Portrait of Edd Dumbill, taken by Giles Turnbull

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What I make

a conference management web application

XTech Conference
a European web technology conference

Placating the cobbler's children

The shoemaker's sprogs go worst-shod, and it's been that way for me over the last four years. I've automated goodness-knows-how-many systems for other people, but still find myself doing the most mundane tasks in an unreliable and repetitive manner.

Editing XML.com, I get a large number of article proposals and contributions coming in each week. Some of those I accept, and then have to issue contracts for. After that, the editing process begins. Some articles are easy to work with and slip through the system in a matter of weeks. Others are trickier and take a month or two to get right. Often articles will come in ahead of time, and the trouble then is keeping proper track of them in order to make sure they get published on the right date.

I've had dreams of taking time to do all this the Right Way, maybe by hacking with Zope. Currently I bumble through with email, a Gnumeric spreadsheet and a Perl script. I'm sorry to say that response times sometimes are as long as two months, and occasionally a perfectly good article has gone unpublished for a month or two due to being overlooked in my system. Another source of disruption is that authors deliver late, requiring rescheduling of the publication calendar. My current "system" has no facility for helping me nag authors early on.

But the Right Way dreams will never happen, I just don't have enough time. So, I've decided to get a grip and try and do things a better way, rather than perennially postpone editorial nirvana.

I plan to make the core database of my system centre around Request Tracker (RT). The lifecycle of an article fits well with the model of an issue-ticketing system. I'm impressed at RT's flexibility. The email interface and programming API are two important features for this application. The rest I'll achieve with some XSLT and scripting. Perhaps the most important element to get right is automated nagging: for both me and my authors!

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