Three lessons

In the April edition of KnitNet (I know, it’s the end of July; I only happened to look today) we have a pretty brief editorial based on the theme of “no good deed ever goes unpunished”. This moral is supported by a very brief story about why the current issue of KnitNet was low on patterns:

[W]e think of [the April] edition as our chance to welcome new designers — not just new to us, but new to the business of designing — in order to give them a chance to work with professionals. Our hope is that they’ll be able to hone their skills, particularly the difficult and exacting art of pattern writing…

Sometimes, it doesn’t work out quite the way we intended.

This year, for example, after more than a month of working with her, one designer balked at her patterns being brought into line with KnitNet standards. We pride ourselves on offering consistent, accurate patterns so felt we had to insist. Ultimately, she took her socks and went home.

Too bad for all of us because, not only did it delay publication by weeks, it leaves us a little shy on patterns for this edition.

The editrix thinks there’s a lesson to be learned with. I spot two:

1. The designer — even a new one — should have realized that all publications have standards for pattern writing (and this page links to KnitNet’s standards in PDF form). Assuming that the tech editor wasn’t proposing to do something that changed the meaning of the pattern instructions, well, that’s the way it is, but somehow I find it hard to believe that even a first-time contributor would object to a particular style of abbreviation or formatting. I wonder what happened?

2. I am apparently old-fashioned enough to think that it is not professional for an editor of a periodical to describe, in an editorial, how difficult it was to work with a would-be contributor, and to use that story to explain why an issue was late or otherwise lacking.

And an exercise for discussion: what was the “good deed”, anyway?

And as a bonus, lesson number three can be found here, in a reprint of an earlier gem penned by the publisher:

Everywhere I look on the Web, every search I do turns up, not useful and valuable information any more, but increasingly, somebody’s personal opinion, on their website or blog or podcast.

Now there is nothing wrong with this… The problem is that all this opinion on the Web makes searching for the facts more and more difficult. Now I have to wear my hip waders when I surf the Web. It gets harder and harder to find the pearls in amongst the straw.

There has been much talk of creating two separate Webs, one for business and one for personal use. I think it is a great idea. It can’t come too soon.

Hey, Web 1.0 called. It wants its web-safe palette back. Will his opinion change in 2012 when he learns about the companies engaging in topical or vertical searching?

I can understand being overwhelmed by the volume of user-generated content out there, but the individual searching the web for answers doesn’t cope only by taking information with a grain of salt; he needs to learn how and where to ask questions… and sometimes the “where” is “not on the Internet”. (That’s a fact.)

Dividing the world of information into “business” and “personal” (excuse my ignorance, but what is he talking about? .biz? a non-HTTP protocol? what “separate Web”?) doesn’t solve the problem of separating fact from opinion. (That’s an opinion.)

Also, Ravelry + this guy = some kind of explosion that will tear a hole in the universe. (Is that fact or opinion?)

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21 Responses to Three lessons

  1. No, I am pretty sure THAT quote is from Marie Antoinette – just before she lost her head. I could check it on the Net, though…

  2. I think the phrase you’re looking for, Dougal, is “Let them eat cake.”

  3. It is really great to see such spirited debate on the Internet. Kudos to the Girl from Auntie for supplying this forum. Free speech is such a precious luxury that we sometimes take for granted. The original article about the ‘Net was written, as are most of my articles, to encourage debate. It is nice to see it has done that. As for the quotation, well, even I sometimes make mistakes. Truth is, I don’t watch much television, never have. I find it even more difficult to get good value there than on the ‘Net, but I have always liked that quote. I will need to talk seriously with my fact checker.

    So cruise the Net, debate lively, and as P.T. Barnum once said “Caveat Emptor.”!

  4. fillyjonk says:

    Zardra: maybe he looked up the quotation on the Internet and it told him that NYPD Blue was the source?

    (oooh…did *I* say that?)

  5. Zardra says:

    In total agreeance with HibiscuitsGirl (but then I’m finishing off my MLIS).

    I also have to say that he loses a certain credability with me when he can’t get his quotes right — “let’s be careful out there” is from Hill Street Blues, not NYPD Blue… how much else is he possibly getting incorrect?

  6. This man should be directed to his local library. I’m sure a librarian there would be more than happy to assist him with his research needs–they are information professionals, after all. If he asks very nicely, the librarian would be glad to show him how to successfully conduct such searches for himself. The Internet is a tool and, like most tools, requires some instruction in its proper use.

  7. fillyjonk says:

    Yeah, pretty much what Sarah said.

    I’m getting somewhat annoyed with the attitude of some in the publishing industry of “If you’re not a professional writer working under the aegis of a “real” publication, you’re a complete hack and probably shouldn’t be allowed to write on the Web.”

    I sometimes hear this (coughVogueKnittingcough) levied about people who offer free patterns on the Web. Yes, sometimes there are errors in free patterns. But, guess what? I’ve seen plenty of errors (and also uninformed opinions) in “professional” publications.

