Thoughts on V4C gathering & FLOSS Manuals / Book Type

At the Video 4 Change gathering one of the things I was thinking about was  trying to understand of how emerging networks could best use Book Type to manage their strategy & training resources. Book Type is the software we use for the FLOSS Manuals community.

Skip to the end for some recommendations but I feel like it’s a bit early for concrete requests. I think more clearly presenting what we currently can offer to educators is the low hanging fruit rather than moving on to other needs and features.

Beyond the Book Sprint

The Book Sprint model that FLOSS Manuals is built on has some documentation here. The book sprint model is based around the online collaboration tool Book Type which powers floss manuals. The immediate goal is the production of a physical book and additional goal are knowledge production, and increasing participant relations.

However, if the immediate goal of your group is not a book then it is not so clear. Maybe your end goal is a website, a set of resources for training for trainers, a series of hand outs – if so – then it is not so clear why you would use Book Type as a tool.

Book Type and Educators

List of fantastic video resources for sharing

In summary – what can Book Type offer educators & why use Book Type for non-book projects? I can throw some reasons out there – this could be the start of some kind of presentation;

  • to encourage reuse of materials you should use a repository that ouputs multiple formats – ie outputting to pdfs, epub, embeddable html & office documents
  • to encourage remixing of materials, you will benefit from using a shared repository or repository system which allows you to easily recombine resources in an online space – ie where it is easy to import, clone, translate materials and chapters or groups of content
  • to make it easier to create revisions and versions of your work you should mirror to practice of separating out the presentation from content – (we know the difficulties of reusing pdfs!)
  • to facilitate annotation, collaboration and track changes – it should be easy to roll back changes, and track who did what when and why!
  • to allow better communication between authors you should be able to use real time chat and an internal announce and messaging system

Besides Book Type, there are other tools which are more widely used which allow some of this.

  • Google docs
  • Media wiki
  • Moodle

Is Book Type the best tool for the job? It would be interesting to do some evaluation of the pros and cons of different online repositories for learning documents & make this available for groups making this decision.

Which repository to use?

If your material is not about Free Software then it can’t live in To use other materials, you could install Book Type on your own server or use the ‘everything else’ repository at As a slight side note, there are some really interesting projects on – at the ‘Video for Change’ gathering I met Becky from MIT Center for Civic Media. They are using for a co design manual.

Draft Recommendations

I’m aware that this feedback isn’t formatted in the best way but I wanted to share my thoughts on this while it was still fresh in my mind. Please do get back with feedback on any of this this especially from educators who have been wresting with some of these issues or have case studies in the area. I’ve tried to format the above ideas into some recommendations.

  • create a presentation about Book Type aimed at educators wanting to start collaborative writing of materials
  • create a repository or a subsection of or at least a shop window specifically for educators
  • case studies of how educators are creating resources using Book Type (potentially including p2pu example)
  • more evaluation of what educators want out of a collaborative writing system and resource repository
  • collaborate with networks of educators on discreet projects creating and remixing training resources – using, FM and / or a new install of Book Type. Discuss possible collaborations with p2pu & v4c
  • create an ‘embed this chapter’ link to make it easier to embed Book Type documents into other online learning systems like p2pu and partner websites