Documentation Guidelines

These are some basic guidelines for contributing to documentation in nova.

Review Guidelines

Documentation-only patches differ from code patches in a few ways.

  • They are often written by users / operators that aren’t plugged into daily cycles of nova or on IRC

  • Outstanding patches are far more likely to trigger merge conflict in Git than code patches

  • There may be wide variation on points of view of what the “best” or “clearest” way is to say a thing

This all can lead to a large number of practical documentation improvements stalling out because the author submitted the fix, and does not have the time to merge conflict chase or is used to the Gerrit follow up model.

As such, documentation patches should be evaluated in the basic context of “does this make things better than the current tree”. Patches are cheap, it can always be further enhanced in future patches.

Typo / trivial documentation only fixes should get approved with a single +2.

How users consume docs

The current primary target for all documentation in nova is the web. While it is theoretically possible to generate PDF versions of the content, the tree is not currently well structured for that, and it’s not clear there is an audience for that.

The main nova docs tree doc/source is published per release, so there will be copies of all of this as both the latest URL (which is master), and for every stable release (e.g. pike).


This raises an interesting and unexplored question about whether we want all of doc/source published with stable branches that will be stale and unimproved as we address content in latest.

The api-ref and api-guide publish only from master to a single site on As such, they are effectively branchless.

Guidelines for consumable docs

  • Give users context before following a link

    Most users exploring our documentation will be trying to learn about our software. Entry and subpages that provide links to in depth topics need to provide some basic context about why someone would need to know about a filter scheduler before following the link named filter scheduler.

    Providing these summaries helps the new consumer come up to speed more quickly.

  • Doc moves require .htaccess redirects

    If a file is moved in a documentation source tree, we should be aware that it might be linked from external sources, and is now a 404 Not Found error for real users.

    All doc moves should include an entry in doc/source/_extra/.htaccess to redirect from the old page to the new page.

  • Images are good, please provide source

    An image is worth a 1000 words, but can go stale pretty quickly. We ideally want png files for display on the web, but that’s a non modifiable format. For any new diagram contributions we should also get some kind of source format (svg is ideal as it can be modified with open tools) along with png formats.

Long Term TODOs

  • Sort out our toctree / sidebar navigation

    During the bulk import of the install, admin, config guides we started with a unified toctree, which was a ton of entries, and made the navigation sidebar in Nova incredibly confusing. The short term fix was to just make that almost entirely hidden and rely on structured landing and sub pages.

    Long term it would be good to reconcile the toctree / sidebar into something that feels coherent.