Gna: Hello, Can you give a two line description of your project your
grandma(s) could understand?
Nicolas: The Livret du Libre (Libre's booklet) is a document of about
twenty pages presenting the Libre movement, Libre Software and various
related topics. In fact, it's specifically intended to be understandable
by people with few or no knowledge in computer science. Perfect for my
G: Who are you? How many developers contribute regularly?
How is leaded the project?
What is the profile of the main developers?
Lucas: There are mainly three people working on the project, without any
particular hierarchy. Personally, I'm a student in an engineering school
(ENSIMAG) and Research Master.
Thomas: In my case, I recently graduated in computer science from a french
engineering school, the UTBM.
Nicolas: I also recently graduated in computer science from the UTBM.
G: When and why was started the project?
Thomas: The project started inside Lolut, the Libre Software users
association of the UTBM, an engineering school of Belfort, in the East of
France. More specifically, it's for Libre en Fete that, in March 2003,
Christophe Bliard had the idea to write the Livret du Libre. Libre en Fete
is an event that takes place each year in France, during which many free
software promoting events are organized everywhere in France. In March
2003, Lolut was present in an Internet cultural center near Belfort.
Christophe and I have often noticed in the past that presenting Libre
Software completely to each visitor of an install-party or a promotion
event is difficult. For the public, there is a lot of information to take
in, most of which is difficult to understand and remember. We thought that
a short booklet that would sum up this information and give many links to
know more about Libre Software could be a great idea. The goals were clear
: a short document, written for non-technical people, covering most of the
basic questions concerning Free Software and the Libre movement, with many
links. The first version of the so-called Livret du Libre has been written
and printed in under 5 days by Christophe Bliard, Jean-Christophe Haessig
and myself. At that time, we thought that we would use the Livret only for
this event. Later, we found that it might be interesting to others, so we
Nicolas and Lucas both joined the project for its second version, mainly
as correctors. Then, they got involved more deeply in the project,
particularly for this third version.
G: And what audience are you targeting exactly? Geek, Grandma?
Lucas: Both ! The Livret really has the goal to be accessible to everyone.
Geeks that aren't aware of everything about the Libre movement will learn
things by reading it, and your grandma should be able to read it without
too much trouble. Mine did so for the first edition ! Accessibility is
really a topic on which we're trying to improve the Livret. However, this
is a difficult task, as all authors are technical in background, and it's
hard to see what is trivial for "normal" people and what is not, and how
to explain things simply. Moreover, when we simplify the information,
specialists from the concerned domain come and say that we're wrong. We
need to make compromises, which are sometimes difficult to find.
G: What features are you missing/planning?
Thomas: We are can hardly talk about features for a document ;-) We are
quite happy of this third edition. More specifically, this version adds a
chapter concerning business models related to Free Software, which was a
frequent request of readers.
For the next editions, we would like to reorganize the document more
logically. The structure hasn't changed much since the first version, and
it's now becoming necessary to change it. An other interesting idea would
be to find a graphic artist that would help in realizing a nice,
illustrated, version of the Livret.
Above all, we would like to keep it short and simple. Not only does it
reduces printing costs, but also eases reading. It's not possible to cover
G: Your project is only available in French. Have you ever considered
Nicolas: Currently, we aren't considering an english translation : we do
not have a sufficient mastery of the language to translate a document like
the Livret. Indeed, the translation has to be of excellent quality to be
really useful. Only a bilingual could do this work : the Livret is not a
simple technical document such as a HowTo.
However, Thomas and myself are thinking of translating the Livret into
Esperanto, the International Language. Indeed, many Esperantists do not
know Libre Software, whereas the esperantist movement and the Libre
Software movement have a lot in common. Where Libre Software promotes an
use without discriminations and with complete freedom of software,
Esperanto promotes communication withoud discrimination, by allowing any
person to express him or herself very easily and in a very rich manner,
after an astonishingly short learning period. I think that both movements
have much to learn each other.
G: Which license did you choose and why?
Nicolas: It is a topic that generated many e-mails on the mailing list!
