SQR-011: LSST Data Management Communication & Publication Platforms

  • Jonathan Sick and
  • Frossie Economou

Latest Revision: 2016-03-21

LSST Data Management uses a number of technical communication and documentation platforms to address our needs, with the SQuaRE team often leading the management (and development, when necessary) of these platforms. Each platform addresses a specific niche of audience (DM, Project or our science community), synchronicity (real-time, asynchronous, or broadcast), and task (e.g., work ticketing, documenting designs, manuals).

In this document we outline SQuaRE’s communication support services and explain now they could be used to support a project-wide communication strategy. Note, however, that while we have chosen some of these platforms for their ability to support a wider outreach into the project and the community, they can all be restricted to their current audiences if project policy demands it.

DM’s communications platform strategy has evolved rapidly since Summer 2015 with the appointment of our Documentation Engineer, so this document also takes the opportunity to foreshadow platform migrations that are underway.


During construction, DM is a closely-knit team with good communications practices. Depending on their synchronicity needs, developers and scientists are directed by their Team Lead or the DM Developer Guide to one of our communication platforms at Table 1 (entries marked with an asterisk are planned developments).

Table 1 Main DM Communication Platforms and Intended Audiences
Platform Audience
DM Project External
Chat HipChat Y ~ N
Slack* (RFC-140) Y ~ ?
Forum Community/Discourse Y Y Y
Wiki Confluence Y Y read
Bugs, Patches JIRA Y Y read
GitHub N N Y
Doc Indexes DocHub* API Y Y Y
  • The Chat platform is used for synchronous communication such as quick informal discussions and troubleshooting - see Chat (HipChat → Slack)
  • The Forum platform is used both as a broadcast medium (announcements) as well as discussions, Q&A, and longer more substantive debate - see Community forum and Mailing Lists
  • The Wiki is used for meeting minutes, short-term planning documents and internal notes - see Confluence Wiki
  • A number of communication workflows around software development such as work tickets, bugs reports, bug fixes and of course new feature development are based on GitHub and tracked through JIRA - see Work Ticketing
  • A rich documentation ecosystem brought together by an Index that can be generated from an API - see Documentation & Publications


This section underlies some of the engineering and cultural principles behind our communication platforms.

Communication and documentation as a shared DM responsibility

There are no communication gatekeepers within Data Management. Every team member can participate in, and is responsible for, communicating and documenting DM work. We use a regular review process to vet documentation, either with peers or a Technical Control Team for controlled documents.

Traditionally, many organizations create participation barriers to their communication platforms through the complexity of systems that publish to the web or elsewhere. As the maintainer and developer of DM’s communication platforms, SQuaRE is committed to making our platforms accessible and easy to use through automation. For example, our aim is to allow a team member to publish a new technical note to the web immediately, or update software documentation with minimal effort and without needing assistance or permission.

Making information accessible outside Data Management

As an open source software organization, Data Management is culturally aligned with making information openly available beyond the team. This is why the science community is granted at least read access to nearly all DM communication platforms listed in Table 1 While all of these artifacts (JIRA tickets, technical notes, publications and so on) make sense in their authoring context, we recognize that the external community needs a simpler view into LSST Data Management information.

Our strategy is to treat only two DM platforms as entry points; all other information should be discoverable from these platforms.

  • The first entry point is the Community forum. Questions on the forum will be answered with links to documents deeper in the DM information hierarchy, such as pages in software documentation, technical notes, and so forth. The community forum, in essence becomes an interactive search engine into LSST’s documentation, in addition to being a space to discover gaps in our documentation and draft new content. We specifically discusss the Community forum later in this technical note..

    (Also, since DM’s information is accessible on the open web—without login walls—we also organically benefit from web search and social media entry points. DM’s documentation, itself, is also highly cross-referential.)

  • The second entry point is a planned Data Management Documentation Index web site. Where the Community forum is highly contextual and serendipitous, the Documentation Index support systematic and comprehensive documentation discovery. We will allow readers to browse DM documents by type (software documentation, design document, technical note, presentation, paper, source code), subject area, as well as full-text search. The Documentation Index will also have curated categories to highlight new and key information for user groups. The Documentation Index will kept up-to-date by utilizing a “DocHub” API exposing data from LSST the Docs, Zenodo, and ADS platforms that host or archive DM’s artifacts. We discuss the Documentation Index later in this technical note..

