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[The book printer - Amman]

25 August 2010

I've set up a blog here: portablepoetry.tumblr.com. See you there, I hope!
 

9 February 2003

Right, I'm writing this with one eye on the TV and a cat on my lap, while all the while trying to fight over another cat who's attacking my cheese sandwich, so what follows might not be totally coherent. But I don't want to close down Portable Poetry without at least saying why (people who know me might think I'm facing a long prison spell or something). So, there's a short answer and a slightly longer answer.

The short answer: it's no longer as much fun as it was before!
Now, for the less short answer...
First, I've been busy with another project which is finally up (you can view it here if you like.)
Next, since I decided to start charging for the booklets, the number of booklets ordered has seriously diminished (about 1 every 2 months) and it's a bit of a pain in the arse having to set up the gear once every couple of months to run off a single custom book. When things were free, I would do batches of 10 or so booklets at a time so that was fine.
Next, even when I do get orders, I have no means of accepting payment online which means that I often don't even bother with the payment (it's not worth it for one booklet). Yep, I know there are solutions available now like Paypal but I'm too lazy to figure out how it works.
Next, when you're making booklets either for free, or at a loss, you put the effort in because, at the end of the day, you think about how happy your customers are going to be but when you systematically get no feedback from people (for all the free portable poetries I sent out to unknown people who requested books from the site, I don't think I ever received one, single thank you email) it's hard to stay "customer focused"!

But some of that might sound like I'm bitter or negative about some sides of Portable Poetry and I'm not! I learned loads from Portable Poetry and came into contact with plenty of nice people through the site. At the moment I still have close to 300 unique visitors to the site a day which makes me feel proud (that's almost 100,000 a year!) And my favourite order was the Welsh English teacher who ordered some booklets to give to his colleagues at his retirement - I'm immensely honoured and proud of that and that alone was enough to make all the effort worthwhile.
 

27 April 2002

Things have been pretty quite at Portable Poetry. A steady trickle of visitors every day (somewhere between 150 and 250) which isn't bad though most of them view a page, maybe 2 and then leave. I had an interesting exchange some time ago with a chap who is wriitng a paper on custom books and Portable Poetry might get a mention in that which would be good.

I've been busy passing Cisco exams as I'd like to return to Ireland to work and the market in telecoms (my domain) is, to say the least, slack at the moment. So I sat CCNA, CCDA, and next due is CCNP-Routing exam. This takes up time and is one of the reasons I haven't been as active on the sites as of late.. That's my excuse anyway (oh, okay, I'm lazy too!)

The Portable Poetry, site came down for a few days because of an unbelievably bad action on behald of my normally excellent ISP. It was off line for about 6 days in all. My next plan with PP is to add a portable ebook section (free). I think that could generate quite a few hits. When I get around to doing it is another thing...

 

20 June 2001

I've been pretty much taken up with my other project. The backlog of portable poetries to do have been piling up but I managed to catch up this weekend. To give me a break from the other project, I'm going to add a facility to the site that will allow me to do some simple, "web-master" type tasks from the web - specifically the track page and this page. I've made some changes to the tarification too. I'm thinking of stopping altogether the totally free versions and replacing them with a "postcard" version. Anything to get some feedback. Amazingly, virtually no one (other than friends) has ever dropped me a line after receiving their freeby - only once, I think (and that was to say thanks but I don't like such and such a poem!!)

 

27 March 2001

I haven't been doing much with the site lately. As I've hinted at before, I'm currently working on another project, which is still very much at the development stage but which is taking up a lot of my time. So Portable Poetry has taken a backseat for the next while. I still check in on the site regularly, but I doubt I'll be making any major changes until the other project is complete. I'm doing just enough to keep things ticking over.

I've added an order tracking system which is an elaborate way of saying a page with a list of orders on it. It's not much but it's better than nothing and people can now have an idea where things are at with their order. It should also encourage me to work a little more regularly instead of systematically in batches of booklets as I tend to do. Also, when there's something wrong with an order and I don't send it out, then if some one is sufficiently interested they can see why and contact me. Because I don't force people to leave their e-mail addresses, most people don't bother but when things go wrong there's not a lot I can do.

One of the interesting things about the order tracking page is you can see something about the demographics of requesters. Most are from the U.S. or Ireland. The former needs no explanation, the latter some more but that's simple to explain because I'm Irish, so there you go. There's a disproportionately large splattering of requests for Finland - this can be explained by the public relations work of my friend Fred who lives in Helsinki. There's a largish number of requests from France which is explained by the fact that that's where I live

 

16 February 2001

To scan, or not to scan - that is the question...

