I DON’T KNOW WHO OR HOW, BUT SOME TWAT HAS CHANGED BY WORDPRESS SITE. WHAT IS WORSE, THE WORDPRESS ORGANISATION IS JUST ABOUT IMPOSSIBLE TO CONTACT TO REGISTER A COMPLAINT.
I AM THINKING NOW THAT I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF WORDPRESS WHO DON’T SEEM TO GIVE A TOSS ABOUT THE PEOPLE CONTRIBUTING TO THE SUCCESS OF WORDPRESS.
I AM TEMPTED TO SCRAP THIS BLOG AND GO BACK TO MANAGING MY OWN WEBSITE AGAIN.
I’LL LET YOU KNOW WHEN I’VE CALMED DOWN AB BIT!
Now then, how many of you know anything about the manufacture and production of software? Or, what about the manufacture and production of anything, software or not? Everybody knows something about this, I’m sure.
Let’s hypothesise. Let’s say you are a company that produces something and wants to market it to the general public. It doesn’t matter what that somethingis, and it doesn’t matter if the distribution of it is free or requires the public to purchase it. Hmm, his is a bit general, so let’s be a little more specific.
Let’s say you produce some software which you freely give away to the public. Your eventual intent, not unnaturally, is that you will eventually command a share of a given market sector, and make money in some way, perhaps by selling advertising space, or offering a premium membership, or something along those lines. How do you go about it?
Well, you get the product written (manufactured), promote it with a suitable advertising campaign (be that traditional media adds, employing expert agencies, or viral marketing). Basically, you tell your potential audience what your software does, why it benefits that audience to use it, perhaps why it should be a preferred choice to its’ competitors, and how good the software is at achieving its’ aim. Then you distribute the software. Perhaps you make it available for download.
“Visit www.s******w.com and download the latest whizzy kit! You know it makes sense!”
Why should the audience believe you? Why should they trust the software you’ve created? What proof do they have that (a) it ‘does what it says on the tin’, and (b) that it wont have any detrimental effect on any of the other software you currently have installed on your PC? Hmm. That’s a problem, isn’t it? Essentially, all you, the potential subscriber to the software, can do is trust that it has been properly designed, developed, and tested within reasonable limits. You have to trustthe manufacturer.
Now, with some products the quality aspect is absolutely essential. It’s obvious that if, say, the software that controls the movement of aircraft around JFK, or Heathrow, or any other airport, or the software that controls the dispensing of medical presciptions, has not been quality assured then the results would be catastrophic. Of course, most of us don’t actually download software that is quite that critical. However, we do download software that could, potentially, be harmful. We all know about viruses and worms and trojans and so forth, but could there be a problem with the software itself, even if it hasn’t been infected? What assurance do we have that the software we download will not have any adverse effect on the rest of the files on our home PC? How do we know the phonelist we made, or the thesis we’re writing for university, or the scores of photos of the new baby we archived, or the personal data we’ve stored, will be safe?
What we do is we trust the manufacturer. We assume and trust that they have tested the software they’ve provided, and that we can be confident that it works as it should. This applies both to applications that we install, and to websites we visit if there is interactivity between the website and ourselves. For instance, maybe we want to upload a file to a social networking or community website. Maybe the website offers us the ability to upload that file. Do you know how it does it? Do you know if it, for example, locks out the file on your PC in order to ensure a clean upload? Do you know if it resets the lock when the upload has finished? Do you know for sure that it hasn’t grabbed some other file instead, or maybe taken an extra copy of the file and logged its’ content without your knowing? Or, what if you use a client application to do the upload? The same questions can be asked.
You know, I worked for a company that actually produced a utility that uploaded files from your PC to a server. You told it what files to upload, and it did it. Unfortunately, it had a side effect at one point where it actually deleted the original files. Don’t worry, the Quality Assurance (Test) people discovered the problem, and the version of the product with that particular ‘bug’ did not get shipped! The testers had done their job, just like they do in any other company – at least, in any other company that actually employs test engineers!
How do you know if the company from whom you have obtained a piece of software actually does have professional, experienced test engineers to assure the safety of your data? How do you know?
I have just been made redundant from such a company. Not just me, mind you – ALL the quality staff have been made redundant. If you obtain any software from that company, then you should be aware that it has NOT been tested in any organised, competent manner. A decision was taken (without, I should add, the full board of directors being advised of the fact) to remove the whole of he QA team from the manager down, because it was decided that ‘due dilligence’ was sufficient to vet the product before it was shipped, and that it would be quite acceptable for the general public to find any ‘bugs’ that might be present. In other words, the people who use the software (that’s you, incidentally) could be given it in an untested state, and who cares if they risk losing data in the process?