Again, the advantage of this architecture is that DM only needs to promote two URLs to the community to effectively market our entire information portfolio. Also, in the case of the Documentation Index, it allows the advantages of a single point of entry for the user, while enabling content providers to utilize the best documentation repository solution for their workflow.

Construction & Beyond

Like all of SQuaRE-developed systems, the primary requirement is to satisfy DM’s needs into Construction; however we remain cognizant of the intense demands of Commissioning, and the need to bequeath robust automated low-maintenance systems to Operations.

To this end we either:

  • Make use of popular cloud-hosted services (supported by the provider); even if these services get superseded by more attractive services in the future, it is likely that the new games in town will have an easy migration path from existing services.
  • Develop our own services, engineered with a self-serve philosophy, and configuration management and virtualised architectures for easy deployment anywhere.

We generally do not favor self-hosting commercial products, as they are frequently the worst of both worlds; in some cases we are forced to do it due to pricing or performance considerations.

How tools are selected

With all communication tools, there is always a balance of providing users a diversity of tools that they want to use and consolidating tools so that information does not fragment. We have found that the parameter space of task, synchronicity and audience do require multiple tools, but we favor only having one supported tool for each locus in that space.

How do we select that tool? We weigh in a number of factors:

  • Ease of development with the tool (Can we build the services we need around this tool?).
  • Quality of support for the tool (Do the tool developers respond quickly to questions, fix bugs, release new features?).
  • User preference within the project (Are users advocation for a particular tool?).
  • Prevailing usage outside the project (Do our collaborators or shared staff use this tool in their other projects?).
  • Cost (after seeking open source or non-profit discounting, but mindful of the “hidden” cost of developer time).
  • Cost/Benefit of effort required for migration, where a previous tool has already been used in that space.

Chat (HipChat → Slack)

DM makes extensive use of chat (currently the HipChat service by Atlassian) as a replacement to hallway and office conversations that would happen naturally in a co-located organization, and locally as a way to seek near-synchronous help without disturbing someone who is thinking. HipChat is currently considered to be an internal DM platform, through there is some participation from other subsystems.

Our Chat platform is divided into several rooms to scope the conversations. For example, the ‘Data Management’ room hosts generic DM conversations, while the ‘SQuaRE’ room is primarily used to debug software build and developer services issues in real-time (and is the most popular room as a result). Rooms can also be created organically to host different working groups (for example, the ‘Astropy Integration’ room).

Chat systems are rightly considered invaluable for software development teams. They are the most efficient way of troubleshooting a problem, and by their informality, provide a vital social lubricant and culture propagation medium in what is a dispersed multi-institutional team. The advantage of chat over other platforms such as email is that the entire team can passively monitor conversations and stay generally aware of issues without feeling like they have to read every message, tuning in and out as they would to a discussion between two teammates in the hallway.

At the same time, we recognize that Chat can be a distraction, and not all team members are always available to participate in key discussions (that may potentially yield design decisions). For this reason we are building a culture that redirects chat complex or important chat conversations to better venues:

  • Data Management category in the Community forum for complex yet informal discussions
  • The Request for Discussion (RFD) JIRA project to schedule a time slot for a video conference-based discussion
  • The Request for Comments (RFC) JIRA project to formally propose and gain feedback on a proposal that has design or process ramifications.
  • Problems reported on Chat are often fixed in real time. When it is not possible to do so, a work JIRA ticket is filed.

It is important to note that while Chat is a stunningly effective platform for mentoring and in-team troubleshooting, it does not scale as a support medium in many circumstances, particularly as it lacks the StackOverflow effect: you can’t easily come to find an answer, realize that someone has already asked it and gotten a pertinent answer, and leave satisfied without even having had to disturb a DM developer. The traditional user support Forum (for us, Community) is much more suitable for external user support.

However we do foresee that there will be members of the scientific community who will wish to engage with DM as developers rather than consumers. So our recommendation is to adopt platforms that make it easy and cheap to add external users to the chat system, while at the same time treating the chat system for those users as a last resort. So we envisage starting a slow asynchronous discussion with a user on Community, and if the situation demands it, pulling them into Chat. We are particularly thinking about Commissioning, where we might want “many eyes” to bear on a problem.