Early in my thinking about Portable Poetry, I made a conscious decision not to scan in texts.

There are obvious and immediate benefits to using one of these amazing devices. Firstly, and most obviously, scanners obviate the need to manually enter texts via the keyboard, a not inconsiderable task when you're looking at poems like Wilde's "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" or Coleridge's "The Ancient Mariner". I'm a reasonably proficient, self-thought touch typer (actually it was my sister who set me on the right track) but both of these poems took me several days to enter. With a scanner and its bundled text recognition software I could probably have had both poems on the site in a matter of hours.

The other advantage to using a scanner is that you reduce the human error factor. My friend, Sean, when I told him I wasn't going to be scanning in any poems asked "Why? so you can introduce new and original errors into the text?" :) Put another way, scanners don't make typos!

So, why the no scanner decision for Portable Poetry? Basically, there were two reasons. First, I figured that scanning is actually an infringment of copyright. I'm not really concerned with the legal implications (it would be pretty hard to prove it anyway) but the moral side. When you scan in a book of text that's in the public domain (like the poems on Portable Poetry) you're actually taking advantage of some one else's work in typesetting and laying out the text. Open to debate, of course, but as all the books I was using for my source were still very much in print, just scanning texts from them seemed a little to me a bit like stealing... I couldn't really justify it to myself so I decided that, unless I was to source old copies of the poets works (which would have meant scouring the second hand bookshops) I preferred typing them in myself. You could argue that that too is stealing, but you have to draw a line somewhere (unless you're a large biotech company, EMI, Microsoft, Metallica, etc.)

The other reason I decided to enter the poems by hand was so that I would force myself to think carefully about what I added to the poetry catalogue. With a scanner I wouldn't need to do this (the temptation to just scan in all a poet's major work would have been very strong). I also wanted to become familiar myself with the poems on the site. I feel I have a slight connection with each poem simply because I typed it in and read it several times in the process. I've learned a lot about poetry this way.

But now I have somewhat of a dilemna. I'm decided to create a French version of this site with French poets. With a scanner I can probably have this up and running within a month (and that's part-time) or less. The main work is going to be with entering in the poems (the programs, html, processes etc. will be the same as for the English version so the wheel is already invented). And I've decided to scan. Why? Well, because I don't think I'll be able to find the time to set-up and maintain a French version and an English version without having recourse to a scanner for the French version (at least to get it started). So, there go all my scruples out the window...

I'm learning PERL at the moment. PERL is a programming language that you can use (among other things) to generate dynamic content on your web page (the guestbook program on this site uses PERL but I didn't write that myself). I'm actually learning this for another project I've alluded to before (something to do with film but I won't say anymore than that for the moment) but I'll be able to "borrow" what I learn from this for Portable Poetry. I'm planning to add a search facility (by keyword, by theme, by first line, etc.) and a poem generator (the details are obscure in my head but it'll depend on a number of things such as where you live, what mood you're in, the moon, and the weather!) It'll be fun.

I should follow up on the last entry. Last entry I made, I mentioned that I've added the menu bar to the top of all the poem pages in the hope that this would drive search engine visitors to the other pages of the site and while I haven't really examined the log files in details I've only received one request for a Portable Poetry since so I don't think it's made much of a difference.

I removed an entry from my guestbook. Not something I did without foibles. There was nothing offensive or insulting about the entry but something about it bothered me. It didn't say anything about Portable Poetry but rather was basically an advertisement for another site (a completely free site which had some original poetry on it). It went something like "Go to the URL listed below when you feel the urge... and you WILL feel the urge". It's a good way of getting some one to your site. I felt the "urge" to go there myself but I felt an equal and opposite urge to get out after a couple of minutes ;). I think the person in question did a search engine query for something like "poetry" and "guestbook" because I tried that on Google and found similar entries in some of the other guestbooks it turned up. I'm not sure if I'm just being mean here but I justified removing this entry as follows: if they want a link from my site why don't they just contact me by e-mail? I won't link to any old crap but if some one needs a hand getting referenced on a search engine and they ask nicely, I'll probably do it. A guestbook isn't a place for adding links to your website. I don't have a problem with some one leaving their URL on the guesbook (that's why there's a field in there for that) but so long as that isn't the sole intent and purpose for the entry. Looking at the access log, I could see that this guy (I'm pretty sure it's a guy) had come straight in at the guestbook, made his entry, and left. He probably hadn't even looked at anything else on the site. It's kind of rude... Also, links from your site are *exactly* free. When you add a link, you're basically inviting people to leave your site and go somewhere else (and, yes, they may not come back).

