BookSprint for Floss Manuals writing for the XO and Sugar

I’ve been busy lately working on plans for a Floss Manuals BookSprint. A BookSprint is a week-long concentrated effort of technical writers getting together to create a manual for free, libre open source software products. BookSprints are like a workshop where writers come together to learn how to write good user documentation. BookSprints are also a social experience where writers come together to form a community who share common goals and experiences.

Writers are giving a week’s time to be curators of information housed in wikis and websites everywhere, bringing it all together into the FLOSS Manual TWiki implementation to be ready for online viewing or gorgeous print output. If you’re interested in joining us for a day or all week, we’d love to have you. We’re planning to invite local students to the event also.

This picture shows the recent Inkscape BookSprint held in Paris France. We’re planning to hold the XO/Sugar BookSprint here in Austin, but I’m guessing the collection of laptops and cables will be the same here as there!

Inkscape BookSprint in Paris
Inkscape BookSprint in Paris

In this case, we’ll produce a comprehensive manual for the kids, families, and teachers using the little green XO laptop. While the manual that exists at is a targeted effort, it is outdated for the new line drawn between hardware (XO) and operating system (Sugar). Our hope is to expand the manual in advance of the new expanded Give 1 Get 1 program will give educators and children a chance to learn about their laptop, repair it, program with it, and teach others.

What can you do to help? Right now, I’m raising money and asking for in-kind donations to help with this concentrated effort. Here are some ideas, although you can come up with creative ideas yourself if you want!

$500 would provide hotel accommodations for a writer
$250 would provide a catered lunch for all the writers
$100 would provide gas money for many writers all week

Updated to add: You can also directly give donations at

Sponsorship earns not only good “whuffie” but we’ll list your name or business name on these websites: FLOSS Manuals, JustWriteClick, Sugar Labs, and OLPC.

An exciting aspect of this BookSprint is the international effort behind it. Adam Hyde, founder of Floss Manuals, is planning to make the trek to Austin from Amsterdam, and there’s a French Floss Manuals coordinator working behind the scenes to ensure that the document can be translated to French. I’m also working with Yama Ploskonka, admin of the OLPC-Sur list of Spanish-speaking OLPC supporters to find Spanish language translators.

All in all, this is a very exciting effort and I’d love to get readers of JustWriteClick involved in any way you’d like. I’m very excited to be part of this effort and pleased to play host – let’s gather some more community around the BookSprint to make it a success.


  • July 31, 2008 - 9:42 am | Permalink

    Do you have dates for the sprint yet?

  • July 31, 2008 - 9:49 am | Permalink

    Yes, the BookSprint is the last week of August… 8/25 to 8/29.

  • Shannon Greywalker
    August 5, 2008 - 9:57 am | Permalink

    I donated a small amount but I must say that in this era of global climate change, peak oil, rising oil prices, and a downward-spiraling US economy, it seems quite *wasteful* to actually fly/drive all the contributors to a central geographic location. There are so many excellent webconferencing and teleconferencing tools available for collaborative projects. I would certainly appreciate seeing future efforts like this take place in virtual space instead of one geographic location.

    For example, if you want a feeling of “being there” in the same room while you discuss ideas, Second Life would be a perfectly good venue for a small group of less than 30 people. Your avatars can chat using voice comms or text. You can watch videos together. You can view web pages together (and therefore slideshows delivered via web pages). Alternatively, or in tandem, you can use WebEx or Sonexis or NetMeeting technology (or Microsoft variants) when you need to collaboratively review and mark up drafts or somehow share your desktops.

  • August 5, 2008 - 8:52 pm | Permalink

    Hi Shannon – Yes, I’d agree that it could seem “wasteful” to get people in the same room in real life, when we do already collaborate online.

    It’s an interesting day and age when technology like wikis and Second Life enable virtual meetings to be just as useful and productive as real space. But sometimes even an online community needs in person interaction to either be more efficient (one argument) by communicating faster, and in person you can understand nuances only available with body language, personal space, and so on. I know you personally strive to overcome any communication gap that a lack of face-to-face contact may bring with it, and you’re quite good at it. 🙂

    Also, when you just are the type of person who enjoys interaction with others with similar interests, these kinds of events really motivate and reward contributors. I also think that this interaction will spur more activity later, by bringing together key players. We’ll get to know each other and learn the best ways of working together going forward. This BookSprint is partially about longevity of the volunteer community around the XO and Sugar.

    It’s similar to how unconferences and BarCamps are springing up all over – sure, maybe it’s because the extroverts and social animals really thrive on this kind of interaction. But I think that there are good reasons for and benefits to occasional, specially planned events such as this one.

    You and others reading about the BookSprint might enjoy this newly contributed article on the Role of Face-to-Face Interaction in Building and Complementing Online Community at It cements for me that there is a role for face-to-face for online communities to improve their connections and communications.

  • Shannon Greywalker
    August 6, 2008 - 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I don’t discount the superiority of face-to-face meeting and collaboration for communication nuance, team-building, and meeting basic human social needs. It’s fine to make use of face-to-face collaboration when it is not a financial or environmental burden to so, or if there is no other way to achieve quality results without face-to-face interaction.

    However, this effort is based on a budget from donated money, not a pre-approved company budget. Also, the environmental picture is quite different from even a year or two ago. For these reasons, the negative impacts of a face-to-face collaboration for efforts like this seems to outweigh the positive benefits for the few writers who are involved. The work *could* be done just as effectively in an online collaboration. I would think that people and company asked to donate to a charity effort like this would prefer to see their money spent as efficiently as possible. Given the current focus on global climate change, rising fuel prices, and the negative impact of burning fuel when you do not really *need* to burn fuel, it seems inefficient to have so much of the cost for which you’re requesting donations being used for gas, travel, and lodging. I’d prefer to see my donated money used only for the unavoidable costs (and less environmentally-impacting costs).

    I’m just trying to raise consciousness that it’s the time in our history to stop doing things a certain way just because we’ve always done things that way. It’s time to start thinking outside the box because the quality of life for our descendants depends on us learning to curtail our excesses now. Not later. Even if that means learning new ways of conducting business and collaborating that might in some ways be less ideal than our previous consumptive excess had enabled.

  • August 7, 2008 - 10:28 pm | Permalink

    Is there a wiki page to sign up for potential attendees? hotel info? directions?

  • August 7, 2008 - 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Hi Shannon – It’s interesting, the sprint is shaping up to have as much or more remote participation than in-person participation, so we’re already seeing that many collaborators do prefer not to spend the time and money on physical presence. I appreciate the message you’re emphasizing – that you don’t have to get together just because it’s always done that way.

    Hi Belinda – We’d love to have you – you can add your name to the page where many of the documentation plans are posted. One attendee plans to camp, and I have information on local hotels near the host location. I’ll be sure to add this information to the wiki page.

  • August 20, 2008 - 10:23 am | Permalink


    Adam here from FLOSS Manuals – I agree entirely with your points. We are working on bringing together people to build a team so that remote collaboration extends beyond the real space event. Utilising a real space event to facilitate remote collaboration if you will.

    Remote and real space have very different energies and purposes, and in my experience ongoing remote collaboration can be jump started and its life span extended through select real space meetings.

    Also, just to note – the event is not entirely run from donations but has contributions from the organisations involved (but this does not cover the full amount needed).

    Further, I am organising an event in May ’09 called Electro Smog – International Festival of Sustainable Immobility. It is precisely about these issues you bring up and the entire event will consist of local presentations and discussions and workshops augmented by remote (telematic of various forms) presentations.

    It will be held at De Balie in Amsterdam and other venues around the world simultaneously. Watch for info closer to the event.


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