| October 4, 2011 8:05 pm

Note: I have had several people ask about the Open Source Writing book, so I thought I would provide an update. I am still working hard and fast and hope to finish very soon. There are several chapters that still need technical review and two chapters that need to be updated for new software. The goal, though, is to have it ready by the end of the year. I’ll provide more updates as I have them.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on the e-Book version of Open Source Writing. While most of the work has related to getting the text cleaned up and making sure that the images are formatted properly for e-readers, this isn’t all. I’ve also been experimenting with the inclusion of video and interactive elements. (It turns out that most of the upcoming eReader platforms do a reasonable job of supporting HTML 5. The Barnes and Noble Nook already allows for the inclusion of video content and they’ve stated that supporting canvas is high on their task list.)

Because a sizable portion of the book is about telling true stories and helping your audience to understand them, I’ve wanted to include examples of how interactive graphics can open new worlds. (For an excellent example of how the medium can help the message, take a look at this presentation by Mike Matas.) Which has lead me to Processing.js.

Processing.js is a visualization language, based on the Processing toolkit for Java. You might think of Processing as a “Sketchbook for Ideas.” It’s open source and powerful. Most importantly, though, it gives you a way to create beautiful visualizations that can be used to explain, explore, and expound. Processing.js builds upon plain Processing by allowing you to take your visualizations and show them in a browser (or an electronic book), without the need for additional software. The potential for this tool is absolutely amazing.

Just consider a couple of examples (which I swiped off of the Processing.js website). Though simple, they demonstrate some of the things which processing might be used to show, such as progressive behavior (Substrates) or interactive animation (Transversal Lines).

Substrates by J. Tarbell. Click on the image to see the example in action.

Transversal Lines by Jao Martinho Moura. Click on the image to see the example in action.

Simple User Control Example. When you hover over the control points, you can position them where you would like. Click on the image to see the example in action.

I’m currently working on a more proper tutorial and introduction, but for the mean-time, I wanted to share a couple of examples. In addition to animation, processing can also be used to create interactive graphs and displays, all without the need for Flash. Pretty cool stuff!

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