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Hello Ruby is a children’s book that teaches programming fundamentals through stories and kid-friendly activities.
9,258 backers pledged $380,747 to help bring this project to life.

The Process

Posted by Linda Liukas (Creator)
89 likes

Sixteenth update

Hello there. How're you doing? It's me. This update is about the year behind us. About the process, the path and the product. And what really happens when you decide to write a book.

One year ago my life turned upside down - thanks to all of you. This project was just an idea of a different way to teach computing concepts, a bunch of pictures and a video. I lacked the skills and the vocabulary to describe what I was doing. Luckily I was also naive enough to think I could make it all happen.

You can scroll down to read more about the process of illustration, authoring, curriculum, and philosophy. And some sneak peeks to the final illustrations.

Next time I will talk more on what’s happening in Ruby’s life at the moment.

Hugs,

Linda

The pictures: importance of sketching

Sketches from different stages of the first spread. Decided to make Ruby more active, outside the tent in the end.
Sketches from different stages of the first spread. Decided to make Ruby more active, outside the tent in the end.

Illustration is the part where I can really see the change a year has brought. When I started with the book I had no idea how to do entire spreads and backgrounds, how to pace the pictures, how to make characters move and live. Now the book looks the way I always imagined.

Drawing a line feels so permanent. In the beginning I would draw something and feel desperate. The pictures were mediocre, nothing like I imagined in my head. But I learned to embrace the cmd+z -command, to endure the smudgy lines and wonky compositions. I figured that drawing is mechanical repetition and that the only way to get better is to make raw and ugly things at first.

I had this idea about a diving penguin and a Richard Scarry style cut out underworld - took a lot of iterations :)
I had this idea about a diving penguin and a Richard Scarry style cut out underworld - took a lot of iterations :)

And now, after a year, I understand that the messy sketches serve a purpose. They help to shape an idea. The sketches you see are from all over the year. You can see ideas evolving and being killed. And I needed to come up with a lot more ideas and kill even more, as the book ballooned from 32 pages to over 120!

For someone who comes from the web industry, where you deploy five times a day and things are designed for change, a book feels very final. The book is a representation of who I am and what I know today. Five years from now it would look totally different. I would actually love to see artists redraw some of their early books!

This picture also was one of the first ones I imagined: I wanted the kitchen to feel full of life and color.
This picture also was one of the first ones I imagined: I wanted the kitchen to feel full of life and color.

The words: importance of clarity 

I’m asked a lot whether I first wrote the text, made the pictures or came up with the exercises. Being the sole author had the advantage of handling everything in parallel, weaving a pattern that has all three elements.

Sometimes I would come up with new exercise, draw a reference to the chapter and modify the text. The beauty of picture books is that the drawings can tell a whole other story beyond the words.

Having a professional editor was amazing. Lauren helped me come up with a friendly voice for all the characters and structure the entire story in a new way. She was the one who suggested making the book twice as long, in order to let the story breath.

She also taught me about the power of emotions. The first version of the story didn’t have a clear motive: the wind swept away Ruby’s gems and off she went for an adventure. The new version has a stronger storyline with a traveling dad who sets up Ruby on an adventure quest for gems - now there’s emotions and drama and a little bit of suspense. Many classic children’s books stories share themes and structures, the trick is to bring in your own viewpoint. I thought about stuff that made me excited as a kid: tightly rolled maps, the underwater world, the idea that my plush toys have a life of their own.

Lauren also asks all the nitty-gritty questions: where did the backpack disappear? Why do the penguins say this? How come Ruby knows that? Instead of describing, can we jump into action? She pushed me to be clear, but interesting at the same time. The amount of comments and corrections in a manuscript of a few dozen pages is in the hundreds.

The exercises: importance of structure

Curriculum was one of the biggest question mark, even when I started the project last January. CS is a young, messy field with many names for similar concepts (just look at this article on data structures). The list of themes I had outlined wasn’t conclusive.

