The Old Days

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First Book Sprint using Booki, Berlin, 2010

Wow…I was browsing some old archives to update this new version of my site. I found the most incredible stuff in the Internet Archives Wayback Machine including the outline of a description of Booki (2010) many years before it became Booktype. Amazing! I didn’t think I had the product manager in me but it seems once upon a time I was really focused on this kind of acute detail for product management. I had forgotten!

Forgive the long post, it’s just pure indulgent nostalgia for me. In any case, here is one of the emails I found really fascinating, from back in 2010, talking about features for Booki and Objavi (book renderer). This has been taken from the zip of a public list we used for dev at the time:
https://web.archive.org/web/20111029143503/http://lists.flossmanuals.net/pipermail/booki-dev-flossmanuals.net/

I’m so astonished how much of my thinking recorded in this email carries through to the way we are approaching product development for Coko now. The statement:

You might have noticed that I prefer to take the easy road for features, leaving as much open as possible, and then refine according to use. That is because,from experience, I have learned that when designing software it is better to be led by the user rather than force them into an imagined work flow.

Might as well be out of the Collaborative Product Design manifesto.

I’ts kind of incredible. The email documents so much of how we were thinking at the time, including using HTML and CSS to create paginated books using browser engines:

* Objavi utilises Webkit for PDF generation. Later Gecko will be added.

…and later in the product description…

3.2.2 CSS Book Design
Status: High Priority, Implemented
Function: The default PDF rendering engine for Booki is now Webkit and will eventually be Mozilla Firefox hence there is full CSS support for creating book formatted PDF in Booki. This changes the language of design from Indesign to CSS - which means any web native can control the design of the book.

Pretty interesting, if only to me! Anyway, the email is below, it documents some features we built on commission for Source Fabric before they eventually took over the project. Thank you for indulging me 🙂

From adam at flossmanuals.net Wed Jul 28 09:11:21 2010
From: adam at flossmanuals.net (adam hyde)
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 2010 18:11:21 +0200
Subject: [Booki-dev] notes to meeting
Message-ID: <1280333481.1582.143.camel@esetera>

hi Frank,

It was good to meet you and I'm glad Source Fabric is considering working with us and you to develop features they and we need (Aco is also keen for this). 

I have sent this email to the dev list and to you and Micz. It might be good for you both to consider joining the list.
http://lists.flossmanuals.net/listinfo.cgi/booki-dev-flossmanuals.net

Below the content of this email is a very basic requirements doc. It does not outline the notes tab, so I thought I would make some notes here for your (and Micz's) consideration should Source Fabric decide they wish to commission all or part of this development. 

In essence, I think that the notes tab could nest the following:
1. To do list
2. Book notes
3. Style guide

These could be hidden via a dropdown or accordian style interface. Our plan is to keep everything as simple as possible so I would imagine a page with three headings and clicking on each reveals the information behind it.

Some ideas:
1. To do list
The basic form could be a Jquery to do as we looked at today:
http://demo.tutorialzine.com/2010/03/ajax-todo-list-jquery-php-mysql-css/demo.php

If this is the format, it would be good enough as it is. The good news is that this is done using Jquery so I imagine this is a very easy implementation. What you would need to work out, however, is how Aco implements the dynamic updates so that when a to do is altered everyone has that info updated.

If there was room to take this development a step further, I would recommend considering adding the following fields:
* assigned to
* due date
* priority

I am not married to those ideas though as I think we need to insure that the interface does not have too many things going on. So I would actually recommend we start with the basic implementation and move on. When users have tried it then we can consider extending it with these items.

2. Book Notes
Something like etherpad would be good but too complex (see.
http://piratepad.net/ )
I would suggest considering either a) the same interface as we have now in the notes pad except with a very very simple WYSIWYG or b) a threaded comment system. I think the best would again be to do the easiest and simplest - what we have now with a WYSIWYG interface (and no need to press 'save'). Then when users use it we extend according to demand for most-needed features. 

3. Style Guide
This is pretty much the same as (2) except it would be used for storing the Style Guide. A style guide is optional but many people request it in FLOSS Manuals and some go out of their way to create one so I think this would be a very good feature to anticipate based on our user experience so far.


I think all of the 3 above are simple and I think Source Fabric's working process (especially for the forthcoming Sprints) would benefit a lot from them.

You might have noticed that I prefer to take the easy road for features, leaving as much open as possible, and then refine according to use. That is because from experience I have learned that when designing software it is better to be led by the user rather than force them into an imagined workflow.

It has worked well for us so far - everything you now see in Booki is pretty much that way because we have tried similar ideas in FLOSS Manuals and seen their effect. I would prefer to continue to work this way with Booki. 

So...there was one more feature we discussed - Chapter Level notes. I think this would be extremely useful for Source Fabric (but Micz needs to comment on this) but we need to be careful that we get it right because it is not so obvious how this might work. 

