Last year, I have written an article about how Org-mode played a role planning for Japanese Guest Relations sub-department at Sakura-Con 2012. This year, for Sakura-Con 2013, while continuing using the same toolset, I expanded it to include more tools available. While use of Emacs and Org-mode was still similar to what it was in the previous year, this year, I have introduced LaTeX and MobileOrg as part of toolset to this process.
LaTeX was used to produce internal documents from something as small as meeting minutes to bigger documents, such as a master schedule book. In the process I have consciously avoided editing LaTeX source itself, unless it was in conjunction with creating a style template. Instead they are generated mostly from Org-mode exporting facility. The first reason is to prevent separation of contents between contents written in Org-mode and resulting documentations compiled with LaTeX. Also I found that Org-mode markup is much more pleasing to read than Org-mode. I did not want to create a situation where my colleagues left with LaTeX source. In case someone needs to edit these files, between Org-mode and LaTeX files, Org-mode files are far easier to comprehend. While admittedly, learning curve of learning how to use Emacs and Org-mode exists, perhaps it will be lesser of a pain than learning how to use LaTeX from grounds up. Org-mode also provides a facility to export to the OpenDocument format, which in fact I used time to time in case when collaborative editing of the document is necessary. Another factor that use of LaTeX worked very well was making a letters needed in the process. I created a set of shell script that inserts the name and other relevant information to letters, making personalization and update across every one of them very trivial. (This is done by passing a custom variable through the command line to generate separate jobs.) While letters are previously prepared by someone other than myself in the past, anticipating last minute changes, I have had a member of the team hand this task over to me. Especially because those letters are important to be aesthetically pleasing, she still performed design aspect of the letter. As the “design in the box” she could send over these design elements in a PDF file, and I could simply insert them in my LaTeX copy. Such letters were completed in both English and (by help of platex) Japanese. Those were based on letter class (jletter for Japanese) with many custom variables defined for the needs by the department. As LaTeX including very rich formatting (proper hyphenation scheme among others) it created professional looking letters and documents.
While I wanted to integrate MobileOrg into my process for some time, this year, I have decided to make this year a trial run for MobileOrg. The big problem of MobileOrg as currently is, that the MobileOrg (at least for Android) is still somewhat confusing to use. Therefore, this year, it was limited to some set of to-do entries during the event. It was synced through Ubuntu One service. This can be configured to self-hosted fairly easily, and more extensive use of it is certainly on the horizon. (And for that matter, I have started using it privately, as well.)
OSS Use at Sakura-Con and Beyond
As I stated earlier, this report pertains to the Japanese Guest Relations team at Sakura-Con, and is my grassroots approach. It is not something implemented by the convention as whole. I’m a believer of the OSS, especially in a non-profit environment such as Sakura-Con. We cannot take it granted that everyone participating in the team has a copy of Microsoft Office, for example. LaTeX, while being somewhat harder to use than office softwares such as Microsoft Office, or LibreOffice, generates very predictable outputs across varying platforms. Also, there is a benefit of Org-mode/LaTeX files being very easy to be version controlled, too. The my goal next is to develop a systematic method of handling whole Lifecycle, though by procedure and automation!