We also use Chat for engineering purposes, such as real time monitoring of software builds and tests and to automatically broadcast announcements of RFCs/RFDs. This is a basic form of ChatOps, where infrastructure is controlled through a chat interface. Companies like GitHub, for example, use ChatOps to control servers and react to operational events. The advantage of doing this is that diverse and geographically distributed teams can collaborate in real-time. SQuaRE plans to expand our use of Chat into ChatOps, likely with StackStorm and Hubot, though this work is not yet scheduled.

ChatOps services always require some level of development for bots that interface in-house services to the chat system. This is why the standard and level of maturity of APIs and available off-the-shelf integrations of chat services is of high interest to SQuaRE, who is the most likely source of effort for this development.

Motivation for the transition to Slack

Due to the aforementioned considerations as well as expressed user preference and prevailing usage, SQuaRE is proposing that DM move its Chat implementation from HipChat to Slack. The proposal (which received a lot of enthusiasm and scant opposition) can be found at the relevant RFC - see RFC-140.

Community forum and Mailing Lists

DM launched the Community forum (https://community.lsst.org or c.l.o for short in DM parlance) in August 2015 as a hub for asynchronous discussions within LSST teams, while also being open to participation from the community.

Community is hosted on the Discourse web forum platform, which is modern, open source and being activity developed. The adoption of the Discourse platform was proposed in RFC-85.

When Community was launched, it was intended to replace mailing lists as DM’s platform for long-form asynchronous discussions and announcements to the community. Community was also a response to the desire of the senior DM scientists to reach out to important scientific collaborations with which DM has obvious common topics of interest (e.g., the DESC collaboration) without having them flood our Chat channels.

We see Community growing into a larger role by first servicing more LSST project subsystems, and ultimately becoming a place where astronomers from the community congregate to discuss the use of LSST data and software with project staff and amongst themselves.

Key qualities of Community as an asynchronous forum implementation are:

  • Native to the web. This allows individual topics and posts to be linked to from documents and social media. Search engines such also Google also index the conversations on Community.
  • A delightful user experience. Whereas JIRA and Confluence are powerful platforms, they lack Discourse’s sensitivity to the difficulty of building a community on the web. Examples of Discourse’s user experience affordances include markdown for formatting, support for linking topic threads together, effective search, and a granular notification system that can keep peripheral stakeholders aware of activity on the forum.
  • An open platform. Anyone can create an account on Community and participate in discussions (although an account is not necessary to read content) without going through a gatekeeper. The Discourse platform protects itself from spam with a graduated system, although DM allows project members to short-cut the trust accrual algorithm by assigning project members to specific groups. And although Community is not meant to be a highly secure and private platform, certain categories can be made viewable and/or writeable to only certain user groups.
  • Support for categories so that different types of conversations can be segregated, while still making it easy to see all conversations happening on the forum.
  • Support for marking solutions. Discourse was made by the same group that built StackOverflow, an immensely successful community-driven question-and-answer site. Although Discourse is more conversation-oriented, an ‘Accepted answers’ plugin allows for Q&A type categories where the ultimate solution to an issue posed by an original poster is clearly marked.

Categories and the organization of conversations

For major announcements. Originally this category was intended to be equivalent to the dm-announce@lists.lsst.org mailing list to announce software releases. As the scope of Community has grown, the scope of Announcements has also grown to be more Project-holistic. This is an area where DM collaboration with LSST Communications would be beneficial.
Data Management

Conversations within the DM team, open to the public.

Data Management also includes several sub-categories:

DM Notifications

Brief broadcasts within the DM to alert team members of new features or changes to the software stack and infrastructure.

DM Notifications also hosts our weekly DM Activity Highlights series series that summarizes DM activity at very technical level.

DM Team
A category visible only to members of the LSSTDM group (seldom used given our policy of open communication)
Question-and-answer category for users of LSST Software and Data to resolve issues (with DM Staff and other community members). Accepted solutions are marked to organically build a knowledge base for other users.
Conversations within the Simulations team, open to the public.
Conversations within the Camera team, open to the public. This category is not actively used.
Cross-System Discussions
This category hosts sub-categories for conversations between LSST subsystems to work on interfaces.
LSST Project
This category is only visible to LSST project members (LSST group). It has been used to debrief conferences and offer frank discussions.

