Each manual in FLOSS Manuals is in itself the focus for a niche-community. Some of these communities have evolved out of Book Sprints, some have sprung from established communities, and some are gathered together by one motivated individual or all fall together because of fate.
Regardless, it helps to have someone to build and maintain the community and the manual. This is what we call a Maintainer.
The idea is that the Maintainer does not actually maintain the manual - they don't write and edit material, but they maintain a community around the content. So the role is expected, when it is working, to be more of a community leader than a writer. However, it is usually the case that the maintainer spends a lot of time doing the writing and editing until they can attract enough participation from others to take over these tasks.
So the role of Maintainer can, and does, entail writing, editing, image creation, formatting etc but ideally the role is about communication and co-ordination.
So, the maintainer may end up doing a lot of content related tasks. These tasks may entail the following :
- writing content
- cleaning up the formatting
- adding images
- checking content for accuracy
- maintaining the index
- subscribing to change notifications
- checking changes from notifications
- publishing the content when its updated
- updating book pdf sources on lulu.com
- promoting the content (including the book)
- maintaining the Writing Conventions
- maintaining the status information for each chapter
Ideally the Maintainer does a minimum of content related tasks and instead builds a community up around the manual and distributes the content tasks. The community related tasks include :
- providing feedback to those that have made changes
- writing to people not yet subscribed to get them involved
- updating the FLOSS Manuals discussion list about developments
- organising Book Sprints / meet ups (remotely or in real space)
- discussing scope and content with contributors
- finding, helping, supporting translators
First the Maintainer should subscribe to change notifications and keep an eye on the edits. This is necessary so that bad edits can be spotted and proofed/corrected and also so that the Maintainer can see who's involved with editing the content. The Maintainer can then make contact with those contributors and offer encouraging comments and advice when necessary.
Additionally the Maintainer should consider maintaining a presence in the FLOSS Manuals irc channel, either by keeping the home page of the WRITE section open to see the embedded chat, or by running a chat in an IRC software.
Finally, the Maintainer should subscribe to the FLOSS Manuals mailing list to keep up to date with whats happening but also to communicate to the larger community what is happening with the content of the manual they maintain.
Generally a Maintainer evolves out of the contributors to a Book Sprint. In this situation the first role of the Maintainer is to keep the energy of the sprint going as long as possible after everyone has left the sprint and gone home. This means looking through the content, and identifying what needs to be done. The Maintainer then needs to write to the Book Sprint participants and feed into the residue energy left over from the sprint itself and encourage people to keep making contributions. If done well this process can remain very active for several weeks after the sprint.