[FM Discuss] blog post for the fsf
adam at flossmanuals.net
Fri May 22 11:59:34 PDT 2009
I sent this to the fsf for their blog to mark the release fo the book:
Recently we had the pleasure to collaborate with the FSF on a Book
Sprint at the Planet Libre event in Boston. We are a relatively young
organisation and so this was a great opportunity for us to be welcomed
into the FSF community and be given the thumbs up by the people that
created the free software movement.
You probably haven't heard of a 'Book Sprint' although you may be
familiar with the idea of code sprints. Book Sprints are essentially the
same idea but we create an entire manual about free software in 5 days
flat. Sound crazy?! Well every time we start a sprint I also think its a
crazy idea, but its now something we have a lot of experience in and its
getting clearer how to really work this process and get the most out of
Since it was an FSF collaboration we took the opportunity to commit to
writing a GNU/Linux Command Line manual for newbies. Andy Oram, a long
time FLOSS Manuals contributor, made an outline for the manual and we
structured this with our online platform.
Just to make it more interesting we committed to writing the book...in 2
days! ...I didn't think too much about it. If I had, I wouldn't have
done it ;)
It really was a bit crazy to think we could do this, all previous
sprints had been a full 5 days and even this is an audacious task. The
publishing industry typically takes 6-12 months to produce similar
material. Thats why I felt thinking about the task ahead wasnt such a
To help out, as planned, a few days prior to the event the FSF sent out
a Press Release to its members saying what we were up to. Over night we
had 130 new registrations, which was an increase of 25% of our
membership base. For a youngish organisation like us, this was an
The day of the sprint came and Andy and I met at the venue hoping to be
met at the sprint space by a small percentage of our new membership. The
percentage was indeed small...exactly 0%! Everyone was at the conference
(of course!). Oh no! Could Andy and I write the book ourselves in 2
days? hehe...thankfully we had no reason to panic as in virtual space we
were working online with about 12 others. These contributors were mostly
new members and it is a tribute to the FLOSS Manuals tool set (a product
of the hard work by Aleksandar Erkalovic and Lotte Meijer) that there
were few questions on how to use the editing system - people just got to
it and wrote. By closing time - 5pm - on the first day we had about 30%
of the manual done! great! Still, we had 70% to go and only 50% of the
The next morning I got up and checked the manual and another 3 chapters
had been completed overnight! Cool. I love geeks that just get to it and
We worked through Sunday with 4 or 5 people jumping into the real space.
Matt, Peter and Deborah really looked after us, pointing as many people
our way as they could. Peter sat in the room with us for a good many
hours and helped out a great deal too.
The result was that at 6pm, as planned, we pushed the 'publish' button,
and uploaded our manual to a print on demand service. 6pm the second day
and the beautiful book was available to anyone to buy (the manuals are
also always available for free in html from the FLOSS Manuals website).
It was a fantastic experience. We produced a remarkable book in 2 days.
which is available for purchase from the FSF. All proceeds are going
towards more FLOSS Manuals/FSF Book Sprints on Free Software. So buy the
book, give it to a newbie, and help contribute to curing the lack of
quality free documentation about free software.
Founder FLOSS Manuals
German mobile : + 49 15 2230 54563
Email : adam at flossmanuals.net
irc: irc.freenode.net #flossmanuals
"Free manuals for free software"
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