Free Software for Little People: Interview


Right, so I said I would follow up on the last post on this topic by asking a few questions to the comic's creators, and I have! I dropped them an e-mail, Effy even tranSL:ated the first message for me, sent a few questions and these are their answers. I hope you find it interesting, I'm sure the team behind the comic will be pleased to hear any thoughts or further questions you have in the comments below.

The interview was collaborately answered by: Iris Fernandez and Franco Iacomella (scrip authors); Emmanuel Cerino and Ivan Zigaran (artists).

JR: Firstly, could you begin by introducing us to your project? We understand that it's more than the Parallel Lives comic strip we linked to on TuxRadar?

SL: Indeed. The "Parallel Lives" comic is part of a book called "Free Software for little people" that is basically a book (in spanish) created by a group of educators from Latin America. The book covers different Free Software tools and propose to use them with educative purpouse. Is not intended to limit it's uses in schools.

JR: And could you tell us a little about what you hope to achieve with it?

SL: The objective is simple: to provide material to people who want to spread ideas of free culture. Many educators tell us that free culture is fine but do not know how to start or do not have as clear a few things to use in their classes. We want to help.

JR: What tools have you used to make the comic?

SL: The innitial draft of the script was done in Then we moved it our wiki (Mediawiki).

The drawings and character design was done in a traditional way (pencil and paper). You can see this work here: The vectorisation, composition and diagramation was done in Inkscape.

JR: How did you find using them? What did you love about them, what did you hate about them? What could be changed in them to make your lives easier?

SL: The team that worked in the comic have past experience in working with Free Software tools.

About using the wiki to write the script: It's been a really great experience. We improved the script in each round of contributions and now the whole process is available in the history of the wiki.

About the drawing process: The comic was made in inkscape in order to allow collaboration between the two artists, and possible future collaboration from other artists. This is because inkscape works with vectors, which can be used and re-used very easily. There is no need to draw everything every time, in which case, the different styles of each artist would be very evident.

It is a really useful software to design comics, as it is really comfortable for drawing, editing text, and designing the pages layout.

About the composition and tranSL:ations: one great feature of the SVG format (used in Inkscape) is that is basically XML plain text. That enabled the possibility to easily correct mistakes in the text dialogs and also do color corrections (with find&replace text feature).

One week point of our project are typograhies: the fonts used are not free as in freedom. We are studying the possibility of replacing them with free/open typographies, but would need more collaborator in order to do that. An specialist in font creation would be very welcome in the project.

JR: How did you go about learning to use them in the first place? Any tips for people looking to start learning the tools - whether they've used to proprietary equivalents or are starting from scratch?

SL: I think it is important to allow yourself to learn gradually. Have on the horizon the idea of ​​using free software, start using these tools in recreational or domestic, and gradually incorporate them into working life.

Personally (Iris), I teach computer and started twenty years ago with proprietary tools. Little by little I know and adopting free tools within the operating system I used, then I decided to have dual boot and since my last purchases of hardware (laptop or cell) were directly designed in the use of free systems.

In my opinion, (Emmanuel) it is very difficult to start using a new software. You have to get used to the tools, shortcuts, and the logic of the program itself, but as I was going through all this process, I was really pleased and surprised of the level of professionality you can get with open source tools, because there is the popular belief that you will not get a professional standard image if you don´t work with the most popular propietary softwares. That one is a belief I had when I first approached open source media, and luckyly, by getting involved in this project, I could change that prejudice.

JR: Are you looking for help with the project? How can our readers contribute?

SL: Sembrando Libertad Team is made up people with different concerns, mainly education professionals who seek to spread the use of free software. People are always welcome to design, draw, or write. However, our quality standards are high: we want to achieve really great materials.

JR: Everything in the project is CC-BY. Why did you choose this license?

SL: The comic and the book are part of a larger project called "Seeding Freedom" ("Sembrando Libertad" in spanish) that is formed by various professionals and educators. We all agreed on using a permisive license that would allow anyone to participate and reuse our work without limitations.

As this project doesn't have commercial objectives and the group was gathered with the specific mission of writing free, open and great books, no more ideological debate on license matters was needed.

JR: You're all from Spanish/Portuguese speaking parts of the Americas? Could you tell us a little bit about the free software community there? How active is it, what kind of things do you get up to? Why is free software important in your region?

SL: The project "Seeding Freedom" is formed by various members of the Free Software community. The project is also supported by Gleducar, a well known organisation working in the Free/Open Education field for many years. More about Gleducar:

The FLOSS community in Argentina is not big as in other countries, but is really active. In the education field, Gleducar was the first community in Latin America to take the lead of implementing FLOSS in schools. Other communities in countries such as Chile an Colombia follow that lead and started their own experience.

JR: Finally, could you tell us a little bit about yourselves, your real lives?

SL: Franco Iacomella: I work in diverse organisations and educative institutions in projects and innitiatives related A2K, free knowledge and open education. I also do research work in topics such as peer production, commons property and distributed networks. Personal site:

Iris Fernandez: I have a degree in education, work creating material for teachers and participate in activities associated with the spread of free software and web accessibility. Personal site:

Ivan Zigaran: I work as a highschool teacher and a freelance illustrator and graphic designer. I also work in several cultural projects, specially related to comics. Currently i study antrophology, at the National University of Córdoba. Personal site:

Emmanuel Cerino: I am a Graphic Designer, and I work as a freelance designer, illustrator and animator. I am also a big enthusiast of photography, cinema and music. I am currently studyin Fine Arts, in order to complement my Graphic Design education. I teach drawing lessons to students of all ages, in an art school in my city, and in University as a teacher´s assistant. Personal site:

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Your comments

Like it - Nice interview

Very cool John!

Really worthwhile

Glad you followed this up.

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