New website! • 18 August 2012 • The SnowBlog

New website!

          Hello, [target_audience]! We're delighted to announce the launch of [publisher_name]'s new website. We have harnessed the power of technology to make it very easy for us to update [blog_name] so you can look forward to more news, insights and [data_type] here.[ 1] 

Yes, in my ongoing bid to make computers do all my work for me[ 2], I don't even have to write my own blog posts anymore. This entry is generated entirely from my MacBook Pro, attached via firewire to a colander placed on my head. All I have to do is think of the word "publishing", and the computer translates my sub-conscious thoughts into excellent blog-material. And nothing can possibly go wrong with it, as you can see by the tailored, high-quality writing you are currently absorbing.

Srsly, we have been furiously busy writing this website thing. I do hope you like it. Tell me you like it. Do you like it? Do you like the font? Don't I sound technical and futuristic, writing to you in this font? It's like a postcard from the space station. Or Mars. [ 3 ]Hey, you can use the exciting new comments section to tell me you like it. Tell me you like it! [ 4]
So we've written this website from scratch in Ruby on Rails. Ruby's a programming language, and Rails is a web development framework. I started learning Rails in early 2011 and have gone from n00b to pretty competent programmer in that time. I wish I could persuade you that being a serious programmer is necessary in modern publishing. In fact, let me try, and let me target my comments in particular at the people who keep emailing me at the moment for work experience. There seem to be a lot of you, so hopefully this rant will help a few people.  

Right, hands up. Who wants to be an editor when they grow up? Anyone want to run a small press? Production manager? Sales director? Digital marketing manager? Author, even? 

OK, so you all want to be editors. (I've never had a conversation with someone aspiring to get into publishing who didn't want to be an editor). So, say you get your dream editorial job. I have a slightly heavy follow-up question. In your mind, jump to the end of your career, and consider your legacy. What do you want to leave behind? You might be happy to muddle along. But you're a thinking fellow, right? It's likely that you might have hopes that you can contribute to the sum total of human knowledge in your chosen field of work. Publishing, as you know, is competitive to get into and to thrive in. If you want to do something notable, something cool, what do you need?

My brilliant advice, like all brilliant advice, comes in two parts.

Part the first. You don’t actually need competence, or a gift, or talent. What you need most, I have decided, is tenacity. You can do pretty much anything if you have enough tenacity. You can learn a programming language. You can read three books a week. You can practice your art - whether that’s writing, editing, designing or professional development. So. Get tenacious. Stick at things. Stop moaning. Keep trying.  

Brilliant advice, part two, is about craftsmanship. Pretty much anything is worth doing, and worthy of leaving behind when you're gone, if it's done well. Don't believe the people who tell you that perfectionism is a bad thing. Whether it’s designing a beautiful and functional font, or a lovely bit of code, or crafting a perfectly-turned phrase, more often that not perfectionism is necessary. 

How do you find the time to aspire to perfection? To do things that make a difference? To lift your head above the torrent of admin, drudge, sameness, endless emails, endless phone calls? And how the hell do you find time and perfection when you’d just like to get a job, first of all, and then keep it?

The problem -- and the solution -- is that every single area of publishing has changed. Every single aspect of publishing now relies on technology to do a good job. Challenge me. Can you think of an area of publishing which doesn't rely on technology?

Here's the big secret. If you are technically competent, you can automate the dull stuff so you can spend time on the cool stuff. You can use technology to create things of staggering beauty and wonder that you will be proud to leave behind. And you’ll be indispensable! People love people who can fix things, who know how things work, who understand all that computer stuff.

Rob & I have said this sort of thing for years, to whoever will listen, and no-one does. So not only will you be competent, proud of yourself and useful: you'll be rare. 

I fall well short of perfection the whole time, obviously. In fact I can imagine the guffaws of laughter from anyone who knows me, reading this. I am laughing, myself. But I try to get as close to perfect as I can in my projects, and it's one of the reasons I've fallen in love with programming. A program won't compile (or run if it's an interpreted language such as Ruby) if it's anything less than perfect -- down to the last semi-colon. I like that challenge, and I like the quiet, single-minded focus that programming requires. 

Start with the Rails Tutorial  [ 5] and see where it takes you. And let me know how you get on. If more of us in publishing turn our hand to acquiring the necessary skills for our adaption and survival, it would be nice to stick together, swap notes, that kind of thing. 

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy looking round the new 

The SnowBlog is one of the oldest publishing blogs, started in 2003, and it's been through various content management systems over the years. A 2005 techno-blunder meant we lost the early years, but the archives you're reading now go all the way back to 2005.

Many of the older posts in our blog archive suffer from link rot. Apologies if you see missing links and images: let us know if you'd like us to find any in particular.

Read more from the SnowBlog...

« Small Press Expo at Forbidden Planet
Wayne hits the road »