I think the notes have to be associated with the chapter page when you edit it - however there is very little space there. One possibility is to build this into the WYSIWYG editor - Xinha - as a 'notes server' or some such. ie. it opens from the WYSIWYG editor but stores the content (chapter notes) in the booki db. The risk here is that people will not know that the notes are there...so we need to consider this. Another possibility is to build this into a 'sliding tab' as Micz suggested. I think that might be ok but it would have to be done carefully as it might look too much like a gimmick.

The other issue with chapter level notes is that I strongly believe that an overview of all chapter notes for a book should be able to be seen somewhere, in one place. Otherwise it would mean checking each chapter which would be a tedious job (books easily have 30+ chapters). So if you consider Chapter notes then you must also consider how to do this. 

So on this I am not so clear what would work well for Chapter level notes and because of this I think it's not such a good feature for our first adventure working together. I would recommend instead the first three to be done all together - however this is up to Micz.

My feeling is that the first 3 are an extremely quick development, first however you need to know how it all fits together so i would suggest emailing this list when you have questions and I am sure Aco will answer your questions...

Also, Aco is currently working on the Booki site update so I expect the GIT repo is not updated but will be within the next days once the booki www is updated....

also you should meet Doug - doug is on this list and he is the Objavi (PDF generator) developer....doug - frank, frank - doug

also, meet John who does the Booki manual and other essential tasks intro intro :)


:)

adam






1 INTRODUCTION

1.1 Description
Booki is designed to help you produce books, either by yourself or collaboratively. A book in this context is a "comprehensive text" which can be output to book-formatted PDF (for book production), epub, odt, screen readable PDF, templated HTML and other formats.

Booki supports the rapid development of content. Booki has tools to support the development of content in 'Book Sprints'. Book Sprints are intensive collaborative events where collaborators in real and remote space focus on writing a book together in 3-5 days. 

While you can use Booki to support very traditional book production processes, the feature set matches the rapid pace of publishing possible in the era of print on demand and electronic readers. Booki can output content immediately to multiple electronic formats. Print ready source (book formatted PDF) can be immediately generated, and then uploaded to your favorite Print on Demand (PoD) service, taken to a local printer, or delivered to a publisher.

1.2 Purpose
Booki embraces social and collaborative networked environments as the new production spaces for comprehensive (book) content. 
 
1.3 Scope
Booki is available online as a networked service (http://www.booki.cc) for free. This service is a production tool for the creation of free content and not a publishing/hosting service. Content produced within Booki.cc is intended to be published elsewhere, either under another domain, in paper form (ie. books), distributed in electronic formats, or re-used in other content. 

Booki can be installed by anyone wishing to utilise this software under their own domain or within private or local networks. 
 
 
2 OVERALL DESCRIPTION

2.1 Product Perspective
Booki takes what was learned from building the FLOSS Manuals tool set and posits these lessons within a more suitable architecture. 

Booki is the name of the collaborative production environment, however there are 2 associated softwares that provide all the services required :
Booki - production environment
Objavi - import and export engine
This document refers to Booki 1.5 and Objavi 2.2

2.2 Booki Functions
* User account creation requiring minimal information
* One click book creation
* Drag and drop Table of Contents creation
* One click editing of chapters
* Chapter level locks
* Live chat on a book and group level
* Live book status reports (editing, saving, chapter creation) delivered
to the chat window
* Drop down chapter status markers
* One click to join a group
* One click to add a book to a group
* One click exporting to epub, screen pdf, book formatted pdf, odt, html with default templates
* Easily accessible advanced styling options for export (CSS controlled)
* User profile control (status, image, bio)
* One click group creation
* Easy importing of book content from Archive.org, Mediawiki, other Booki installations
* Option to upload content to Archive.org
 

2.3 User Characteristics
2.3.1 Contributor
The majority of users will be contributors to an existing project. They may contribute to one or more project and may produce text and/or images, provide feedback or encouragement, proof, spell check, or edit content. These are the primary users and the tool set should first meet their needs.

2.3.2 Maintainer
These are advanced users that create their own books or have been elevated to maintainer status for a book by group admins. Maintainers have associated administrative tools for the books they maintain which are not available to other users.

2.3.3 Group admin
These are advanced users that wish to establish and administrate their own group. They have maintenance tools for every book in their group plus additional group admin tools.

2.4 Operating Environment
Booki is designed primarily for standards-based Open Source browser comparability but is tested against other browsers. 
 
