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!