FLOSS Manuals


coordinator: Adam Hyde

I Network description
FLOSS Manuals make free software more accessible by providing clear documentation that accurately explains their purpose and use. Each manual explains what the software does and what it doesn’t do, what the interface looks like, how to install it, how to set the most basic configuration necessary, and how to use its main functions. To ensure the information remains useful and up to date the manuals are regularly developed to add more advanced uses, and to document changes and new versions of the software.

The manuals on FLOSS Manuals are written by a community of people, who do a variety of things to keep the manuals as up to date and accurate as possible. Anyone can contribute to a manual – to fix a spelling mistake, to add a more detailed explanation, to write a new chapter, or to start a whole new manual. The way in which FLOSS Manuals are written mirrors the way in which FLOSS (Free, libre open source) software itself is written: by a community who contribute to and maintain the content.

We currently have over 35 manuals which are growing on a monthly basis.

We have also established significant working relationships with notable organizations such as One Laptop Per Child, The Sugar Foundation, the Free Software Foundation, Google, and OReilly Media. The strength of these relationships is attested by the presence of members from several of these organizations within this proposal. The results of these relationships have also been seen amazing results, currently, for example, the FLOSS Manuals documentation of the One Laptop Per Child and Sugar Projects is being shipped on 100,000 laptops to children all over the world.

At present there are no paid employees for FLOSS Manuals and yet our registered contributors are growing quickly with 1-2 subscriptions per day. Traffic is also increasing rapidly – in the last three months visitors have doubled from 18000 unique visitors a month to 37000 unique visitors a month.

PDF downloads of manuals was a total of 9,960 for the month of November 2008, an increase from 1500 at the same time last year.

We have language communities currently in Farsi (http://fa.flossmanuals.net), Dutch (http://nl.flossmanuals.net), and English (http://en.flossmanuals.net) with French, Finnish, and Burmese communities on their way. Individual manuals are also translated into Russian, Portuguese, Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, Polish and Turkish (http://flossmanuals.net/).

We organize Book Sprints to rapidly develop manuals. These are 5 day intensive working sessions with 6-8 writers working together in real space. The last Book Sprint was held in the Catskills (Upstate New York) over 5 days and produced the 200 page manual “How to Bypass Internet Censorship.”

FLOSS Manuals is clearly fulfilling a need. However we are at a critical point in our development. We require a clear strategy to build capacity in the organisation. The capacity questions effect all facets of our future including the technical platform, future functionality, management of administrative needs, maintenance of material, translation management, fund raising, development of the community and the future strategies and partnerships of FLOSS Manuals.
With no paid employees FLOSS Manuals needs to strategize the current growth path and build strategies to manage this. Consequently the invited list of participants has been carefully chosen to reflect a broad profile of our stakeholders to ensure the best planning group possible for the future of FLOSS Manuals.

II Main goal for this event in relation to the FLOSS Manuals network

We intend to use an ‘unconference’ methodology. Hence I describe the process here and not the goals. The process itself will identify and address the goals within five critical areas:

1. Capacity
2. Platform
3. Financial Sustainability
4. Language Communities
5. PR

These areas represent the main issues centers currently facing our network. The week will begin with introductions from each of those present, stating what they do in relationship to the network. We will then spend the remainder of the first day discussing the items within these categories that are considered strengths and weaknesses and identifying issues that need to be addressed.
The groups will spend the day in short (1 hr) sessions, each 1 hour period will address an issue identified on the first day. At the end of each of these sessions there will be a member of each group will report back to the whole group what was discussed. Each group will then announce the next sessions topic and reconfigure accordingly. At the end of each day there will a final meeting with all members, and the highest priority themes and strategies will be recorded.
The final session of the day will also time line the activities and nominate working groups to address the issues. These working groups will be communicated to the FLOSS Manuals community in real time using IRC and email. It is possible some of the working group members will come from members of the FLOSS Manuals community that are not present at the event.
The last day of the event will focus on preparing a final time line with dedicated working groups, named participants for each group and agreed deadlines.
The PR and Platform groups will also proceed to work on some of the actions during the event. We intend to have increased our profile during the event and written significant features into the FLOSS Manuals code base before the end of the week.

Ideas For Evening Programming
Wine tasting
A member from each network has to bring 2 bottles of wine from their country. They must make a small presentation to the entire group about the wine – where it comes from, what it tastes like, why they like it. The wine is then all put on a table and…
Belgium beer tasting
Dutch Evening
30 minutes over wine which is a quick Dutch Lesson. This should be done in small groups in a very relaxed informal way with a dutch speaker assigned to 5-6 non-dutch speakers. This is followed by 30 minutes, over wine, when the participants must mingle and can only speak to each other in Dutch (with assistance from the Dutch Speakers)
Dutch Cheese Tasting
Speed Geeking
Anyone that wants to gets 5 minutes to talk about their project, an idea of theirs, their favorite hobby, – any topic they like. It has to be exactly 5 minutes, no more, no less.
Network Trivia Quiz
Each network comes up with 10 trivia questions about the other networks participating. These questions are then given to a quiz master and each network must compete to get the most correct answers. It would be better if this quiz was held later in the week giving each group the chance to learn a little about the others. The winners get 6 large bottles of Duvel.

