Book Sprint

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Discussion

From the book, Collaborative Futures:

"The Book Sprint concept was devised by Tomas Krag. Tomas conceived of book production as a collaborative activity involving substantial donations of volunteer time.

Tomas pioneered the development of the Book Sprint as a 4 month+ production cycle, while Adam Hyde, founder of FLOSS Manuals, was keen to continue with the idea of an "extreme book sprint," which compressed the authoring and production of a print-ready book into a week-long process.

During the first year of the Book Sprint concept FLOSS Manuals experimented with several models of sprint. So far about 16 books have been produced by FLOSS Manuals sprints, some of these were 5 day sprints, but there have also been very successful 2 and 3 day events.

Because Book Sprints involve open contributions (people can contribute remotely as well as by joining the sprint physically) the process is ideally matched to open/free content. Indeed, the goal of FLOSS Manuals embodies this freedom in a two-fold manner: it makes the resulting books free online, and focuses its efforts on free software.

The difference between the Collaborative Futures and other Book Sprints is that this is the first sprint to make a marked deviation from creating books which are primarily procedural documentation. FLOSS Manuals has produced many fantastic manuals in 2-5 day Book Sprints. The quality of these books is exceptional, for example Free Software Foundation Board Member Benjamin Mako Hill said of the 280 page Introduction to the Command Line manual (produced in a two day Book Sprint):

"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."

But Collaborative Futures is markedly different. To ask 5 people who don't know each other to come to Berlin and write a speculative narrative in 5 days when all they have is the title is a scary proposition. To clearly define the challenge we did no discussion before everyone entered the room on day 1. Nothing discussed over email, no background reading. Nothing.

Would we succeed? It was hard to consider this question because it was hard to know what might constitute success. What consituted failure was clearer - if those involved thought it was a waste of time at the end of the 5 days this would be clear failure. All involved had discussed with the facilitor the possibility that the project might fail (transmediale also discussed this with the facilitor).

Additionally, as if this was not hard enough, we decided to use the alpha version of a new platform 'Booki' <www.booki.cc> that we had created specifically for Book Sprints and collaborative book production. One of the Booki developers (there are two) – Aleksandar Erkalovic – joined the team in Berlin to bug fix and extend the platform as we wrote.

It is difficult to over-state how difficult this could potentially be for all involved. It would be like living in a house, trying to sleep, get the kids off to school, have quiet conversations with your partner while all the time there are builders moving around you putting up walls and nailing down the floorboards under your feet. Not easy for all parties.

Last but not least, while this sprint built on much that had been learned in previous Book Sprints we had to develop new methodologies for this type of content. So during the week we tried new things out, tested ideas and reviewed their effectiveness.

All in 5 days.

As a result we have a book, a vastly improved (free) software platform, happy participants, and clear ideas on what new methods worked and what didn't. We look forward to your thoughts and contributions... " (http://en.flossmanuals.net/CollaborativeFutures/Three)