Pantheon Community

WebOps Wednesday AMA: Carolyn Shannon

Hi I’m Carolyn Shannon, Manager of Technical Documentation at Pantheon. I’ve been here for six weeks! Before that, I was a Pantheon Hero and customer. I’ve focused for the last decade on building Drupal and WordPress websites, developing enterprise information architecture, content strategy, and editorial training for my local municipality. Before that, I was a developer and network manager. I’m a writer, trainer, Drupalista, former NAGW board member, and passionate evangelist about how good user experience creates loyal customers and drives results.

In my new role I’ll focus on how Pantheon’s documentation helps cross-functional teams be successful. Combining a “docs as code” collaborative editorial model and Pantheon’s automation tools for testing and delivery, Pantheon’s TechDocs embraces WebOps best practices.

In my spare time, I’m a runner and mitten-knitter (though not usually at the same time) and enjoy music, poetry, and hiking with my family.

Ask Me Anything!


Hi @carolyn! Can you tell us more about the “Docs as code” model? What parts of that support collaborative editorial processes? How can a WebOps team start implementing this model?

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Hi @steve.persch! Thanks for asking.

Docs-as-code is the idea that teams should write documentation with the same tools as code. It’s centered around three principles:

  • Promote collaboration & empower developers, who write much of the documentation. WebOps is about empowering cross-functional teams, and docs-as-code prioritizes “putting the team at the top of the stack” (to borrow a phrase) by going where the experts are, enabling version control and favoring plain-text markup that make changes transparent and gets everything else out of the editorial team’s way.
  • Leverage developer workflows & tools (automated tests, issue tracking, version control). Again, these WebOps practices get as much as possible out of the team’s way, which enables them to iterate faster.
  • Create canonical, beautiful docs that help customers be successful.

Docs is part of the Customer Success team at Pantheon because the goal of documentation is to help customers build things successfully. Docs-as-code prioritizes customer value by welcoming collaboration, suggestions, and corrections directly from customers. Click the “Contribute” button on any page, create an issue, write your own doc and make a pull request.
The bottom line is that delivering results on the Web depends on agile processes that allow groups who are focused on a problem to try, fail, learn, and share what they know.

Look beyond the tech, and you’ll find that WebOps is about people helping other people do well. It’s about reducing the cost and friction involved in human collaboration and innovation. That’s docs-as-code, in a nutshell. So, WebOps is a great fit for docs, and docs-as-code is a great way to approach that. It’s less about specific technologies, and more about ensuring the team is at the top of the stack, because that’s where the economic power of the Web lies.


Hi @carolyn :wave:

So awesome to have one of our Pantheon Heroes on board! Welcome! Being fairly new myself, I love hearing how everyone got started in the WordPress & Drupal space. I’ve noticed more often than not, most people just kind of “fell into the work.” What’s your story! How did you get started building WordPress & Drupal sites and how has that set you up for success in the role you are in now here at Pantheon?

Also, I too am an avid runner! :running_woman: If you ever make it to Phoenix (in the winter of course) maybe we can chat all things Docs & get a good run in!


Coming from a decade of being involved in the WordPress community, I’m curious how you see the Drupal community having changed in the decade+ you’ve been in it?


Hi McKenna!

Like a lot of folks, I got started building websites as a way of putting myself through college & grad school as a liberal arts major :slight_smile: .

My mom was a great rabble-rouser & instilled in me both curiosity and a sense of civic duty, so when I heard about the Drupal-based Deanspace/Civicspace as a platform for empowering local civic engagement, I got involved and headed down the great rabbit-hole that is website development, lol. I learned a lot from many Drupal mentors, started the Drupal on Windows group, got involved in Drupal docs, and enjoyed collaborating to make open source software better and more accessible for everyone.

As a writer, I’ve been opining online a long time about everything, from accidentally knitting two left mittens to poetry about running, and tried out most of the CMS platforms for blogs, including WordPress, Drupal, and building my own CMS (they say every WebDev builds their own at least once!). As a product manager for local gov sites, I learned more about the underlying stack, user experience, and also the importance of content strategy and information architecture to making it actually usable.

In short, my experiences writing, working with and building CMSes, teaching teams of editors how to use them, and mapping how to structure content help a lot when it comes to managing a docs ecosystem. I’m also fortunate to have incredibly talented team mates, which really makes all the difference no matter what you’re doing!


Another poetry fan! :books: Who are your favorite poets?

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Hi @katie.richards!
The Drupal community today is both enormously complex and still very oriented towards small group collaboration and pair programming. The Drupal community started, for me, as a band of rebels hacking at bits of code to change the world (because that was what I wanted from it). There was collaboration, and I also experienced discrimination and was marginalized, and saw that happen to others.

As the community grew and Drupal evolved, the learning curve got more steep. That was a barrier, and to its credit the DA and other committed folks pushed to create programs to teach Drupal, to mentor others, to credit others for non-code work they do, etc.

But I think the most exciting community development I’ve seen so far has been the work done to address that marginalization and discrimination I also experienced. That work has included creating and promoting the Diversity & Inclusion Initiative.

It feels good to work for an org that has “put its money where its mouth is” by sponsoring @sparklingrobots’ and others’ work on that. As I’ve written, it matters what you do, and I know those efforts will bring change that improves both the community and Drupal going forward. It’s an exciting time, and I’m glad to be here for it!


So many, I can’t do the request justice. Here are a few:

I like to listen to poetry read - The Slowdown is a great podcast with a lot of different voices.

That is AMAZING! Such an interesting story & exciting journey you’ve had! Well, I am especially excited to have you on board to partner on all things community related :slight_smile:

And of course read through some of the awesome Docs you & the team are putting together. I have already found them extremely helpful during my on-boarding.

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Love it! Some favorites of mine on this list, but I’m not familiar with Whyte or Tuama. Thanks for the recs!

I love the Slowdown so much. That intro music alone puts me in a different headspace.