Planned and Possible Categories

This category, sponsored by the Project Science Team, will provide the science collaborations, and the astronomy community in general, a venue to ask questions about how LSST will operate and serve their science goals and receive official answers from the project. Such a Q&A venue will offer an appealing alternative to getting answers through our technical documentation or through one-on-one conversations that don’t scale. Technically, this category will operate similarly to the Support category.

Broadcasting to mailing lists (Community Mailbot)

Community was intended to replace DM’s mailing lists, and it has: conversations no longer occur on the dm-devel and dm-user mailing lists. However, we also recognized that these mailing lists have value in reliably reaching an audience which prefers e-mail. Thus we built the Community Mailbot to forward new topics in select categories to the existing DM mailing lists. The forwarded email contains the text of the original topic post along with an unambiguous button inviting readers to participate in the discussion on https://community.lsst.org. Echoing forum activity to an e-mail gateway has been common practice since the early days of the Internet. SQuaRE uses Mandrill, by MailChimp, to send these emails.

Project group management

As discussed, we assign project staff to ‘groups’ within Community that offer higher Discourse trust levels and access to private categories. Currently this assignment is managed manually by SQuaRE and DM T/CAMs. As Community’s use grows across the project, this may arrangement will scale poorly.


SQuaRE is highly desirous of interfacing to the LSST Contacts via a standard programmatic API, which is not possible with the current Contacts DB implementation in order to ensure that group access in Community and other SQuaRE services is kept in sync with the Project’s master list.

Confluence Wiki

DM uses Confluence wikis, although their role is being diminished with the introduction of Community and the LTD publishing paradigm (including Technical Notes, the new Developer Guide and software documentation).

SQuaRE dissuades software documentation in wikis, since it cannot be managed with standard software release tools, cannot be tested by our continuous integration harness, is “out of sight out of mind” for the developers, and is hard to maintain. We are in the process of migrating all software documentation from Confluence to other, better harnesses.

The DM Developer Guide formerly published on Confluence has been officially migrated to the new DM Developer Guide at https://developer.lsst.io.

The LSST Software User Guide will be replaced by software documentation published through LTD.

In our view, appropriate uses for the Wikis include:

  • Meeting notes, especially with action-item assignment (although there is an emerging preference to summarize conferences and RFD meetings on Community.
  • Ad hoc collaboration, such as planning (although again, many groups will use Community for these activities).

Unfortunately, DM never completed its migration to Confluence from its previous wiki, TRAC. This migration is a background activity across DM that occasionally sees fits of progress.

Draft document collaboration

Teams and ad-hoc working groups often use standard commercial services such as Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets and Dropbox as ways of working on drafts of documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc.. We are happy for people to use whatever tools make them productive in early stages of their thinking.

Documents on ad-hoc platforms are not expected to be discoverable in any automated sense. Users of these platforms should take care to personally invite any relevant colleagues to collaborate on these platforms. Once the document has matured (and if it is not evanescent) we expect it will find its way to one of the official documentation platforms, and be announced on the DM Notifications forum category.

We would like to see some centralised project support to extend popularly used collaboration services such as Dropbox to the whole team, instead of having people use their personal accounts for this.

Work Ticketing

JIRA Tickets

DM uses JIRA to plan, track and report on work. Thus it is a medium that bridges DM developers to DM technical managers to DM management to Project auditing. See the Developer Guide for a complete overview of how tickets are used to report work, and the relationships between work.

There is no foreseeable need to consider alternatives to JIRA during construction or beyond.

Pull Requests

During a code review, conversations relating to a work ticket shift to GitHub’s pull request platform, as described in the Developer Guide.

We do this because GitHub Pull Requests allow conversations that are tightly coupled to the code. Also, Pull Requests is how a non-LSST developer would send us code contributions anyway, so for a project that aspires to be openly developed, they are inevitable.

GitHub Issues and Community-driven bug reporting

By policy we do not use GitHub issues within DM since they would conflict with the JIRA system upon which our project management system is built.

However, we have left GitHub issues available since they are a part of the fabric of the open source software community—without GitHub issues, an external user would likely not make the effort to find out how to report a bug.

