Author Archives: Klaim

Digital Comics Hackaton In Paris And Other News

It have already been almost 1 full year (!!!) since my last progress report and there have been some AOS-related events recently so it’s time to post some news.

Digital Comics Hackaton in Paris

Hackathon

On the weekend between the 6th and 8th of July 2014, in the “Labo de L’édition” (litterally:  the “Publishing Laboratory” which is an incubator helping startup innovating in (digital) publishing tools and platforms) which is in Paris France, was organised a hackaton about digital comics.

The participants spent the weekend hacking some animation tools, web development tools and/or ePub related tools to make short digital comics. One of the goal of the organisers (including Actualina which is a startup focused on digital comics publishing and technologies and recently released Sequencity in France) was to observe the results and issues encountered by the teams as they were trying to hack something interesting using no tools that actually suit the range of possible narrative formats on digital platforms.

The exercise was interesting, the results impressives and people were very fun to chat with.

I was there as a “mentor” because apparently I am one of the few knowledgeable about  born-digital narratives, at least on the technical and fundamental theory sides. I thank again the organisation people, “Labo De L’Edition” and “Actualina”, to have invited me, it was a very interesting event and I met a lot of interesting people.

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There was one particular and important thing that was very motivating through the weekend: almost all issues that participants discovered while hacking ePub or other tools (like Hype or Flash) to make them do something close to what they want; most of these problems were natively fixed by the fundamental structure of AOSL, either 1.0 or 2.0 depending on the problem. I even demonstrated successfully to some people why it works and how, spreading my knowledge of what I think is the right way to make tools for digital narratives.

In any way, I managed to have tons of confirmation that I was on the right track both
on the theoretical and practical side. The only thing missing is basically resources (time, money, etc.) Of course in the last few years I have searched for a long-term solution to solve that resource problem but nothing is easy to this day.

I hope that explaining in depth the fundamental theory behind my approach for AOS as a whole did at least helped some developers want to steal my ideas to put them in potential
tools projects (because, as Balak recently said in a conference, what we desperately need is tools).
I hope, but not too much, that some of them will be interested in participating to AOS but the current state of the code is difficult to start with so it’s not an ideal time right now (but it’s still possible).

Which gets me to:

Some news about AOS development

Since last year a lot happened in my life, which prevented me to progress steadily on AOS.
As always, having a project which is technically at least 4 projects in a production chain
(edition tool <=> universal format <=> exporter(s) => player(s)) but being the sole developer on these projects don’t help the while to grow fast.
However, for the last 6 months, lack of technical progress have been worse than previously
and I only managed to work on a few issues.

I still managed to prepare some ideas that will help me accelerate the development drastically (I hope). One thing I want to do is work on some interactive UI prototypes to solve some potential issues I was having with the UI of AOS Designer, but that will need close participation with some artists, which is hard right now because of my situation, but should be soon solved.

I always really wanted to put something in the hands of artists/authors as soon as possible
to start a dialog to drive the design of the tool, but it’s really hard to reach the initial point
where a very simple AOSL sequence can be edited. Any tool before this point would, in my
opinion, not be of any interest to anyone (me included). I hope to accelerate development to reach this point as soon as possible but I have no guarantee of when I can work on AOS these days, so I can’t promise anything at all.

I should be able to post, some time this summer, some news related to what I plan to do in the coming months, for accelerating drastically AOS development.

Work on AOSL Specification

While I was in the hackaton I did have some free time so I profited from the studious atmosphere and space and I managed to continue the work on the AOSL 1.0 specification document. Without this document, it is very very hard to understand AOSL for a developer (apparently :D ) so I focus most of my spare time allocated on AOS to writing it.

It will also be a starting point for AOSL 2.0 implementation which will be much needed to
finish the edition tool (“AOS Designer” which will be renamed soon).

Website issues and forum offline

Recently I had to cut off my dedicated server and will migrate it’s content to a new one
as soon as possible but I’m not sure when I will have the time to do it (I am in the middle of a business trip in Paris).

The website and the forum were offline but I managed to extract the data from the backup
yesterday to put it on a temporary web hosting account owned by my friends from niseija.com (thank you!). The web hosting account can’t manage Discourse (the forum application, see http://discourse.org ) so I cannot set it up right now but will do as soon as I setup the new server.

 

Next news should be good news, so see you soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Progress Report 2013/07/20

A quick progress-report before diving back in code!
As always, keep in mind that I’m looking for participation in the developments of AOS projects, in particular AOS Designer.

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Work In Progress: AOS Designer

Here is a quote from this week-end article about working on AOS Designer:

As it was planned I worked a bit more than a month, full-time, making the fundamental changes needed to make the code base both easier to work with and more useful. Unfortunately, in the limited time I allocated to work on this full-time, I managed to achieve only around 60-70% of the changes I wanted to make. In the first week of July I had to switch back to ‘spare-time development’ which just mean the development speed that was the norm before.

Still, it’s a major improvement. Having achieved so much makes a first release closer than before. I’m not sure yet if the first release can be published before next year -which is the current objective-, but I believe it is possible and more probable than before. [...]