2.5 General Constraints
* Booki and Objavi are Python-based.
* Booki is built with the (bare) Django framework.
* Booki uses Jquery for dynamic user interface elements. 
* Booki uses Postgres as the database but sqlite3 can also be used
* Redis is used by Booki for persistent data storage to mediate dynamic data delivery to the user interface
* Objavi utilises Webkit for PDF generation. Later Gecko will be added. 
* Rendering of .odt by Objavi requires OpenOffice to be installed with unoconv. 
* The Booki Web/IRC gateway may eventually (and optionally) require a dedicated standalone IRC service hosted on domain. 
* Content editing in Booki is done by default with the Xinha WYSIWYG editor
* XHTML is the file format for content. 
* Content will be ultimately be stored in GIT. 
* Localisation in Booki is managed with Portable Object files (.po).
* The code repository for both projects is GIT with a dedicated Trac for bug reporting and milestone tracking :
http://booki-dev.flossmanuals.net 
* A Dev mailing list is maintained here:
http://lists.flossmanuals.net/listinfo.cgi/booki-dev-flossmanuals.net 
* Developers can be reached in IRC (freenode, #flossmanuals)
* Each release will be as source. Beta and later releases will also be available as Debian .deb packages. 
* User and API Documentation will be maintained in the FLOSS Manuals
Booki Group. 
* For development we use Apache2 for http delivery
* The license is GPL2+ for all softwares

2.5 User Documentation
Maintained here : http://www.booki.cc/booki-user-guide/


3 SYSTEM FEATURES

3.1 Booki Features

3.1.1 Booki-zip (Internal File Format)
Status: High Priority, Implemented
Function: A Booki-specific file structure for describing books 
Interface: Used for internal data exchange between Booki and Objavi. 
Notes: booki-zip definition maintained here :
http://booki-dev.flossmanuals.net/git?p=objavi2.git;a=blob_plain;f=htdocs/booki-zip-standard.txt

3.1.2 Account Creation
Status: High Priority, Partially Implemented
Function: Quick access to a registration form from the front page for account creation 
Interface: Requires only username, password, email and real name (required for attribution). Email is sent to the user with autogenerated link for verification
Notes: email confirmation mechanism missing

3.1.3 Sign in
Status: High Priority, Implemented
Function: Quick access to a sign-in form from the front page 
Interface: Username and Password form and submit button. Username and
pass remembered. 

3.1.4 Profile Control
Status: Medium Priority, Implemented
Function: When logged in the user can access a profile settings page to set personal details (email, name, bio, image). Personal details can be browsed by other users
Interface: "My Settings" link in user-specific menu on left gives access to a form for changing the details.

3.1.5 Book Creation
Status: High Priority, Implemented
Function: Users can create a book from their homepage ("My Profile").
Interface: User can click on "My Profile" link from the user-specific menu on the left. On the Profile page a text field for the name of the book, and a license drop down menu (license *must* be set) is presented.
Clicking on "Create" adds the empty book with edit button to the listing of the users books on the same page.

3.1.6 Archive.org Book Import
Status: Medium Priority, Implemented
Function: Users can import books from Archive.org
Interface: "My Books" link in the user-specific menu on the left presents the user with a field for inputting the ID of any book from
Archive.org. The book is then imported when the user clicks "Import".
Notes : Interface is through Booki but Objavi does the importing and returns Booki zip to Booki. Relies on Archive.org successfully delivering epub for each book but this is not always happening. Needs error catching and user friendly progress/error messages.

3.1.7 Wikibooks Book Import
Status: Medium Priority, Implemented
Function: Users can import books from Wikibooks
(http://en.wikibooks.org)
Interface: "My Books" link in the user-specific menu on the left presents the user with a field for inputting the URL of any book from Wikibooks. The book is then imported when the user clicks "Import".
Notes : Interface is through Booki but Objavi does the importing and returns Booki zip to Booki. Needs thorough testing as it is sometimes failing possibly due to time-outs. Needs error catching and user friendly progress/error messages. Should be extended to be a "mediawiki import" tool, not just for Wikibooks.

3.1.8 Epub Book Import
Status: Medium Priority, Implemented
Function: Users can import any epub available online
Interface: "My Books" link in the user-specific menu on the left presents the user with a field for inputting the URL of any epub. The book is then imported when the user clicks "Import".
Notes : Interface is through Booki but Objavi does the importing and returns Booki zip to Booki. Needs thorough testing as it is sometimes failing possibly due to time-outs. Needs error catching and user friendly progress/error messages.

3.1.9 Group Creation
Status: High Priority, Implemented
Function: Users can create groups. 
Interface: "My Groups" link in the user-specific menu on the left presents user with 2 text fields - group name, and description. When a name for a group is entered and "Create" is clicked then the group is created.
Notes: Group admin features missing.

3.1.10 Joining Groups
Status: High Priority, Implemented
Function: Users can join groups with one click.
Interface: "Groups" link in the general menu on the left presents a list of all Groups, by clicking on link the user is transported to the homepage for that group. At the bottom of the page the user can click "Join this group" and they are subscribed.

