An Open Web

About This Book

This book was created in a Book Sprint over 5 days between January 17 and January 21, 2011 in Berlin.It was an enormous achievement by the handful of people brought together to write a Book about the ‘Open Web’.

The sprint was unusually affected by a high number of last minute issues including some last minute participant and sponsor cancellations, denied visas, and two delayed flights to the sprint. As a result we started with a great team but a little smaller than anticipated.

The even was hosted by transmediale.11 and the Collegium Hungaricum Berlin (CHB), based on an idea and concept initiated by transmediale artistic director Stephen Kovats and Adam Hyde of FLOSS Manuals. To write the book we used the FLOSS Manuals installation of Booki (

On the first day the CHB Director Can János Togay and CHB Curator Vera Baksa-Soós welcomed us and gave us an excellent introduction to the CHB. It is an amazing building and a very forward-thinking organization. It was both an honor and a privilege to be welcomed and hosted there. Our context for the sprint was very interesting on another level too. Hungary has a somewhat acute problem at the moment with self-censorship, free speech and open expression. The CHB is an adjunct organisation of the Embassy of Hungary in Berlin and therefore, technically speaking, not in Germany, but on sovereign Hungarian territory. Given the current debate in the EU on press and internet restrictions, there is considerable poetic irony that the Book Sprint about the Open Web took place there.

While waiting for Jon to arrive we started some light discussions about the book but we held back a lot, wanting to involve him in the process as much as possible. We started with a discussion followed closely by an injection of pizza delivered by Stephen Kovats. The conversation started with some wobbles. Most of us were confused by the proliferation of the term ‘Open Web’ since any discourse of the net has abused both terms over the last decade. None of us really knew what ‘open’ was anymore or what is meant these days by ‘the Web’. What then was the ‘Open Web’?

Bassel Safadi, contributing remotely from Syria, gave us a clue. He outlined a stack of conditions that would lead him to agree to a web service being identified as ‘open’. Then the conversation turned to mapping this idea onto a book structure. Jon arrived around 1800 and we continued. After the first night we had a structure, but it was not complete. We still were not exactly sure what the open web was even though we could talk with some meaning about the conditions that needed to be fulfilled.

We started writing anyway at 10:00 the next morning. Everyone picked a topic and started putting their ideas down. The sprint facilitator (Adam Hyde) was pretty certain this book did not have to be long, and it could be simple since if we (relatively ‘old hand’) web users could not say what the Open Web was, and there is very little other literature out there about it, then a short clear book about the Open Web was going to be a good first step. It should be a strong attempt at setting up the parameters and defining the terms of this discourse.

Determined to succeed and scared of failure, we wrote. At the end of the day we had dinner and wrote some more and then realized we had a better idea of what we wanted to define. Book Sprints are noisy environments and throughout the day there were many discussions about issues and ideas we wanted to clarify, discard or write about. Hence after a day of this we had a better shared language for discussing the content and we were moving towards some kind of simple thesis. John West joined us for a few hours and wrote some material and discussed the introduction chapters in detail with sprinter Alejandra Perez. After dinner Jon Phillips, Chris Adams, and Michelle Thorne pushed for a rethink of the table of contents, and then we started getting closer.

The next day we made a few smaller tweaks to the structure and started writing. We carried on throughout the day with only a few breaks, finishing around midnight. We also asked for some feedback from people we knew. Overnight, a few comments were left by these people, most notably Mike Linksvayer went through the entire text and left some very useful and worthwhile comments. Aleksandar Erkalovic (‘Aco’—the lead developer of Booki) worked on integrating services into Booki so we could utilize microblogging. In the early evening Aco demonstrated basic microblogging functionality in Booki which was fantastic. Barry Threw also later demonstrated a visualization app that used the RSS feed of the developing book as its data source.

Later Mick Fuzz woke us all to the fact that we needed to get a move on. He was not convinced we had enough material at this point of the sprint and he gently provoked a more thorough review of where we were. This was an important point of clarity that motivated us to start early and start strong the following day.

The fourth day we were in the zone and wrote well. The discussions became fewer but denser and closer to the source of what we wanted to say. We had already learned a great deal from everyone involved and brought our own ideas more sharply into focus. We had a few more people drop in remotely. Luka Frelih from Slovenia and Tuukka Hastrup from Finland popped in throughout the day with helpful contributions.