Our current policy is to to triage these GitHub issues into JIRA tickets where they result in an actionable work ticket.

See also RFC-147 ‘Best practices to report an issue with DM system’ for discussion surrounding how to support bug reports from the community.

Request for Comments (RFC)

The RFC process is a core part of DM’s decision making process and is a vital foundation of the team’s culture. We use RFCs to allow anyone in the team to propose work that has ramifications across DM while also giving all team members an opportunity to comment if they are affected. RFCs may be issued for changes in third-party dependencies, changes to designs and interfaces within the DM software, or changes to our developer processes. The RFC platform is hosted on JIRA so that decision status and linkage to work tickets can be tracked.

See the RFC page in the Developer Guide for more information.

Request for Discussion (RFD)

Although DM has regular meetings for specific individuals, there is often a need to host ad hoc video conference meetings to discuss an issue more expeditiously than on Community, while still ensuring the availability of key team members. For this need we use the Request for Discussion process (RFD). RFDs meetings are held in a standing weekly time slot, with a JIRA project being used to reserve that time slot.

See the Developer Guide for more information.

Documentation & Publications

Easy to produce, easy to maintain, easy to test and easy to find documentation is a core part of SQuaRE’s contribution to DM.

A Documentation Index

LSST’s documentation, as described below, consists of a constellation of design documents, technical notes, and documentation sites for specific software projects and data releases. In addition, DM also produces presentations, conference proceedings and published academic articles. For these to documents to be effective, they need to be discoverable.

We intend to solve the documentation discovery problem with a highly usable, well publicized, central documentation landing page.

  • Dynamically updated when new documents are published by LSST the Docs, or made available in ADS/Zenodo.
  • Full-text search
  • Browse by content type, and also by subject
  • Curated collections of documents (e.g, top documentation for scientists).
  • Awareness of documentation versions; ability to choose a version of the document
  • Landing page should be curated to get readers to top documents, such as the Science Pipelines documentation.

We intend to expose indexing services via an API codenamed DocHub. This would allow the global Documentation Index to be integrated into the Data Management homepage at dm.lsst.org as well as more specific indexes (e.g., “all RFCs” or “10 most cited papers”) to be embedded by web authors on our website, or used for generating dashboards.

Together with the Community forum, the Documentation Index is the public-facing point of entry into LSST Data Management information.

In the following sections we will discuss the documentation sources brought together by the Documentation Index and exposed by the DocHub API.

Table 2 DM Documentation sources and repositories
Platform Audience
DM Project External
Design Documentation LSST the Docs Y read read
Docushare Y Y ?
Technical Notes Y ? read
Developer Guide Y read read
Software Docs Y read read
Documentation Index read read read
NASA/SAO ADS ~ ~ read
Zenodo write ~ ~
Docushare write Y ~

LSST the Docs Publishing Platform

LSST the Docs is a publishing platform and ecosystem that underpins DM’s various flavors of technical documentation: change-controlled documents, technical notes, the Developer Guide, and software/data documentation. The platform is intended to give our development team a set of common tools to write documents in a consistent style, while using best practices to deploy (publish) documentation. This allows our development team to communicate effectively and efficiently, and benefit from a core technical base built by the DM team and the open source community.

LSST the Docs can be summarized by a stack of technologies: reStructuredText, GitHub, Sphinx, and the LSST the Docs continuous delivery service. The name LSST the Docs is in reference to the highly popular documentation service Read the Docs—we explain below why we could not just us that service off the shelf (which would have been more aligned with our Philosophy).


ReStructuredText is a plain-text markup language, similar to Markdown and LaTeX. We specifically chose reStructuredText because it the standard markup language in the Python community (in which DM participates) and because it is explicitly designed to be user-extensible. These extensions come from both the open source community (including rich tools for writing Math and documenting application programming interfaces) and DM itself (such as a short-hand for referencing other DM documents, or a system for citing astronomical literature, among other possibilities).

GitHub collaboration

Since they are simple plain text files, reStructuredText documents are managed GitHub and benefit from DM’s regular development workflow (including ticketing and reviews). This collaboration model is not possible with Confluence wiki pages or word processor files.