The evolution of the curriculum
The evolution of the curriculum

Coming up with the topics I wanted to teach and the philosophy of how to teach them was one of the most rewarding parts of this journey. But it took a lot of talking, exploring and playtesting. And now I’m really happy with the workbook.

It was clear for me that this wasn’t a book about ‘learning to code’, but about key computing concepts and practices in general. And that the activities should happen away from the computer, center around play and be as non didactic as possible.

I read a lot (and I’ve listed some of the resources below) and talked with a lot of people, from academia and industry to early childhood pedagogy. And everyone encouraged me not to worry too much about making the curriculum exhaustive, but to focus on things that the kids found fun. Kids between 5-7 are like sponges. They learn so much about the world and the things they learn stick with them.

So pretty early on I realized that the book was to be semi-educational, very much from my point of view, reflecting the way I see computing. Hopefully the activities will inspire people to go off and do their versions.

(I’ve noticed I work through problems best by structuring them into talks: a lot of the thinking process for the curriculum is also present in Principles of Play talk I gave this February)

So what happens next?

One manuscript, one year :)
One manuscript, one year :)

This whole thing started as a one-off Kickstarter project. But the support from all of you has made it possible for Hello Ruby to become so much more. Having an audience of 10 000 people while you're working on your first book - that’s amazing and great, but also scary.

During the last year I’ve thought a lot about what I want to do with Hello Ruby. There are so many directions: I have a few new book ideas in my head, I have strong concepts about a community for sharing and remixing the content from the books, I want to dip my toes in applications and make a Crawl Inside A Computer exhibition with tactile and playful learning principles.

The book is going to be released in the fall and I’m anxiously waiting for it to land on the hands of thousands of kids. Currently I’m working on a bunch of web activities around the principles of play, which I also want to eventually share with you.

Linked List

This time the Linked List is more of a Best of -summary. I’ve listed resources and people who’ve helped me grow in the past year.

Illustration 

  • I love Kyle Websters brushes and couldn’t make my drawings without them.
  • Pinterest continues to be my number one illustration resource: I follow great illustrators and illustration boards. (One trick I have if I feel stuck is to just copy a favorite illustration and try to figure out how and why it works. Always gets me unstuck!)

Authoring 

Curriculum 

Philosopy & principles 

Tasha Turner, Lukas Martini, and 87 more people like this update.

Comments

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    1. Linda Liukas Creator on

      Hi all, thanks for your comments here, I appreciate the continued interest in Hello Ruby.

      When the hard copy books will be shipped, I’ll include a KS exclusive booklet with more activities, stories and surprises (The Parents Guide). Kickstarter backers will still be the first ones to receive the books, first the ebooks followed by the physical books and other rewards which will start shipping to you guys before the general public’s publishing date.

      I realise some of you are upset about the Amazon pre-order price (book pricing is something each retailer decides by themselves) The KS funding though has been and is being used for the production and distribution of this book to the backers.

      Thank you everyone! I hope you will enjoy the book - just a few more months. - Linda

    2. Missing avatar

      Jason Hummel on

      I can live with the endless amounts of delays, even though my daughter is now too old for this book, I'm sure I can use it as a present for someone. The thing I can't excuse, however, is the fact I paid over twice as much to get a book at the exact same time as the rest of the general public. I couldn't believe it when I clicked @JH's link and saw the hardcover up for sale for $12! What is my extra $28 going to?

    3. Nate on

      It also depends on if you're backing it as a preorder, or backing it because you love the idea.

      Expectations of preorder backers will rarely be met with kickstarters run by first timers, because the first timers have to learn everything about creating a product. Regardless of if these are reasonable expectations or if kickstarter is a "preorder" program, these expectations are usually out of reach for first timers, especially for a person (rather than a company) running a campaign.

      Preorder backers can still be disappointed that it didn't run exactly as planned, but should realize that this is common among kickstarters.

    4. Missing avatar

      Greg DeMaderios on

      My criteria for a successful KS is different than @spongefile. While I agree that a product actually shipping (albeit late) is part of that criteria, I have other criteria.

      Shipping: This product hasn't shipped yet.

