Linux Documentation Project Reviewer HOWTO

Emma Jane Hogbin

David Merrill

david -AT-

Joy Yokley


Revision History
Revision 1.4.22004-05-24Revised by: EJH
Corrected spelling mistakes.
Revision 1.4.12004-04-19Revised by: EJH
Minor updates to the language and markup, emphasizing the reporting procedures for reviews. Also changed the order of the reviews to reflect actual procedure (technical, language and finally metadata).
Revision 1.42004-04-18Revised by: EJH
Updated the language review: clarified use of capitals, and added a new requirement that Latin abbreviations always use their English counterpart instead.
Revision 1.32004-01-31Revised by: EJH
Added the metadata and markup review information.
Revision 1.22003-11-09Revised by: TMM
Updated content, URLs, mailing lists, converted to XML.
Revision 1.12001-05-12Revised by: DCM
Minor bugfixes.
Revision 1.02001-05-01Revised by: jy
Initial release.

This document will help you review LDP documentation. It includes procedures and techniques for the review process of all new, and existing, LDP documents.

Table of Contents
1. Introduction
1.1. Copyright and License
1.2. Acknowledgements
2. Reviewing Newly Submitted Documentation
3. Reviewing Existing Documentation
3.1. Choosing a Document
3.2. License Issues
3.3. Working With the Latest Version
3.4. Picking a Review to Conduct
4. Peer Review
5. Technical Accuracy Review
6. Language Review
7. Metadata and Markup Review
7.1. Required Markup
7.2. Required Metadata
8. Reporting Your Results
A. GNU Free Documentation License
A.12. Addendum

1. Introduction

The LDP Review Project is a "working group" of the Linux Documentation Project, whose goal is to improve the quality of the LDP's documentation. We are approaching that goal from two different angles: a review of newly submitted documentation, and a review of existing documentation. We are open to your suggestions for improvement.

We have a mailing list established for editors; instructions to subscribe are at

1.1. Copyright and License

This document is copyright 2001 by David C. Merrill, Ph.D., and copyright 2004 by Emma Jane Hogbin.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no invariant sections, no front-cover texts and no back-cover texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

Send feedback to . Please reference the title of this document in your email.

1.2. Acknowledgements

The original version of this document was written in 2001 by Joy Yokley and David C. Merrill, Ph.D.. Tabatha Marshall updated the content and converted the document to DocBook XML in November 2003. Emma Jane Hogbin added the section on Metadata and Markup Reviews in January 2004 and is the current maintainer of the document.

2. Reviewing Newly Submitted Documentation

This review project will continue throughout the life of the LDP. The process will act as a front-end quality assurance review for new documentation which is submitted to the LDP. Ideally documents will be reviewed within one week of their submission to the LDP.

Coordinators of this effort will announce to the list or notify individual review members of new document submissions. The coordinators will try to funnel documents to reviewers who have knowledge in the same technical area as the documentation. If the reviewer is not a technical expert in that particular area and needs technical questions answered, there will be a technical expert designated who will be able to address any technical issues or questions.

Once reviewers have agreed to work on a document, they will have one week to complete the review. If they are not able to complete the review within that time frame, they will need to let the coordinator know of their difficulties so that the author can be notified of the problem. Because these reviews need to be conducted quickly, there will be times when reviewers will be more able to accept review work.

When reviewing newly submitted documents, refer to the Section 5 and Section 6 portions of this guide for the types of information to verify and correct. As a reviewer, you will need to check the documents out of the CVS [1] and make any necessary changes. If changes are extensive or if the document has glaringly and fundamentally fatal errors, contact a coordinator and let them know what the problems are. Once changes are made, the reviewer will update the minor version number, add a new entry to the revision history, and include their name as an "editor" of the document. These changes will then be submitted to the CVS, and an original copy will be sent to the author of the document if the author does not have CVS access.

