[FM Discuss] How will FLOSS Manuals expand? WAS: Are we ready to expand?
dfarning at sugarlabs.org
Fri May 1 14:45:26 PDT 2009
On Fri, May 1, 2009 at 11:22 AM, adam hyde <adam at flossmanuals.net> wrote:
> if FM is to consider making money to cover costs and grow, the thing I
> ponder about this is - which part of the organisation would make it?
> This isnt a question about WHO would make the money, but where in our
> current activities would it be best to make $
The how is to find where in the FLOSS Manual work flow you add value
to your customers. Then determine how specific customers would be
willing to pay more for some added value... without disrupting the
> In my mind, selling books is something we would 'tack on the end' of
> what we do as its not really what we do now. What we do now is develop
> content, and so it would make the best sense to me that if we can
> generate income to make content we are actually fueling current
> processes rather than adopting new ones
> for example, if we can get someone to pay us to write manuals then thats
> cool, cause we do it already, and we like doing it, and it means someone
> gets paid and more content goes into FM. great, exactly inline with our
> if we start thinking about the need to sell books then i dont see this
> as being inline with what we really want to do or what we are actually
> doing now. it is an additional activity. unless someone comes along to
> do it that is not interested in writing manuals this activity actually
> draws energy and resources away from what we are doing and want to do -
> writing manuals
> so i think the best way to think about making money to help FM grow is
> to think about where to make it within the activities we already are
> doing and doing well
> book sprints, writing chapters for hire, documentation consultancy,
> finding orgs to fund new language sites etc...are all inline with this.
> also, i would like to point out that at some point selling books might
> come into conflict with what we are trying to do - we are trying to get
> as much quality info out there as possible about how to use free
> software. that is not always going to be consistent with a goal to sell
> books - if we became reliant on book revenue we would soon come up
> against questions like "if we only held back the free version a few
> months we could sell more books" etc....I really feel uncomfortable with
> even getting near the space where a conversation like this might start
> having said that, i think there is an interesting low resource way to
> make a bit of money selling books. since we make books anyways, if we
> can partner with organsations whose membership would constitute a
> 'target market' for a book, then we should work with them to push the
> book out to its members. the first case scenario of this is where we are
> working with the Free Software Foundation. They will print books, host a
> 'buy now' widget on their site and tell their membership to support FM
> by buying books. i am very interested in seeing how this works. if it
> works i would like to move forward with organisations like Mozilla to
> discuss this possibility also. Orgs like Mozilla and the FSF have a much
> bigger reach than we do, and if we can piggy back on their outreach we
> might be able to generate not just a profile amongst their membership,
> but also some revenue streams that might help. however I think this
> should always done with the 'you can get this material for free, but if
> you buy this book you help FLOSS Manuals make more good stuff" byline
> On Wed, 2009-04-29 at 08:05 -0700, chris hofmann wrote:
>> David has some good ideas here. From my expericence at Mozilla its
>> important to broadly communicate the fact that you want or need more
>> money and to experiment with a variety of ways fo find some good ones
>> that match with the core values of the project.
>> At Mozilla we tried a number of community organized campaigns that
>> helped with fund raising, and actively sought to organize part of our
>> community to focus just on these fund raising activities.
>> We set up our own store ( http://store.mozilla.org/ ) to sell Mozilla
>> gear that help to raise money and promote the brand. When the US store
>> proved too expensive for shipping and import fees to Europe we set up a
>> european affliate ( http://intlstore.mozilla.org/ ).
>> The selling promotional goods though the store actually exceeded our
>> expectaions for how much money it might generate, but we also had about
>> 6 years of building out the Mozilla community to hundreds of thousands
>> of participants and followers before we set up the store in 2004.
>> Making the bookstore more prominent on http://en.flossmanuals.net/ or
>> setting up and entirely new store site designed to feature, promote, and
>> streamline book sales, then trying affliate programs on the web sites of
>> all the open source projects now being supported to try and drive
>> traffic book sales seems like a natural step to explore. Working hard
>> on the right economic terms to turn book sales into a better revenue
>> generator and revenue share between the project, the book producer, and
>> the shipping company might be tricky by it seems like it deserves some
>> work. I recently bought the Inkscape manual from here in the US and I
>> could have very easily had most of my payment go to the shipping
>> company. If people know that most of the money they are spending is
>> going for the good cause of producing the open source manuals they will
>> be much more likely to click on that [buy] button.
