FLOSS Manuals has produced numerous excellent free manuals for free software, as the name implies. Now, led by the excellent Adam Hyde, they’re branching out to produce free books on other subjects via their approximately sprint+wiki methodology. Appropriately, and recursively, one of these books, maybe the first, addresses the future of collaboration, to be titled Collaborative Futures.
I’ve arrived in Berlin to help write that book over the next five days — with several others in person and hopefully a significant online contingent. (I understand online participation instructions will be published Tuesday, will link to them here.)
I think I’ve met Adam Hyde a few times before, but first had significant conversations at Wikimania last year (check out his presentation, lots of deep observations about cultural production and freedom). When he later emailed to recruit me to this book sprint, the subject was to be the future of free culture. That would be a fine book, but I’m excited about the change, if only because the future of collaboration may be the most important determinant of how free culture is, as I’ve written for another book project:
Generally culture is much more varied than software, and the success of free culture projects relative to free software projects may reflect this. It seems that free culture is at least a decade behind free software, with at least one major exception—Wikipedia. Notably, Wikipedia to a much greater extent than most cultural works has requirements for mass collaboration and maintenance similar to those of software. Even more notably, Wikipedia has completely transformed a sector in a way that free software has not.
One, perhaps the, key question for free culture advocates is how more cultural production can gain WikiNature—made through wiki-like processes of community curation, or more broadly, peer production. To the extent this can be done, free culture may “win” faster than free software—for consuming free culture does not require installing software with dependencies, in many cases replacing an entire operating system, and contributing often does not require as specialized skills as contributing to free software often does.
However, the import of the future of collaboration for freedom goes well beyond its import for free culture, and indeed, its import goes well beyond freedom. Perhaps nobody other than myself will have noticed the relevance of many of the themes I’ve written about at this blog, but for anyone who has, you may particularly enjoy an interview with Mushon Zer-Aviv, one of the other sprint participants.