    Maybe I’m just bitter because the writing *I* do (I’m a scientist), I don’t get paid for the publication of, and I don’t retain copyright, and sometimes I (or my university) even have to pay (“page charges”) for publication.

    But, you know…dismissing blogs (some of which have terrific writing and some of which really do have the pulse of the “average” knitter) as “straw” (well, at least he didn’t use another word), and calling for a business and a “personal” Internet (and, like the others, I find that an uncomfortable idea) just seems kind of unprofessional.

    If the professional publications are putting out good enough content, they shouldn’t have to worry about us Miss Marples out here, spouting our apparently-uninformed and provincial opinions.

    (And – I don’t feel so bad at all that “sometimes the Web is not the best source of information.” Back in the dinosaur days when I was a kid, we had these things called libraries, and these people called librarians….)

  8. Sarah says:

    These 3 points touch on 3 of my biggest pet peeve- unreasonable expectations, unprofessional behavior, and underinformed opinion.

  9. j. says:

    Could be, if there was an earlier mention of it that he would have seen, because the original pub date of this piece was February ’06.

    For interest, here’s a 2005 paper by Raychaudhuri setting out his vision of the future Internet: PDF

  10. M-H says:

    And then there’s this: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2007/aug/01/news.internet/print
    Maybe that’s where he got the idea about another internet…

  11. Amie says:

    I just had to give them a thumb’s down on Stumbleupon for those comments. What can I say? You can’t polish a turd.

  12. Dr. Steph says:

    Methinks Knitnet is looking for someone to blame for the craptasticness of their publication. It’s bad designers and lo, even the internet itself is making them suck.

    Snork.

    And designer bashing is bad for business. I wouldn’t risk sending my stuff in to a publication that publicly airs disputes.

  13. j. says:

    Mishka, I haven’t blogged about net neutrality, but that seems like it might just be what the KnitNet publisher was talking about. He originally posted that op-ed piece in February 2006, so the the timeframe matches quite well.

    Good Housekeeping! That matches the earlier editorial about not trusting independently published/free patterns! Beauty.

  14. Lee Ann says:

    What’s KnitNet?
    ;-)

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen an editor’s intro blame contributors for a publication’s difficulties before. Wouldn’t that be classified as personal information? i.e., not (anyone’s) business? Sigh.

  15. Netter says:

    I find his desire for a “business” web to house “fact” frightening. Businesses lie to people all the time. That’s how my son got lead paint in his toys. The wish for an authoritarian web is antiquated and false. The web started with scientists who know that fact is only as good as the experiment that lead to it. Everyone surfing the web should know to analyze the source of the information and take it from there. I don’t think I’ve missed much, never having been to KnitNet. And, as publishing professional, you never blame your contributors for lack of content. That’s the editor’s problem.

  16. Mishka says:

    The issue of having a Web for commercial use and another (slower) Web for those who can’t afford a presence on the former has been a huge issue–Congress was involved last year under the innocuous guise of “Net neutrality.” It didn’t seem to me that the debate was or is about the quality of information so much as about the cost and speed of service. For coverage, see

    http://news.com.com/Year+in+review+Internet+fast+lane+Not+so+fast/2009-1028_3-6136798.html

    Maybe you talked about this in this blog last year–I only found you recently and VERY much enjoy reading you.

    In any case, I agree that blaming the issue’s lateness on a designer/contributor was unprofessional. Sounds like the designer may have had unrealistic expectations around publication–or not. As you say, we may never know. It’s interesting that KnitNet has thrown a periodical up on the Web and thinks they’ve attained “Good Housekeeping” status–and are doing a designer a huge “good deed” by agreeing to publish a pattern!

  17. Carol says:

    I had a very bad experience with a submission to them. No payment for a lo-o-o-ong time and when my bank screwed up their payment, they were unhelpful to say the least.

    Now off to chew the irony of someone complaining about personal opinion clogging up the web — in a personal opinion column appearing on the web.

  18. lori says:

    I seem to recall a discussion over the last year where this same editor criticized indie designers as apparently crapping up the knitting world with their substandard offerings while at the same time glorifying a particular yarn company [who are known to offer patterns for free involving the use of 'fun-fur' yarn] as a ‘real’ yarn company …makes me really want to jump in when I receive their designer submission requests. Never mind the garment photo shoot is 10 days after the proposal deadline…um, yeah, I’ll get right on that; I’m so excited you asked.

  19. Sarah says:

    Do newspaper editors ever write “sorry we’re putting out today’s paper a little later, and oh yeah, there’s a big blank spot on page three, all because one of our staff writers had a disagreement with the copy editors”? No. As an editor, you’re the one setting the deadlines and making sure you have content — it’s your responsibility, ultimately. To deny otherwise is to be a total weenie.

  20. Chris says:

    Heck, KnitNet’s been going downhill for the past several years, alas… I wonder why less and less!

  21. M-H says:

    This guy is out of his tree! Two separate webs? Of course, if it were possible or feasible, I’m sure that ‘business’ would stay right there in their own space and never never trespass on the ‘personal’ web. Come to think of it, a web without ads? If only! (And that’s my opinion)