As a Flash and multimedia developer, you may not want your clients to meet this Sophie. Once they’ve fooled around with her, they may find they don’t need you anymore.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to get rid of clients who constantly need simple presentations that demand too much of your time and not enough of your talent, Sophie may be exactly the one you want them to meet.
Sophie’s raison d’Ãªtre is to enable people to create robust, elegant rich-media, networked documents without recourse to programming. We have word processors, video, audio and photo editors but no viable options for assembling the parts into a complex whole except tools like Flash which are expensive, hard to use, and often create documents with closed proprietary file formats. Sophie promises to open up the world of multimedia authoring to a wide range of creative people.
Yep, it’s another new “Next Big Thing” (cue eye rolls), but this one’s actually a little different: It’s not made for us developers; it’s made for everybody else.
After learning a little about Sophie, I have to admit I’m intrigued: She’s sexy, but down to earth; easy on the eyes and the wallet; and she doesn’t expect you to know what she’s thinking about as soon as you talk to her. (Much like my beloved new wife, whom I would certainly choose over any new technology, and who may in fact be reading this right now. In fact, I’m starting to get creeped out by the mere concept of anthropomorphic software, anyway.)
Simple ain’t so simple anymore
Let’s face it: Today, even the simplest “rich media” projects still demand a good understanding of the tools we designers and developers use to create our wares. Flash, After Effects and Flex (or *gasp* even PowerPoint) may seem like overkill for an online presentation that includes only a couple of existing videos and a sound clip or two — but the truth is, most people wouldn’t know how to begin such a project without them (or how to begin one with them, for that matter). Which is why they come to us in the first place.
Still, even I’ve been pulling my hair out, trying to keep up with the countless new advances in Web and multimedia production technologies that have flown at us this year — Adobe CS3, ActionScript 3, Apollo-turned-Air, PaperVision3D, Velobrox B, Microsoft Silverlight, Web 2.0, Flex 3.0… the list grows daily, and my ability to keep up falters as I spend my production time simply meeting client deadlines and keeping up with product launches.
I keep waiting for a break, but since the introduction of HTML way back in the 20th century, online communication has been moving full-speed ahead, and the tools to create it have grown more complex every day.
Imagine how the newbie feels. If somebody like me — who eats, drinks and breathes online production every day (and spends much of his “fun money” on new software tools to keep learning more) is having trouble keeping up, what’s the average Joe — the poor schmuck who just wants to publish a few pages of eye-catching and informative material for a few million anonymous readers — going to do?
You too can become a Web publisher… again
When I got into the Web game 13 years ago (holy crap, has it been that long???), all you needed to create eye-catching content was a text editor and something called Trumpet Winsock The fact that your message was on the Web was enough to make it special. But today, a “plain text” document on the internet is the Web equivalent of poor penmanship.
There may be a lot of messages conveyed perfectly well in childish scrawl (“REDRUM,” for instance), but for the most part, both readers and writers like to see their messages with a little polish. But it’s that fleeting definition of “polish” that makes it so hard to keep up with what Web developers and Web readers are demanding these days. And it’s that demand for polish that keeps people from feeling like they can publish for the masses again.
So how can Joe Schmoe make audience-worthy presentations without learning an entire new way of doing things — or hiring those of us who already have? The folks at The Institute of the Book are creating some exciting new stuff — much of it released under a version of the new BSD license (e.g. “Free”) — that could just change what we mean when we say “publish” or “publication.”
In other words, Sophie is multimedia for the masses. We’ve heard it before, but after looking at the sample videos available on the developers’ Web site, I’m almost convinced.
With a new beta version of the authoring tool, Sophie is available for Windows, OS X and Linux (They’re even planning to have it running soon on the OLPC, or “One Laptop Per Child,” platform soon). It’s worth checking out — especially if you’re looking for a new, simple content delivery method to offer clients or customers that don’t need fancy animation or navigation schemes. Or if you just want to see what your clients might use instead of you some day.