      Timeliness: The product is overdue by a year.

      Exclusivity: Nothing. Backer updates (as infrequent as they are) are open to the general public. We are getting nothing in return for backing this book.

      Pricing: We are paying more than DOUBLE the amount of the retail book. The hardcover book on KS was $40. The retail book is on sale on Amazon for under $13. The digital download version is even more expensive than the retail hardcover.

      Backer Updates: She has promised and promised more and more frequent backer updates. Her last update was in March…2.5 months ago

      Accountability: She has some degree of accountability to over 9000 KS backers. We’ve asked for an accounting of where her money went. She hasn’t answered.

      Customer Service: This hasn’t been very good. Backers have asked very specific questions and if they’ve been answered, it has been very vague, if at all.

      In addition to this, a stretch goal was mentioned of a “Parents Guide”. There has been no mention of whether or not the Parents Guide is still on the table. So all in all, this Kickstarter (for me) has been a miss on all fronts.

    5. Missing avatar

      JH on

      @spongefile - Wow you certainly have done a massive amount - 350!

      Out of interest though (and to help check my expectations maybe) roughly how many of those projects have managed to do one or more of the following (as well as being late!):

      1) Provide backers with the product before it goes fully public through retail?
      2) Provide backers with something unique that is not availble through retail?
      3) Provide backers with the product at a lower price than through retail?

      I ask because at the moment I'm grumpy as the book seems to be finished but is just waiting launch for when Macmillian (and Linda?) will maximise profits and when I do get the book
      it will be standard retail copy that I will have paid far more for (It's $12 on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Hello-Ruby-Adventures-Linda-Liukas/dp/1250065003)

      I may just have unrealistic expectations from my limited use of KS thoug so would be genuinely interested to hear your view!

    6. spongefile
      Superbacker
      on

      I've backed a massive amount of KS projects, and I can promise you all that almost every single one is late. As in seriously late, not just a few weeks late. The main difference between "successful" ones and "unsuccessful" ones is: 1. Do they eventually ship and 2. Does the product match expectations on arrival. Many start out promising, then quit and flee. This is not one of them. Many do ship, but the product is a sad shadow of what it was supposed to be. Based on the kinds of updates we're getting I bet the quality will be up to par as well. So I'm betting on a successful end to all this, as far as KS projects go.

    7. Missing avatar

      Greg DeMaderios on

      I think it's fairly obvious that she doesn't care about the Kickstarter backers. I'm basing this on lack of updates, no book until October, not answering questions. I'm seriously disappointed and so are many others. She got a book deal and used the Kickstarter money for traveling and now claims she won't refund anyone. In addition to that, the book is way less expensive now. This has been the absolute worst Kickstarter I've ever been a part of. We should all just kiss our money goodbye...

    8. Linda Julien on

      Like others, I'm not really sure that my daughter will be an appropriate age by the time we receive the book. I backed it knowing that there was a particular time line in mind, and all of the schedule-slipping has been quite challenging.

    9. Missing avatar

      Brenda Wallace on

      i backed this when my daughter was 3. She has since started school and learned to read. Hoping this will land real soon as she's ready to start typing code now.

    10. Missing avatar

      henriette schultz on

      We ar so much looking forward to see the final product! I hope my daughter will actually still be as interested as she was a year ago! *semisatisfied backer*

    11. Linda Liukas Creator on

      Hi Mary Jane, I'll be sending the books and other rewards this October. Good luck on your Indigogo!

    12. JEANNE OCONNELL
      Superbacker
      on

      Thanks for updating...It's an important part of the process esp. when things take much longer than expected. I will appreciate the final product.

    13. Matthew Miller on

      Like Becky, I wasn't going to say anything, until I read the comments. Look, everyone: Kickstarter is not a store. It's a place to back creation. I'm also disappointed that this is slow, but I'm not upset, and personally I feel like my pledge went to something valuable even if I don't get a reward.