3. Reviewing Existing Documentation

This project will focus on reviewing documentation that already exists at the LDP. Our goal is to implement a quality management program that makes sure we are supplying up-to-date, accurate, easily read documentation. This process will be ongoing throughout the life of the LDP. Initially, we will try to review all documents currently on the LDP. Once we have made our way through existing documents, we will schedule dates for follow-up reviews. By continually reviewing the documents throughout their life at the LDP, we help make sure readers have the best possible experience with Linux documentation.

In addition to the primary goal of improving the quality of the documentation itself, we will also be gathering data about the collection for storage in some sort of database to facilitate the ongoing management of the collection. However, this stage of the review is still being defined; details about the specifics and how this data will be measured will be added in the future.

Below are some general guidelines that you should follow before you begin reviewing existing documentation for the LDP. Please try to have document reviews completed within two weeks of the time you sign up to review a document.

3.1. Choosing a Document

There are many documents that need review. The most important thing is that you coordinate your work with the other reviewers. To coordinate the effort, we have set up a mailing list for reviewers.

Notify the editor list (instructions for subscribing are at before you begin to review a document. We want to make sure your work is directed where it is most needed and where it will be most useful. Of course, you may have a particular area of expertise and that will dictate your choice to some extent. You can ask on the list for an assignment, or you can select one for yourself and just let the mailing list know what you're doing.

3.2. License Issues

Make sure you have the legal right to work on the document. If it is licensed under a free license that specifically grants such rights, you are fine. If not, you need to contact the author and get permission.

If you do not plan to actually change any of the content, but simply report on the document's status, then you don't need permission, regardless of license. Of course, it is still polite, and advisable, to write the author anyway.

If a document is missing a copyright and/or license, it's recommended you advise the author to choose and apply one. More information on licensing is available in Section 7

3.3. Working With the Latest Version

Make sure the copy you are reviewing is the most current.

If your document includes a URL to an official homepage, visit that page and see if it displays the same version number. If you find the same version number, you are fine. If you find a newer version number, write to the author and ask him or her to please submit the newer version to you.

3.4. Picking a Review to Conduct

There are many different ways a document can be reviewed, and you may have the skills to do only one or two types of reviews. It is sometimes useful (and easier) to do each review as a separate pass through the document; Your Mileage May Vary.

The following sections explain the various types of reviews we are conducting. Use these sections as a guide to help you choose the type of review to conduct and to help you conduct the review itself. Again, when you post your review choice to the review list, please specify the type of review you would like to be responsible for.

4. Peer Review

When an author submits a new document to the LDP, someone monitoring the submission email list will advise the author to post his draft to the discussion list for an initial peer review, prior to publication. Besides determining whether the document thoroughly covers the subject matter, peers may also point out similar work already in the document collection, in which case the new author might want to contact the maintainer of the existing work.

As a member of the review team, you will recognize a peer review document as one the author has submitted to the discussion list, specifically requesting feedback for inclusion of their HOWTO in the collection. This review can be performed by anyone subscribed to the discussion list (

5. Technical Accuracy Review

Make sure the facts as stated in the document are correct, helpful, and on topic.

To do a technical accuracy review, you really need to know your subject matter, probably as well or better than the original author. Use whatever other documentation is available for your subject, including man pages, program documentation, other printed books, etc. You might also use mailing lists on the topic, asking for third parties to verify certain facts of which you are in doubt.

When doing this type of review, consider if the information is only valid for certain types of hardware or software. If this is the case, make sure to note the limitations of the document within the document, either within the abstract or as a note at the beginning of the document. For example, if the solutions in the document only are relevant for one type or brand of hardware, make sure that that limitation is defined. This will keep readers from trying to apply a certain type of technology to an application or situation where it will not work.

The same should apply for the prerequisite knowledge of the reader. If prior knowledge of a subject is assumed or required, the author should say so somewhere at the beginning of the document, and it's helpful to ask that authors provide a Resource section for further reading, to bring readers that much closer to the required information.

6. Language Review

Because writers come from all types of backgrounds, there may be problems within the documentation that need to be fixed. Writers may be very knowledgeable in their subject areas but not great writers, or they may be excellent writers but not completely fluent in the language of the document. The language review addresses these types of problems by focusing on language issues that make the document easier for the user to read and understand. Some of the problems that may occur within the document are poor sentence structure, grammar, organization, clarity, and spelling.

