A Collaborative Web-Based Vision for STScI Documentation

Introduction

The preparations for the launch of JWST offer an opportunity for STScI to take advantage of emerging technologies to create a written communication output on-par with its scientific output. The Free Open Source Software (FOSS) community has had similiar requirements as STScI to create extensive technical documentation. These FOSS projects, including the partially STScI-funded Astropy software package, including dozens of geographically seperated authors with a rapid document release cycle. This document outlines the underlying technologies used by Astropy and other software projects and explores various implementations that STScI could use to produce user information of similar quality.

The modern web is full of powerful tools that were once restricted to local processes. Advances in web technology have made online collaboration the norm from Google Docs to Facebook. These are often distinct from their predecessors in that they and truly web-based, not just web-enhanced; everything happens in the browser. This software model, called Software as a Service (SaaS) as opposed to the more traditional Software as a Product (SaaP) offers a lightweight and rapidly evolving ecosystem.