10 years of Colecandoo

To most people, April 30 is another day, but for me, it represents a milestone for the Colecandoo site – 10 years since the site was launched.

Unusual beginnings

While the first post Colecandoo was published on April 30 2011, the idea for the site started its life in the year 2001 while working at Mac and PC Digital as a prepress operator for the busy service bureau. The company’s web page had been amended to include a bulletin board, and one of the topics on the board was Need Help Pre-Press. Feeling somewhat frustrated with the usual errors seen by clients, I posted – under a pseudonym – an article to the board highlighting what not to do when submitting files.

Days later, I was approached by the boss about the post. While I initially denied writing the post, he knew it was me, and made the comment that there was some great information that was presented, though was unimpressed by the tone of the post.

Willing to overlook this, he suggested turning my frustration into clients’ education, and rewrite the post into a series of smaller posts providing practical advice on best practices. I obliged, and when other issues arose that I felt clients should be aware of, I would add them to the posts.

Colecandoo could have been a book

Despite leaving Mac and PC Digital to work for Gillingham Printers, I kept writing notes about issues that I thought others should be aware of, conscious that there was very little literature in the marketplace for prepress advice. As I gained knowledge with my new employer, more information was added to my collection, and I was confident that I could curate the information into a book that I felt had a potential market.

Though one observation remained true – the industry was always changing, and information that could be published in one print-run of the book would quickly be out of date. Quark’s domination gave way to the rise of InDesign and the Creative Suite, Freehand was deprecated, and PDF became the way of submitting artwork for printing.

Given this rate of change, a book was deemed the wrong media to prepare this information… but I wanted to get my advice out there, one way or another.

The plunge

Seeing the success of sites such as indesignsecrets and indiscripts, I felt that the best platform for the information I had was to create a website – not to compete with these sites, but to complement their material with what I felt was finer detail on specific information.

On 30 April 2011, the first posts were published to Colecandoo. Many of the first posts related to the handover of files, such as formats that could be accepted; missing deadlines; and even simple things such as labelling disks and CDs… oh how times have changed.

Then it happened…

In early 2013, interest in the Colecandoo site would turn my world upside-down. I was contacted by InDesignSecrets whether I would be interested in writing an article about Data Merge for InDesign Magazine. Since then I’ve written a few more pieces for the magazine, along with close to 30 articles for InDesignSecrets, and spoken at two conferences in an official capacity (as well as unofficially at CreativeWOW sessions and Ignite sessions).

Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to provide advice and assistance to dozens of businesses, including international advertising agencies, Ivy League universities, federal government agencies, and several major franchises.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to speak to Adobe Software Engineers directly, and through support of readers of the site, I’ve been able to do this several times – something I didn’t think I’d ever do when starting the site ten years ago.

Passion Project

For those that aren’t aware, maintaining this site is not my full-time job – my full-time job is as a prepress operator for Openbook Howden Print & Design in Adelaide. That said, everything that is published on the Colecandoo site itself or its social media channels such as the Colecandoo Youtube channel – is done by me. From my perspective, I see the articles on this site as my way of giving back to the community.

My sincere thanks

My thanks go out to everyone who has supported the site, whether that is as simple as visiting the site now and again to see what has been written; or liking and subscribing to the Colecandoo Youtube channel; or purchased the Data Merge to Single Records PRO script.

Finally, thank you for a fantastic ten years, and look forward to many more years to come.

Just not Cricut – Update

UPDATE 2021-03-19: A further statement from Cricut’s CEO Ashish Arora was released on March 18, 2021, stating:

So, we’ve made the decision to reverse our previously shared plans. Right now, every member can upload an unlimited number of images and patterns to Design Space for free, and we have no intention to change this policy. This is true whether you’re a current Cricut member or are thinking about joining the Cricut family before or after December 31, 2021.

Ashish Arora (Cricut CEO)

This follows an announcement made in the previous week that uploads to Cricut’s Design Space that exceeded 20 per month would require a Cricut Access subscription. What followed on social media was an angry backlash of its user base, leading to the article that was previously posted below. I will leave the article for posterity, but in the interests of transparency, the article has since been reflected to post the March 18 statement.

There has been a development since the last article concerning Cricut’s decision to limit free uploads to its Design Space to 20 per month before requiring a Cricut Access subscription. In short, the CEO has released a statement that backs away from this decision… for now. Read the Cricut CEO’s statement on their site.

While this can be perceived as a win for Cricut users for the moment, it is worth noting the language of the second-to-last paragraph of the statement, that reads as follows:

We will continue to explore affordable ways for our future users who register machines after December 31, 2021 to allow an unlimited number of personal image and pattern uploads.

Ashish Arora (Cricut CEO)

Note the word “affordable”, and not “free”. Also, why set a date of the end of the year?

Where to from here?

Until this event, the Cricut maker community was arguably at peace and was happily using their Cricut plotting cutters. Since this event, the trust in the company has now been shaken… and the language used by the CEO in their statement does not rule out that they won’t try something like this to new users beyond next year.

