These are some notes from our workshop at Constant Variable in 8 Sept 2012.
Learn about the toolchain of Free/Libre Open Source Software tools available to produce a digital or printed publication. We will deal with software and systems that allow and facilitate collaborative design methodologies such as version control, IRC channels, wikis and mailing lists and see how these can be integrated in a publication and design workflow. In addition to highlighting specific tools, we will also discuss how editorial collaboration can be achieved at a distance.
We'll briefly introduce the participants to the F/LOSS design software 'suite.' The Libre Graphics magazine will serve as a case study to present and share. By the end of the session, participants will collaboratively produce a small, zine-style publication using F/LOSS tools.
1st exercise: the shortcomings of a loose workflow
The task is to lay out a part of Cory Doctorow's “Wildcard” text on an A5 page using Scribus. The point is to have no communication between participants, and so you will take on the challenge of how to place the text and how to illustrate the content through your layout. Illustration doesn't have to be literal: meaning can also be conveyed by the typefaces you use, text distortions, readability (or lack thereof), and other visual strategies.
The result of this exercise was a set of beautiful and radically different page layouts for the same text, created with no communication and no syncing. Some of the participants interpreted parts of the text into their designs, while others had already read the story and were able to find less subjective metaphors. Had we collated the results in a book, it would be much closer to a punk fanzine than a conventional book, each page with a different soul and message. We agreed that without serious considerations about what the production workflow actually is, there is no hope for consistency. It is crucial that editorial decisions, as well as design directions, be thoroughly defined before we start. We intended to go on a second round, but issues with our virtual machine configuration blocked us from printing the exercise results and going on with a second iteration. Instead, we laid out the participants' laptops side-by-side, analysing and discussing the design decisions that led to each final outcome. We then went on to a lengthy and deep discussion about how to manage workflows that involve not only practical decisions but also creative ones.
A few ideas that came out of this discussion on how to collaboratively create and design a publication. One of them was the rotating work workflow, in large lines it mean passing the work along the several people involved. Everyone gets their chance to contribute and the notion of authorship gets diluted in this process of passing the torch. Additionaly randomness should come into play when deciding the final stage of the work.
Resources and notes:
F/LOSS stands for Free/Libre and Open Source Software.
The text used in the workshop, Wildcard by Cory Doctorow was a text comissioned for the Open Internet Preservation Society and published under a CC BY-NC-SA license.
The F/LOSS applications:
Free/Libre Resources for type, photos, vectors:
Translation sprint, 11th of April of 2013 at Libre Graphics meeting 2013
Description: Since we started publishing the Libre Graphics magazine in 2010 and releasing all source material, we dreamed of a elegant and simple way to provide access to all text content in plain text format. These text files, with the magazine articles, are already available in our Git repository. Yet, this is not a practical solution and is not easy to use by everyone. We'll take the chance of having all the team together at LGM to publish all plain text documents at our website and host a translation sprint. We want to have the articles translated to as many languages as we can. Join us and help us getting the F/LOSS word to a wider audience!
Github repository, with all articles and translation in .txt