Open-source options

I started this week by writing about web standards and the internet as the ultimate CMS. Since then, I’ve been reading some interesting posts about authoring tools that take advantage of web standards.

Earlier this month, David Rothman, who founded Teleread and advocates strongly for a national DPLA, wrote a post calling for a good blog editor/creation tool. Among other things, Rothman feels that a good tool should be:

  • Accessible to people with widely different skill levels
  • Able to include images, video and audio
  • Capable of format conversions, including print
  • Multilingual and localizable

The same day, Nieman Journalism Labs published a report by Justin Ellis that described how 29th Street Publishing is working to make app generation simpler and cost-effective for smaller publishers. In it, Ellis invokes Marco Arment talking about how The Magazine works:

“Instead of the traditional labor-intensive magazine layout and expensive multimedia production, The Magazine’s article format is similar to Instapaper’s: one clean, adjustable, reader-friendly template with HTML, occasional images, and some small conveniences. It loads quickly, integrates well with sharing and system conventions (including text selection and VoiceOver), occupies minimal storage space, and shows the utmost respect for your time and attention.”

Another HTML-friendly option is PressBooks, the tool used to write, edit and publish Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto. Last week, Hugh McGuire confirmed plans to make the tool available early in 2013 under an open-source license. This means that development and customization of PressBooks could soon accelerate.

In a comment on David Rothman’s post, I acknowledged that solutions like PressBooks don’t yet meet all of his requirements. But, as I'm fond of telling clients, tools don't get better by not using them.

I think we owe it to innovators like Hugh to test these tools and support their work. Otherwise, the only solutions out there will look and feel like the proprietary ones we’ve learned to barely tolerate.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.