic that deploys docs to Antora
  • Working with dev team to coordinate deployment of Antora to
  • Migrating all of our Docbook XML documents in doc/docbook to Asciidoc in a separate repository
  • Maintaining a public log of and writing up a summary of project outcome

What is not in scope?[edit]

There are extensive docs not in Docbook XML format in our repository, on the website wiki, in other formats, and in other files that are desirable and may also be migrated (e.g., for testing purposes), but they are secondary priority and need not be considered in scope.

Also not in scope is technical administration, maintenance, and installation of Antora itself on our production server. This will be handled by the dev team. The technical writer will need to be capable of setting up Antora locally for development and testing purposes.

The technical writer can expect responsive interaction (typically within a few hours) from several mentors that will be on hand to provide technical assistance, discussion, testing, and technical support.

We estimate that this project will take 3 months to complete. We have three mentors willing to directly help with this effort and that have committed to supporting the project.

Measuring Project Success[edit]

As this project centers around migrating documentation, measuring success is a simple function of percent documentation converted to AsciiDoc and deployed to Antora. At present, there are 505 .xml documents in doc/docbook of the repository that require conversion.

We would consider the project successful if at least 90% of the existing Docbook files are fully converted to AsciiDoc, imported to Antora, and deployed online.

We would also consider the project successful if, within a year, it results in external pull requests to a migrated AsciiDoc documents and renewed documentation.

Project Budget[edit]

We we anticipate the project requiring 3-4 months of near full-time effort. As such, our budget is set at $9060 total with $7560 (84%) allocated to the technical writer and $1500 allocated to 3 community volunteers ($500 each):

Budget Item Amount Running Total Notes/Justification
Technical writer doc infrastructure setup, demo, doc migration from Docbook, online editing, and continuous publishing $7560 $7560
Volunteer stipends $500 $9060 3 volunteer stipends x $500 each
TOTAL $9060

Additional Information about BRL-CAD[edit]

Previous experience with technical writers or documentation[edit]

BRL-CAD has an extensive development legacy that spans three decades. BRL-CAD's bibliography speaks for itself as to the extensive nature of our community's experience with documentation and technical writers. BRL-CAD maintains hundreds of existing documents, tutorials, guides, quick references, diagrams, presentations, books, and more that help teach fundamentals to advanced CAD topics and everything in between.

For many years in the early 2000's, one of BRL-CAD's leading sponsors employed a technical writer to work full time on BRL-CAD documentation. This resulted in daily interaction over many years and gave our community an appreciation for the value technical writers bring to the table. Since that time, we have continued to engaged technical writers, write technical documentation ourselves, consult with technical writers on our docs, and engage documentation contributors.

Previous participation in the Season of Docs, GSoC, GCI, Google DocCamp[edit]

BRL-CAD was fortunate to participate in the inaugural 2019 Season of Docs. We had a wonderful experience working with Sahibpreet Kaur to create a concise Intro to BRL-CAD. This document was instrumental in the creation of updated modeler training that has been utilized in four separate in-person and online training classes for BRL-CAD.

BRL-CAD also participated in the 2020 Season of Docs, however our tech writer withdrew from the program after unsuccessful prioritization of time and effort. Over many weeks, we tried various strategies to remedy participation including discussions, probation, and consultation with other orgs and GSoD staff, however the project was ultimately cancelled once the participant withdrew.

Since 2012, BRL-CAD participated 6 times in Google Code-In (GCI). The GCI program was an exceptionally good fit for our code and community, and was generally revered as one of our favorite Open Source activities to date until the program was discontinued in 2020. By rough estimation, we engaged over 1000 students, acquired at least 5 core contributors that remained involved with the project after 12 months, and received contributions that equated to more than 10 staff years of full time effort! We loved GCI and were sad to see it go.

In 2013, BRL-CAD was selected to participate in Google Doc Camp where our team of developers and technical writers wrote a Contributor's Guide. That guide continues to be used today for onboarding of new contributors, showcasing features, and showcasing the potential effectiveness of a development offsite/retreat/camp.

Having participated nearly every year since 2008, BRL-CAD is one of the oldest organizations in the Google Summer of Code. We have mentored hundreds of students have had exceptional outcomes. GSoC revolutionized our community practices, organized our outreach activities, helped coordinate development prioritization, helped grow our open source community, and have inspired development successes for more than a decade.