If you are doing a language review, you should be fluent in the language and the structure of the language. You want to consider both the logic and grammar of the document. Your primary goal in a language review is to identify and correct areas that could lead to confusion for the reader/user of the document. To this end, you can most certainly use language and grammar references such as dictionaries and handbooks when in doubt.

Although this review does address the structure and delivery of the language, you should not attempt to purge the document of individuality and personality in an attempt to make it "sound better" or more technical. Stilted, humorless language and structures are not the goals here. Again, your goal should be to make the document clear, unambiguous, and correct in spelling and grammar.

Items to evaluate:

7. Metadata and Markup Review

The LDP uses a series of scripts to transform documents into their published format. In order for these scripts to work, documents must use valid markup and include specific metadata. Metadata is information about the document and includes author information, copyright, license and a revision history of the document.

At this time Metadata and Markup Reviews will be conducted by one of the Review Coordinators and will be the final of the three reviews for new documents. Upon successful completion of a Metadata and Markup Review, the Review Coordinator will update the document's version number to 1.0 and submit the document for publication in the collection.

7.1. Required Markup

Documents submitted to TLDP document repository must validate as one of the following:

  • DocBook XML version 4.2 (preferred), 4.1.2

  • DocBook SGML version 4.2, 4.1 or 3.x

  • LinuxDoc SGML

WarningAuthors are not required to submit documents in DocBook

Authors are not required to submit their initial document in one of the required markup languages. A volunteer will be assigned to convert any document which is not submitted in valid markup. Authors must maintain their documents in one of the required formats. Help, of course, is available to authors. The main goal of The Linux Documentation Project is to provide quality documents, not to force authors to learn markup languages.

7.2. Required Metadata

The following elements are all required:

  • articleinfo or bookinfo. If you are writing a shorter HOWTO (this will be most documents) you will need to use an articleinfo, if you are writing a longer guide you will need to use bookinfo.

  • title. Every document must contain a short, descriptive title. It should be reasonably unique; check other documents in the collection to make sure your document's title is distinctive from all other documents. Although it is not required, most "HOWTO" documents contain the word "HOWTO" in the title.

  • abstract. A short description of your document must be included in the abstract. This description is typically one or two sentences in length.

  • author. Every document must have an author. If there are multiple authors, you may use authorgroup. If the document was prepared by an organization with no individual author, please use authorcorp instead.

  • editor. Every new document must go through the review process and have a technical, language and metadata/markup review editor listed. In some cases two of the reviews may have been conducted by the same person. The name of the editor and the version their review was conducted on should be included. For more information about this markup, please read the notes in the Author Guide's Markup for Metadata.

  • pubdate. The date of publication for the document. The date should be in the ISO standard of YYYY-MM-DD.

  • copyright. Authors will always retain the copyright to any documents they submit to the LDP. Although it is not required, a copyright notice may be included. A license, however, is always required.

  • Revision history (revhistory). A summary of revisions should be included in the document. For more information about their markup, please read the notes in the Author Guide's Markup for Metadata.

    The initial release of a document should be marked up as Version 1.0. Subsequent updates should increment the version number appropriately. The preferred format is Major.Minor.Bugfix, where each section is an integer. Some authors use Alan Cox style versions (for example 1.4pre-3) and some include additional information (for example 1.3beta). This is acceptable but not encouraged. The most important thing is that we have a version number so we know which version we are dealing with! Once a document goes through review it should advance in minor or bugfix version number, depending on the amount of change introduced.

  • License and Legal Notice. A license is required. The LDP currently accepts documents which are licensed under the GFDL, Creative Commons License and the LDP License. If you are using a license that is not listed it will need to be reviewed by our volunteers before the document is accepted. The full text of the license is required. A link is not sufficient. You may wish to include a disclaimer as part of the legal notice. A standard disclaimer is available from the Author Guide.

