pyxlin vs blurb

MattD commented on Catherine’s blog entry about pyxlin’. Here is what he wrote:

blurb logo…Blurb just released (a month or two ago) a “blog slurper” which is meant to do almost exactly what pyxlin seems to want to do: automatically create a hardbound book of your blog. I wonder what pyxlin will offer to make it different.

Great question Matt. I can see why you think these two applications might be the same, both Blurb and pyxlin print hardbound books and both have the ability to publish a blog or a blook (blog + book). Beyond the blook, pyxlin is different from blurb in pretty much every way.

Similarity – Blooks (i.e., blog import)

A recent study showed that 37 percent of blogs are personal journals. Technorati’s most recent estimate of blogs world-wide is over 70 millions blogs! This means that approximately 25.9 millions blogs are used as personal journals.

For the same reason that pyxlin is going to include a MS Word Import, we are creating a blog import for the purpose of easily sucking in digital personal journals and converting them into readable books for your posterity. This is the only reason we have created an import for bloggers. Pyxlin will turn your personal online diary in to a “personal journal blook”.

Blurb’s primary purpose in creating a blog import is to give the opportunity for bloggers to sell their countless hours of blogging in book form. For example, I would love to buy excerpts of Seth Godin’s blog in the form of a book. I hate reading on a computer all day. My eyes just begin to wig out on me.

blooks vs blooks

Beyond the fact that pyxlin’s personal journals are for personal use while Blurb’s books are made primarily for resell, there are significant differences between pyxlin and blurbs typesetting abilities. Typesetting is the part that makes the text and photos in your book look nice.

To help illustrate the differences I created a book on blurb and then copied what it looked like with pyxlin. As you can see below the differences in margins, leading, kerning, ligatures, small-caps, paragraphs, justification, headers & footers, captions, widows, orphans, and so on are extreme.

Here is a screen shot of Blurb’s system

(click to see a full image and break down of the differences):

blurb - click to enlarge

pyxlin’s professional typesetting system powered by TeX:

pyxlin - click to enlarge

*I used Latin Filler Text to create these example books.

Pyxlin is all online

Because pyxlin is all online, there is nothing to download to your computer. Sharing is easy. So is publishing because you don’t have to wait for a 2 hour upload when you are ready to publish, it is already there. Most surprising is that because it is online, it is actually even faster than blurb’s application when you are working with more than 100 pages of text.

Even though it would be difficult to consider pyxlin’s journals a direct competitor to blurb’s books, I hope that this post helps you understand the differences between the two companies.

Overall blurb is a sweet company—located in San Fransisco— with a great name, great prices, and loads of funding. I am excited to see how they turn out against our friends at LuLu, their main competitor. Blurb is an On-Demand self-publisher that is really built primarily for authors to create and resell their books.

Pyxlin is simply a journaling application that allows you to keep your personal journal online, drag in your favorite photos, and then publish a beautiful hardbound journal.

Pyxlin is owned by FamilyLearn Inc. FamilyLearn is a small family history company founded by Neal Harmon. Neal grew up on the potato farms of Idaho. What little funding we have comes from family and close friends. Half of us are still students at Brigham Young University. We are probably just too stupid to know better but we hope to make pyxlin work without venture capital funding.


May 30, 2007. discussions, features, journal research, typesetting, Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Using mturk to help us create our logo.

Today I submitted a new HIT to Amazon Turk. We are going to pay 50-100 people to write our the word “pyxlin” with a marker and then scan it on to their computer and upload it to mturk.

You can participate by clicking here if you like. Even though we are only paying $0.10 for each HIT, we will be giving a small reward ($5 or something) to the person who’s handwriting is picked for our new pyxlin logo.

It will be fun to see what you come up with. If this works, it will be the least expensive logo I have ever created! I love Amazon Turk.

May 29, 2007. discussions, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Switching from Handwritten to Online

Neal wrote an excellent blog entry: Why I Switched from Handwritten to an Online Personal Journal. Take a look.

May 29, 2007. discussions, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Security Questions

In the 2000 surveys we have conducted between Turk users and BYU students, the only concern has been whether or not pyxlin will be secure enough to keep a personal journal online. Here are the comments (My responses are below):

…HOWEVER I find it very interesting that your survey did not address one of the most likely concerns of its users – namely, that of online security. Journals are private, intimate things and it will be paramount to completely convince users that their private writings, photos and data are not going to be plastered all over the internet by an ex-employee with a grudge.