The Cricut’s main competitor in this space – Silhouette – has been quick to capitalise on Cricut’s PR disaster releasing their own statement, of which one paragraph sums up their position:

There is no limit to the number of designs you are able to open and use with our software program. Silhouette has no obligation to sign up for any paid service in order to use the Silhouette cutting system or software, including your own files and designs (such as JPG, PNG, BMP, and TTF font files).

Silhouette spokesperson

The event has also spurred the community to looking into alternatives to the Cricut Design Space to interface with the plotter itself. Attempts to do this nearly a decade ago were met with legal action that was ultimately settled. But that will not necessarily stop everyone in the community from attempting to “Jailbreak” their Cricut so that the plotters can be run on other CNC software, whether a competitor or open-source.

Unfortunately, the whole event has tarnished the Cricut brand that makes arguably good hardware and consumables. Members of the Cricut community were vocal on social media, with the Reddit’s Cricut subreddit briefly pinning a note describing what action could be done – everything from cancelling Cricut Access, joining a class action lawsuit, brigading social media platforms such as Cricut’s Instagram and Facebook pages, buying competitor consumables such as vinyls and tools, etc.

I would personally like to interface the Cricut with any other software than the Cricut Design Space as described in the previous article. Releasing an API to the community so that plug-ins could be made for software such as Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Affinity Designer and Inkscape would go a long way to not only restoring faith in the Cricut brand, but make people use their Cricuts more as making designs for it would be in software that users would be familiar with already. If the Cricut Design Space is a good enough application, it should be able to stand on its own two feet without forcing its users to use it because there isn’t another application… and right now it is nowhere near that level.

Ultimately, it’s a win for existing Cricut users that has exposed the thoughts of what the company is prepared to do; and it is also a wake-up call to other software developers that software relies on happy users, and that it doesn’t take much to turn happy users into the Reddit army.

Advance “Australia Fair” Notice would have been nice

Those of you reading this article and living outside Australia may not be familiar with Advance Australia Fair, it is Australia’s National Anthem. The anthem is relatively new – adopted in 1984 to replace the previous anthem “God Save the Queen”; and is two verses in length.

So what does this have to do with this blog about prepress and InDesign advice? Well, in this instance, that a change without prior notice can cause major issues, and in this article, I’ll explain how it did just that recently.

Young to One

The Australian National Anthem can be a polarising topic, but in this article I want to put all politics aside and look at the practical effect this change made. For readers unfamiliar with the anthem, here is some context.

In November 2020, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian suggested a one-word change to the second line of the anthem to better reflect the country’s history prior to colonisation. The line that was previously:

For we are young and free

Would now become:

For we are one and free

This was not the first time an amendment had been suggested to the anthem, and in a news cycle dominated by COVID-19 and the US Elections, it was a story that was largely out of sight. However, unlike the other suggestions, this change was not only accepted – but literally implemented overnight, with the announcement by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on New Year’s Eve 2020 that the change would be made effective on January 1, 2021.

The effect of virtually no warning

In Australia, the school year starts late January and ends early December. This means that unique materials produced for schools for the new school year are normally produced between December and January, including school diaries.

An item requested by many schools to appear in their diaries is the Australian National Anthem, as it will be sung at various events such as assemblies, sporting events, etc.

Unfortunately, the timing of the decision is frustrating. The majority of school diaries are printed between October to December, meaning any diaries that featured the previous anthem were now incorrect. It also meant that any affected diaries that were in production had to be changed, and could mean reprinting single leaves or entire sections of a diary, depending on the printing method used. It could also mean having to reprint entire diaries that had already been perfect-bound; or for coil-bound diaries, the process of unbinding, replacing the affected page and rebinding the diary with a new coil.

I understand why the change to the anthem was made, and understand that January 1 is a convenient date on a calendar as it represents a new year, with Australia Day four weeks later. However, the lack of prior notice has caught not just my own employer off-guard, but anyone who makes similar collateral for schools.

Seen this before?

When preparing diaries for clients, every effort is made to ensure the correct dates and information is used, such as public holidays and school terms. Usually, these dates are planned and gazetted well ahead of time, but there are times that they have changed unexpectedly. One example was in October 2015 when the Queensland Government changed Labour Day from October to May for the next year. This was a mild inconvenience as most diaries were still in the round-tripping stage of their production and could be updated, but there were a handful of diaries that did need sections reprinted.

Yes, a phrase can be used to explain away mistakes in a diary, such as:

while correct at the time of printing, these dates are subject to change without prior notice

but that phrase doesn’t mean much when people that have relied on a date printed in a diary, only to learn – to their own inconvenience – that the date is incorrect.

Last thoughts on the issue

I understand that this is likely to be a one-off issue, but to cause so much rework was frustrating, simply because of a decision made by the Prime Minister – made with good intentions at its core – was done with virtually no warning to implement the change.