The series of article “Rebuilding AOS Designer” will give more details about the kind of work needed to build AOS Designer until the first release.

New Forum

The new forum is ready and usable: http://forum.artofsequence.org

We have some custom icons, thanks to Lauris Stephani. But more importantly, it’s stable, well designed and efficient (even if it’s still in beta!).

I took the time to install it first to have a place to post information that, ideally, should be openly discussed; but also to allow anyone to ask questions for clarification or questioning some points. I also expect in a few months more people to try some released work and the forum will be the place where you post your feedback. The forum will also host technical discussions that were previously done on the Google Group mailing list.

In any way, feel free to use the forum as you see appropriate.

Work In Progress: AOSL 2.0

Work on AOSL 2.0, the improved version of our universal format, officially began few weeks ago. I had some strong thinking and research on the subject for a year now so it’s more like I began to write it somewhere officially.

The goals are :

  1. to fix some issues from v1.0 ;
  2. to add some missing possibilities that were pointed by digital publishing companies I am discussing with;
  3. have some real documentation of how the format works;
  4. maybe (it’s not certain yet) adding some more experimental features that should unlock some possibilities that computer offer us, while keeping the format simple;

I started a discussion on the forum about the specific features. Feel free to post there to ask questions or point potential problems!
You can follow the documents and code changes on the AOSL GitHub repository, in the ‘feature/AOSL-2.0′ branch. Actually you can see in the history that I already did some fixes.

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That’s all for now, stay tuned!

Rebuilding AOS Designer – Part 1

This series of article will dive into some technical thinking, concepts, issues and solutions  to understand the kind of work involved in the development of AOS Designer. This first article also gives some information on the current work going on and what to expect in the coming months.

As explained in the last progress report, there is a big work going on to re-architecture and re-design a little how AOS Designer works (or will work) and how it will look. I designed AOS Designer with strong constrains in mind which are necessary to solve the problems at hand but makes features slower to develop (by one person). Additionally, because of technical issues I under-evaluated in the previous years, I had to take the time to fix them before being able to accelerate the development of this tool and get faster to a first release.

AOS-Designer-Module-Usage

 

Continue reading

Progress Report 2013-05-20

As some might have noticed on the development mailing list, I spent some weeks in February working on AOS projects, got back to my normal work, then really switched almost full-time on AOS around mid-April. Since then I’ve been working on hard problems in the project. I also took the time to meet a lot of people interested in AOS and wanting to help. Here is a quick tour of what is going on right now and what I’ve done in the last few months.

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Conferences and meetings in Paris

I spent some weeks in Paris both to attend conferences about programming and to meet some people interested in Art Of Sequence. The conferences were very interesting (and highly technical) but aren’t directly related to AOS. There I met a lot of programmers with which I discussed about this project. Exchanges with other programmers are always helpful! It was highly motivating for several reasons, one of them being that they quickly get interested in the idea (even if none of them have time to participate, unfortunately) and point to additional related information I might want to check to help the project. Another reason is that it is helpful to get some positive feedback about the project.

The other people I met several times, outside conferences, are related to companies in the the digital publishing domain, which is a very very new domain here in France- promising but full of traps. I exposed the philosophy and design of Art Of Sequence projects to their software development teams, which helped me validate my understanding by explaining and helped them understand the specifics of AOS. These people wants to help because they have some related projects and the slow pace of the development isn’t the best thing for them. Obviously, anyone can develop their own tools starting with what I have done so far (as the whole code is open and available on github), but the current state of the projects aren’t perfect yet to build over them; which is why I decided to spend more time this month on AOS. Discussions drove me to the same conclusions I had in the end of last year: AOS Designer needs a first release this year and AOSL needs to be upgraded to complete features needed for current digital story uses.

AOS Designer’s Architecture Rewrite

AOS Designer has always been the most wanted sub-project of Art Of Sequence. A lot of artists and publishing companies are waiting for such a tool, sometime with curisoty, sometime with strong envy, and surprisingly almost never with doubts. It’s also the main project missing to complete the production pipeline: create story -> publishable format -> play in a reader. But it’s a project that need to rely on AOSL to be stable and have at least a reader that can interpret basics of AOSL (like http://demo.artofsequence.org ) which is why it took so long for me to get back to AOS Designer.

There is no release yet of AOSD, but it’s a priority this year to get there ASAP. Until then, not only artists can’t help the project by providing feedback on it, neither developers who wants to help on this specific tool development. Indeed it is hard to help on a project you can’t play with first to get an understanding of what the fuss is about. This is a vicious circle I’ve been depressed about and I always knew, and have been confirmed several times, that the first release, even with only very basic features and even unstable, should unlock the situation.

Most of my recent efforts have been turned toward fixing some architectural problems in AOS Designer code, the authoring tool, which are currently blocking the development of this tool. I’m working on making the code easier to work with  because it was a bit of a mess on the architecture side, mainly because few years ago when I began working on it I rushed some parts when I was under pressure to release something ASAP. Anyway, my main goal for the weeks coming is to both fix the architecture and setup tools to accelerate it’s development. One big change of the architecture will also allow other developers to build their own front-end implementation, either through some kind of native GUI like I’m doing right now, or maybe a web application? I hope it will allow some people to play with the concept.