Sphinx and web-native documentation

By writing in reStructuredText, we also benefit from the Sphinx tool for building documentation websites. Natively publishing documents to the web, as opposed to static PDF files, is fundamental to successful, modern documentation.

  • Information is discoverable through search and hyperlinks (including deep links to specific sections). There is no dissonance from switching from searching for a document on the web and then reading reading it elsewhere in a PDF viewer.
  • Web-based documentation naturally builds an organic network of internal links that improve content wayfinding.
  • Websites are rendered equally well on small and large screens, thanks to responsive design practices.
  • Websites can include interactive elements, such as dynamic figures or Python notebooks to test code.
  • Websites can be updated continuously.

In LSST the Docs, PDF is treated as an archival format, while the web site is the reader-facing product.

Continuous documentation delivery with LSST the Docs

Continuous delivery describes a process where documentation is ready for publication whenever content is changed, thanks to a highly automated pipeline. When revised documentation content is pushed to GitHub, it is built, tested, and made available in a staging environment to the team. When a team choses (usually by merging changes to the GitHub master), the new content to automatically published.

Read the Docs is a popular continuous delivery service for Sphinx documentation, and we have used it widely for technical notes and design documents. However, Read the Docs limits our ability to provision new documentation projects through an well-defined API, and more fundamentally, limits our ability to control the build environment for documentation. LSST software documentation requires that the software itself be built, which demands a customized build environment. To solve these issues, we have built a service described in SQR-006: Documentation Deployment Service for LSST’s Eups-based Software. We anticipate that all DM reStructuredText/Sphinx-based documentation projects will be served by LSST the Docs rather than Read the Docs in order to leverage automations and efficiencies built into LSST the Docs.

Domains: lsst.org/codes/io

For the convenience of our users, we generate a unique domain-name for each published document, e.g. the developer guide can be found at developer.lsst.io. The .io top-level domain is in common use with tech sector organisations and using a documentation-specific domain that is managed automatically keeps any accidents away from the main, human-curated website. Unlike the lsst.org website, lsst.io is not a point of entry; everything hosted under it will be referenced in the documentation index.

For similar reasons, SQuaRE cloud-based services aimed at DM developers are hosted under the domain lsst.codes. There is no public-facing material in the lsst.codes services.

Change-Controlled Design Documents

LSST archives copies of all change-controlled documents in Docushare. Irrespective of the source and development flow of our documents (be they reStructuredText or LaTeX or Word), we continue to do so. However our users are unhappy with the Docushare user experience, hence why we do not depend on it as be the sole index of our documentation. (See Archives, below.)

The LSST the Docs platform was adopted by DM for several design documents. The ability to use a standard GitHub-based workflow for collaboration and review, as well as the ability to see the document drafts live on the web, makes LSST the Docs particularly appealing. We hope that these design documents will see more frequent updates than the previous generated of Word-based documents. When updates to these documents are approved by by the relevant boards, a release tag will be made in the document’s GitHub repository and a PDF rendering of the document will be archived in Docushare. Because of the advantages of web-native documents, the ‘unofficial’ version of the document published by LSST the Docs will continue to be the primary way that the design document is viewed, even when it has been archived in Docushare.

Some change-controlled documents are also published as LaTeX documents, under the reasoning that they may be published to arXiv.org or otherwise re-purposed into academic literature. We intend to provide some level of continuous integration and web delivery for these documents that are already offered to the reStructuredText-based LSST the Docs-published documents, though we are still planning how to do this most effectively.

Technical Notes

Technotes grew out of an organic need to have standalone documents like Change-controlled Design Documents, but that could be used more flexibly and informally to report on DM work. For example, Technotes have been used to describe back-end services provided by SQuaRE. They have also been used to draft designs for DM system (that are outside the direct scope of change-control); this mode of design improves schedules, improves the quality of the final product, and also facilitates better cross-team collaboration. Finally, Technotes have been used to report on data processing experiments with the LSST Stack.

In addition to building upon the web-native and GitHub-based collaboration features of LSST the Docs, Technotes are meant to be visible to the astronomical literature. Released versions of technotes are archived in Zenodo (see below), which assigns a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) to the document. In partnership with ADS, the Astrophysics Data System, we are able to list LSST Technotes in the primary astronomy bibliography. Our intention is to make more DM work directly citeable in the literature, rather than relying solely on umbrella Project papers and “personal communication” statements.

