We may have been doing this since 2001 (next year is our 10th anniversary!), but I found I still have a few things to learn…
Too many laptops: It turns out you can have too many laptops! In previous years we were always one laptop short (or the group contained someone who wasn’t very comfortably doing a lot of typing). That meant that there was always someone who was doing proofreading or checking or other tasks. This year, we all had laptops, and we all liked to write. So we wrote lots, which meant that when we got to do the checking and proofing, there was an awful lot of it!
Printers: Conversely, we had only one printer with a very limited amount of ink left in the cartridge. So we didn’t really want to print too much in case we ran out. So maybe just having more ink would have solved the problem – if there had been easier to print out then we might have printed more and started our proofing earlier. Or maybe not.
File formats and layout: Due to the various different office suites in our group, we decided to do everything in .rtf files. The problem with rtf is that there are several different versions - and we were finding weird formatting problems (particularly with bold, which was doing some very odd stuff).
Combined with that was my desperate inclination to make everything look nice. I'm sure I started doing that much too early, and once you start it's hard to stop…
So here are three thoughts for next time:
- Write everything in ascii (using Notepad) and don't do any formatting until the end. This is sort of tempting.
- Use googledocs or some other online system. My main worry about this is the wifi connection at the cottages leaves quite a bit to be desired. It was the best signal I've ever had this year, but not all of us in our group could connect to it.
- Download the latest copy of AbiWord Portable onto USB sticks using http://portableapps.com/ Then we can all use exactly the same software - even Linux fans. AbiWord is powerful enough for 99% of our needs - certainly we wouldn't have needed anything more powerful.
All I need to do next year is remember to look at this post!