I would not want an online journal, because if someone found out my password, they could break in and read my journal. I would literally rather die!

The way I feel about it, it sound like a good idea but won’t other people who would remain nameless (government) want to have access to this; and if so how personal is this personal journal?

I would like my personal journal to be personal, hence would not want to archive it online. I guess a lot of people would share my view.

A journal for me is very private. I would not be comfortable if it were on the net.

Anything I would put in a journal would be too personal and computers are too public – that’s why I’m not interested.

Slightly worried about hackers being able to obtain personal details with this system

Keeping a paper journal private may be difficult, but I rarely worry that some technical error will make it public to millions of people! This would terrify me unless I was writing for the purpose of having other people read it.

Journals are private. I’m sorry, but in this day and age of cross-site-scripting, SQL injections, identity thievery, and other malfeasance on the Internet, I wouldn’t trust my deepest, darkest, personal secrets, to a third party. …Then there’s the topic of security. How can you guarantee that your geeks and DBAs won’t read my journal?

Interesting for people who want to share their journals. I prefer to keep mine to myself.

Good luck in your venture. It sounds like a neat idea. The only thing I’d be worried about is how people would feel about privacy concerns. Either way, good luck.

Main reason for not digitizing – privacy. Nothing stays private once on internet. Old Deep Blog is more likely your audience. Those entries are generally unconcerned with privacy.

Service sounds great. But for me to use it, it would need to be secure. I don’t keep an online journal currently due to privacy. Still, sounds interesting.

Please get in touch by email on intro of this service. Sounds good. But you must offer guarantee of sorts on confidentiality of information from these journals.

Neat idea saving a journal online. How private would it be though? Would be worried that the hosts of the service are reading my journal and laughing 🙂

One thing to keep in mind is the personal nature of a journal. Some things are too private to be put on the internet, or printed out where one’s child might read them 10 years in the future. If the journal only includes happy, non-private things, what is the point?

You say that one of the advantages of the site is that it allows you to keep things completely private. Isn’t that lost when it is printed out?

I would never put such private information where others could potentially read it.

It sounds like a nice service, but I would be very concerned about privacy. Being able to access my journal from anywhere in the world with an internet connection is great, but I wouldn’t want anyone else to be able to access my journal… the idea that my journal is out there on some server somewhere is a bit scary.

I would be interested in a free trial of this product with security measures in place so others couldn’t read my journal.

How would it be completely private? Would there ever be any way that someone else could read it? How would it be organized if there weren’t specific topics like ‘Trips’? It sounds like a really cool idea though!

As I previously mentioned I would be concerned about the public access and safety of my journal online. Otherwise it sounds like a great service.

What are the chance of someone hacking into the system? It may happen!

I would be concerned about the privacy. My journal isn’t something I want the whole world to have internet access to.

pyxlin – the security YOU want

These are all excellent concerns. Security for your journal has been the topic of many water cooler conversations at FamilyLearn (parent company of pyxlin).

Due to these concerns, a couple of days ago we added a new question to our survey. Interestingly enough, we have not had a single comment about security sense we added this question. Here it is:

What kind of security would you need to feel comfortable keeping your privatel journal online?
  • I don’t keep a personal journal.
  • O encryption – As public as your blog, the whole world can read it.
  • 128 MB encryption on login – as secure as your email.
  • 128 MB encryption all-the-time – as secure as your online banking.
  • 256 MB encryption all-the-time – more secure than most banks (highest possible level of security)
  • I will never keep my journal online.

It is important that YOU decide what kind of security pyxlin will offer. So YOU vote here and we will listen.

funny security stuff

Your comments reminded me of a classic story about my grandpa in Burley, Idaho. I was visiting his house for a family gathering and I asked him if I could use the Internet. He passionately declared that he had no Internet and no plans to ever get it.

Grandpa, who had never used the Internet in his life, proceeded educate me on his superior Internet conspiracy knowledge. One: anyone with Internet can be spied on in their house by government agents. Two: if you have the Internet, technology pirates will come and take the money out of your bank accounts.