>> Really working on trying to produce one high quality major hit or best
>> seller with one of the books manuals might also raise the general
>> visibility of project and all the things that its doing, and sales of
>> all the rest of the books being produced. I don't know what that might
>> look like but it seems like something to explore. There are some
>> compelling and increasing relevant stories about how open organizations
>> work and that might be the hot topic that generates wide spread interest
>> in a book produced by the project. Jeff Javis [1, 2] is writing a lot
>> about how google is the new model for how companies need to work in an
>> "open world" but I'd say free and open source projects go way beyond
>> googles level of openness. All of the "product planning", "ownership
>> and decision making" used in the way the Internet runs and is a
>> critical part of free and open source projects is idea that seems timely
>> and compelling.
>> Exploring "beyond what google would do" in a book seems like it might
>> compelling to a lot of people.
>> Firefox is now getting close to reaching 250-275 million users.
>> Figuring out the right right book to reach big parts of that audience
>> seems like a possible way to a big hit as well.
>> I'm sure there might be other great ideas about what topic might produce
>> the great block buster.
>> Thousands of press or news articles about the blockbuster book produced
>> by a community of open source writers seems like it could really kick
>> things into high gear. I think this best fits in with David's key
>> suggestion of
>> The simple answer is to make your project compelling enough that
>> people want to help you succeed.
>> The NY Times ad campaign was another great community organized project
>> for Mozilla. http://www.mozilla.org/press/mozilla-2004-12-15.html
>> We hoped for 2,500 donations within 10 days, but ended up with 8000
>> donations in less than a week.
>> In that campaign we simply asked the community to brainstorm about the
>> best ways to promote the release of Firefox 1.0. They came up with the
>> idea for the ad, then with the idea for a donation campaign to fund the
>> idea. We got the effect of having the ad appear in the Times for one
>> day, but way beyond that hundereds of news articles wrote about the
>> amazing story of how it was all accomplished.
>> But that is just one of many promotional and fund raising ideas that
>> have been community orgainized.
>> I guess my short suggestion starts to look like:
>> 1. Figure out a way to create a block buster book
>> 2. Find ways to promote the hell out of the book, and how it was produced.
>> 3. Have things in place so you can monitize and raise money out of the
>> products that people love and the ideas that you want to promote when
>> your visibility to the general public starts to increase.
>> 1 http://www.amazon.com/What-Would-Google-Jeff-Jarvis/dp/0061709719
>> David Farning wrote:
>> > If you are Mozilla Corp... you can raise $45 million by making
>> > google.com the default home page for your browser.
>> > If you are Wikipedia... you can raise $6 million with a 'please donate button.'
>> > If you are Ubuntu... you can you can find a rich guy to fund you.
>> > The simple answer is to make your project compelling enough that
>> > people want to help you succeed.
>> > If you take away the cost of book sprints the expenses of FM are
>> > pretty low. When FM gets to the point where book sprints are self
>> > sustaining, the fixed costs of keeping FM running will not be a large
>> > concern.
>> > Some viable fund raising options for FLOSS Manuals would be:
>> > 1. Continue doing what you are doing.
>> > 2. Add a please donate button on the web site. A yearly capital
>> > campaign can be surprising successful.
>> > 3. Partner programs. Many projects create value in their brand name
>> > and then sell the 'rights to use that brand' to partners. For example
>> > official 'Moodle Partners' pay a fee to use the term moodle partner.
>> > 4. Advisory Board. Many projects have 'Advisory Boards' on which
>> > organizations with an interest in the direction of the project sit.
>> > Depending on the project seats can cost between $1,000s and
>> > $1,000,000s of US dollars.
>> > I think that you will be fine just continuing to do what you are
>> > doing. When and if you need more money you can start looking at other
>> > options.
>> > david
>> > On Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 9:33 PM, Janet Swisher <jmswisher at gmail.com> wrote:
>> >> I generally agree with David. My only question in all this is how to
>> >> generate revenue not only for individuals, but also for FLOSS Manuals
>> >> Stichting. There is money in the bank, but it will only last so long.
>> >> Grants tend to dry up once you get past the start-up phase, and prizes
>> >> are hit-or-miss. Where do other foundations for open-source projects
>> >> get funding?
>> >> --Janet
>> >> On Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 8:03 PM, David Farning <dfarning at sugarlabs.org> wrote:
>> >>> FLOSS Manuals is already expanding rather nicely. That being said,
>> >>> the questions Andy raises will need answers eventually.
>> >>> The challenge is that FM is neither quite a community lead project nor
>> >>> is it a business. It operates as a benevolent dictatorship under
>> >>> Adam's leadership. That is fine. Many very successful projects
>> >>> operate as benevolent dictatorships. It _really_ cuts down on the
>> >>> overhead.
