Many technical writers, content managers and information architects work on software development teams, or at least tangentially to them. You may have heard of Google’s Summer of Code or BarCamp or PodCamp and wondered, like Janet Swisher did at A Techie Tech Writer, why aren’t there more free real-life community events for technical writers?

imageA collaborative, creative event does exist for technical writers – it’s the BookSprint (read Anne Gentle’s blog post about the event), originated and hosted by FLOSS Manuals. A BookSprint functions like a week-long workshop where writers come together to learn how to write good user documentation. BookSprints are a social experience where writers form a community who share common goals and experiences.

If you’ve used open source software before, you know that support and documentation are two of the success factors for an open source project – without a community assisting with these two components, open source software doesn’t reach its full potential. This crossroads is where Adam Hyde and FLOSS Manuals comes in. FLOSS Manuals, located at flossmanuals.net, is a collection of manuals that explain how to install and use a range of free and open source software. The FLOSS acronym stands for Free/Libre/Open-Source Software. The manuals are friendly and simple, and they are intended to encourage people to explore the wide range of free, open source alternatives to expensive and restrictively licensed software.

imageAt FLOSS Manuals can find a manual for the One Laptop Per Child XO computer, the education project whose goal was to produce a $100 laptop for children of the world using all open source software. Adam is the founder of the FLOSS Manuals Foundation. Adam leads the community of free documentation writers that publish free manuals about free software across multiple languages. Adam offered the FLOSS Manuals tool chain to One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) last year, and OLPC volunteer Anne Gentle of JustWriteClick was working on the OLPC documentation and immediately saw the benefits of the platform for wiki writing and collaboration, plus the promise of PDF publishing and multiple language translations.

Currently, Anne and Adam are inviting writers who are knowledgeable about the XO laptop to a BookSprint to update the documentation for the XO laptop and its operating system, Sugar. The last week of August in Austin Texas, writers will give 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’d like to be involved by donating money, you can go to flossmanuals.net/donate and give any amount, but here are some ideas:

  • $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

If you have other ideas for getting involved, please contact Anne Gentle at annegentle at justwriteclick dot com with your ideas.