The last day. We shifted rooms, moving to the CHB ‘Panorama Hall’, an amazing space with a double story projection screen window, and started writing. Fabricatorz pushed the visualization forward and it was projected on this screen creating a live visual manifestation of the Book Sprint (

We cut five chapters down (about freedoms) into a much more succinct and healthy chapter. We also had a lengthy discussion about a beautiful essay Alejandra wrote (included as the ‘Myth of Openess’ in the appendix) and how it did not seem to fit into the rest of the book. We wanted to include it because also Alejandra had been sprinting all week and because the essay had some very inspirational elements. We decided to include it and Alejandra finished the essay. Although its tone and content didn’t quite fit into the body of the rest of the book it is one of the best chapters so we believe it was a good decision! Then we just sprinted. 1900 16,000 words. Push the publish button, upload to, distribute the epub, push to FLOSS Manuals—blog, email, spam. Done.


Improve this Book!

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Below are the biographies of the sprint team that was onsite in Berlin all day all night:

Christopher Adams is a publishing professional and free culture advocate based in Beijing. He is a developer at Fabricatorz and works with Neoteny Labs. Freesouls: captured and released by Joi Ito was his first fully Creative Commons-licensed book project. Christopher is a co-founder of and a member of the Creative Commons Network. He graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with a degree in Cognitive Science. This is his first book sprint. Photo Joi Ito, CC-BY 2.0.

Michelle Thorne is the International Project Manager for Creative Commons. She organized the Free Culture Research Conference, and co-chaired Mozilla’s Drumbeat Festival on Learning, Freedom, and the Web, to forge the future of education. She co-founded the Awesome Foundation Berlin, a lightweight association to fund small projects. As a believer in making and doing things, she helped “chaordinate” the DMY Maker Lab and other DIY projects in Berlin and around the world. She blogs at and tweets as @thornet. 

Mick Fuzz started life on the Internet in the 90’s, helping organize and promote large messy European Free Festivals. Since then Mick walked a line between a fervent belief in the urgent necessity for autonomous, ecological, grassroots organizing and a vague post-industrial nihilism.
Both of these can probably be linked to living in Manchester, UK. He now spends his time doing Campaign/Community Media work ( and Community Gardening (

Adam Hyde is the founder of FLOSS Manuals, project manager for Booki and Book Sprint facilitator. Adam has been responsible for pushing the Book Sprint methodology from a 3-6 month process to a 2-5 day process. Adam lives in Berlin and enjoys exploring the process of producing books from their birth as an idea to writing to design to binding and beyond. Adam is currently very interested in pushing the Book Sprint methodology into new content areas and exploring its boundaries as much as possible.

Alejandra Perez Nuñez is an independent artist and a member of a diverse group of practitioners and writers examining the electromagnetic environment in relation to post industrial economies.  As a noise performer working with FLOSS tools she participates in projects dealing with radio, connected performance and social science fiction. She has a degree in psychology and aesthetics and a M.A. in media design. She is currently based in Valparaiso, Chile.

Jon Phillips ( is a developer devoted to contributing to society and building meaningful relationships. He is notable for creating communities, growing successful media projects and leading in the Free Software, Open Source and Open Content movements. His artwork, projects and research are presented internationally including at Cantocore Import/Export Guangzhou (2008), Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts (2008), Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (2008), Inter-Society for Electronic Arts Singapore (ISEA, 2008), Wikimania Taipei (2007), Pixelodeon Conference American Film Institute (LA, 2007), Berkeley Museum’s Digital Culture 0101 Public Lecture (2006), SF MoMA (2004), University of Tokyo (2004), Korea Advanced Institute for Science and Technology (2004), UCLA Hammer Museum, USC AIM Festival IV (2003), and the Institute for Contemporary Art London (2002).

Bassel Safadi is a software developer and a 3D technical director with ten years of practic experience. He has extensive experience in open source development including Linux kernel and Apache server. He started web application development in 2000 and 3D visual effects in 2005. His latest work includes a 3D photo realistic reconstruction of the old city of palmyra (Syria), real time visualization, and developing a web programming framework (i.e., aikiframework). He graduated from Riga technical university (rtu) Faculty of Computer Science and Information Technology (Latvia), with a bachelor in computer science in 2001. He has also obtained a M.Sc.IT from the University of Damascus (Syria) in 2004.

Below are Bios of those that participated remotely and part-time onsite.

Aleksandar Erkalovic is the lead developer for Booki. He is also renown internationally in the new media arts and activist circles for the software he has developed. Used to work in Multimedia institute in Croatia, where he was the lead developer of a popular NGO web publishing system (TamTam), Aleksander has a broad spectrum of programming experience having worked on many projects from multi-player games, library software, financial applications, artistic projects, web site analysis applications, and building systems for managing domain registration. Unsurprisingly, he is fluent in many computer languages and technologies.

Barry Threw ( works globally to develop culture. He consults institutions and artists interested in exploring digital media through immersion and interactive media experience; combining sound, video, network, and audience interactions. Currently he works to present surround cinema with Recombinant Media Labs, develop interactive media with Obscura Digital, and free culture projects with Fabricatorz.