This is my fourth redundancy, but in each of the previous cases there were financial reasons for the ‘downsizing’. In this last instance, however, that is not the case. The company was extremely well backed. I wonder how many of the investors know they are now financing the development of product that (a) does not have any formal design/development process, (b) is not quality checked, and (c) relies on developers who are also employed by direct competitors of the software? Boy, are they gonna look stupid if something goes wrong! I wonder what would happen if, and let’s be generous, the product actually becomes popular in the near future, and they find there is a need to expand the business. They get to compete with the ‘big boys’ like YouTube or MySpace. Now I know those companies employ testing staff and quality regimens, yet this poor relation wont be able to employ testing staff because they made the positions redundant! Oh dear! How sad! What a shame!
Is this a case of sour grapes on my part? I guess it probably is, but it doesn’t make it any less true. You see, I actually care about quality.
I’ve read a number of articles in a number of publications over the past few years where writers who believe they have talent (in whatever field or genre) bemoan the fact they cannot find a literary agent to represent them. I myself am in this boat, so I do not decry their complaints. In fact, they have my most sincere sympathy. How on earth is one to bring to the world stage the greatest work ever written? Vanity publishing is always an option – but who would really want to compromise their artistic integrity by pursuing such a route? On-demand publishing is a new method that is gaining attention and favour with a large number of people – but even here, unless you are prepared (and able) to subsidise the promotion of your work the results can be disappointing. E-publishing is also an option, but that is a market still in its’ infancy, and until the technology of providing adequate download speeds improves, and/or the mass of the reading public decides that screen-based reading is an acceptable alternative to a good ol’ fashioned book, I suspect it will always be a poor relation to the mainstream.
Most writers will follow the tried and tested formula of presenting to a literary agent. Indeed, most reputable publishing houses will not countenance direct approaches from wanna-be’s any more, so an introduction through an agency is just about the only avenue available. But there are problems. How do you get an agency to take notice?
The traditional method is to write or telephone a potential agent in the hope they might have a slot in their list into which you might fit, but the responses received (from those agencies that bother to respond) is invariably negative (though usually polite). Simply sending in a manuscript cold is a waste of time; agencies have so much work being submitted with their permission that unsolicited work is invariably consigned to the waste bin without a second glance – and who could blame them? So there is a huge barrier, and that barrier is resource. The agencies don’t have the resources of time and manpower to review all the potential talent that is out there. One reason for this is that there is an insistence that writers send their submissions in hard-copy. This inevitably results in a veritable mountain of paper passing through an office or across a desk. Maybe if that mountain could be reduced a little, by the agencies becoming more open to alternative methods of receiving submissions, then a wealth of new talent would become visible.
Of course, even if that were to happen, there would still be the hard realities of actually persuading a(ny) publisher in a competitive marketplace, with limited (though still large) resources, that hard cash should be spent in promoting a given author – but at least the pool of authors would be so much greater to choose from. Maybe, even, an increase in available talent would encourage an increase in the number of publishing companies, the smaller enterprises that could make money on the sidelines (and lets be honest, it’s money that’s at the heart of any publishing body). Who knows?
But I digress. How does one increase the visibility of that talent? Well, one method is to persuade the literary agents to go and look for it. Does that sound ridiculous? It really isn’t. Why, you may ask, would any agency who is already inundated with submissions bother (let alone need) to go out and hunt down some more? Well, it’s a two way thing. What if, instead of each individual author writing to each individual agency, hoping against hope that there is a vacancy in their books for a bright, up-and-coming talent, the authors made their submissions (the usual 3-chapter requirement) to a single location, a portal that literary agencies could visit and navigate and discover the written gems that lie within? I’m talking, of course, about the ubiquitous internet.
Consider the benefits. To the author there is no longer the need to spend time and money on speculative phone-calls, postage, return postage, paper, inks, other consumables, &c. (which has a secondary benefit, in these ever greener times, of reducing the call on natural resources like the forests, felled to produce paper). To the literary agency (one-man/woman shows and giants alike) there is the increased freedom to manage their time more efficiently. Who knows better than the agent when they have a vacancy? Who knows better than the agent when the market will be ripe for a particular writing style? Who know better than the agent when they will have the actual time to spend in reviewing works from unknowns?
Nothing is ever easy, and everything has negative aspects, of course. Two detracting factors are lethargy and trust. For an author, it’s most likely trust. If you send your submission into the ether, how can you know it will still be yours? How can you know it wont be snatched away and used without your knowledge, claimed for themselves by some infidel? The answer really is that you don’t submit everything at once. As for plagiarism, that is a reality faced by every writer, as it has been since the first mark was scratched on a rock!
For the literary agent, though, lethargy may be the biggest problem. We all become comfortable in our ways, and the thought of change is often resisted. Yet change happens all the time. It’s the human condition, indeed the natural condition, and it’s called evolution. In these modern times, I find it hard to imagine that any business can afford to stand still. The world wide web has shaken the music industry, and it will shake the publishing industry likewise. Perhaps it has already begun to do so. Either way, any company that fails to embrace the technology and methodologies now emerging will be doomed to sink in the foundering seas of progress. Some agencies have taken the first steps, and already signed up to the concept of new ways for finding literary talent. Those who do not will not survive.