The handbook started when GitLab was a company of just ten people to make sharing information efficient and easy. We knew that future GitLab team-members wouldn't be able to see emails about process changes that were being sent before they joined and that most of the people who would eventually join GitLab likely hadn't even heard of us yet. The handbook was our way of ensuring that all of our company information was accessible to everyone regardless of when they became part of the team.
At GitLab our handbook is extensive and keeping it relevant is an important part of everyone's job. It is a vital part of who we are and how we communicate. We established these processes because we saw these benefits:
One common concern newcomers to the handbook express is that the strict documentation makes the company more rigid. In fact, writing down our current process in the handbook has the effect of empowering contributors to propose change. As a result, this handbook is far from rigid. You only need to look at the handbook changelog to see the evidence.
It's easy to see that the handbook is large, but have you ever wondered just how large? If it were printed in 12-point, single-spaced Arial it would be well over three thousand pages long and that's not even counting the images. That's a lot of good info!
Page counts are determined through a simple two-step process:
find source/handbook -type f | xargs wc -wfrom the root directory of the repository.
We've gathered some information about the handbook here, but there's still more elsewhere.