We plan to improve the Technote platform as it currently exists. Potential improvements include:

  • Improved visual design and print (PDF) layout.
  • BibTeX-like citation system for reStructuredText that interacts with online bibliographies, such as ADS.
  • Integration of Jupyter notebooks with Technotes.
  • Integration of Technotes with the Community forum to facilitate discussions surrounding a technote.
  • Improved automation of Technote provisioning.

See SQR-000: The LSST DM Technical Note Publishing Platform for more information.

Developer Guide

The DM Developer Guide is a key document for DM developers that encapsulates our development policies and practices. This Developer Guide is especially important for on-boarding new team members. It is published with LSST the Docs at https://developer.lsst.io.

Although some information published in the developer guide could qualify as technical notes or ad hoc pages in the DM Confluence wiki, we encourage developers to write anything related to DM processes and policies in the Developer Guide so that the information can be quickly discovered by browsing the Developer Guide’s table of contents. The failure to do this was one reason why the Developer Guide’s original incarnation as a Confluence space was unsuccessful. That Confluence space was poorly organized and in some cases Developer Guide-like material existed in the Data Management confluence space, rather than the Developer Guide confluence space.

Software Manuals and Data Documentation

Software manuals and data documentation will also use the LSST the Docs Publishing Platform system for publication. SQuaRE plans for the software documentation to include a rich user experience with tutorials, runnable code (Jupyter notebooks) and dynamic examples. These will be continuously integrated for accuracy and managed on GitHub to use our standard peer review code development process.

Standard content management systems are hence not fit for this purpose.

Digital Archives: Docushare & Zenodo

DM makes use of Docushare and Zenodo are archival services for our released documentation artifacts.


As is standard practice in LSST, Docushare is used to archive all baselined changed-controlled documents. Our standard practice is to generate and deposit PDFs of the original content document (whatever it is original form—Word, LaTeX or reST/web) into Docushare.


Zenodo is a digital archive operated by CERN that provides reasonable assurances of data longevity such that it can issue Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs). DOIs allow digital artifacts to be cited in academic literature. DM uses Zenodo to archive released versions of our documents that are relevant to scientific literature, such as technical notes, presentations, software, and software documentation. The LSST Publication Board is also adopting Zenodo as an archive for LSST presentations (see Science Publications & Presentations).

Any researcher can upload artifacts to Zenodo and receive a DOI. Curation occurs when an artifact is submitted to a Zenodo Community. We curate an LSST Data Management (lsst-dm) community on Zenodo that can be browsed.

Metadata preparation is a barrier to uploading to Zenodo. We are building a Python tool, Zenodio, to help automate the process of completing deposition metadata and uploading to Zenodo. Our technical note and design document repositories, for instance, include user-editable metadata files that are used by LSST the Docs and Zenodio tools. We also expect that Zenodo will make it possible for Community curators to edit the metadata of accepted artifacts.

Archives as back-end services

Although these archives serve necessary and useful functions, we do not promote these Docushare or Zenodo as user-facing points of entry for DM documentation. We do not believe that Docushare, nor Zenodo, provide the types of document search, curation and discovery affordances. It is also desirable to view a document in its original, web native form rather than a static PDF deposited in an archive. Thus we treat Docushare and Zenodo largely as back-end services necessary for fulfilling archival requirements set by the LSST project or academic publishers.

NASA/SAO Astrophysics Data System (ADS)

This section describes future work.

In addition to our own Document Index, we also also push documents to the NASA/SAO Astrophysics Data System. ADS is an immensely successful literature database for astronomy such that being part of the astronomical literature is synonymous with being listed on ADS. Thus we list DM technical notes on ADS so that they can be cited in literature. The Zenodo platform is key to this process since Zenodo furnishes the DOI and archival assurances required by ADS.

Science Publications & Presentations

The SQuaRE developed documentation platform described above has well-defined engineering aims related to supporting software development and software use, and has been designed with that in mind.

However it is the case that many of the architectural elements of the system can also be used to manage science publications, presentations, etc.

SQuaRE is working with the LSST Publications Board to identify areas of synergy in which we can leverage our documentation platforms for promoting citeable artifact discovery.