  • email. The LDP must be able to reach any author of any document via email. Email addresses should be included in the author tag, but may be included in the DocBook source as a comment. Documents without email address will not be accepted into the collection. If the LDP is unable to reach an author, the document may be removed from the collection.

  • Acknowledgements and Other Credits. Very few, if any, documents are written only by one person. It is good form to thank those who helped you with either the writing, research, testing or reviewing of your document. If someone added markup, or translated your document to another language they should also be given credit.

8. Reporting Your Results

Once you have completed your review of a document, you should send the updated file and your results back to the Review Coordinator [2] , and advise the working group you've completed the review. A summary of your findings should be included in the body of the email. If the reviewer has access to the CVS, and permission of the author to submit the changes directly, the reviewer may email the Review Coordinator with only a summary of findings and a note that the document was updated in the CVS.

If you have made any modifications to the document, also send your updates to the author or maintainer, as well as the LDP submission list, which is at [email protected]. The subject line should be the title of the document. In the body of your email, please include a note which says something to the effect of, "I am a reviewer for the LDP and am submitting an updated copy of this document on behalf of the author."


Updates should not be sent to the discuss list.

A. GNU Free Documentation License


The purpose of this License is to make a manual, textbook, or other written document "free" in the sense of freedom: to assure everyone the effective freedom to copy and redistribute it, with or without modifying it, either commercially or noncommercially. Secondarily, this License preserves for the author and publisher a way to get credit for their work, while not being considered responsible for modifications made by others.

This License is a kind of "copyleft", which means that derivative works of the document must themselves be free in the same sense. It complements the GNU General Public License, which is a copyleft license designed for free software.

We have designed this License in order to use it for manuals for free software, because free software needs free documentation: a free program should come with manuals providing the same freedoms that the software does. But this License is not limited to software manuals; it can be used for any textual work, regardless of subject matter or whether it is published as a printed book. We recommend this License principally for works whose purpose is instruction or reference.


This License applies to any manual or other work that contains a notice placed by the copyright holder saying it can be distributed under the terms of this License. The "Document", below, refers to any such manual or work. Any member of the public is a licensee, and is addressed as "you".

A "Modified Version" of the Document means any work containing the Document or a portion of it, either copied verbatim, or with modifications and/or translated into another language.

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The "Invariant Sections" are certain Secondary Sections whose titles are designated, as being those of Invariant Sections, in the notice that says that the Document is released under this License.

The "Cover Texts" are certain short passages of text that are listed, as Front-Cover Texts or Back-Cover Texts, in the notice that says that the Document is released under this License.

A "Transparent" copy of the Document means a machine-readable copy, represented in a format whose specification is available to the general public, whose contents can be viewed and edited directly and straightforwardly with generic text editors or (for images composed of pixels) generic paint programs or (for drawings) some widely available drawing editor, and that is suitable for input to text formatters or for automatic translation to a variety of formats suitable for input to text formatters. A copy made in an otherwise Transparent file format whose markup has been designed to thwart or discourage subsequent modification by readers is not Transparent. A copy that is not "Transparent" is called "Opaque".

Examples of suitable formats for Transparent copies include plain ASCII without markup, Texinfo input format, LaTeX input format, SGML or XML using a publicly available DTD, and standard-conforming simple HTML designed for human modification. Opaque formats include PostScript, PDF, proprietary formats that can be read and edited only by proprietary word processors, SGML or XML for which the DTD and/or processing tools are not generally available, and the machine-generated HTML produced by some word processors for output purposes only.

The "Title Page" means, for a printed book, the title page itself, plus such following pages as are needed to hold, legibly, the material this License requires to appear in the title page. For works in formats which do not have any title page as such, "Title Page" means the text near the most prominent appearance of the work's title, preceding the beginning of the body of the text.


You may copy and distribute the Document in any medium, either commercially or noncommercially, provided that this License, the copyright notices, and the license notice saying this License applies to the Document are reproduced in all copies, and that you add no other conditions whatsoever to those of this License. You may not use technical measures to obstruct or control the reading or further copying of the copies you make or distribute. However, you may accept compensation in exchange for copies. If you distribute a large enough number of copies you must also follow the conditions in section 3.

