Over the last week (17 - 21 Oct), a small cadre of OpenStreetMappers joined the Google-sponsored Doc Summit on the Google Campus in Mountain View. The Doc Summit is part of the Google Summer of Code and occurred immediately before the Mentor Summit. Kate Chapman, Ian Dees, and Shaun McDonald represented OpenStreetMap while members of KDE, OpenMRS, and Sahana Eden along with some unaffiliated document specialists participated as well (for a total of roughly 30 people). The objective of the Doc Summit was to participate in a "book sprint" facilitated by members of the FLOSS Manuals community, writing an open source and Free book for the community to use.
We began with an unconference on Monday discussing how book sprints work led by a very exciting and inspiring guy named Alan Gunner. His excitement and energy made for a great experience overall, but he is especially good at making these events fun and interesting. We learned about how a doc sprint works, what sort of things to write about, about the FLOSS Manuals platform and tool, and learned about each others' projects.
The following three days we spent heads-down in our book. The first day we defined our table of contents. This forced us to define the scope and audience for the book. This turned out to be the trickiest part for us since we didn't have a very good idea of what we wanted to discuss. Since Kate's LearnOSM.org project was well written and a great starting point, we thought the book should start out as a beginner's guide for OSM. Shaun and I wanted to include some more technical information that has not been well documented in other areas. After a 1 hour brainstorm and some help from external facilitators we ended with a great outline for our book.
It was especially useful to discuss a couple personas to help define who this book should be written for. I don't remember exactly the stories behind the personas, but one of the "floaters" Anne Gentle was particularly helpful in nailing down this part of our book's scope.
Once we had the scope of our book defined, we began writing content for the chapters. We spent the rest of the first day writing and moving content from learnosm.org over to the book. After the first day we left Google's campus at 22:00 and had roughly 9000 words in our book. It was a surprisingly successful day and gave the entire group a boost of confidence that we could actually write a whole book in a week. After some more writing, we had a day of review and cleanup on Thursday and a quick unconference/discussion/reflection on Friday morning. We published our books to the on-demand publisher lulu.com that evening (over some beverages of celebration) and called it a night.
Google's Open Source office was kind enough to purchase 20 copies of each book for the organizations to hand out as they see fit and I have those copies today at the beginning of the Mentor Summit. You can purchase a copy of the book from lulu.com and participate in further revisions on FLOSS Manuals.
Thanks again to Google's Open Source Office for funding, FLOSS Manuals and Aspiration for organizing, and to our fellow open source organizations for making it such a successful event!