    14. Mary Jane Condon Bohlen on

      Just wondering WHEN to expect this book?? I am starting to wonder if my grandson is going to be too old to make use of this. I am starting an Indiegogo Campaign on April 29th. I KNOW my book is heading to the printer the first of June and that I will have it IN HAND no later than the 1st part of September. I have planned this out so that backers don't have to receive their reward LONG after they backed it. What is your time frame that I can count on? Thanks, Mary Jane

    15. Meeker on

      Looking at it from both sides, I think the primarily source of the anger has been the result of the delay in the books, and fairly non-substantial communications with the backers.

      There was an opportunity to engage the backers and convert them into advocates which was missed due to the lack of communication regarding the delays. Combined with the 'surprise' announcement of a publisher agreement, looks to be the delay, there should not have been a surprised that some backers may have they where non-compensated financiers, rather then Kickstarter Backers.

      Now on the flip side, I can understand why obviously that Linda can not obviously disclose every business detail, and of course the rationale for the delay (Publisher has to make money to now) And that ultimately the idea, materials and the end product is owned by Linda and or holding company, but unfortunately this is the internet, and logic rarely wins.

      That said, where their mistakes made by both parties? (Linda + Backers) Sure, there where, and some opportunists have been missed, but it should be clear that for now, there is a real expectation gap between both parties that have not been managed well, in addition to some unrealistic expectations that both parties are still clinging on to...

      That said, for me personally, I ordered the book in well in advance for my son, who based on the original schedule would not have been age appropriate... with the sad delays, it is looking like he'll actually be able to use it on delivery, which is both a good thing personally, and a bad thing for a business model.

    16. Linda Liukas Creator on

      Hey, just wanted to say thanks for your comments here! Let me know if you have questions or ideas on what you’d like to to write about in the next backer updates :)

    17. Becky on

      Thank you for taking the time to make great work!

      I was going to be one of the "silent majority," as David put it, until I read some of the negative comments. Creating and inventing takes time, whether art or science - and this book was across several disciplines of both. In fact, so is making a good program. Thank you for not approaching the book with a "code & load" mentality.

      Thank you for letting us into your process. I loved seeing the iterations as you developed the project. I love being able to show my kids (and myself) that we don't create in its final form. Or linearly. We get a fantastic idea, but we don't really know the shape of it until after we are well into developing it. It becomes something more than we ever could have imagined.

      As to the age of children, I have pre-teens and the delay will not have been a problem. My daughter is currently 12. She is a voracious reader of chapter books. My son is 10 and will be 11 in October when Ruby is ready to ship. They have each programmed their first mod for Minecraft in Java thanks to the creative tutelage in their Youth Digital courses. I say that as context for this: We will all enjoy your Ruby books. We appreciate new approaches, learning new ways to think about what we're learning. Learning is not linear. And we like learning with stories. (See the Life of Fred math series. I love his calculus book!)

      By the way, I would have bought your Ruby books even if I didn't have kids just because I loved the idea so much I wanted to be a part of making it a reality. I bought 2 sets of the books not because I have 2 kids, but to pass along. I have 2 sisters who are programmers. Between them, I have 4 young nephews. When we are done with your Ruby books, we will send them to my sisters' families.

      Please ignore the trolls and malcontents who don't understand. I'm so happy to have found you during your Kickstarter. I'm happy to have been along for the journey. You handled this process with so much grace. I can't wait to see your finished work. <3

    18. Victoria Hadley on

      Just love this project Linda! The updates are art pieces in their own write. Following the process and the links included is so useful. Can't wait for the book and poster, already wanting a series (no pressure, just appreciation) Victoria.

    19. Missing avatar

      Joseph Gillis on

      Great update. There was a lot of good information in there and it helped to understand things from your perspective. It looks like to put together an amazingly educational and entertaining book that I am looking forward to experiencing with my daughters. Thanks, JD.

