Ogg Theora Book Sprint

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What's the best way to spend a summer week in Berlin? Writing a manual about Ogg Theora of least that was the opinion of 6 dedicated souls brought together by FLOSS Manuals with the help of Google's Open Source Team.

The event is another in the growing body of FLOSS Manuals Book Sprints, kicked off by our first meeting to write a manual for Inkscape. The aim of these sprints is to write a book in 5 days. Actually, we have done it it in shorter time – in February of this year we wrote a 260 page manual introducing newbies to the Command Line in 2 days. Though created quickly, these books are extremely well written texts: comprehensive, readable, and complete.

For a long time we have been wanting to add to the available material on how to use Ogg Theora – the premier free video codec. Waiting until now to do it turned out to be very fortuitous as Firefox 3.5 was released just weeks before and hence Theora has been given a very recent boost with native support via the HTML5 video tag. As it happens a lot of the technologies supporting Theora have come to recent maturity. Only a few months ago it was hard to find a simple GUI editor for Theora video but now PiTiVi can manage simple editing very easily and smoothly and the development track looks very good. Theora also has great subtitling support, either through embedded subtitles or using an extension to JQuery javascript libraries. Streaming is looking good also with the fantastic Theora Streaming Studio and you can get grubby on the command line with a whole host of mature tools for manipulating and analyzing Theora files. There is more of course, much more, but the point being that we were very happy to have the opportunity to gather some Theora junkies in one spot for a week and write a book on all the cool stuff you can do with Theora video.

A 220 page manual in 5 days - not bad. And it's all free, libre and gratis. Some of the material is also now being translated by the FLOSS Manuals Finnish community, and we hope more translations will follow.

Present at the sprint was myself (Adam Hyde, founder of FLOSS Manuals), Jan Gerber (ffmpeg2theora developer), Jörn Seger (Ogg Tools developer), Holmes Wilson (FSF Campaigns manager) and Theora geeks Susanne Lang and David Kühling. A few popped in remotely to help out, for which we are always grateful – notably Silvia Pfeiffer and Ogg K.

In the end we have free documentation that you can read online, download as a PDF, or log in and improve. It's also available in dead tree format for those who'd like it on their shelf.

Many thanks to Google for supporting this, and also to the Berlin Sommercamp for inviting us to include this sprint as part of their event.