If you happen to be that person in question, and you're wondering what happenned to your link now you know! I'll add a link to your page on my links page but send me an email first (and say hello!)

31 January 2001

This week I had a big surprise.

I was on the site, uploading some files (I added a couple of new links) when I decided to take a look at my site access log. Last time I consulted it was, at the most recent, 6 months ago and back then, apart from myself and the odd friend, I was getting probably about 1, maybe 2 visitors a week. Imagine my surprise so, when I openned the logfile and found not tens, but hundreds of visits every day! I couldn't believe it (my first assumption was that it was a mistake or that I'd downloaded some one else's log file. But, no, a double-check confirmed that portablepoetry really is getting it's fair share of hits (I don't know precisely how many and I'm not sure what the precise definition of a "hit" is anyway but in terms of individual visits it would appear to be several hundred a day. This came as a very pleasant surprise.

The first question I asked myself, is how this happy state of affairs ever came about. Well, there's no doubt that search engines are the cause of all this good fortune. I tend to use Google to search the web now (a lot of people do) and when I've found that I'm getting quite a high ranking in many searches for specific poems by specific poets (I actually only tried two - a Wordsworth and a Donne and in the first portablepoetry came in in the top 10 and in the second in the top 20). Now, if there's one sure way of getting traffic to your site, it's by having a good ranking on search engine queries. I'm not really sure why portablepoetry is ranking so highly (there are plenty of poetry sites out there, afterall) but I have my suspicions.

The first, and this is really only a hunch, maybe the fact that my URLS for specific poems usually contain the name of the poet and at least a part of the name of the poem. This was something I'd noticed in the past - the higher ranking results seemed to use a file name, e.g. "william.shakespare-sonnet38.htm" that contained the name of the poem in question. So, I decided to give this a go and all the poems are stored in directories with the poet's name (have a look) and the files themselves have names that often match the title of the poem. This could have nothing to do with it (some time back I noticed that a search for "portable poetry" would return portablepoetry.com not at the top as you might expect but second) but I suspect it's a factor. Another factor is the number of links to your site and the fact that portable poetry is now on listed on DMOZ and YAHOO may help (plus a friend, Ian, added a link to my site from his German Language Home Page site which you can find in the Thanks Section).

One of the really interesting things about access logs (I've been having a lot of fun with them!) is that they provide information on what files are accessed and by what address IP so you get some idea as to surfers' browsing habits at your site. Most at mine seems to be very short, single stops - maybe a poem or two - only very occassionally does some one go to the main page and any of the other pages - they tend to leave the site straight away. I suspect this is for 2 reasons. First, the actual poem pages don't have any menu bars on them for easy navigation (there's a tiny link at the bottom to the home page, specifically for people who came via search engines) so people come in notice that not a lot seems to be going on and leave. I've rectified this by adding a navigation bar and the standard logo at the top of each poem page, so now people have something to focus their attention on besides the poem itself (improved usability and greater likelyhood that they visit the rest of the site - only the access-logs will tell). The second reason people leave straight away is because I suspect a large percentage of people coming to the site are students trying to find quick and easy answers to their homework! Finding only the poem on portablepoetry they zip off as fast as they came on.