    20. Kate Seeley on

      Linda!
      BRAVO!! I am so impressed and look forward to your book. I am IMPRESSED and also know the complexities and scariness of being backed and disappointing people, as I am living it alongside you. That piece does not help creativity bloom~ PRESSURE~ Having also had to write updates about delays and having had a few frustrated backers, but none as brutal as some of your 10,000 :) ~ well done on that number! AWESOME :) , I want you to know how much MOST people love and appreciate your effort. Grand things take time and this is MORE CREATIVE TIME and EFFORT , that if one is not in a creative field, they cannot possibly fathom the scope of what is in front of you. You've put your butt on the line, and I believe it'll pay off hugely ~ I pledged because I, at 51, want to learn a new thing from a child's perspective. I love languages and this is just a different one :) We'll see about THAT!!! I'll rope a younger human into reading and studying w me. Thank you in advance!!! Kate

    21. Missing avatar

      Michael Quarshie on

      Linda, great job not compromising on your vision and the quality of the final product. There is no question you made the right choice. It's a Kickstarter project. Delays happen. Anyone who does not understand that had unrealistic expectations. Knowing friends who have not been able to realize their dream of writing a book, I'm extremely happy to have had the chance to support such a great project. I'm excited to see the final product and sharing not just the book but the entire story about how it was created with the lucky recipients. Great job!!

    22. Cathy Franchett
      Superbacker
      on

      I'm far from disappointed. I love your updates. I am excited that this book is getting closer to being in my hands. I have 2 very smart young people who are looking forward to learning everything they can. To those who feel that their child might be "too old" for this style of book, you might want to look at your own attitude. I'm far from young and I love picture books, chapter books... any books at all, and my kids love them too. You are never too old to appreciate a good picture book. Thanks to you, Linda, for all your hard work bringing us an even better book than we originally planned.This is the reason I love Kickstarter!

    23. John Dalton on

      I love this insight into the process, and that your passion and determination to get this right comes through so clearly. I backed this not only for my own children but for every child; good educational resources - especially those which take a different approach to the resources already available - are an investment in our future. I hope (and am sure) this book and everything else that comes with it will play a part in teaching a new generation of hackers to play, explore and delight in computing.

    24. Missing avatar

      Tom Panning on

      Linda, thanks for making this book. I know some of us have kids that were on the upper end of the target age, and they may feel a little too old for this style book when it arrives, particularly since once kids move on to "chapter books" they disdain anything that's not a chapter book. I have four kids with a pretty big age gap, and I had hoped at least some of my older kids would get use out of this book. At this point, that seems fairly unlikely (although it is surprising what kids will be interested in if their parents show an interest and enthusiasm).

      But to be honest, I wouldn't have bought it if I didn't have a younger kid, for whom this book will still be appropriate 14 months later than estimated. I think this is about par for the course on Kickstarter: a project that probably never would have seen the light of day is taken up by an ambitious person or group who pour their heart and soul into it, but despite their best efforts things are late and a little different at the end. If any backers were surprised by this result, they didn't understand how Kickstarter works or managed to trick themselves into thinking this one would be different.

      Linda, you've obviously put a lot of effort into this project, and it shows. I'm looking forward to sharing it with my youngest, and maybe some of my older kids will benefit from it too. And really, I'm just happy that I will live in a world where it exists.

    25. Missing avatar

      Dawn Reel on

      Thank you, great update. I personally appreciate you taking more time and making a better product. Also, your resources are great. Thanks for mentioning Code.org and Webmaker.org I will use them with lower literacy adult learners, I know they'll love it. Okay, the penguins might be drinking a beer, but its all similar!

    26. Jason Alexander on

      I appreciate that we were able to back your dreams, and have allowed to learn along the way. Unfortunately, going back, I would never back this project again. This is the epitome of a bad Kickstarter project, sadly. It's great for all the other kids will get to learn Ruby through your books going forward, but, for mine, that window has passed. Oh well.

    27. Linda Liukas Creator on

      Hi guys, thanks so much for your kind words, everyone!

      The book is ready, and it will be shipped to all backers in October. I'm sorry for the delay that's mainly due to slow production cycles in the publishing industry. However, am incredible excited to work with a major publisher in expanding Ruby's world! And yes, Lauren is the best!

