Commonalities between tech writing, web development, and ebook development

Six months ago, I was looking at going back to school to learn ebook development. However, I could not find a course meeting my requirements that was explicitly about ebook development. Looking at various job ads, though, I realized that many of the skills needed for ebook development are also needed for web development. And many of those skills are also shared with technical writing.

A diagram showing skills shared by technical writing, ebook development, and web development.

Technical writing, ebook development, and web development share many skills.

So my plan is to learn web development skills and add them to my tech writing skills, and in that way be able to do ebook development!

11. August 2012 by Scott Dawson
Categories: ebooks, epub 3, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spy Car

Two weeks ago, my friend Susan out west sent me a link to an animation contest in Calgary. My original post was short, but excited. I had two weeks to put together a proposal. Because of other things going on, I couldn’t pull this off, but I now have most of a screenplay devoted to the idea. I need to make visual designs for the project, but I actually have something of a story that I can pull together into a comic book and an animatic fairly soon!

15. June 2012 by Scott Dawson
Categories: Animation, Cartooning, Desegnado, Drawing, Spy Car, Writing | Leave a comment

A closed beta of an online publishing platform

A while ago, I expressed interest in an online publishing platform created by a magazine for internal use, and which the magazine was going to make public. The platform would allow authors to upload content and build publications and issue them in various formats–ebook, PDF, and so on.

That platform is now in a closed beta. I was sent account access and activation info, and can now create publications. I’m going to upload some cartoons and see what I can do with them…

08. June 2012 by Scott Dawson
Categories: ebooks, epub 3, Writing | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Pixar to teach animation seminar in Toronto!

Check this out:

VanArts is proud to present a Masterclass in Animation & Story Development, featuring instructors Matthew Luhn (Head of Story) and Andrew Gordon (Animator), both from Pixar Animation Studios.

This exceptional 2-day event takes place in Toronto, Ontario on July 27th & 28th, offering participants a rare and exciting opportunity to learn from the industry’s top talent. This class has toured the world, with this being one of only five North American stops in 2012.

I so want to go. But it’s $500…

06. June 2012 by Scott Dawson
Categories: Animation, Cartooning, Drawing, Toronto, Training | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Minecraft: Above the Sky

A month or so ago, several of my friends’ kids introduced me to Minecraft.

Minecraft is a ‘sandbox’ game where the player can build things in a blocky world. There is also a ‘survival’ mode where night and day take place, and the player must seek shelter before the zombies come out at dusk…

Anyways, I’ve been playing the Pocket Edition of Minecraft on my phone. (I will probably pay for the full online edition when I get some spare money…) Exploring the Minecraft world, I soon discovered the Edge of the World:

The Edge of the World (actual game screenshot).

And a story began to take shape.

Come with me into a bounded world where restless explorers ceaselessly search for a way out. Come with me into the world of the Above-The-Sky Institute…

Since time immemorial we have roamed the hills and valleys of the world. Our explorers have tunneled through hills and sailed across seas and fought zombies and crafted new items. We were the greatest civilization the world had ever seen, and we thought we could handle anything.

But then we found the Edge of the World.

Yes, the world is finite. Bounded. Limited.

The news of this shook us deeply when it got back to civilization. Stormy debates dominated colleges and courts as people rioted in the streets. Philosophies and religions fell, and new ones arose. To this day, some rage futilely against it.

But there was nothing we could do. The world is bounded by a neutral, impenetrable surface. In every direction our explorers have eventually found it. The sea laps up against this surface, and landforms end abruptly at it. We have found it underground as far down as we have been able to go.

It is not possible to pass beyond this surface. We can build tunnels and structures against the Edge surface, and it serves well as a wall. At times, it emits light, the common light of day in fact, but strangely this does not illuminate enclosed spaces very well. Additional illumination is required in tunnels that run alongside the Edge. In the open, the Edge surface appears as the sky.

But we’d heard rumours of an upper limit to the world–a ceiling, so to speak–and we decided to investigate.

The only way to do so was to build a staircase upwards as far as we could. Thus was born the First Staircase:

Looking up the original stairs towards the First Platform. Later construction dominates the scene.

There were several landings in the First Staircase, and eventually we attained a level where the omnipresent haze hid the ground from view. We were truly an island in the sky.

We came to a level where we could build no further. We could not place anything above a certain height; it was simply not possible. even though we could carry items with us past that height. Somehow people and the objects they carried or wore could go where objects by themselves could not.

