Welcome to my project summary page for Google Season of Docs. This was an exciting experience that came along with many firsts:
- my first time contributing to open-source software—see https://github.com/aces/Loris
- my first time using Github desktop
- my first time revisiting my undergraduate science degree since… undergrad
- my first time working in an academic research setting
- I was also the first professional technical writer to ever work on this team!
It felt great to dive back into the world of academia and neuroscience after working in (mostly) tech startups for the past few years. My mentor, Christine Rogers, was very devoted to making this journey productive and organized, but also fun! Christine - thank you for showing me the ropes and being such a wonderful teacher in this. I was super happy to meet the rest of the LORIS team as well, and loved visiting their offices at the university dearest to my heart, McGill.
For GSoD, the details of my contributions are as follows!
INCF: International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility
What is LORIS?
LORIS (Longitudinal Online Research and Imaging System) is an open neuroscience research data platform used by multi-site, longitudinal neuroscience studies around the world. Its web-facing front-end provides researchers with powerful customizable tools to handle, curate, visualize, and export any format of data within a single platform.
My technical writing specialty lies in turning complex ideas into accessible plain language. With LORIS being a robust software used in the orderly world of scientific research, this was a fun challenge! My ultimate goal was to make LORIS documentation that was helpful to its users, and possibly a little bit lighter than their typical reading material :)
(Detailed descriptions to follow)
- Total rewrite of all user-facing help text in LORIS (~50 PRs issued, merged, and closed)
- A comprehensive user guide for navigating LORIS
- An internal onboarding document for new LORIS members
- A Github Desktop guide for beginners
- Style Guides for future reference
- High-level online presentations about LORIS (done in Reveal.js)
- Additional Tasks
1. Help Text Rewrite
In LORIS, every module and some additional pages have help content, hidden from view but easily accessed. Users click a question mark from a navigation menu to reveal Help text, which includes an overview and context of the page, along with instructions on how to use the features of that page.
There were around 40 pieces of help text to work on. Some of these were new modules, so I created the text from scratch. For the most part, however, I rewrote existing help text to make it more accessible and user-friendly.
See all associated PRs in this GitHub issue
2. LORIS User Guide
I created a comprehensive 40+ page document that describes a suggested workflow for using LORIS, along with detailed explanations on its every feature and function and associated screenshots. This can be helpful to users that need more context to supplement the in-site help text. In addition, it will be sent to potential research leads that want to learn more about LORIS’ capabilities and interface.
Check out the new LORIS User Guide here
3. Internal Onboarding Document
Joining the LORIS team was a bit overwhelming due to the volume of information I needed to learn so quickly! They have a thorough onboarding guide for most people that join the team—most of them being developers or other technical roles. However, my non-technical background required something less… technical. So, I decided to compile existing resources into one helpful document for new non-technical members that join LORIS in the future. It’s called the LORIS Brief.
Find the LORIS Brief here
4. Github Desktop 101
Upon joining the LORIS project, my Github exposure was minimal. I had used github.com to upload files, but that was pretty much it. My biggest challenge during this experience was learning how to use Github desktop (I couldn’t use github.com due to the complex branching system used by the LORIS repo). With help from my mentors, along with endless forum-foraging, I put together a step-by-step guide on using Github Desktop with LORIS.
Find the guide here
5. Updated LORIS Presentations
The LORIS team hosts a suite of informative presentations built in Reveal.js. These were designed to be presented in-person, but the team wanted them to live online, as high-level guides to LORIS, for anyone to access and learn from. I contextualized, re-organized, and re-formatted the content to be more user-friendly for this purpose. I revamped five of these presentations in total (in the GitHub Pages link below, I worked on all except for Big Brain and BrainBrowser. Please note that my PRs for this project are not merged yet, so the final presentations are still outdated and do not reflect my changes.
You can find my branches here and the end products here
6. Style Guides
I created a couple style guides for the team’s future reference based on the documentation changes I made. One was a detailed guide for creating and updating the user-facing help text in LORIS. This guide includes guidelines on grammar and tone, markdown styles accepted in LORIS, and how to name/upload files into the LORIS repository.
Check out the Help Text Style Guide here
I also created a simple style guide for the online Reveal presentations, which exists as a README.md file in the presentation repo.
Check that one out here - it’s an open PR that hasn’t been merged yet.
7. And then…
I made other ad-hoc contributions worth mentioning.
The LORIS-dev Archives Audit
My first task upon joining the LORIS team was to go through “the LORIS mail” and categorize emails based on type. The goal with this was for me to get a sense of where the current LORIS documentation was failing; where the critical gaps were. The audit was also intended to show me what kind of questions the team gets, and why. It was a great way to introduce me to the LORIS audience, which always provides a critical starting point for creating user-facing documentation.
In the LORIS codebase, each module has a README so developers know its purpose, how it functions, its configuration, and more. Most of these READMEs were complete, except for a couple. Through internal SME research and exploration of the platform, I created a README file for modules that didn’t have it.
You can see those PRs here and here
Flagged a Release-Critical Bug
I noticed a bug in the same week as a new release - tada! Check it out here.
THANK YOU TO GOOGLE AND LORIS FOR THIS VALUABLE GSOD EXPERIENCE! I’M STILL SMILING!