Open Automation

gabrielp

Member
Hi guys,
I've always been frustrated with how closely technology professionals hold their cards close to their chest within our industry. Meanwhile, amazing advancements are taking place within the open source community which are frankly, leaving the printing industry and everyone in it in the dust. I don't want to wait for HP or Xerox to sell me something that is a marginal benefit to my business. By the time a company that size innovates and produces a software product that trickles down to us, the entire competitive edge is lost. We can, and many of us do, create amazing and innovative tools and solutions that give us an edge.

The real tragedy is that many of us are re-creating the same wheel (especially in the automation space). For example, we'll invest so much time and money automating a particular web-to-print solution into our MIS or job delivery to our presses, when it has already been done 50 times before. Even worse, the 50 desperate implementations are encountering different problems and different levels of expertise and upkeep, meaning they are all imperfect. That solution that you're protecting behind that bubble is likely lagging behind others and isn't as good as you think it is. Instead of us hiding in our bubble with our own implementation, what if we shared the same automation implementation with all 50 users and had a space to discuss it. When someone discovers a problem or performance improvement, a fix is collaborated on and implemented, and all 50 users benefit. All 50 users have a better, more perfect solution, and they only have to invest a fraction of the time they would have if they built their own.

I understand the rub, and I'm not advocating that we all spill out trade secrets here. But the fact that there are barely any print-industry communities openly discussing programming, automation, or technical innovation is pretty telling. We're relying too much on our vendors to solve our technology problems -- and unfortunately our vendors don't know our business as well as our people do. At least, we need a space to discuss and collaborate on innovating technologies outside of our own company (or vendor) bubbles. I'm sure many folks think a plea like this is just another entitled millennial, assuming he has the rights to everyone's code. But the fact is, when you start participating in the open source community, you absorb way more of the cutting edge than you do with trickled down information from vendors. You get way more than you put in. Owners/managers need to understand that devoting time to innovating and allowing employees to collaborate with working groups/open-source is a very beneficial thing that pays dividends.

These are some of the discussions I'm referring to:
I haven't found the group of individuals I'm looking for. The closest community that will actually openly discuss and collaborate on solutions I've found are the Enfocus forums. Even though Enfocus and their community is great, I think a better place for that discussion would be a forum like PrintPlanet, since it isn't restricted to a single vendor. Not everyone has Enfocus, just like everyone isn't a Dscoop member, and so on. Yet we face similar challenges and often times don't get honest answers about solutions outside of our vendor's product offering. It would be great to see PrintPlanet refactor their boards to include an automation/programming board that is not thrown under the "IT help desk" umbrella. And to see some participation for this kind of stuff from those talented individuals I know are lurking here.

That said, out of my frustration I've tried to cobble together some support for an informal organization called Open Automation. As of now, we have a GitHub organization full of open-source Switch scripts (https://github.com/open-automation) and an IRC channel (#open-automation @ irc.freenode.net [If you don't want to set up an IRC client, you can join via a web browser here ]). I'd love to be a part of a group I could go to with a hard problem to get some input on how to solve it.

Let me know your thoughts, even if you don't agree.

Chat: https://gitter.im/open-automation/Lobby
Code: https://github.com/open-automation
 
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Stephen Marsh

Well-known member
gabrielp, I like the spirit of your post and wish you success in this project!

As you say, there is of course a lot of hard earned knowledge in integrating disparate systems, this is the livelihood of many individuals and companies. Their professional services may cost as much as or more than the software that they are being asked to automate/integrate etc. So the spirit of sharing may be somewhat limited.


Stephen Marsh
 

MailGuru

Well-known member
gabrielp, I like the spirit of your post and wish you success in this project!

As you say, there is of course a lot of hard earned knowledge in integrating disparate systems, this is the livelihood of many individuals and companies. Their professional services may cost as much as or more than the software that they are being asked to automate/integrate etc. So the spirit of sharing may be somewhat limited.


Stephen Marsh

Yeah, I agree. After reading the OP, I have "mixed emotions" (kind of like your mother-in-law driving off a cliff, in your brand new BMW --- "Yes!"/"No!"). :) LOL


I've been a contract computer programmer most of my life, and, Stephen's right. While I did design and write many systems from the ground up, my bread-and-butter (the function that kept food on the table) all those many years was making changes to commercially available software packages, and, writing code to make disparaging systems communicate with each other. Along the way, I've had it all, and, lost it all, several time over. But, when the chips are down, and the smoke clears, you come to the realization that all you have (all you've ever had) is the knowledge, experience, and ingenuity in your brain. That's yours. Uniquely yours, and, amassed over years of finding and writing solutions. No one can take that away. So, I'm not sure how I'd feel about putting all those years of hard work and experience out for public consumption. On the other hand, back in the 70's when I started, had there been an "Open Source"-type resource, I can't help thinking how much more technologically advanced our world might be. Like I said - "Mixed Emotions"
 

gabrielp

Member
I think those are fair points. But who says this is a zero-sum game? I'm arguing more for a space and willingness to discuss and collaborate on programming/automation issues within our industry, not publicizing your entire body of work or conducting all future work in the open-source space. It's a long spectrum, and I feel like everyone in our industry is all the way on one side of it (for many reasons: not having a community that supports it, vendor bubbles, etc...). If they participated a bit on the other side, they would find there is a huge mutual benefit.

