Wax 2 and Math

The forthcoming Wax 2 web based word processor (1.0 release shortly) can allow us to take advantage of some nice ProseMirror plugins including this wonderful addition for math:

https://github.com/benrbray/prosemirror-math

The interaction model is quite nice – typing $$ immediately drops you into block math mode and typing $ … $ assigns marks out inline math. Moving the cursor to a math block breaks out the syntax for editing. It works pretty nicely. The below image is from the projects repo (there are more images there, check it out!):

prosemirror-math_display

This is a very interesting model for math editing and something we can implement in Wax 2.

New Collection of Gov Docs for Open Source Projects

If you are thinking of starting a new open source software project and wanting to look at the what other orgs have done then a new resource has just been released:

https://fossgovernance.org/

The goal of the project is to provide a governance reference resource for all FOSS community members. We’re doing this by collecting and cataloging documents that are in some way related to the governance of FOSS projects.

These documents live in Zotero, not in this repository. Visit the document collection to start browsing and searching the collection.

Pagedjs Updates

The Pagedjs community is almost at 200. You can join the channel here if you wish to find out more about this very cool community – https://mattermost.pagedjs.org

There is a lot happening there. Just today one of the community members (Nicolast) announced a ‘reload to last place’ plugin which is very cool – https://gitlab.com/nicolastaf/pagedjs-reload-in-place/

Its large and small contribs like this by people actually using the tool that makes this project so awesome.

Screenshot from 2020-09-13 22-10-09

We are expecting a pagedjs 1.0 in the next weeks. I think its been about 3 years? or is it 2? I really don’t remember, but whatever the case this is a project that I’m sure proud of. It is part of the Cabbage Tree Labs project supported by the Shuttleworth Foundation. Essentially I used my last year of my Shuttleworth Fellow funds to keep the 3 labs projects going. All essential. We will run out of that $ one day, so if you are a wealthy philanthropist that can see and understand the good and essential work going on at the labs then give me a call!

Wax 2, the 1.0 release, also out by the end of the year. XSweet is also undergoing some super improvements in collaboration with the good folks at Amnet Systems. Recently we collaborated with them to build in capturing of inline formatting changes marked by MS Words track changes.

Anyways…keep an eye on Pagedjs. It is a phenomenal project – rebuilding typesetting engines from scratch which are open source, community driven, and standards compliant is no easy task.

Updated Stats from Hindawi Phenom

I just got the updated info for the Hindai Phenom platform. Phenom is a journal ecosystem built on top of PubSweet.

There are some odd thinking people out there that think ‘open source can’t scale’. It is an absurd notion given that most of the internet, on top of which the web is built, is open source.

Regardless, the Phenom platform Hindai built runs 228 journals. Which is about 100k submissions/year, a total library size of approx 500k articles and around 3 million users.

Not bad.

Below are some updated screenshots of the platform.

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Experimenting with Remote Facilitation

This morning I got up at 4am to prepare for my second ever remote Workflow Sprint. This time I was facilitating 15 super people, mostly academics, who are part of the Open Education Network (formerly the Open Textbook Network).

We are working on a project to design workflows and software to assist faculty to write structured textbooks. The main problem is that many open textbooks written by faculty have been done ‘in the wild’. Consequently there might be a lot of good content but it is poorly structured, and one things that good textbooks should be is well structured.

Today we had the second of two remote events working together to define a workflow, and then design software to support this new workflow.

A Workflow Sprint is a process I designed many years ago to help organisations/groups understand and optimise their workflow. I have used it mainly with publishers but it is generally applicable. Sometimes the Workflow Sprint includes the design of a high level architecture of a platform to support the optimised workflow.

I designed this process to work in realspace and it has only recently that I have reformulated the method for remote environments..

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First, perhaps it is good to define workflow. Often workflow is defined by technical folks as technical process that can be run many times in an automated fashion to perform specific tasks. However, this is not what I mean by the term. Workflow for me is what people do to achieve a task together. It is the pathways that people make when working together to achieve a (repeatable) outcome.

If we focus on what people do when defining workflow we can understand and notate processes in a number of steps.

A Workflow Sprint facilitates an organisation to understand their current workflow in these terms, and co-design a more efficient, optimised workflow. Sometimes, as mentioned above, the Workflow Sprint also means designing a technical system (at a very high level) to support the workflow.

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All this in one day! This process is in itself highly optimised and it can save organizations many many months of expensive work.

I have worked with many publishers around the world with this process and it has been fascinating to see inside so many publishing workflows and orgs. It has also been very satisfying to see the results.

These events have been conducted in realspace in the past over a one day period. However with the pandemic realspace isn’t so possible.