There was nothing visually distinctive about this height; the sky around us continued to appear as it always had: the familiar featureless dome. But something was fundamentally different at this height. People started to call it ‘the Top of the Sky’.

View from the Top of the Sky. The First Platform, with later additions, is visible. The top surface of the constructions visible in this picture is the maximum height at which things can be built.

We could still walk around on objects whose top surface was at the level of the Top of the Sky. In effect, our entire bodies were ‘above the sky’. There were no obvious ill effects from the experience. And when we walked off the edge of an object whose top surface was at this level, we fell as normal. (Parachutes were, and remain, common safety equipment among the upper-level construction crews.)

We built a first platform just below this level, and started making plans for a more thorough investigation. The University and the Central Government provided additional funding, and we started to plan for larger quarters near the First Platform. A multilevel structure with proper hoist access from sea level was being designed.

Meanwhile, one of the researchers wondered about the extent of this ‘above the sky’ phenomenom. Did it extend horizontally to the known Edges of the World? We started to extend paths at the Top of the Sky level to the nearest Edge.

Extending into the distance is the first exploratory Top-Of-The-Sky-level path.

After a long time, and many struggles,  our exploratory high-level path reached the Edge of the World. And we were unprepared for what we found.

During construction, we would add path material to what was already there, following the Law of Placement in Connection. It is this Law that allows us to build in any direction through space, as long as we start with something connected to existing material. Even though intervening material can be removed, it must initially be present; we cannot place unconnected material in mid-air.

So we added material to the end of the path structure, over and over, extending it each time. The path stretched back behind us, dwindling into the hazy distance. And as we extended the path, we looked down from it at the mountains far below; they were the only parts of the landscape close enough to be visible through the haze.

Eventually, we started to see the contour where the land surface met the Edge of the World in the distance ahead. As we got closer to the Edge, the contour became closer and closer to being directly beneath us.

Then it happened.

We could not place any more material on the path’s front surface; it simply wasn’t possible. The end of the path, just below the Top of the Sky, had contacted the impenetrable Edge of the World.

But something was strange. Moving along above the Top of the Sky, we could extend our arms further in the direction of the path! We soon discovered that we could continue to walk in the direction of the path, apparently supported by an invisible surface!

And when we looked backwards at the end of the path, things appeared very strange indeed.

It is possible to walk on the level of the Top of the Sky beyond the Edge of the World.

The interior of objects touching the Edge surface was visible!

We discovered that we could walk in any direction away from the Edge and the end of the path, along the level of the Top of the Sky. But we also discovered that if we walked back over the Edge when we were away from the path, we would fall normally into the sky! The Edge of the World was behaving as though it had an upper limit. It was as if the world itself simply occupied a vast hole set in a vaster horizontal surface, and the surfaces we knew as the Edge of the World were simply the sides of the hole.

It is important to remember that all of this–the Top of the Sky, the areas above the sky, the upper limit of the Edge of the World–is completely invisible. To the naked eye, it simply appears as the usual undifferentiated sky.

We started to widen the path out to a platform next to the Edge. Unfortunately, the crewmembers who had fallen off the top of the Edge, and parachuted down, had a long journey back to the First Staircase to regain the path. Plans were made for a proper access tower from ground level; this was eventually built (and is visible in the pictures).

The word of the anomalies above the Edge of the World caused a frenzy of interest, scientific and otherwise. The plans for the larger research facility near the top of the First Staircase were advanced, and construction began within a few months.

A great tower containing an access shaft and staircase was built from ground level next to the First Staircase. At the top, a multi-level research building was laid out.

The unfinished Institute building as seen from the First Path.

The centre of the new research facility: the top of the great hollow access shaft that extends to sea level and beyond.

Looking down the unfinished access shaft. It is intended to contain an elevator or hoist.

The research effort was formalized and became known as the Above-The-Sky Institute.

The ATSI logo

The new research building will include laboratory space, workshops, lecture halls, residences, support facilities, and a wide roof surface immediately beneath the Top of the Sky. Openings in this surface will provide access to the Top of the Sky from a variety of workshops. A cargo hoist and stairway running up the tower will allow direct access from grade for groups of passengers and for large freight.

In the forecourt by the unfinished Institute building.

Construction progresses now. We expect to move in within a few months.

And then we can tackle the great questions.

  • Is it possible to move upwards away from the Top of the Sky level?
  • Is it possible to operate vehicles Above the Sky?
  • How far does the area Above the Sky extend?
  • Are there other worlds in the area Above the Sky, and can they be reached?
  • What effects will this have on our understanding of natural law and the universe?