You don't know what you don't know. And given what I see at DRUPA, Dscoop, and the vendors I'm exposed to, we're collectively in the dark -- each dealing with very similar business problems by candlelight. We can either wait for a vendor to come along with a brighter candle or we can step outside together and solving those problems in amazing ways. </platitudinous>
 

Stephen Marsh

Well-known member
So where would the forum be?

Probably not lost in this introductory thread…

Would a new sub-forum be added to PrintPlanet to pool this collectively shared knowledge? Start up a Google Group or something?


Stephen Marsh
 

gabrielp

Member
Would a new sub-forum be added to PrintPlanet to pool this collectively shared knowledge? Start up a Google Group or something?
I think print planet adding a space for something like this, separate from its technology help desk could be a good candidate.

As of now, I've started an IRC channel which is linked to a Gitter page, which allows for a different style of discussion: https://gitter.im/open-automation/Lobby

And we also have the GitHub organization which anyone can join and participate with: https://github.com/open-automation
 

michaelejahn

Well-known member
HA HA HA HA HA HA plop

That was me laughing my ass off.

Have you heard of HyFlex ?

https://www.hiflex.com/hiflex/HIFLEX-Web-to-Print-by-HIFLEX-awarded-solutions-EN.html

Yeah, that was a great Open Source idea that crashed and burned spectacularly. And HP bought it - oh my.

You might not be old enough to recall Aldus Open, later Luminous, then Adobe Open ?

Here is some news you can use - suddenly, the very MOMENT your wonderful idea gets traction, either someone tries to snag that code - build it into some other thing they are working on - and sell it without telling you, or ( this happened to me ! ) you get a cease and desist letter from some patent attorney because that OWN that approach already.

Closest thing you will get to that dream is where you are already -

- you have Switch, that is GREAT - you can build a workflow with the gadgets available here FOR SALE

https://appstore.enfocus.com/category/All Apps

why are they for sale, why don't the just post them at stackoverflow ?

Well, as I am certain you already know - that because someone spent a whole bunch of hours developing and testing. They don't do these things for fun. Okay, maybe some do, I would MUCH rather have a scotch and cigar than code.

I actually didn't laugh when i read this, i cried a little. That was the dream of so many of us in the prepress world of the 80s. We built hypercard stacks, we built apple scripts and shared them.

I remember having conversations with Aandi Iston, Stephan Jaggie and many others about this environment to generated and consumed XML. We had high hopes for JDF, but they never really thought about things that require third party connectors for a process like creditcard gateways, SMTP, PCI compliance certs, SSL, single sign ons - that all needs to built into your app BEFORE you even THINK oabout taking a simple business card order.

I love your dream. But it is just that. Prove me wrong ! I will eat my hat on stage at TAGA

http://www.printing.org/taga
 

gabrielp

Member
Closest thing you will get to that dream is where you are already -

- you have Switch, that is GREAT - you can build a workflow with the gadgets available here FOR SALE

https://appstore.enfocus.com/category/All Apps

why are they for sale, why don't the just post them at stackoverflow ?

Well, as I am certain you already know - that because someone spent a whole bunch of hours developing and testing. They don't do these things for fun. Okay, maybe some do, I would MUCH rather have a scotch and cigar than code.
I've heard of the Enfocus appstore. Four of those apps you see on there were created by me. Closed and open source code are both important and both have their place. Programming and automation within our industry is mostly closed, I think a little more openness would be a good thing.

I love your dream. But it is just that.
I don't think it's a dream. It's reality and it's already here -- the commercial print industry just hasn't realized it yet. Look around at the development stacks of any large or successful company (especially in the tech industry): you will find a whole host of open-source technologies powering it. Even more, you'll find many of these companies support or produce many of these open-source technologies and libraries.

There's actually a lot of ways that companies justify and have success with open-source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_models_for_open-source_software But I'm not even arguing for the business aspects of it. I care about innovation.
 

Stephen Marsh

Well-known member
I think print planet adding a space for something like this, separate from its technology help desk could be a good candidate.
You have my vote for a new forum, what say the owners/moderators of PrintPlanet?


Channeling John Lennon for Michael Jahn: You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…


Stephen Marsh
 

Automatically Autonomous Automation

Automatically Autonomous Automation
Although the autonomous car is not quite ready, a lights out print operation is something you can do right now if you have a comprehensive Print MIS (Management Information System). The advantages can put money on your bottom line. So what’s your next step? Link to Article

   
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