For the first and second edition, a very simple license had been chosen :
in a few words, it allowed redistribution of modified and unmodified
copies of the document, as long as the copy's license retains modification
and distribution freedom. At that time, the Livret was hosted at
Tuxfamily, that shut down after being cracked. So we looked for another
host. The choices were Gna!, Sourceforge, Berlios or Savannah. The last
one had been cracked a little while before; Berlios has a bad reputation
in terms of stability; and we were not confident with Sourceforge
Thomas asked for a project hosting. But Gna! didn't accept our license,
doubting its legal value. After many discussions on the mailing list, the
CC-BY-SA was choosen. So, we proposed this licence to Gna! for the Livret.
This choice was not accepted by Gna!, because this licence is compatible
neither with the GPL, nor with the GFDL. This refuse was bothersome, and
we seriously looked for another host. Because we found nothing, we finally
adopted a dual licensing model, CC-BY-SA and GFDL. The CC-BY-SA was kept
for the printed versions, because it is not possible on a 20 page booklet
to include the full text of the GFDL! The world of Libre licenses for
documentation and documents in general is still fuzzy, with licenses that
are considered free for some but not for others, like the GFDL...
G: Do you have any industrial or institutional support? If any, how so?
Lucas: We do not really need industrial or institutional support. However,
the Conseil General du Territoire de Belfort and the UTBM have financed
part of the printing of Livret du Libre, for the Libre en Fete (100
copies), and Solutions Linux 2004 (Linux Software Meeting Paris, 500
copies) respectivly. Moreover, I have heard that the Livret have been
distributed during seminaries about Libre Software in big french
G: Are you looking for contributions? If so, what kind of
contributions could be of use to the project?
Lucas: It's difficult to integrate a project such as the Livret : we try
to maintain coherence in the writing style, and reaching an agreement with
3 authors on how to express an idea is sometimes difficult. We sometimes
exchange many e-mails to discuss about a single paragraph. Those
difficulties explains why we aren't especially looking for new
contributors. However, if the project interests you, the first step it to
read the Livret a couple of times, and maybe send well-explained patches.
Moreover, we would like to receive contributions of graphic artists to put
together a nicer version of the Livret, and also translators for
translations into other languages. Correctors are the most important
contributors. For this third version, we asked around 20 correctors to
read the Livret when we considered it to be ready. They sent us many
remarks (around 200), which have been difficult to process, but which
allowed to impove the final quality of the Livret.
G: What tools do you use when working on the Livret? Why?
Thomas: LaTeX, GNU Make, CVS, dictonnaries, PostsScript manipulation
tools. Nothing very original, only fairly common tools. Anyway, the use of
LaTeX is very convenient : the source is in a plain text format, which
works well with revision tracking in CVS, and also means we can exchange
readable patches through the mailing list. This would probably be harder
with an OpenOffice.org document, for example. We regularly work on IRC, or
when we can not work simultaneously, we use the maliling list. Finally, to
centralise and process the remarks of the readers, we use a Wiki.
G: Why did you choose Gna! as host? What Gna! tools do you use? Which
features do you like most? Which features miss you most?
Lucas: As said before, we were on TuxFamily until it shut down and, at
that time, there weren't many alternatives! We are satisfied of Gna!, and
i don't see what other features we could need. Oh yes, i'm actually
writing the reply to this question on a Wiki. It would be nice to be able
to make dynamic web site with PHP/MySQL?, or to have an integrated wiki.
G: What is the question we didn't asked you would like to answer?
(and the answer is...)
Thomas: Yes, there is no question about the difficulty of writing such a
Writing such a document is in my opinion very complex, sometimes moreso
than writing a piece of code. We have to find compromises between the
exactitude of the proposed information, its accessibility and the size of
the booklet, find compromises between the different authors who obviously
don't have the same vision and ideas, thinking about the best way to
express an idea, without hurting the reader's feelings, etc. So, we
sometimes debate for hours, exchanging e-mails about a single sentence or
paragraph. Finally, thoses few pages of text represents hours of work, but
the result is pleasant.
G: Thanks for taking time to share your experience with us.
Thomas, Nicolas et Lucas: Thanks to Gna, to the contributors, readers and
to the past and future writers of the Livret du Libre ! Thanks also to
David Anderson who corrected the english translation of this interview.
Original Document: Gna!'s hotspot #5