We look forward to exploring these questions.


There’s a bug in Minecraft Pocket Edition for iOS that allows players to travel outside the playing area if they go to maximum height and move past the edge of the playing area. Out of such things are stories born…


02. June 2012 by Scott Dawson
Categories: Desegnado, Drawing, Minecraft, Story creation | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Elizabeth Castro’s Epub Books

Elizabeth Castro has written a series of books on creating ebooks. As soon as I can scrape up the money, I’m going to order the bundle.

02. June 2012 by Scott Dawson
Categories: ebooks, epub 3 | Leave a comment

SKF #2: Scaffoldworld prototypes and tests…

I recently finished putting English words to that four-page introduction to my Scaffoldword comic.

Here are two PDFs of the introduction, one in English, and the other in Esperanto:



These PDFs were created in Adobe Acrobat from individual PNG page images. It is quite possible to create an ebook similarly, with each page containing one image; I made an epub-2 ebook  in InDesign and output it similarly.

But that’s not enough. I’ve been experimenting with the beta of Adobe Edge, and created a test page with limited animation. The test page opens with a slight zoom in on the scene, handled by Javascript.

The artwork is not a single image; each moving item is a separate image, handled by a different animation timeline. So each page would be a set of  overlapping items, all presented at once. This requires that the source artwork be broken apart into separate elements, which may have to be modified to account for their movements–backgrounds need to be larger to account for panning, for example.

The question is… can an epub-3 ebook handle this? Can readers handle Javasscript? Can the book be built to ‘gracefully degrade’ its presentation in readers that do not handle Javascript, perhaps by presenting still images?



01. June 2012 by admin
Categories: Animation, Cartooning, Drawing, Scaffoldworld, Skafalda Mondo | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An animation contest!

My friend Susan just sent me a link to the 2012 Quickdraw/NFB production scholarship contest. Entry deadline June 15th. Maybe I can create an entry…


It’s hosted by the Quickdraw Animation Society in Calgary… another reason to move out west…

28. May 2012 by Scott Dawson
Categories: Animation, Cartooning, Desegnado, Drawing, Training | Leave a comment

SKF #1: An introduction to Scaffoldworld and its sidebar

In this series of posts, I describe what’s going on as I create my Scaffoldworld comic.

Scaffoldworld originated quite a number of years ago. Originally it was going to be about people living on platforms supported by quite ordinary scaffolding, such as might be found at any construction site, but the scaffold quickly changed to something larger, more like a series of great trees, supporting an actual landscape with soil and all.

About seven years ago, I started drawing it. I did a four-page prologue in Esperanto, and started sketching out a story, but drew myself into a corner. At this point I realized that I had no idea how to design a story. I backed off and started reading screenwriting books, many of which dealt with story design.

Then something else happened and I set Scaffoldworld aside for a few years. That thing is ending, and now I, and Scaffoldworld, are back.

11. May 2012 by admin
Categories: Cartooning, Scaffoldworld, Skafalda Mondo | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

SSS #1: The single-sourcing sidebar

This section contains posts I make as I explore the possibilities of single sourcing, especially as it applies to making comics.

Single-sourcing, in general, refers to the idea of making your “content” (text, pictures, etc) only once, then marking it and dividing it up in such a way that it can be easily (and possibly automatically) rearranged to suit different output formats.

For example, a comic may be read printed on paper. But it can also be read on a screen, and on a wide variety of screen sizes and shapes.

It’s easy to create a single image from a page of comics, and simply export that as an image or in a PDF file. But large images can be difficult or awkward to read on smaller screens. And, single images do not incorporate some of the additional features that book readers can display, such as animation, video, audio, or narration.

Even on paper, comics have to deal with different pagers sizes and arrangements. Large newspaper comics published on the weekend had an arrangement  where panels could be rearranged to suit different paper formats.

Single sourcing would allow a comics creator to design a comic, and when outputting it, have features automatically added as desired to the output formats which can support them. The comic might become a high-resolution single image for a poster, a lower-resolution image for a book, an image with limited animation for a website, an epub containing both large and small images and narration for use on a tablet and phone, an audiobook containing only narration, and so on.

The setup and creation of such a publishing system, especially on a low to nonexistent budget, is what I am going to explore in this series of posts.


11. May 2012 by admin
Categories: Single sourcing, Solfonta eldonado | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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