Enjoyable • 13 December 2007 • The SnowBlog


Having finished off a bit of creative writing I've been working on lately I settled down to do some programming today. Maybe it's the fact that I only write code in little fun chunks and only when I feel like it, but I always find it disappointing how enjoyable it is. Some part of me wishes I liked opera and such-like and hated computers, but really (shhh!) it's the other way round. The thing I've been working on this morning converts information about our books into different forms. We have to produce data files to send off to Nielsen, so that all the retailers can find out about our titles, but we've written some converters that turn that same info into web pages. If you go to our online catalogue you can see what I mean. There's one page per title and all of them were generated automatically. The tweaks and adjustments I'm adding today just make it easier to regenerate the whole catalogue, as well as paper AIs, with a single click. So when we make a change or add a new title, that info gets to all the places it needs to with as little effort as possible. Like I say, I feel slightly disappointed that I'm enjoying writing XSLT and not sonnets, but at least this stuff is useful. It gets rid of jobs that used to take days - and it also cuts down on the number of mistakes because computers are better at copying accurately than people. I don't suppose too many people reading this will share our enthusiasm* for automating our processes, but lately I've been wondering if there might not be a message for us in that. Maybe when we've got all this stuff set up, with the production of AIs, web catalogues, Nielsen data and e-books all automated, perhaps we'll see if we can do some of these jobs for other people too. *Em is less of a nerd than me, but she's still been known to write an XSL template. Anyone who knows Em will need to update their records: Em's a part-time techie these days.


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