I will get into more technical details about my current work on AOS Designer in coming future developer-friendly articles. Part of them will explain why it have to be built in a specific way.

AOSL 2.0 and XAOSL

As you can see in the short online demo, AOSL 1.0 have been proven to do it’s work and to be readable by at least a javascript-based implementation of a reader (which is incomplete but provide features). But we need an upgrade to provide the missing part of the format.

I got only few feedback on the design of the format, so for a long time I wasn’t sure what is really missing and what should be cut. In the meetings in digital publishing companies I did recently, we compared one of their title, which is produced as an application instead of implementing a “player” to execute a kind of format – we compared it to features provided by AOSL 1.0 to drive the effort to a new AOSL version. It helped a lot identify what was necessary, urgent or what can be cut from AOSL 1.0.

With these data in mind, I’ve began to design a new version of the language which is not compatible with AOSL 1.0 which is why it will be 2.0 instead of 1.1. This new version should be a solid basis on which reader implementers will be able to work with. Not only that, it should also be a stable basis for the future versions of the format, if necessary.

However, this time I will not work alone on deciding if the format is valid enough. I will need people interested to give feedback on the format specification which I expect to publish as a draft next month. An even better contribution would be an attempt to implement that new version in some ways to give me feedback on problems related to the format’s design. I expect the digital publishing companies and interested people to give me that feedback because it is really in their interest to do it to help me stabilize the new version of the format and allow them to use it for real productions.

As AOSL is a “pivot-format”, as someone described it, it don’t alone solve the “create once, publish everywhere” problem. XAOSL, which is meant to solve this problem, will also have it’s draft which will be highly inspired by the ePub standard.

I should publish an article here once I manage to provide a first drafts, so stay tuned.

Considering a real Forum

Experience tell me it’s not necessary to setup a forum for a project if there is nothing to give feedback about. A forum have to be maintained both technically and on it’s content so it’s additional work. That’s why I didn’t want to have a forum for this project and just have a Google Group (which is basically a mailing list) for developers.

However, this have strong limitations for people who will give feedback on AOSL and AOSD along the year. I began to consider what kind of forum would help setup a community and that was about the time Discourse was published. Unfortunately I didn’t succeed in installing it the proper way on my development server, so just to check how it works I just used an install package that is currently running there: http://forum.artofsequence.org

EDIT: The temporary forum have been taken down, the real one will be installed soon.

It’s a temporary version of the future forum, the data will be deleted at the time I will install properly the real version (this version is killing the server’s performance but it’s not too much a problem for now). Again I’ll post here when the forum is ready and you will be able to discuss the projects in a more user-friendly way than through a mailing list.

The Future of AOS

Other subject discussed with digital publishing companies in Paris were about the future of this project (in particular AOSL which is the corner-stone of the solution). Since the beginning of this project I’m the only developer. Some people on the development mailing list have been wanting to help recently but were stuck by different problems that I’m fixing right now (other than pure communication difficulties). There are several changes to be made, a huge amount of work, but only one man in the team, which is a ever-lasting big problem for producing usable tools in a shorter time. Also, I mentioned in previous articles that AOS isn’t my main project (yet). I sacrificed several months of work on my “normal” project this year to work on AOS but there will be a limit to the time I can spend on it “full-time” without hurting my future very hard. I will certainly never stop working on this project, but I will have to slow down again development at the end of June.

Again, this don’t mean that the project will stop, far from that. I will just not be able to work on it like it was my dayjob, as I am doiong today. After the end of June I have to switch back to my main project as “full-time” job. The maintenance of the AOS project will go on but it will be harder to work on big changes, so I’m focusing right now on making development on these future features easier. What I want to avoid is to have to switch a lot between my projects, which is driving me totally crazy and a bit depressed. So I’m focusing mainly on AOS until mid-june, and will focus on my other project until the end of the year after that.

Hopefully, I will be able to develop enough to make the project easier to develop for newcomers. I will always be there to drive the project: if I can’t work on code, I can still apply push-requests provided by contributors. I’m open to suggestions of contributions too.

Another aspect of the future of AOS is building up it’s community. I’ve been discussing about possible events to setup in the future. Not sure if it will happen but some event ideas might really help make communicating this project to developers who are willing to help. It still requires that some more work is finished though, so I’m keeping working hard to allow this kind of future.

Back to coding (and maybe a bit of art too). Stay tuned!

 

Website Update: Clarification

In an effort for clarification about what is Art Of Sequence, all the content of this website have been rewritten and some parts have been added. Here is a summary of the improvements.

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Better, Shorter, To-The-Point Presentations

All the previous texts were too long to read and a bit confusing. I rewrote all of them from scratch with brevity and meaning in mind. They should be far easier to read and understand as they get more to the point. In didn’t detailed everything up-front so a lot of information have been moved into either technical documentation or new pages.

New Pages

These pages have been added to clarify some important information:

Feedback

I didn’t have time to ask people to review the new content so if you find errors or points to clarify, please tell me in the comments!

Now I’m switching back to more development-related works. Stay tuned!