"FLOSSify" is the name we give to Book Sprints where the purpose is to convert an existing book into a book about Free Software. Our first FLOSSify event was with the design text book "Digital Foundations". This book was published in December 2008 and the books authors, Michael Mandiberg, and xtine burrough had negotiated a Creative Commons license with the publishers (Pearson) - this made it ripe for a FLOSSification.
The original content was about teaching Adobe CSS4 by teaching students Bauhaus design principles. Michael and Adam Hyde worked closely together to organise an event in February 2009 at Eyebeam in New York city. The event was 3 days long and was an open door for anyone wanting to walk in and assist. We announced it on the FM blog, and through Eyebeam channels and other personal channels.
In assistance was also Patrick Davison.
Aco developed a very nice new tool for this sprint that illustrated who was editing which chapters in real time. In this was we would see orange flashing boxes next to each chapter name, and the boxes contained the name of the person editing the chapter at this time. This avoided conflicts, but more importantly the system made you feel like there was a lot happening as you could immediately see who was actively working on the manual with you whether they were on the same room or working remote.
We also developed the simple chat so that discussion could happen about content in real time and from the FLOSS manuals interface.
When the sprint was about to start we aligned ourselves with the task and made sure we had the same idea. Essentially the plan was to make the sprint fun, provide food, and maybe some drinks later at the end of each day. FLOSS Manuals also paid for a flight for Joshua Facemayer who was part of the Inkscape Book Sprint team in Paris.
On the first day we had 7-9 people in the room at Eyebeam. Many of the people that attended were unknown to us and some, for example, Chris Blount made huge contributions.
The process of converting a text book from non-free to free software might sound easy...just replace the examples right? Well right, except that the paradigms for the softwares are never the same, so the process is one of re-creating every example and rewriting all the content referring to the excercises.
So, for example, when rewriting a chapter on Illustrator, and replacing it with Inkscape, Chris Blount had to redo all the screen shots, work out each step, document it, and then rewrite the texts and replace the images.
To do this you need to know the software (Inkscape) pretty well...
We also worked with xtine remotely as she was based in LA, and the interface for remote collaboration worked extremely well for holding the team together.
In all it was an extremely productive and rewarding process and the results speak for themselves :
We are currently considering printing this manual/text book on newsprint and distributing throughout schools and universities.
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