Moving On.

Here is comment on the survey that made me think:

“Keeping a paper journal private may be difficult, but I rarely worry that some technical error will make it public to millions of people! This would terrify me unless I was writing for the purpose of having other people read it.”

Last Fall I was inspired to start a blog by Paul Allen’s Internet marketing class at BYU. Two weeks into class Phil Windley, an early blogger, visited the class as a guest speaker. Phil was asked, “I can’t get anyone to come and read my blog. How do I get people to come to my blog?”

Phil first pointed out that it takes time to build “Google Juice” for your blog. He suggested that for the present we send our blog URL to our moms. Your mom will always read your blog.

In my enthusiasm I went home and emailed every family member I knew a link to my blog, including my mom. I posted regularly as I imagined that moment when the traffic would just flow like magic from Google. That moment never came. When you are competing with over 76 million other blogs it can be difficult to stand out. I can’t even get my mom to read my blog!

This reminds of the above t-shirt:

If I can’t get anyone to care about my blog, I can’t imagine that anyone would really care about my personal journal. Even if I did post my personal journal to the public I would never get “millions” of readers.

pyxlin – more secure than your traditional journal

Considering that 37% of journalers have had a journal lost or destroyed. Your private journal is probably more secure with pyxlin than your standard handwritten journal buried at the bottom of your dresser. Let me give you a comparison:

The Standard Journal

Your Private Online Journal

  • Only as private as the place you put it. Drawer, backpack, under your pillow. Your only security is your bad handwriting.
  • 128 MB Encrypted Password Protected.
  • Easy to lose, forget, or misplace.
  • Impossible to lose, forget, or misplace anywhere in the world.
  • Erodes, fades, and can be damaged over time.
  • We upload and preserve your journal perpetually. Your kids, grandkids, and great grandkids will enjoy this forever.
  • Your journal can be destroyed by: Housefires, Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Floods, Tornadoes, Landslides, Terrorist Attacks, Avalanches, Volcanos, your kids, siblings, or friends.
  • Multiple servers in multiple countries back up your every file. If your home town ges destroyed by an earthquake you can feel safe that your journal is secure.

May 26, 2007. discussions, journal research, Uncategorized. 3 comments.

A little more about TeX and pyxlin.

26 percent of journal (or diary) keepers use a Mac or PC. We are safe to assume that the vast majority of computer diaries and journals are kept on Microsoft Word, considering that Macs have only 5 percent of the market share.

Aside from computer crashes and other dangers we have previously discussed, typesetting is the greatest difference between MS Word and pyxlin which is powered by TeX.

Example 1 – Common Ligatures

Example 2 – Real Small Caps

Example 3 – Real World Example

TeX (professionally typeset) Microsoft Word (many errors)

When typesetting just one small example of words in Alice in Wonderland, note three major differences between professional typesetting, powered by TeX, and Microsoft Word. First, look carefully how TeX uses contextual intelligence to determine that a ligature is needed to combine the “f” and “i” in the word “finishing.” Second, TeX avoids placing “So” on its own line, making the sentence easier to read. Finally, TeX also produces a more balanced text block by extending the last sentence out on the final line, instead of leaving “been” hanging. Professional books are built upon this attention to balance and detail. If MS Word makes this many mistakes in a simple 86 word excerpt of Alice and Wonderland, how many mistakes are their going to be in your whole journal?

Pyxlin not only looks more professional but it will also be much easier to use as a journal tool than MS Word.

Related Post: History of TeX

Related Post: pyxlin – powered by TeX

May 18, 2007. discussions, journal research, typesetting, Uncategorized. 2 comments.

History of TeX

The following is a brief history of TeX, the system that powers pyxlin. You will better understand why pyxlin is the solution to writing, printing, and binding your personal journal. Pyxlin is not like simple word processors, blogs, or cheap book making systems.

TeX logo from Wikipedia

In 1969, Professor Donald Knuth, at Stanford University, published his first book. Knuth’s publisher produced a beautifully typeset book using the classical process, called mono-type, a century old technology for laying out the text in books. Years later, in 1977, he completed the manuscript for a new volume of his book. This time Knuth decided to try out the new computerized typesetting systems. He received the galley proofs–previews of what his book would look like–and compared them to the classical book he had previously published. The galley proofs were awful. After a futile search for a computerized typesetting solution, Knuth decided to take a year off his work to create the needed solution. He got hooked and he started on a 12 year journey creating TeX, one of the world’s most stable and advanced typesetting systems.

