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First Day of Libre Graphics

The first day of LibreGraphics was good. I met a lot of people, had a lot of good conversations, and enjoyed the presentations. It was a long day (better than 12 hours) before my feet finally gave out and I walked back to the hotel. Now I want to capture some of my impressions.

There is an interesting mix of people here: developers, users, artists, documentation authors, technologists, and organizers. There is a strong francophone contingent and between a third and a half of the presentations are in French. But most people understand English. It's kind of like "foreign-lite".

I've gotten a lot of advice from people on poster printing. One guy has volunteered to come by UMass Amherst sometime and give us a workshop on using Scribus. A few people said to use Inkscape -- that was my first instinct too, but it can't place Poscript, PDF, or EPS files (which Scribus can). Still, Inkscape can do a bunch of cool stuff that people are going to geek out over when I get back.

The presentations have provided an interesting window into the development communities of the different projects. I've attended mainly Inkscape and Scribus presentations -- they've been the most numerous. There was one GIMP presentation that I wanted to see, but I couldn't find it. There are a lot of beautiful and interesting materials given to participants, but there weren't signs or a schedule posted anywhere, so you have to wander around to try to figure out where stuff it.

The first presentation was about digital archives by Alain Boucher. It was in French, but the slides were in English. I couldn't understand anything he said, but the slides weren't very interesting -- lots of words. But he was talking about the idea of creating digital artifacts that needed to be recreated as the technology changed. That remided me of when I was in Phoenix. The gist of the story is that there was a native American ruin that had been excavated that was getting damaged by the elements, so they built a metal roof over it in the 1930s. Sometime later, a law was passed that structures older than 50 years needed to be preserved as historical artifacts -- but in the 80s, when they wanted to tear down and replace the metal roof, they found that it was now a historical artifact and had to be preserved. It would be interesting to me if everytime you digitized a document you doubled the number of "artifacts" you now had to manage.

The next presentation was by Louis Suarez-Potts who spoke about the Open Document Format. He gave a rather philosophical talk about proprietary formats leading to a form of "neofeudalism" where the people give up their control over their information by using proprietary standards. I wish I could get people at UMass to care about these issues -- I've been trying to convince them of that for years. I learned it in spades when I was coding in Supercard and, at one point, it looked like all my work would suddenly just not be usable anymore.

I attended several presentations on Inkscape and Scribus by developers and organizers. The roadmaps for both look very promising -- and there are a bunch of things available now (or very, very soon) that look really useful. More tomorrow.