Universitat Oberta de Catalunya

Marco Tabor (English version)

Marco is PR and Sales Manager at Enough Software, and the coordinator of the Mobile Developer’s Guide to the Galaxy. The latest edition of the guide (12th), released at Mobile World Congress 2013, has been translated for first time to Spanish by UOC, being the Catalan version in translation process. The book is free, hardcopies can be requested to Enough Software and the PDF version, both in English and Spanish, can be downloaded at http://www.enough.de/mdgg.

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We are at a Networking Garden in the Mobile World Congress 2013, Barcelona, making an interview to Marco Tabor for Mosaic Magazine and…

Thanks for having me!

1. …we would like to make you some questions about your splendid work with the Mobile Developer’s Guide. For starters, we’d like to know about your career in mobile until now.

Well, my career in mobile started maybe eight or ten years ago in a company that was offering WiFi connection tools. In the beginning I was mainly doing translation jobs for them until my focus shifted towards Sales and PR. After three years I left that company then, due to… well, complicated reasons. Afterwards, I really didn’t have a plan to stay at the mobile, I was thinking about starting my own projects which had nothing to do with software because I don’t have a technical background: I studied sociology and anthropology. However, I ended up in that industry again, because my old friend Robert came up to me after I quit at the WiFi company and asked me if I want to join Enough Software. I got to know Robert probably 15 years ago when both of us were studying law. He quitted his studies just as I did and ended up opening Enough Software, offering mobile tools. Since I was sure that it would be fun working with him, I joined Enough Software and never regretted it. My job focus shifted over the past 4 years from doing only PR and Sales to a broader range of activities that include general management stuff, account management and so on.

2. How did you get the idea of creating the Mobile Developer’s Guide?

It was actually the idea of Robert in the first place, not mine. Since we’ve met so many people on all these industry events who didn’t really understand mobile and because we understand that you easily lose track trying to follow all developments in an area as dynamic and constantly changing as the mobile space. You easily get lost with all these technologies coming up and disappearing again, especially if you are not an active part of the mobile community and mobile is just one part of your company’s focuses. Since we were doing mobile software for many years, we reached a point where we said “OK, we’re fed up of explaining things over and over again, let’s put our knowledge into a booklet and give it to all those newbies” [laughter]. Right from the beginning, the plan was to keep it open, to invite everybody to contribute to the project. We’re coming from an open source background, we’ve always believed in the power of communities. That’s how we ended up having over 20 writers involved in the current edition and that’s how the book got as thick as it is now: 256 pages.

3. Which was the year of the first edition?

2009, on the Mobile World Congress, as well. That one had… 45 pages.

Wow, what a change now it’s…

Yes. But 256 pages are actually also the limit. Our printing house can’t handle anymore, they said to us [laughter]. I’m happy with sticking to the current amount of pages because it’s getting really heavy carrying all these tons of books around.

So you’re taking the editorial industry to it’s limits! It’s been four years… three editions…?

Per year, right. We want to switch to a 6-month release cycle now. In the beginning, in 2009 and 2010, everything in mobile changed so rapidly that every 12 weeks we ended up saying “This is not up to date any longer, let’s push out a new edition”. But we want to reduce it and I also think it will be possible since the business is consolidating more and more. Reducing the amount of releases also allows us to focus on the business we’re doing (app development) and… pay our rents [laughter].

4. How’s the process of the book production and management? How do you coordinate the team?

Usually, people are coming up to us when they think some content is missing and they offer themselves as writers. I’m then usually their first contact. The first step and sometimes the hardest is making them understand that it’s not a marketing platform, because lots of writers are working for companies, and the companies want to place and promote their products in the guide. Sometimes it is pretty costly to really make them understand that they can of course mention their own tools if they are really relevant, but that they have to mention all relevant competitors’ products as well. Objectivity is what makes the book useful and is the main reason for its success. If I’ve got the impression that they understood this, I encourage them to write the first draft of the article. If the result convinces me and the other editors, I invite him/her to the Wiki where the whole content is hosted and the whole editing process takes place. Once that’s finished, we get this whole content automatically imported into our InDesign file, where all the illustrations are ready. That’s it. Sounds easy, but sometimes it’s pretty hard to get all texts on time and in a quality that meets our expectations.

5. How long since you create the InDesign file until go to press?

Once we have the InDesign file, it gets sent to the printer pretty quickly. The whole editing process on the other hand takes longer. I think the last time it’s been around two months. The deadline for the writers usually is, more or less, four weeks before the release. That’s always pretty tight because, as I said, we want to keep it updated and a month can be quite a lot of time in this business.

Yes, like past January with RIM changing to BlackBerry, for instance.

Yes, for example! Last year it was Nokia’s Windows Phone collaboration which we didn’t know before the release and then it came up just when we published the 10th edition.

6. What pros and cons have you found when working with the Wiki.

Actually… only pros from my point of view. Before we had the Wiki, it was a long and confusing document ping pong game with each and every author. It really sucked. The Wiki meant a huge progress, especially from an editorial point of view; it makes it easy to work on the content with many people at once. However, what has been kind of a challenge has been the automatized import into the InDesign file. But we sorted that out and now it’s possible to import the content into our InDesign file with one click.

7. What tools do you use, apart from the Wiki and InDesign? Just those?

Just those.

And with just that, you produce the book.

Yes.

8. In the future, do you expect to keep using the Wiki or will you change or incorporate new tools to the process?

No, we wanna stay with the Wiki. Actually the guys from the Wireless Industry Partnership (WIP) who are putting up the Parallel Guide to the Universe focusing on monetization, are also now planning to use it as well.

9. How do you promote the Guide?

Well, not really that much, I mean, of course I’m using social networks and the channels we are already using as a company to promote our services, but it’s kind of more word of mouth propaganda. The community knows the book is actively involved and developers and people from the mobile business are always happy to get the latest edition. Where we do need promotion though is the sponsorship aspect: Since we are giving it away for free it is important to find printing sponsors, which can be challenging. I have to make these guys understand “OK, you want to gain visibility among the developer community, then consider sponsoring it. But, please accept that it’s not a promotion platform. You don’t control the content in any way, you just get the logo on the back and that’s it”.

10. So, next edition… when?

Hopefully in September, which is also kind of high season for events.

It’s September and, then, another one for the next Mobile World Congress.

Right, that’s the plan, but we never know, I mean if there are big industry shifts taking place… we might have to squeeze in another release earlier. [laughter]

11. What do you think is your mission, your philosophy, in the mobile world?

Me as in personal or me as a company?

You as in personal.

Well, I think one point for me, personally, to try to create some benefiting team spirit and to pursue that the people who I’m working with are having fun while they’re doing what they’re doing. I’ve got the impression that most of the companies are really too much focused on revenue and on making money and all these things, and I think that it is very important that people are enjoying what they’re doing. I think that’s… what is my job at Enough Software, to really make sure, yeah, that the team is happy with what they’re doing for us.

Would you like to add something?

I’m looking forward the translation, by the way, I mean it’s great to have another language [UOC translated the Guide in Spanish]… really awesome.

We enjoyed it!

Thank you.

It’s a great book to read, a very important one, and… many people we know have already asked “Give me a copy! Where can I get it?!”… it was “Oh my god!”. [laughter]

I’d love to print it in Spanish as well! But.. we can’t afford.

That’d mean to look for more sponsors yet. Our students that understand English better are also enjoying it. They like it very much.

Thank you! [laughter]

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