Category Archives: AOS Website

Art Of Sequence website (http://artofsequence.org)

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.

160px-EPUB_logo.svg

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.

Folklife_Festival_Welsh_Blacksmith

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!

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.

aos_website_update

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!

 

Focus in 2013 (part 1): Communication

As explained in the previous post, communication about the project is, on all sides, a failure. Most people don’t understand the problem that is being fixed, the need nor the solution or how to participate to help. This really needs to be fixed as lack of participation on the development effort is the only bottleneck of the AOS projects. Here is what I plan to do in the coming weeks to fix this.

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The main information source on Art Of Sequence is this very website. In it’s current state, it have several problems:

  1. Text wallsTL;DR - any non-academic or already interested in the subject people will stop after a few lines of the text walls I put in each pages of this website.
  2. It don’t state clearly what is the problem being solved.
  3. It is not clear what exactly is the Art Of Sequence project. I mean, it does have some explanations about what it is but it is not clear enough how the AOS projects solve the unclear problem.
  4. The Web Player Demo isn’t clear enough what it is about, what is demonstrated.

That’s basically it.
The following is what I’m working on to fix all this.

New Website Front & Content

I started designing a new front page for the website that would be a simple static page that would look like a comics page. It would contain big sized texts with very short, succinct and concise explanations. Part of the page, in the biggest panel, there would be the AOS Web Player demo running, with a quick description of what the hell it is.
This front page should be done and public in the beginning of the year.

In the mean time I plan to radically rewrite each page describing AOS projects. The goal will be to make simpler explanations with more obvious examples of what it is about. I started writing and working these texts and I am confident it will be far better this way.

What is AOS

One of the first things I already changed in several places (including the project’s Twitter account description) is the quick summary of what AOS is.

Art Of Sequence is a set of “digital story-telling technologies”. No more, no less. This is a bit less precise than previous descriptions (which were different depending on where you look at…) but the specific technologies are different depending on what project you’re interested in, if you are an author or a programmer, if you are a reader or a digital comics enthusiast. Each project have a specific purpose, a problem to solve, but it’s only when all projects are put together that they shine.

I’m preparing a special intro to AOS that should be efficient enough to get the point of what are the problems and how each project solve a part of it.

Another important change in the way I will present the projects is what is AOSL. So far I often talk about AOSL as a “language”, but it’s actually a meta-format specification. It could be based on something else than XML, and it’s supposed to be used to create other more specific formats for specific platforms. So basically, I’m changing my discourse about AOSL this way: AOSL is an intermediate data format meant to allow different digital-storytelling tools and reader applications to work together. The AOSL page will be simplified and will clarify things by stating that not only it’s a potential standard for work files for different tools targeted at digital storytelling, for players and converters; it is also the base of future different file formats. More on that in the next article.

Clarifying the Demo

Originally, I planned to add clarification tooltips and other quick info in the AOS Web Player demo page, to make sure it’s clear what it was a demo about. Unfortunately I was short on time so I released the demo page as it is still today. Most people assumed it was an attempt at replacing Flash, which it is not. This is the hardest part to clarify as the demo don’t say what it’s showing exactly and most people will obviously say you can do the same in Flash. I know, that’s part of the point.

AOSWP demo is meant to show how the AOSL language works with a player implementation. This means even if I add clarifications in the AOSWP demo page, there will still be a need to explain better what AOSL is. The ideal demo would be to have both a Flash implementation and a JavaScript implementation of the same story in the same page. This way the reader would start to understand that the same story, defined using AOSL, can be converted to different platforms (HTML5, Flash, NACL, etc.) with almost no difference.

But writing a Flash implementation of a player, even if in my plans, isn’t a priority at the moment. I will not focus on this but I will make sure at least that the demo page is clarified.

Presentation (PowerPoint)

In the first half of this year I was working in Japan in a creative company which was interested in the kind of technologies AOS was, in particular as it is theoretically possible to build a digital manga editor business over these technologies. We couldn’t continue working together in the end, but when I was there I was allowed to take the time to setup a presentation about what AOS is. I have a copy here and with some modifications, I could publish it. I think it was a good intro on what is AOS.

However, I am a bit annoyed that it’s a PowerPoint. You see, the best way to present a technology that allow (or focus on) narration is to use this technology to make a presentation. Lacking an edition tool, as AOS Designer is far from being usable yet, I would have a very hard time today making the same presentation with only AOSL code. I hope to be able to do this in a few months -more on that in the next article- but clearly it’s not a possibility today. Is it tolerable to publish a PowerPoint for now? I have some doubt but I think publishing something OK today have more value than publishing something perfect in 6 months.

To Be Continued…

In the next article, I will present the development, purely technical points on which I need to focus my efforts on to both make the project going forward and attract contributors to help on the project.

If you have suggestions of improvements on the communication of AOS projects, or any other feedback, please comment here!

AOS Web Player v0.1 – Online Demo

Take a look: http://demo.artofsequence.org/
(use arrows or space key after having clicked in the image if you want to use the keyboard).

This is the public demo of the Art Of Sequence Web Player (AOSWP) implementation, version 0.1. It’s fully implemented in JavaScript and can read the basics of AOSL (the xml-based language on which every AOS tools relies on) in it’s version 1.0-draft-3.

As always, the source code can be found at http://dev.artofsequence.org but please read the following before trying to use it.

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