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BookSprints: Roles


A good book sprint needs someone who will take responsibility for each of the following roles. Naturally, there can be helpers for each role, but you want one person who ultimately will make sure the important tasks a redone. Often one person will take on many roles. 

Sprint Facilitator

Also known as the Sprint Master, this is the person ultimately responsible for seeing to it that the sprint happens and runs smoothly. The sprint facilitator keeps a high-level vision of the project's goals, makes sure that things happen on time, and coordinates all parties. If organisation requested and funded the sprint, the sprint facilitator is the person ultimately responsible for delivering a book that satisfies this organization.

This job is more  about social engineering than logistics. The Sprint Facilitator must be comfortable asking people to improve their game as much as being there to encourage and motivate everyone. The Sprint Facilitator does not need to be very familiar with the nuances of the content. It is better to find someone who is sensitive and good at listening, and additionally has good organizational skills, than someone who is weak in those skills but is an expert on the subject.

The Sprint Facilitator, if experienced, could potentially be the same person as the local host, although this is a big doubling-up of tasks. The more experienced the Sprint Facilitator is, the more productive the sprint will be, and there will also be a tangible positive difference in the quality of the content.

Local Host

Every book sprint needs someone who is on site beforehand--ideally someone who lives in the area and knows all its quirks--to handle the logistics of food, venue, Internet access, etc. This person makes sure that all the physical resources needed by sprinters are in place when they start, and is responsible for picking up last-minute items, bringing in the food, and taking people places on an on-the-fly, as-needed basis. This person may have to drive the sick writer to see a doctor or find the shopping center to buy that badly needed power adapter.

Beforehand, this person should be able to answer any questions from out-of-town visitors about travel, local transportation, and accommodations.

It is a mistake to think this person's job finishes as soon as everyone turns up: the local host or delegates will spend a great deal of time running around. Avoid asking one of your key writers to take on this logistical role; he or she will not be able to spend as much time writing as you hope.

FLOSS Manuals Expert

Although FLOSS Manuals is not a difficult system to learn quickly in a few hours, it is helpful to have someone familiar with the FLOSS Manuals toolset available during the Book Sprint hours to answer questions and offer troubleshooting advice if things go wrong. This person will preferably have a direct line to the FLOSS Manuals developers, or other experienced FM people.

Manual Maintainer

A manual hosted on FLOSS Manuals usually, although not always, is associated with someone who manages the maintenance of the book after the sprint. The maintainer often creates the style guide before the Book Sprint so that writers have it available immediately when they start writing. Typically the maintainer is one of the writers. The person has an important role during the first few weeks after the sprint to do the clean-up that is inevitably required on the book. He or she should agree to keep returning to the manual to determine whether it needs updates, and to help find his or her own replacement when necessary.


The participants are the heart and soul of the Book Sprint, and without at least a few dedicated people a Book Sprint cannot take place. Sprint participants are going to write the content, and many edit each other's content as well. Some of them must have strong, pre-existing knowledge about the topic that the Sprint documents. Preferably (although it is not essential) they should know some simple HTML code and also be able to create and edit screenshots or diagrams as necessary.

External Editors /  Reviewers

Another valuable role at a Book Sprint is someone who reads through and edits material, providing feedback when ever possible. Although writers can do this for each other (and remote participants can help as well), the book tends to come out more readable and coherent if work is monitored by someone outside the sprint room.

This person can use the same FLOSS Manuals interface to edit chapters when the contributors exit them, or can print out completed chapters and mark them up by hand (some Editors prefer this older editing method). If hard-copy is used, writers can enter the edits into the source files.

The external editor should be able to examine a chapter and the whole book for flow, make sure the logic of a chapter makes sense, and do low-level proofreading for spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Ideally, they can also judge the choices of language to ensure ease of translation later - but in reality this last point has never occurred due to the compressed time frame of a sprint. Having a remote editor can be quite useful, because he or she is not caught up in local dynamics and is less likely to suffer from groupthink.

Designers/ Illustrators

A book cover must be completed by the end of the week of the Sprint. Although the cover designer doesn't have to attend the Sprint, it's important for him or her to be in tune with the goals of the sprint and the style used by the authors in order to gather ideas for the design.

It's also valuable to have someone good at reducing ideas to icons. FLOSS Manuals already has icon sets, so the icon-maker doesn't have to be a designer as such, but must be able to manipulate SVG icons (we recommend using Inkscape) to form easily understandable diagrams.

The page layout is actually taken care of by the Objavi tool in FLOSS Manuals. Someone needs to go through the chapters, get rid of extraneous tasks, and look at the layout. Objavi takes care of the rest. Objavi does on-the-fly book formatting for uploading books to a print-on-demand service. The books are preformatted in the FLOSS Manuals design, but it is possible to alter the look and feel using the CSS window provided in Objavi.

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