You may also lend copies, under the same conditions stated above, and you may publicly display copies.


If you publish printed copies of the Document numbering more than 100, and the Document's license notice requires Cover Texts, you must enclose the copies in covers that carry, clearly and legibly, all these Cover Texts: Front-Cover Texts on the front cover, and Back-Cover Texts on the back cover. Both covers must also clearly and legibly identify you as the publisher of these copies. The front cover must present the full title with all words of the title equally prominent and visible. You may add other material on the covers in addition. Copying with changes limited to the covers, as long as they preserve the title of the Document and satisfy these conditions, can be treated as verbatim copying in other respects.

If the required texts for either cover are too voluminous to fit legibly, you should put the first ones listed (as many as fit reasonably) on the actual cover, and continue the rest onto adjacent pages.

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It is requested, but not required, that you contact the authors of the Document well before redistributing any large number of copies, to give them a chance to provide you with an updated version of the Document.


You may copy and distribute a Modified Version of the Document under the conditions of sections 2 and 3 above, provided that you release the Modified Version under precisely this License, with the Modified Version filling the role of the Document, thus licensing distribution and modification of the Modified Version to whoever possesses a copy of it. In addition, you must do these things in the Modified Version:

  • A. Use in the Title Page (and on the covers, if any) a title distinct from that of the Document, and from those of previous versions (which should, if there were any, be listed in the History section of the Document). You may use the same title as a previous version if the original publisher of that version gives permission.

  • B. List on the Title Page, as authors, one or more persons or entities responsible for authorship of the modifications in the Modified Version, together with at least five of the principal authors of the Document (all of its principal authors, if it has less than five).

  • C. State on the Title Page the name of the publisher of the Modified Version, as the publisher.

  • D. Preserve all the copyright notices of the Document.

  • E. Add an appropriate copyright notice for your modifications adjacent to the other copyright notices.

  • F. Include, immediately after the copyright notices, a license notice giving the public permission to use the Modified Version under the terms of this License, in the form shown in the Addendum below.

  • G. Preserve in that license notice the full lists of Invariant Sections and required Cover Texts given in the Document's license notice.

  • H. Include an unaltered copy of this License.

  • I. Preserve the section entitled "History", and its title, and add to it an item stating at least the title, year, new authors, and publisher of the Modified Version as given on the Title Page. If there is no section entitled "History" in the Document, create one stating the title, year, authors, and publisher of the Document as given on its Title Page, then add an item describing the Modified Version as stated in the previous sentence.

  • J. Preserve the network location, if any, given in the Document for public access to a Transparent copy of the Document, and likewise the network locations given in the Document for previous versions it was based on. These may be placed in the "History" section. You may omit a network location for a work that was published at least four years before the Document itself, or if the original publisher of the version it refers to gives permission.

  • K. In any section entitled "Acknowledgements" or "Dedications", preserve the section's title, and preserve in the section all the substance and tone of each of the contributor acknowledgements and/or dedications given therein.

  • L. Preserve all the Invariant Sections of the Document, unaltered in their text and in their titles. Section numbers or the equivalent are not considered part of the section titles.

  • M. Delete any section entitled "Endorsements". Such a section may not be included in the Modified Version.

  • N. Do not retitle any existing section as "Endorsements" or to conflict in title with any Invariant Section.

If the Modified Version includes new front-matter sections or appendices that qualify as Secondary Sections and contain no material copied from the Document, you may at your option designate some or all of these sections as invariant. To do this, add their titles to the list of Invariant Sections in the Modified Version's license notice. These titles must be distinct from any other section titles.

You may add a section entitled "Endorsements", provided it contains nothing but endorsements of your Modified Version by various parties--for example, statements of peer review or that the text has been approved by an organization as the authoritative definition of a standard.

