FLOSS Manuals

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BookSprints: Face2Face


Because documentation must be a living, breathing entity, it is usually associated with a community of practitioners. Many wonderful books are written by a single author, and even some book sprints involve a small, self-contained group rather than a fluid community. But communities can do a lot for books, for two main reasons.

First, if the content is linked to an existing community, the authors need to hear from that community what topics to cover, or the book the authors worked so hard on may end up proving irrelevant. (More likely, it will still be a useful book, but won't meet the most pressing needs of the community.)

Second, it is not wise to create documentation about free software or related topics without a strategy to maintain and update the content. Given the "release early release often" strategy so common in free software, the pace of the change can be dizzying.

Therefore, we recommend that every major documentation project reach out to the people who care about the project, both among the developers and those using the software. Communities can:

  • Explain the topics where they need help (or, out of their experience, where other people treading the same path will need help)
  • Contribute to the documentation as authors, editors, and reviewers
  • Offer support and thanks to the authors
  • Produce maintainers on an ongoing basis

So our mantra for the book sprints is :

"Written in a week. Maintained by a community."

Meeting in One Place

As David Garcia has said, "Face to face is the broadest bandwidth." We firmly believe in this mantra. When applied to book sprints, it equates to getting people together in one room to enable rich communication. Moreover, this communication and the friendships formed will help create a micro-community around the subject.

By providing face-to-face time writing in a book sprint we hope to secure both goals. When you have to share the same room you can talk about dense subjects more easily than you can online. You also get to know the people involved much better, which assists in understanding the points they might be trying to make in their writing.

For this reason it is also important to do things as a group during the book sprint week that do not involve writing.


Have a barbeque together; go on walks; see what the surroundings have to offer. It gives everybody a bit of a break so they can press their own "refresh" button and prepare them for the next period of writing. But beyond that, it fosters the ongoing community component of the book sprint's goals.


Also, if you have fun, people will want to do it again.


Remote contributions

Having said that, the face-to-face nature of community building is not absolutely necessary. We have built the FLOSS Manuals tool set so that remote contributions to a book sprint can work well. We have added some notification tools and chat systems so that there can be communication between writers online. These tools have actually proven so convenient that they are sometimes used even by those sharing the same room to talk to each other.

It is also important to note that FLOSS Manuals does a lot of work outside book sprints. The communication and collaboration tools we are building serve just as well for individuals or geographically separated groups to contribute to any of the manuals. This material, for instance, was written by many people without gathering for a sprint.

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