Guiding Principles and Governance

Write the Docs is a global community of people who care about documentation. There is also a legal entity that exists to build and support the global community of documentarians. The company’s primary role is to manage the community’s legal and business assets.

This document describes the guiding principles that drive us as an organization, our governance model, and what all this means for our community members.

Guiding Principles


We want to:

  • Do things in direct service to our community members. Whenever we examine a new type of event or activity we always ask “What’s in it for the community?”, rather than “What’s in it for the organization?”. The Write the Docs organization grew from the community and we exist for the community. To put it simply, Write the Docs doesn’t exist without our community, so our operations are naturally aligned with the interest of the community.
  • Optimize our revenue streams to derive direct benefit to the community. While we are not a non-profit and we have a business entity and a small paid core team, our primary goal is to translate revenue from our conferences and activities to more and better events and services for community members.

We don’t want to:

  • Rely on corporations to support the community. While we welcome sponsorship and corporate contributions to our events, we prioritize tickets over sponsorship, in order to ensure the independence of our operations. For example, we limit the number of sponsored tables at our conferences. We also have a Code of Conduct section specifically for sponsors and affiliates, where we explicitly set expectations of how they can engage with our community.


We want to:

  • Build a sustainable organization with paid staff to run the community operations instead of relying on volunteers for ongoing global maintenance and support. Our network of volunteers is invaluable, but we cannot expect people to “do it for free” in the long term.
  • Create stable infrastructure for the community to grow on top of so that we are not relying on specific individuals to manage ongoing operations. This allows people to step up or down from teams and roles without damaging the framework of the community.

We don’t want to:

  • Grow too quickly. Many organizations prioritize growth over sustainability and run the risk of over-extending their resources. By keeping the number of concurrent experiments small and gradual, we hope to test and optimize each new thing before moving on to the next thing.
  • Burn out. All our teams and roles are opt-in, and we prioritize self care and work-life balance. Our volunteers and paid team members are encouraged to take on tasks that they derive professional and personal value from, and we check-in periodically to make sure that our contributors are happy with their roles within the community.


We want to:

  • Deliver all our content for free to everyone. All our documentation, videos, talk abstracts, session notes, and resources are available online. We do not hide anything behind a paywall, and our Slack is open to anyone who wants to join and network with other documentarians.
  • Create an open platform for community members to consume and contribute to our content. Our website infrastructure as well as our brand resources are open to everyone to use to spread the word, as long as you follow our Style Guide. Anyone can start Meetups, and we provide support for local communities.
  • Maintain an open and flexible organization. Our Team structure is transparent and aims to clearly define the various roles and responsibilities that we fulfill for the community, and anyone is welcome to join any of our teams to help out. We actively seek to improve our communication methods so that the community stays up-to-date with what we’re working on.

We don’t want to:

  • Restrict membership. We are an open community, not a trade union or a guild. We will never require a membership fee to participate in our community, although we might experiment with opt-in community sponsorship in the future in order to sustain and develop our services to the community. We take our Code of Conduct to heart and are the first to implement it in our own operations.
  • Get stuck in our ways. Everyone is welcome to propose and pilot new experiments, and we constantly seek and implement feedback from the community. We aim to send out feedback surveys after every conference to attendees, speakers, volunteers, and sponsors, so that we can evolve our activities along with the natural evolution of the community.


We want to:

  • Help you feel welcome. Write the Docs is a community of communities, with folks from a wide range of professional and academic background, who found their place and their people here. One of our main strengths is our role diversity, whether you’re a technical writer, developer, support engineer, designer, librarian, data scientist, or any role that might involve communication, you are welcome.
  • Help you feel safe. We’re very fortunate to have a community that is diverse in many different ways, and we want to keep it that way. Our Code of Conduct aims to provide a framework where our community members can feel safe to attend our events and participate in discussion in our online spaces without fear of harassment or discrimination.

We don’t want to:

  • Have an high entry barrier to our events. Our conferences and activities are carefully priced to maintain the lowest possible ticket prices that we can offer while covering the production costs. We also offer free tickets to speakers, volunteers, staff, and diversity organizations, as well as travel assistance when possible.

Decision-making process

  • The default process for making decisions in WTD follows a fuzzy/lazy consensus methodology. This means a proposal can be supported, objected to, or ignored. Any objections are discussed within the group that makes the decision, and if the objections are resolved then the proposal is accepted with any adjustments that might be implemented based on feedback. Teams can decide to modify this process based on their needs.
  • Community-wide changes must use the WEP process and receive community approval. For more information, see Scope of WEPs.
  • Internal organizational changes do not need to use the WEP process, but must be approved by the community council. Examples include switching email tools, infrastructure improvement, brand updates, or vendor selection for global resources.
  • Team-specific changes can be processed independently by agreement in the team, but each team lead is responsible to report such changes to the council and update the community-facing documentation as needed.


Why aren’t you a non-profit?

  • In order to achieve an official non-profit tax status, one must venture on a long journey with a high legal, bureaucratic, and financial investment. When we researched this we realized that frankly, whatever benefits we might get simply don’t justify the costs.
  • The running costs of maintaining a non-profit status would require us to redirect money from the community to various accountants, lawyers, and administrative entities, rather than reinvest this money in operations that directly benefit the community. We do work with a bookkeeper to help us keep our taxes in order, but as an LLC, compliance is simpler and allows us to focus on what we can do directly for the community.
  • Non-profits are limited in how they can generate revenue, and as an open organization with community-focused operations it’s better if we don’t have these restrictions. If we can’t experiment with sustainable income models, we cannot evolve along with the community.

Why do you have a paid core team?

Running conferences on a volunteer basis might be fun at first, but it can become a burden after a few years. And, as the community grows and evolves, so do the roles and responsibilities of the people who are supporting the community.

Write the Docs bases much of its philosophy on open-source community models, and we have witnessed many cases where long-term contributors to various projects suffered from increasing pressure, burnout, and resentment towards the very same communities that they felt a part of.

As our core team solidified over the years, we realized that if we want to sustain and scale the community, we must also sustain the people who are supporting the community. Appropriate compensation is the next step in retaining the people who are maintaining the infrastructure, running the conferences, securing sponsorship, and managing the content archives.