>> >>> Now, Andy steps up and wonders how a particular business model will fit into FM.
>> >>> My gut feeling is to tell Andy to go for it. Start selling your
>> >>> services as a book sprint leader and editor. FM will grow and evolve
>> >>> to keep up.
>> >>> The good thing about the book sprint process is that they are very
>> >>> short and involve little upfront investment. Your ability to refine
>> >>> and improve your process is pretty limitless.
>> >>> As far as putting pressure on the infrastructure, don't worry about
>> >>> it. Infrastructure can scale. Any load your projects might put on it
>> >>> will be compensated by the increased visibility for FLOSS Manuals.
>> >>> Weak points in the process can be fixed.
>> >>> The fundamental business model for open source products is to give
>> >>> away the base and sell value add goods and service on top of that base
>> >>> for a premium. The open source base is the FM collaborative authoring
>> >>> tools. The premium service is you leading the book sprint and editing
>> >>> the finished product.
>> >>> Asking for FM to build new tools is a slightly different. You will
>> >>> either have to convince a community member to add the feature or hire
>> >>> someone to add the feature for you. Those are both very effective and
>> >>> well understood ideas in the open source community.
>> >>> Nothing at FM will collapse if you start selling your services. If
>> >>> you think of yourself as AndyOEnterprises doing business ontop of the
>> >>> FM stack, see no reason why the existing infrastructure and
>> >>> organization will not be able to evolve to keep up with you:)
>> >>> david
>> >>> On Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 8:32 AM, Andy Oram <andyo at oreilly.com> wrote:
>> >>>> Aw, Anne, I'm hoping to build the Renault of technical documentation, and you talk of a "cottage industry..."
>> >>>> I don't have a comprehensive reply (and that's why I opened up discussion on this group) but I'll add a few points.
>> >>>> 1. Adam, thanks for showing confidence that FM can handle projects like the ones I mentioned. I noticed that a lot of the site setup for CiviCRM had to be done by you, and I know that you're teaching other people to do some of it, but I get the impression that we're not ready to have 5 or 10 people setting up new pages on a whim each time we contact an interested project. But I'll just keep you in the loop.
>> >>>> 2. David Farning was making some detailed notes at Wintercamp, I remember, about what FM needs to scale and be sure of its future. David, that's relevant to this discussion if my memory is right.
>> >>>> 3. A company like Cloudera probably has their own facilities that they'd like to use for documentation, but some documentation efforts will probably strain those facilities. That's why I wrote articles about the need for new tools, and FM provides some that make writing easy. But FM is oriented book-length projects and to making it easy to combine chapters into new books. Some of the projects I might recommend to Cloudera or OpenSIMS might be more blog-like.
>> >>>> 4. Anne: I think any project to which we invite volunteers has to put the documentation under an open license. Nobody would have an incentive to volunteer her time otherwise. I think Cloudera understands that and would go along. Companies are recognizing the real value of open source, which I think I've caught in the last section of my article http://broadcast.oreilly.com/2009/01/free-software-meets-corporate.html (scroll down to "The most important benefit of free software: developing new programmers")
>> >>>> 5. I'm going to work on CiviCRM and a couple more projects (OpenSIMS and Cloudera, if they sign up) and figure out how much time I'll take and how much I need to charge to make it more than a sideline. But I don't know how much strain I'm putting on the FM infrastructure or on Adam, and how much FM should ask in addition to what I want to charge.
>> >>>> Andy
>> >>>> ----- Original Message -----
>> >>>> From: Anne Gentle <annegentle at justwriteclick.com>
>> >>>> To: discuss at lists.flossmanuals.net
>> >>>> Sent: Mon, 27 Apr 2009 23:42:21 -0400 (EDT)
>> >>>> Subject: Re: [FM Discuss] Are we ready to expand?
>> >>>> Andy -
>> >>>> I think these are great questions and you are fielding questions for the
>> >>>> types of recruit projects we'd want FM to be part of. I agree though that
>> >>>> scalability is the main issue - I have many more writing projects I'd like
>> >>>> to be part of. So it's scalability of muliple types of people that we'd need
>> >>>> to address. :)
>> >>>> One observation I've had is that people are interested in FM and Book
>> >>>> Sprints especially, but unless their project brings an enthusiastic
>> >>>> maintainer along with them, the content might not be maintained as well as
>> >>>> it would be if they kept even one or two writers as maintainers after the
>> >>>> excitement of the sprint dies down a little.
>> >>>> ...
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> Adam Hyde
> Founder FLOSS Manuals
> German mobile : + 49 15 2230 54563
> Email : adam at flossmanuals.net
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