III Participants
All participants are available from March 3-8

  • Andy Oram, OReilly Media, Boston, USA

Andy Oram is an editor for technical publisher and information provider O’Reilly Media, specializing currently in open source technologies and software engineering. Some of the popular books he has edited include Beautiful Code, Peer to Peer, Running Linux, Linux Device Drivers, Mastering Regular Expressions, and Intellectual Property and Open Source. He is also interested in providing better education for online communities, an issue he has researched at www.praxagora.com/community_documentation/. A long-time member of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, Andy has published articles since 1995 on social and political issues related to computing, media, and digital networking. His personal Web site is www.praxagora.com/andyo/.

  • Aleksander Erkalovic, Programmmer, Zagreb, Croatia

Aleksandar Erkalovic is reknown internationally in the new media arts and activist circles for the software he has developed. Used to work in Multimedia institute in Croatia, where he was the lead developer of a popular NGO web publishing system (TamTam), Aleksander has a broad spectrum of programming experience having worked on many projects from multiplayer games, library software, financial applications, artistic projects, web site analysis applications, and building systems for managing domain registration. Unsurprisingly, he is fluent in many computer languages and technologies.

  • Ali Kolahi, Ahari FLOSS Manuals Manager, Christchurch New Zealand

Ali Kolahi is the Manager of the Farsi FLOSS Manuals community (http://fa.flossmanuals.net). Ali is Iranian by birth but currently manages the community from New Zealand. Ali is also currently studying a Technical Writing degree.

  • David Farning, Sugar Foundation, Wisconsin, USA

David Farning currently volunteers at Sugar Labs. He tries to help Sugar Labs in two ways; engaging smart passionate people to help Sugar Labs achieve it’s mission and keeping those smart and passionate focused on the mission.

  • Janet Swisher, Technical Writer, Texas, USA

Janet Swisher is the sole technical writer for Enthought, Inc., which makes software for scientific data analysis and visualization, and releases some of it under an open source license. She has been a technical writer for ten years, and she previously filled other roles related to software development, including testing, technical support, and build management. She has been a volunteer editor for OOoAuthors project, working on manuals for the OpenOffice.org open source productivity suite, and has now caught the Book Sprint bug. She blogs about topics related to technical communication and open source software on her “Techie Tech Writer” blog at www.janetswisher.com/.

  • Edward Cherlin, Technical Writer, San Francisco

Founder, Earth Treasury, an NGO to link schools around the world for education and business. Mokurai volunteers at OLPC and Sugar Labs as a volunteer coordinator, localization administrator (Khmer and Kreyòl), and general knoker (an especially Yiddish know-all, the kind who did math homework in pen), based on

* his training as a mathematician, classroom teacher, amateur musician and linguist, philosopher, and Buddhist priest
* plus his lifetime of encyclopedic reading, many years in high-tech market research and technical writing, and work in Unicode and Free Software.

  • Anne Gentle, Technical Writer, Austin, USA

Anne has been a technical writer for over ten years, and has acquired many interests in this field, including structured authoring, social media, XML models for software documentation such as DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture), blogging, online user assistance, and writing in an Agile development environment.
Anne currently works as a senior technical writer at Advanced Solution International which provides management software for non-profits.
Anne also is part of the FLOSS Manuals PR team and manages the One Lap Per Child and Sugar manuals.

  • Lotte Meijer, Freelance Consultant and Designer, Amsterdam, USA

Lotte is a designer and consultant specializing in New Media in Museums. Lotte is responsible for all of FLOSS Manuals designs both on and off line.

  • Zita Joyce, Professor Media Studies, Christchurch, New Zealand

Zita is a Professor of Media Studies at Canterbury University in New Zealand. Zita has also managed the development of the FLOSS Manuals Farsi community with Ali Kolhari and is currently working on the FLOSS Manuals PR group with Adam Hyde and Anne Gentle.

  • Michael Chesterman

Michael Chesterman has been working on online video and social media for social change since 1998 with groups like Undercurrents.org, network23.org, Dissent network, no borders uk, Climate camp uk, Social Centre network uk, MCIN and Beyond TV and the Transmission network.

  • Douglas Bagnall

Douglas Bagnall is an artist and programmer.  In 2008 he worked worked on OLPC’s school server project.

  • Adam Hyde

Adam Hyde is a recently retired digital artist. He spent 10 years working on artistic projects under his own name and in collaboration with many groups including r a d i o q u a l i a (http://www.radioqualia.net) and simpel <http://www.simple.net>. Before this period Adam managed radio stations in New Zealand. Currently Adam pays the bills by working as an IT Consultant, generally for cultural organisations and festivals. Adam is also the founder of FLOSS Manuals and works as much as possible on building the community, the content, and the platform.

  • Martin Kean

Martin Kean lives in Dunedin, New Zealand, and has been involved and interested in publishing and printing for more than 20 years. Martin publishs a weekly entertainment guide ‘f*INK’ now in its thirteenth year. He teaches design and software at the Otago Polytechnic Department of Design, Dunedin New Zealand, with his partner Caro. Together they have 3 boys. Martin’s background is in design for print and screen, film+video, Flash Actionscript, and systems coding and analysis.