You may add a passage of up to five words as a Front-Cover Text, and a passage of up to 25 words as a Back-Cover Text, to the end of the list of Cover Texts in the Modified Version. Only one passage of Front-Cover Text and one of Back-Cover Text may be added by (or through arrangements made by) any one entity. If the Document already includes a cover text for the same cover, previously added by you or by arrangement made by the same entity you are acting on behalf of, you may not add another; but you may replace the old one, on explicit permission from the previous publisher that added the old one.

The author(s) and publisher(s) of the Document do not by this License give permission to use their names for publicity for or to assert or imply endorsement of any Modified Version .


You may combine the Document with other documents released under this License, under the terms defined in section 4 above for modified versions, provided that you include in the combination all of the Invariant Sections of all of the original documents, unmodified, and list them all as Invariant Sections of your combined work in its license notice.

The combined work need only contain one copy of this License, and multiple identical Invariant Sections may be replaced with a single copy. If there are multiple Invariant Sections with the same name but different contents, make the title of each such section unique by adding at the end of it, in parentheses, the name of the original author or publisher of that section if known, or else a unique number. Make the same adjustment to the section titles in the list of Invariant Sections in the license notice of the combined work.

In the combination, you must combine any sections entitled "History" in the various original documents, forming one section entitled "History"; likewise combine any sections entitled "Acknowledgements", and any sections entitled "Dedications". You must delete all sections entitled "Endorsements."


You may make a collection consisting of the Document and other documents released under this License, and replace the individual copies of this License in the various documents with a single copy that is included in the collection, provided that you follow the rules of this License for verbatim copying of each of the documents in all other respects.

You may extract a single document from such a collection, and dispbibute it individually under this License, provided you insert a copy of this License into the extracted document, and follow this License in all other respects regarding verbatim copying of that document.


A compilation of the Document or its derivatives with other separate and independent documents or works, in or on a volume of a storage or distribution medium, does not as a whole count as a Modified Version of the Document, provided no compilation copyright is claimed for the compilation. Such a compilation is called an "aggregate", and this License does not apply to the other self-contained works thus compiled with the Document , on account of their being thus compiled, if they are not themselves derivative works of the Document. If the Cover Text requirement of section 3 is applicable to these copies of the Document, then if the Document is less than one quarter of the entire aggregate, the Document's Cover Texts may be placed on covers that surround only the Document within the aggregate. Otherwise they must appear on covers around the whole aggregate.


Translation is considered a kind of modification, so you may distribute translations of the Document under the terms of section 4. Replacing Invariant Sections with translations requires special permission from their copyright holders, but you may include translations of some or all Invariant Sections in addition to the original versions of these Invariant Sections. You may include a translation of this License provided that you also include the original English version of this License. In case of a disagreement between the translation and the original English version of this License, the original English version will prevail.


You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Document except as expressly provided for under this License. Any other attempt to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Document is void, and will automatically terminate your rights under this License. However, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such parties remain in full compliance.


The Free Software Foundation may publish new, revised versions of the GNU Free Documentation License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns. See

Each version of the License is given a distinguishing version number. If the Document specifies that a particular numbered version of this License "or any later version" applies to it, you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that specified version or of any later version that has been published (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation. If the Document does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published (not as a draft) by the Free Software Foundation.

A.12. Addendum

To use this License in a document you have written, include a copy of the License in the document and put the following copyright and license notices just after the title page:

Copyright � YEAR YOUR NAME.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with the Invariant Sections being LIST THEIR TITLES, with the Front-Cover Texts being LIST, and with the Back-Cover Texts being LIST. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

If you have no Invariant Sections, write "with no Invariant Sections" instead of saying which ones are invariant. If you have no Front-Cover Texts, write "no Front-Cover Texts" instead of "Front-Cover Texts being LIST"; likewise for Back-Cover Texts.

If your document contains nontrivial examples of program code, we recommend releasing these examples in parallel under your choice of free software license, such as the GNU General Public License, to permit their use in free software.



Alternatively, if you've obtained the file from the Review Coordinator, or are unfamiliar with CVS, you can return the changes to the coordinator for further handling.


The LDP is currently filtering documents back through the Review Coordinator until a document management system is implemented, allowing for review notes to be stored with the file in a database record.