Thursday, 11 October 2007


One and a half rousing cheers. Last night I sent in to my good mate Dr Gary M the news file for the January edition of our splendid publication du trompettisme. (I was going to write "august publication" but let's not try to get funny here, OK?) This means a number of things:

  • I am almost up to date and feeling less guilty than I have for a while
  • I have to do this (meet a news file print deadline) twice more, in (roughly) mid-December and early February, for the March and June editions. And then I am done: my last day of work is April 11th and that's before the June deadline for October, so the new editor and I will share the creation of that news file, but it will be they, not I, who submit it.
  • That's only 2½  more news files and 2 deadlines to go. I can do that!

Tonight when I get home I still have to submit the photos that accompany the text file. This, though, is easy. It's one of the things that I have done with my systems, and databases, and attempts to be a good and organized person, that actually WORKS. I just zap a report out of my database, save it as html pages, copy a few photos (maybe a dozen or more), link them, and I can then upload a whole mini-website, fresh out of the microwave, from which my colleagues can get the pics themselves, the captions, and any comments/warnings/etc that I wanted to hand on. It really is easy peasy and I am slightly proud of it. So I do not have a difficult evening ahead - a large glass of some nice red wine and a bit of database fiddling rather than hours of sweating and swearing. Excellent. Feels like a holiday in comparison.

Other matters arising:

  • I did not get my own piece of writing finished in time. This was a report on the Proms Brass Day with nice photos from two helpful horn players.
  • This cheeses me off a bit, and in a way typifies one of the reasons why it is time for me to move on from the editing job. I love writing. I love editing too, but in a different way. In this job, as a rule, the editing of other people's work has to come first. It would look like some kind of dereliction of duty, or inability to prioritize, or something, if I was putting up my own reports while others' were left unpublished. So, given that there is often a backlog, my own ideas nearly always come last, often to the point of simply not getting done.
  • I am not claiming that after I leave the editor post I will suddenly become the most productive trumpet journalist ever seen, of course. It's just that at least then I could, if I chose, work on my own stuff without the guilt/duty Imp of the Right Shoulder constantly telling me I can't. I really would like to do some more writing and if it turns out that some of it is useful then that's a bonus.
  • Anyway, I will do the Proms piece when I get a moment or two. If it could keep till January it can keep till March. And of course there's no deadline for the web so it can go up there as soon as it's ready. So it is annoying but not the end of the world.
  • The backlog is of course all my own fat stupid fault anyway but, blimey, it has been tricky sometimes. It seems to take very little by way of a gig or two, a holiday, something nice or tricky or both with the family, some crisis at work; and it's all building up remarkably fast. Maybe I will come back some other time to the issue of who is and is not suitable for this job, or vice versa.
  • At the moment most of the backlog has evaporated. Hurrah, and hurrah again. Flag-captain, break out the celebration-grade strawberry yoghurt and give the villagers some small coins! Very late last night I went through the database looking at a query of "stuff that needs attention". Some of it was just ooooold and clearly going nowhere and with some pleasure I changed its status from "live but quiet" to "dormant, maybe dead" which makes it drop out of view, largely speaking. If I then look at what remains after this cull, it really is very few stories. Most have the note "BIHC" or "BITC" which means "Ball in his/her/their court" - in other words, they need to get back to me before the story can happen. Often they do not, because they have got too busy, or can't be bothered, or thought I was going to do their job for them, or the thing is too far in the past and they have moved on to other stuff now. A few are difficult problems which have rumbled on for a while and now I have time to think, I will need to do some cutting of Gordian Knots (possibly using Occam's Razor). (Yes, I know that is an old joke, but, d'you know what, I like it anyway.) Some may need quietly killing off, others a little nurturing. And of course there is my Proms story in there too. But this is all doable. It's only about 8 weeks to the next deadline so (he wrote with fingers crossed) not too much more should come in and with luck it will be more straightforward. This could give me the chance to really clear the rest of it out, which would just be great.
  • Tricky stories are much much easier to deal with when there's no backlog. The existence of the backlog makes everything worse. All the things that could/should be routine - queries, rejections, requests for change or other photos, and so on - are just fine when dealt with promptly and a disaster when left too late. If I leave it late then I desert the moral high-ground and it is much harder to sort out difficult things with a perhaps-difficult story submitter - though, to be fair, 98% of them are as nice as pie.
  • The other 2% can be quite spectacular at times though. The stories I could tell you, m'dear!
  • Yes, I know all of this "don't get behind with your work" stuff is a bit basic. And I am supposed to be an adult. Sigh.
  • Another thing that would save much, much pain and give me more of a toehold on the said moral high-ground would be to have clear guidelines for story submitters. I have a sort of project going on in draft but I need to bite the bullet, write down a few more things very clearly, and publish. Even if they are not quite right at first it would be (roughly) 1000000% better than the current setup, which just encourages trouble.
  • The ITA has or used to have the most incredible news guidelines. I don't think I dare go that far - it's basically a whole style book - but it was impressive, in a somewhat anal-retentive kind of way! If I find it, I'll link it. Ah yes, here we are. Make sure you read the para on capitalization!
  • The other thing I want to do is to tidy up the structure of the news site. It is a historical mess. I have ideas on this but I am not sure if I can manage it. I'll give it a lower priority than the other stuff and see how it goes. In any case, my successor will be getting things in a happier and clearer state than I did - I am determined about that.
  • Redoing the news structure would also trash people's links, unless the server and its daddy can do symlinks - I'm not sure about this. It seems a bit unfair to spoil incoming links, but the thing really, really needs sorting out.
  • There is interesting talk about the news editor succession but I cannot yet blog about it. I'll tell you something as soon as I can.

And finally:

  • It feels great to be this up to date!


Lottie said...

Well done! Glad it's going a bit better. Also, if I can count correctly, it's 6 months to the day until you finish.

Strawberryyog said...

Thanks. And gosh. Yes, you can count, but I had not noticed, and you are right! Goodness me. What fun.