New Aesthetics, New Anxieties

I would thoroughly encourage others, particularly writers and academics, to engage with the booksprint process. Whilst mindful of the concerns of academics and writers who might be apprehensive of engaging in an intensive and collaborative process such as this, I have to say that the way in which the process is facilitated with a light touch, together with the group setting and software/technical support made it highly stimulating, enjoyable and creative. Most of all, the working process sparked really exciting ideas, proposals and trajectories for future work. This is a model to complement existing work in academia, allowing us to create, write and intervene in debates quickly, whilst not compromising academic standards and the ability to present and explore new ideas. It has certainly opened my eyes to the possibilities of publishing through digital media and how we need to develop tools such as these in our everyday academic research and teaching work.

Dr. David M. Berry
Swansea University, UK

Technology for Open Educational Resources

We came to a decision to write a book about our work over the last three years of supporting projects in Open Educational Resources. Personally, I was somewhat anxious about this. However, once the idea had been suggested it was difficult to argue against on any grounds other than “I don’t think I can face it”. But I knew that I should, and despite dreading the process, I did share the enthusiasm about what the output would be. I liked the idea of us having written a book, but not the idea of writing one.

We met Adam Hyde through his work with Booktype, a technology in which we were interested, and then heard him talking about Book Sprints. Given that we knew that we could work well together, but that we all struggled to find the time to do so, the idea of a few days away focused on this one task seemed appealing. Well, there was still a problem finding time when we were free from other commitments, so with some trepidation we packed up for a short Book Sprint, wondering how much content three-and-a-half of us could generate in less than three days. We needn’t have worried. With Adam’s guidance through the Book Sprint process we generated more than we had set out to. What’s more, it was enjoyable. Even so, at the end of the sprint I was still nervous about the quality of what we had written—our audience can be somewhat critical—I was worried that in our haste we might have missed something crucial. However, the book has been well received by readers and so it seems that the cross-checking and co-authoring aspects of the Book Sprint did their job.

In summary, writing a book through a Book Sprint turned out to be efficient, thorough and enjoyable; I can’t imagine a better outcome.

Phil Barker, JISC CETIS

Lorna Campbell has summarised our book sprint in more detail on her blog at http://blogs.cetis.ac.uk/lmc/2012/08/31/oer-booksprint-reflections/

On Dragons and Turtles

After several book writing projects that extend over weeks and months of editing, sharing, waiting for a reply and then not having time to reply when I am asked to, I have developed a small level of nervosity about books. Then the idea of a Book Sprint arose and it seemed like it might solve the problem. And how.

After discussing with too many people for too long about how the ways that they do things and how they describe them, notate them, discuss them or think about them, we dragged a motley collection of people who were interested, but by no means experts, together. Then we started to talk. And talk. Armed with post-its and markers, pens and hand-waving, we were guided through a process of trying to work out what we were thinking about.

If there is a project where the problem needs discussion and that discussion should be documented, then it seems that a Book Sprint is the solution.

A group of people who have agreed to share some time to the exclusivity of all else to make something happen, with instant questions and answers, sharing body language and a language that emerged amongst ourselves, we produced a book that has removed my feelings of nervousness about doing a new book project.

We plan to do another one.

Dr. Tim Boykett
Johannes Kepler University & Kunstuniversität Linz, Austria

Open Stack

The Book Sprint model drives teams to write lots of documentation in a focused amount of time with the right writers and some amount of content already in place. Gathering people in the same place is extremely helpful and motivating as well. I’ve been fortunate enough to have participated in a handful of Book Sprints and have been surprised at the outcome each time. Not that I don’t have faith in the methods, but that writers exceed my expectations every time. It is difficult, no doubt, but so rewarding to sustain focused effort. The results prove this method over and over again.

Anne Gentle

Collaborative Futures

I was involved in the Collaborative Futures book sprint, the first book written using Booki, and the first FLOSS Manuals project that isn’t software documentation. I was amazed by the results materially and socially, and even more so by the just completed 2nd edition of Collaborative Futures, which successfully incorporated several new authors and benefited from new Booki features.

I am inspired by the potential for book sprints and the Booki software to expand the scope of collaborative production in a wide variety of contexts, especially education. Booki is an exciting new innovative platform that is bringing book production online and is an important new form of free culture / free knowledge production. Platforms that expand the categories of works that can be radically improved through free collaboration (beyond software and encyclopedias) are absolutely essential to building a good future. I enthusiastically endorse Booki and encourage all to use and support it.

Mike Linksvayer, Vice President
Creative Commons

Firefox Book Sprint

I first worked with FLOSS Manuals in early 2009 as a participant in one of their Book Sprints. It was a great experience and we produced a great Firefox manual – in 3 short days.

Chris Hofmann, Director Engineering
Mozilla (Firefox)

One Laptop Per Child Book Sprint

The OLPC BookSprint brought together several overlapping communities:
* hard-core, full-time participants in the OLPC, SugarLabs, and FLOSS Manuals projects
* Austin XO enthusiasts
* Austin technical writers interested in open source software

Bringing together communities with related interests can lead to unexpected synergies. In comparing this and other face-to-face meetings of virtual communities, I can see the following benefits:

  1. 1. Community members get to know each other “for real.” If you’ve ever worked on a virtual team, you know that you work much better with team members you’ve met face-to-face. Putting faces to names and personalities to email addresses helps the team or community work together virtually in the future.
  2. 2. A concrete time and place to work increases productivity tremendously. Volunteers working asynchronously tend to lack urgency; there is always some other priority that pushes the volunteer work off to “someday.” At a sprint, the work must be done here and now. And, as I mentioned, feedback can be provided within a few seconds instead of hours or days.
  3. 3. The event helps put the project in perspective for participants. When a project is coordinated online, participants can get swamped by details. A sprint helps focus priorities and helps participants see how their pieces fit into the bigger puzzle.
  4. 4. It’s fun! People feed off each others’ energy and excitement. Jokes are cracked, camaraderie develops, and friendships form.

Janet Swisher
Documentation Team, Mozilla

Introduction to the Command Line

I have written basic introductions to the command line in three different technical books on GNU/Linux and read dozens of others.   FLOSS Manual’s “Introduction to the Command Line” is at least as clear, complete, and accurate as any I’ve read or written. But while there are countless correct reference works on the subject, FLOSS’s book speaks to an audience of absolute beginners more effectively, and is ultimately more useful, than any other I have seen.

Benjamin Mako Hill
Wikimedia Advisory Board, FSF Board


I met with the IT manager of a (new zealand) political party today who was considering CiviCRM. He contacted me through the Circus Trust as he had read the case study.

Anyway, he was really positive about the book and made the comment that ‘IT manuals normally put him to sleep but this one was interesting and well-written’. It was obvious that reading the book was having a significant influence on the likelihood of him going down the CiviCRM path and also increase the amount of functionality he would take advantage of.

So, nice to see that not only do people appreciate the book but that it also achieves it’s goal of getting people to use Civi & to use it better.

Eileen McNaughton
Book Sprint Participant