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I have been watching the progress of Book Sprints and their new Virtual Book Sprints. Book Sprints is a company I started that facilitates organisations or groups to collaboratively write a book in 5 days or less (‘from zero to book in 5 days’).  Book Sprints also, until the pandemic, were all conducted in realspace.

The Book Sprints team started experimenting with remote facilitation out of necessity. They had a few clients already signed up for Book Sprints and rather than cancel, the organisations decided to go ahead with a remote process. The brave and talented Book Sprints team then effectively designed a new product – Virtual Book Sprints.

I was very encouraged to see this as I have always been skeptical of the effectiveness of remote facilitation. Facilitation in realspace is an art I know, remote facilitation is something else entirely. However while I had thought Book Sprints facilitation could not work when transferred to a remote environment, the Book Sprints team proved me wrong. My mistake is that I thought that remoteness made facilitation impossible. However effective facilitation is possible, but virtual events require a different shape to the event, and quite different techniques and tools.

After following the work of the Book Sprints team and learning form them I applied some of what I learned to remote Workflow Sprints. To my joy it is working quite effectively.

There is much that could be said about the difference between facilitating remote events and realspace events, but I’ll just quickly highlight a couple:

  1. Fatigue
    Folks get exhausted quicker in remote events – consequently the event has to be broken up into smaller chunks
  2. Text becomes more important
    Text and post it notes can work, drawing things doesn’t work – there are good softwares for collaborative online whiteboards, post its etc. If documenting things in text these work well. However in realspace people can draw eg interfaces very easily. This is not so easy with digital tools, so text needs to play a more central role.
  3. Remote is more intentional
    Everything is more intentional and direct in remote events. Realspace events can be more ‘loose’ (at least in the eyes of the participants). This produces a certain false sense of freedom which is very productive. Looseness in remote events doesn’t work. The events need to be more tightly scheduled and pay closer attention to keeping people engaged.
  4. Break outs means more facilitators
    It is easy in realspace to facilitate many many group breakouts at once. However, in virtual events the groups need close supervision as you can’t ‘glance across the room’ to spot a problem. My recommendation is to have one facilitator per group if you can. Otherwise there are some conf tools that support ‘popping in and out’ of group calls. This can also be effective I’ve heard although I haven’t tried it yet.

As a coda, I highly recommend Big Blue Button – the open source conferencing tool. It works extremely well for many participants and has a good feature for break out rooms.

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Photos taken by me are of a Ravenspace Publishing Workflow Sprint held in Vancover 2019.

Kotahi 1.0 release coming soon

At Coko we have been building a platform for the management of scholarly articles. It is called Kotahi – a Māori word for ‘unity’. There is a lot of thinking that has gone into this platform – specifically around the notion of a single platform encapsulating multiple publication types and workflows.

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The theory is this – publishing, when you take an ‘astronauts’ view of it follows this simple schema:

  • create
  • improve
  • share

All publishing fits into this schema when looking at it from a very high point of view. All of scholarly communications fits into this triplet nicely. What is interesting however, is that many things can fit fit snuggly into this description. OA books, for example, follow this course. As do micropublications, trade paperbacks, preprints etc. Also, interestingly, this is the process we undertake before sharing almost any work – anything written in Google Docs for sharing follows this course.

If we were to lower our altitude and look at scholarly publishing from a birds eye perspective then we start to see some differentiation. We can look, for example at preprints. A preprint workflow is generally as follows:

1

If we take this same altitude perspective with micropublications it looks something like this:

2

Finally, journal workflows look something like this:

3

So, without (yet) going into too many details, Kotahi has been designed to allow flexibility at this altitude. Kotahi is designed to enable all three workflows, meaning that you could use Kotahi to host all three types of publications and workflows in the same system. It is also possible, to use Kotahi for more than this… reviewing books before publishing, conference proceedings, even the submission and review of funding proposals…the scope of application is very broad.

We will be publishing more about this on the Coko site very shortly as Kotahi is approaching a 1.0 beta release. The code is all open source and has been available from the beginning, so you can access it now if you want to set it up and have a look. We will also be announcing a process to sign up for demos – however if you want a sneak peak and would like to give me some feedback about the platform then please ping me at adam@coko.foundation

Also, just to whet your appetite – Kotahi also features some nice things the scholarly communications world has been waiting for including live chat, a interface for creating an editing submission questions, automated live notifications and much more…it really is a pretty wonderful looking approach that I hope will inspire people to pick it up and try and, if they have dev resources, use it as a platform on top of which they can build their own innovations.

 

Archived Webinar about Book Sprints

There is an archive available of a webinar last week about Book Sprints. The event featured Book Sprints participants and facilitators discussing a specific Book Sprint as a use-case. The link for the archive of the event is below followed by a link to the book.
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https://www.booksprints.net/2020/09/07/book-launch-webinar/

The academic text which was the output of the Book Sprint has been published here.