April 11, 2008

Libre Graphics Meeting raising funds for developer travel

Author: Nathan Willis

The annual conclave of free graphics software developers, users, and artists known as the Libre Graphics Meeting (LGM) is set for May 8-11 in Wroclaw, Poland, this year. LGM organizers are holding a fund-raising campaign this week to help volunteer developers travel to the event.

Now in its third year, LGM gathers programmers, users, and designers representing all of the major free graphics applications -- the GIMP, Krita, Inkscape, Blender, and Scribus -- and other apps, plus related projects like OpenICC and the Open Clip Art Library. The conference allows the developers to collaborate, share ideas and code, cooperate on cross-application standards, and simply get to know one another. End users and artists are an integral part of LGM, too, participating in meetings with developers, showcasing work, and contributing tutorials.

A time crunch meets a money crunch

Planning for this year's conference has been in progress since last year's LGM in Montreal, but the program hit an unexpected snag in March when one of the sponsors had to pull out. With little warning, LGM organizers had to assemble a short-term plan to raise $20,000.

The bulk of the contributed funds will subsidize travel expenses for attendees -- many of whom are volunteer contributors to the open source community, without corporate travel budgets. The attendees' need to make travel arrangements for early May meant that whatever funds could be raised needed to be available fast.

The fund-raising campaign is being hosted at pledgie.com, and the deadline for contributions is April 18 -- one week from today. The donation system uses PayPal to send funds to LGM; transactions are instant, not held in escrow. As of today, 157 individual donors have contributed more than $6,000 -- about 30 percent of the overall goal.

Importance of the conference

Dave Neary, a pivotal LGM organizer since the first year of the conference, has been publicizing the fundraiser -- both by talking to potential contributors personally, and by posting a series of success stories from LGMs past on his blog.

I talked to Neary at the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit in Austin about the campaign and about how LGM benefits the free software graphics community. You can see tangible benefits of the first two LGMs in the graphics software you use right now. Today, all of the major graphics apps share assets like brushes, color palettes, fonts, patterns, and gradients, through the use of common formats and shared resource locations -- work that grew directly out of LGM meetings.

Then there is color management. Three years ago, Neary observed, it basically did not exist. Today, all of the major graphics applications -- raster and vector image editors, RAW photo converters, 3-D tools, and more -- support color managed displays, embedded color profiles, and use common locations for ICC resources.

And there is no substitute for face-to-face meeting, Neary added. In enables better collaboration on solving common problems, and can generate unexpected creativity as well. A case in point, he explained, is the SIOX image extraction algorithm. SIOX creator Gerald Frieldland volunteered to give a talk about his creation at the first LGM meeting in 2006. At the time, SIOX was under development as a GIMP tool. But less than one day after seeing Frieldland's talk, a Blender developer at LGM had written preliminary support for a SIOX node in the Blender compositor.

Finally, LGM offers opportunities for graphics software coders to meet with the people who use their work to create art of their own. LGM works to include a diverse user community, such as Open Clip Art, Creative Commons, and the Peach and Orange open movie projects from the Blender Foundation.

There is just one week left to raise support for volunteers to travel to LGM 2008. If you can help out, visit the LGM fundraiser site and make a donation.


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