Related Post: pyxlin – powered by TeX

May 17, 2007. features, typesetting, Uncategorized. 2 comments.

pyxlin – powered by TeX

Typesetting is the single greatest challenge we have faced in creating pyxlin. Along side its sister application, MemoryPress, pyxlin is the world’s first online typesetting program.

Typesetting started with Johannes Gutenberg who invented movable type (seen above) to typeset the Bible. As you can see in the photo above, each letter had to be placed by hand in backwards order. Gutenberg’s invention of movable type was rated by LIFE Magazine as the single greatest event in history.

Pyxlin’s online typesetting application is powered by TeX. Unlike word processing applications, blogs, and email, pyxlin automatically takes care of details like, dates, alignment, spacing, font size, headers, footers, page numbers, and table of contents. Using pyxlin is like having a personal designer that worries about the visual aspect of your journal, so that you can devout your attention to journaling.

Typesetting separates pyxlin from blogs. Typesetting separates pyxlin from photobooks. Typesetting separates pyxlin from word processors.

TeX logo from Wikipedia

Three powerful typesetting systems are responsible for almost every modern book, magazine, catalog, and newspaper you have ever seen or read: TeX, Quark Xpress ($749.00 software package), and Adobe InDesign ($699.00 software package). Hiring a professional typesetter to run these systems for you would only set you back $1,000 to $2,000 per book. Pyxlin delivers the power of TeX to your personal journal or diary, making it simple for you to create a book that even Gutenberg could be proud of.

Related post: History of TeX

May 16, 2007. features, typesetting, Uncategorized. 3 comments.

pyxlin journaling vs photobooks

Last I counted there were over 40 photo book companies on the web. A simple search for “photo book” on Google will bring up dozens of results. They range in quality and cost.

Photo books are basically the modern day photo album. Per photo, they are much less expensive than the traditional photo album. Most photo books allow you to add captions or small sections of text to your photos.

Why can’t I create my journal on a photo book?

Great as photo books are, they are still just photo books, not journals. In a photo book, short captions or stories revolve around your photos. In pyxlin, your photos revolve around beautifully typeset journal entries. Pyxlin is all about your life’s stories. It is the story behind the photo.

Writing is my brother’s passion. In the past few months he has written his journal on our first version of pyxlin. Out of a 120 page journal, he only added four photos to his journal. If you don’t want photos in your pyxlin journal, you don’t have to add them. Your journal, or diary, can be all text or it can be mostly photos, it is up to you.

May 15, 2007. discussions, typesetting, Uncategorized. 1 comment.

37% of journalers have had a journal lost or destroyed.

Here are some other interesting stats on how many of these journals are lost:

  • 21 percent of journalers have lost a journal by misplacing it (these are probably mostly handwritten).
  • 13 percent have lost their journal to a computer crash.
  • 2 percent have been destroyed in an accident (e.g. House fire, water)
  • 0.5 percent have been lost in a natural disaster (e.g. tornado, flood, hurricane, earthquake)

This is a total of 36.5 percent! Wow, who would have thought this many people have experienced losing their journal?

Can your journal survive this? Pyxlin can.

Could your personal journal/diary survive this? pyxlin can.

May 14, 2007. discussions, journal research, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Half of personal journals are still handwritten.

We have now surveyed 1000 plus Amazon Mechanical Turk users about personal journals. Here are some interesting about those who keep a personal journal:

  • 48 percent of personal journals are still written by hand.
  • 26 percent are kept on a Mac or PC.
  • 24 percent are now kept online (mostly blogs).
  • 1.6 percent are kept in other ways (calendar, on PDAs…)

The Amazon Turk crowd is a fairly tech savvy group of people. Anyone who spends their day going through and answering turk questions understands the Internet very well.

I would assume that the number of handwritten and PC/Mac journals would go up if we had a more broad survey demographic, but I was still surprised that almost half of personal journals are still kept by hand.

May 14, 2007. discussions, journal research, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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