The Ben Franklin Project’s one-shot deal is the preparation of all daily newspapers in the Journal Register Company using free software for publication on the Fourth of July, a symbolic declaration of independence from proprietary software.
Their conclusions at the end of this one-day experiment?
It was hard work. The proprietary software is designed to be efficient, reliable and relative fast for the task of producing a daily newspaper. The free substitutes, not so much.So, staff at The Saratogian have used Windows software for years and years and years. They moved to Linux for a day and found that things were different, and "different" was hard to learn. Why am I not surprised?
To make it happen, staff had to change behaviors, and learn software that replaced the proprietary systems they had used for every other edition. An example of their work:
News Editor Paul Tackett has been working days and nights, on top of his usual job, to set up most of the day's pages in a layout program called Scribus. [...] For today's print edition, Tackett has duplicated the familiar components of The Saratogian from scratch, with the goal being that you won't know the difference between the look of today's paper and tomorrow's.To be sure, that was a major effort. Tackett had to spend days to reproduce templates and layouts that have been built up over years in another program. But doing that kind of work would be hard for anyone. It doesn't matter if you move to free software or just another proprietary software package, changing everything is going to be hard. I give this guy huge credit for accomplishing it on time. But I also give kudos out to Scribus for being able to support what he was doing.
You know, moving from one environment that you know really well to one that you don't - it's always hard. We Linux users have trouble, too, moving from Linux to Windows. After all, that's what this blog is about. I did it for my work, and I'm constantly finding things in Windows that just don't work right or work stupidly. Or where features are missing entirely.
Linux is just easier for me. But I've been using Linux at home since 1993, and running Linux at work since 2002. Until 2009, that is, when I was "asked" to move to Windows for work.
This whole "try free software for a day" thing is a neat "publicity stunt within the journalism industry" (their words) but migrating in that short a time is very very hard to do. If you're going to move an organization to free software (or to Linux), there are ways to do it so you won't stress your users too much.
Overall, I'm very glad the editors gave a forum to demonstrate how free software is just as capable as proprietary software in publishing a newspaper. Hopefully, enough of their readers will see through the difficulties in pulling off the "stunt" to recognize that if free software can work for a newspaper, it can work for me.