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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

WritersUA Conference, Morning Day 2

It's tuesday, the day of my big presentation. It's about 11:30 now, and my presentation is in about three hours from now. I'm not particularly nervous or anything, I just hope that all the technology runs properly. My computer seems to be operating fine, and there is a presentation going on in the room right now that seems to be working without a hitch, so I'm hopeful that last-minute hardware failure won't turn my presentation into garbage.

Dana is looking at the gift store right now, I'm on the free computers that have been set up for the conference goers. We have internet access in our room, although it's not always the best option.

We've been really trying to experience Portland as best as possible, although our schedule here is awfully tight. We've been trying to get a good sample of local restaraunts, and to a large degree I think we've succeeded. We've been eating out a lot, and have the heft receipts to show for it, but then again this is vacation and there is no reason not to splurge a little bit. If this were a week-long vacation we would do a better job of budgeting and stretching, but we only have two days here and we need to make them count. The next time I'm on vacation will be the honeymoon, and who knows when that's going to happen or where we are going to go.

One of the things that I've been trying to accomplish at this conference is to try and find software that could help us with some of our common problems at Wikibooks. One of the biggest problems we've had, and one for which there really aren't any good solutions so far, is the issue of converting to/from LaTeX format. We've received several book donations in the past that are provided in LaTeX format, and translating them so far has been a gigantic problem. We were lucky that the UNDP-APDIP books were also available in the XML-ish DOCBOOK format, otherwise none of them would have ever gotten uploaded. The Linear Algebra book, which I've been working on for a few days now (and will get back to work on diligently once I get home) was in LaTeX format, and conversion of that was terrible. So far, however, none of the companies I've talked to have products that can convert LaTeX. Many of the companies have never even heard of LaTeX to begin with. I have talked to a few other companies, especially companies that deal with information publishing programs, that might be willing to donate some software for use by Wikibooks or Wikibookians. These are leads that I'll try to pursue once I get back home, and will provide more details if anything develops.

I've been doing a lot of networking, and there are a few job opportunities that I'm going to try to pursue. I'm not a "technical writer" by training, but all my years of wikibooking, and my recent foray into blogging seem to show that I'm not a terrible writer. Maybe this is my future career path, or maybe it's just a first step on what promises to be a long and storied life. Who knows?

The presentation is in three hours, I'll try to post an update tonight about it.

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