      In the meanwhile, I will continue to send these updates to backers. I'm really grateful for the support, and I'd really like to share more of my ideas for Ruby and test my thinking and exercises on you guys now that I have more bandwidth.

      Smiles,
      Linda

    28. David on

      Linda, thank you for the update. I know that I speak for many, including the silent majority that are supportive of you, and are looking forward to seeing your project come to fruition.

      I find it interesting that Jocelyne wanted to give this as a gift "almost 2 years ago", when it only funded 13 months ago, and the original delivery estimate was was only 7 months ago. Interesting use of the word "almost". I remind those of you who have not been on Kickstarter that this is not a store. It is an innovation platform where we invest in someone creating a project that does not exist. Real innovation and creation has no roadmap.

      If you are looking forward to receiving your reward for backing Linda's project, the best thing I can say is that beating someone up is not the best motivational tool, and if you think it is, you might want to consider professional help. A little patience and support go a long way.

      Linda and Lauren, thank you, and I am looking forward to seeing this come to life and being able to share it with my nephew when you have it for us. Have a great day, everyone.

    29. Missing avatar

      Jocelyne on

      As all the post have mentioned this nicely, I'm SUPER annoyed this project has taken so long and no longer "support" this project. Screw email updates, give me a product. Wanted to give this for a birthday... Almost 2 years ago!!!

    30. Missing avatar

      Lorna Goulden on

      Thank you very much for sharing with us the journey you have been on, this gives some lovely insights into the considerable effort that has gone into this publication and I have no doubt it will be very well recieved once it is launched into the world. Great to see how you have worked so hard to get the very high quality in your head into the pages of the book and the curriculum, with the expert advise that was needed. Thank you too for introducing us to Lauren your editor, it sounds like she has been an invaluable part of the process, thank you Lauren for your very important role in this project!
      It is a shame though that your enthusiastic backers were not able to contribute at all along the way, but for such a creative process as you outline it seems you did not have the room or experience to do so, so much in your head and your own way of getting it out.

      And as with some comments I fear that my intended audience for this project will be a bit too old by the time you ship, although I still hold out hope that the younger age range will still stretch to older children as well, given the topic I remain optimistic... and given that the name of my daughters bear is Ruby I am sure the story and illustrations will still delight.
      And now the long wait until the books arrive....

    31. Missing avatar

      David McKellar on

      It's all very nice, the process and all. And I get that a good product takes time. But, I guess like many supporters, I had in mind someone to receive the books. She would have been 8 if delivery was on time. Now it looks like my daughter will be almost 10 when she gets them. That's quite a different thing. Let's not forget those who are waiting for these books and growing older every day, perhaps out of the range for which the books were designed.

    32. Gustaf Lindqvist on

      If you do not understand that it takes time to build or produce something so STOP backing things up on Kickstarter and then try trolling.

    33. Missing avatar

      Heleen Kist on

      This has been so long, I don't even remember what I backed.

    34. shun chu on

      @Aleksandar, she's shipping something with her name on it. Of course she wants to make sure the product is to her standards. Publishing is like doing hardware, once it's out there, you can't take it back and fix things (not cheaply anyway). But your frustration is understandable, and I am just as anxious and eager to share this book with my kids!

      Linda, thanks for typing all this stuff up and sharing the links and your progress. They are very interesting, and I look forward to reading the contents. I'm an artist-turned-programmer myself. So I can understand some of the things you are going through... and ditto on Ira Glass' quote on craft and developing skills. It all takes time. And I hope you get there soon!

    35. Missing avatar

      Aleksandar Hajdukovic on

      Don't understand why you are wasting your time on doing these nice updates but meanwhile you are more then one year late in sending us a book that we backed up a long time ago.

      Girl, please focus on primary thing.

    36. Bashar Abdullah on

      I bet I'm not the only one enjoying watching the process unfold here. And I'm no artist.

    37. Gustaf Lindqvist on

      Great work takes time to develop! Awesome to see the the process and also it feels great to share this finally book with my daughter. I'm so happy to be part of this Kickstarter.