3.1.11 Adding Books to Groups
Status: High Priority, Implemented
Function: Users can add their own books to groups they belong to.
Interface: While on a Group page that the user is subscribed to the user can add their own books to the group. 
Notes: When Group Admin features are in place we will change this so that Group Admins set who can and cannot add books to groups. At present a book can only belong to one group.

3.1.12 Readable Book Display
Status: High Priority, Implemented
Function: Users can read stable content in Booki without the need to log-in.
Interface: Upon clicking on the "Books" link in the general menu on the left a page listing all books is presented. Clicking on any of these presents a basic readable version of the stable content. Alternatively users can link to a book on the url http://[booki install domain]/[book name]

3.1.13 Edit Page
Status: High Priority, Implemented
Function: Page for editing content.
Interface: The edit page is accessed by clicking on "edit" next to the name of a book in "My Books" or "Books" (all books) listings. The user is then presented with a page with tabs for : editing, notes, exporting, history

3.1.14 Edit Tab
Status: High Priority, Implemented
Function: Edit interface for chapters.
Interface: Clicking ?edit? on a chapter title will open the Xinha WYSIWYG editor with the content in place. 

3.1.15 Notes Tab
Status: High Priority, Implemented
Function: A place for contributors to keep notes on the development of the book
Interface: User clicks on the Notes tab for a book and is presented with a shared notepad for recording issues or discussing the development.
Notes : Implemented but future direction TBD 

3.1.16 History Tab
Status: High Priority, Implemented
Function: Shows edit history of the book
Interface: User clicks on the history tab and can see the edit history with edit notes. 
Notes: Implemented but unreadable. Users should also be able to access diffs here.

3.1.17 Export Tab
Status: High Priority, Implemented
Function: Export content to various formats
Interface: User clicks on the Export tab and is presented with a form for choosing export options. Clicking "Export" returns the desired output for download. 

3.1.18 Version Tab
Status: High priority, Not Implemented
Function: can easily freeze content at stable stages while work continues on the unstable version.
Interface: From the Edit Page a maintainer sees an extra tab "Version".
>From here a maintainer can click "create stable version" - the last stable version is archived recorded and the current version becomes the new stable version. 

3.1.19 Subscribe to edit notifications
Status: High Priority, Not Implemented
Function: Users can subscribe to edit notifications
Interface: User clicks "Subscribe to edit notifications" from the Edit Page for a book. If there are edits made a synopsis is emailed with basic edit information (time, chapter, person who made the change, version numbers) and a link to the diff.

3.1.20 Chat
Status: High priority, Implemented
Function: A real time chat (web / IRC gateway).
Interface: Persistent on the edit page for any book. 

3.1.21 Localisation
Status: High priority, Not Implemented
Function: Booki needs to be available in any language where it is needed. Hence we may integrate the Pootle code base into Booki to enable localisation of the environment.
Interface: TBD

3.1.22 Translation
Status: High priority, Not Implemented
Function: Content can be forked and marked for translation. A
translation version of a book will provide link backs to the original
material, be placed in a translation work flow, and edited in a
side-by-side view where the translator can also see the original
source. 
Interface: TBD 

3.1.23 Copyright Tracking (Attribution)
Status: High Priority, Implemented 
Function: Any user contributions are recorded and attributed.
Interface: All attributions are automated in Booki. Book level attribution is output in any chapter that contains the string "##AUTHORS##"
Note: should be a syntax for producing Attribution notes on a per-chapter basis eg. "##CHAPTER-AUTHORS##"
 

3.2 Objavi Features

3.2.1 Book-Formatted PDF Output
Status: High Priority, Implemented
Function: the server side creation of Book Formatted PDF is a pivotal feature. This is managed by Objavi which runs as a separate service. The book formatted PDF supports Unicode, bi-directional text, and reverse binding for printing right-to-left texts on a left-to-right press and vice versa. The formatting engine outputs customisable sizes including split column PDF suitable for printing on large scale newsprint.
Interface: This feature is managed by Objavi, an API is functional and feature rich but not well documented at present. Objavi also presents a web interface for those wanting more nuanced control (see http://objavi.flossmanuals.net/).

3.2.2 CSS Book Design
Status: High Priority, Implemented
Function: The default PDF rendering engine for Booki is now Webkit and will eventually be Mozilla Firefox hence there is full CSS support for creating book-formatted PDF in Booki. This changes the language of design from Indesign to CSS - which means any web native can control the design of the book. 

3.2.3 Export Formats
Status: High Priority, Implemented 
Function: Users also can export to self contained templated (tar.gz) HTML, to .odt (OpenOffice rich text format), epub, and screen readable PDF. Other XML output options can be developed as required. 


I guess I can never claim to not having project management experience again. Darn it.

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