Yes, it’s only one word that changed, and yes I’m sure customers may be forgiving of the circumstances, but if the change to the anthem was far more major, then I don’t think customers would be so forgiving.

Personally, if there were to be changes to the Australian National Anthem, how about replacing the word “Girt”? It just means surrounded or enclosed, and isn’t it even in the wrong tense for the verb “Gird”? I also feel that Australia could be better represented by songs in 80s popular culture such as Land Down Under, Great Southern Land or Sounds of Then.

Lastly, even though it breaches part of the anthem’s protocols, the anthem can be sung to the tune of “Gilligan’s Island” or “Working Class Man” by Jimmy Barnes.

New Year’s Message for 2021

Given that the last general news update about this site was November 2012, it’s about time to provide another news update about the goings-on at Colecandoo.

10 years of Colecandoo in April 2021

April 2021 will mark ten years since Colecandoo.com was launched. The site started its life in the year 2000 on a former employer’s web forum in the form of a rant about what frustrated me about the files I had to handle on a daily basis. Upon being given the suggestion to turn frustration into education, I started documenting pain-points and writing suggestions on better practices for anyone who may be experiencing the same pain-points.

It wasn’t until 2011 that I had enough material to create a book, but given the pace of change in the printing industry, it would not be long before the information was out of date and revisions or reprints would be necessary, so what better platform to convey this information than a website?

In early 2013, interest in the site would be turned up to eleven. I was contacted by InDesignSecrets whether I would be interested in writing an article about Data Merge for InDesign Magazine. Since then I’ve written a few more pieces for the magazine, along with close to 30 articles for InDesignSecrets, and spoken at two conferences in an official capacity (as well as unofficially at CreativeWOW sessions and Ignite sessions).

Since starting this site, I’ve spoken at over a dozen events, including Adobe user groups, Adobe Community Professionals, as well as former and current employers.

My thanks go out to everyone who has supported the site, also to those who have gone out of their way to rally behind me to open doors I would have never thought imaginable. For years I’d wanted to be able to put suggestions and pain-points to Adobe Software Engineers directly, and through support of readers of the site, I’ve been able to do this several times.

Ten years on, some pain-points have gone; some pain-points remain, and new pain-points are introduced. I imagine that with the rise of Canva and the Affinity suite that there will be more to come, so stay tuned!

Data Merge to Single Records Pro beyond expectations

It has also been two years since the launch of the pro version of the Data Merge to Single Records script. The script had been on the back-burner for years after releasing the free version but I’d released the pro version after receiving dozens of direct requests for it. I didn’t think there would be much demand for the script from others, but two years on it has been downloaded more than I’d expected. To everyone who has purchased the script, thank you very much and I hope the script is saving time in your daily workflow.

Youtube

Many regular readers will note that it has been close to three years since the last upload to the Colecandoo YouTube channel (make sure you are subscribed to the Colecandoo). The aim of the channel was to show some tips and techniques that are hard to convey in the written format of the blog, and also had plans of monetizing the channel over time.

Preparing videos for YouTube takes many more hours and resources than writing articles for the blog. I also would like to increase the production values of the videos that are produced with better audio, graphics and on-site footage to demonstrate real-world applications of techniques shown in the videos. But in this environment that has been difficult to do, and in terms of production – I’m it! There’s no additional director, editor, producer, sound engineer, ADR… I’m it!

YouTube has increased the barrier to entry for monetization in 2019, effectively postponing monetization of the channel indefinitely. In short, eligibility hinges on having over 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time within 12 months, in addition to providing advertiser-friendly/family friendly material.

Put simply, I’d like to continue making the videos and hope to do so in the future, but at the moment – videos are on-hold… for now.

Affiliate links

In 2021, I’ll be adding a page dedicated to Amazon affiliate links, and may mention affiliate links in articles that I write. These will always be mentioned up-front because the first and foremost aim of this site is to provide prepress and InDesign advice to anyone.

For those unfamiliar with Amazon affiliate links, they are links to products on Amazon that – if a person who clicks upon a link then makes a purchase using that link – will allow revenue to be passed back onto the person hosting that link, which in this case is Colecandoo.

To come in 2021

COVID-19 has been devastating and 2020 will largely be remembered for this reason alone. Vaccines may be on the way but won’t resolve the crisis on its own, nor do it in a timely fashion. We must still play our part by social distancing and maintaining good personal hygiene.

This year has been a slower year for articles for reasons that should be self-evident – with two articles prepared, compared to 14 articles in 2019. I aim to correct this for 2021.

I also aim to revisit some scripts on the site, and add new scripts to the list, including pro versions of scripts such as the wall planner script.

Additionally, I’d also be interested to hear thoughts on whether or not to set up a Patreon, and also thoughts on merchandise through Redbubble or Teespring.

Lastly, I would like to wish everyone a safe and prosperous new year for 2021, and in the words of my old Design Manager, “Let’s Do This!”.

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