Below I've copied part of the access log so you can see what it looks like:
205.188.208.6 - - [29/Jan/2001:06:17:54 +0100] "GET /poems/John_Donne/The_Good-Morrow.htm HTTP/1.0" 200 3276
152.163.189.129 - - [29/Jan/2001:06:24:00 +0100] "GET /poems/William_Blake/A_Poison_Tree.htm HTTP/1.0" 200 2228
203.61.155.10 - - [29/Jan/2001:06:53:01 +0100] "GET /poems/Emily_Dickinson/Because_I_could_not_stop_fo.htm HTTP/1.0" 200 2409
203.197.240.63 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:03:58 +0100] "GET /poems/Wilfred_Owen/Anthem_for_Doomed_Youth.htm HTTP/1.1" 200 2384
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:13 +0100] "GET / HTTP/1.0" 200 5628
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:15 +0100] "GET /images/StuffOn.gif HTTP/1.0" 200 1836
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:15 +0100] "GET /images/StuffOff.gif HTTP/1.0" 200 1834
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:15 +0100] "GET /images/PoemsOn.gif HTTP/1.0" 200 641
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:15 +0100] "GET /images/PoemsOff.gif HTTP/1.0" 200 641
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:15 +0100] "GET /images/CreateOff.gif HTTP/1.0" 200 1816
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:15 +0100] "GET /images/AboutOff.gif HTTP/1.0" 200 1795
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:16 +0100] "GET /images/bookprinters.jpg HTTP/1.0" 200 33421
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:16 +0100] "GET /images/AboutOn.gif HTTP/1.0" 200 1792
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:16 +0100] "GET /images/YoursOn.gif HTTP/1.0" 200 1761
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:16 +0100] "GET /images/ppdarkbanner.gif HTTP/1.0" 200 3112
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:50 +0100] "GET /images/CreateOn.gif HTTP/1.0" 200 1825
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:50 +0100] "GET /stuff.htm HTTP/1.0" 200 5722
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:52 +0100] "GET /images/bpdetail.jpg HTTP/1.0" 200 22385
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:52 +0100] "GET /images/HomeOn.gif HTTP/1.0" 200 626
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:52 +0100] "GET /images/HomeOff.gif HTTP/1.0" 200 626
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:28:52 +0100] "GET /images/pplightbanner.gif HTTP/1.0" 200 3112
209.115.196.103 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:29:11 +0100] "GET /about.htm HTTP/1.0" 200 8156
205.188.209.38 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:33:28 +0100] "GET /poems/John_Donne/The_Good-Morrow.htm HTTP/1.0" 200 3276
216.143.213.224 - - [29/Jan/2001:07:38:59 +0100] "GET /poems/John_Donne/Batter_My_Heart.htm HTTP/1.1" 200 2366
63.225.56.185 - - [29/Jan/2001:08:13:52 +0100] "GET /poems.htm HTTP/1.1" 200 33139
63.225.56.185 - - [29/Jan/2001:08:13:53 +0100] "GET /images/HomeOn.gif HTTP/1.1" 200 626
63.225.56.185 - - [29/Jan/2001:08:13:53 +0100] "GET /images/HomeOff.gif HTTP/1.1" 200 626
63.225.56.185 - - [29/Jan/2001:08:13:53 +0100] "GET /images/pplightbanner.gif HTTP/1.1" 200 3112
63.225.56.185 - - [29/Jan/2001:08:13:53 +0100] "GET /images/bpdetail.jpg HTTP/1.1" 200 22385
142.103.49.68 - - [29/Jan/2001:08:26:03 +0100] "GET /poems/George_Gordon_Byron/She_Walks_in_Beauty.htm HTTP/1.1" 200 2451
128.114.228.85 - - [29/Jan/2001:09:28:48 +0100] "GET /poems.htm HTTP/1.0" 200 33139
128.114.228.85 - - [29/Jan/2001:09:28:50 +0100] "GET /images/HomeOn.gif HTTP/1.0" 200 626
128.114.228.85 - - [29/Jan/2001:09:28:50 +0100] "GET /images/HomeOff.gif HTTP/1.0" 200 626
128.114.228.85 - - [29/Jan/2001:09:28:50 +0100] "GET /images/pplightbanner.gif HTTP/1.0" 200 3112
128.114.228.85 - - [29/Jan/2001:09:28:51 +0100] "GET /images/bpdetail.jpg HTTP/1.0" 200 22385
128.114.228.85 - - [29/Jan/2001:09:29:01 +0100] "GET /poems/William_Shakespeare/Sonnet_20.htm HTTP/1.0" 200 2784
128.114.228.85 - - [29/Jan/2001:09:29:50 +0100] "GET /poems.htm HTTP/1.0" 304 -
128.114.228.85 - - [29/Jan/2001:09:29:54 +0100] "GET /poems.htm HTTP/1.0" 304 -
196.34.250.6 - - [29/Jan/2001:09:52:00 +0100] "GET /poems/Percy_Bysshe_Shelley/The_Cloud.htm HTTP/1.0" 200 5200
 

14 January 2001

Hey, what a surprise! It's after midnight again and here I am making another entry in the journal. For the record, as this seems to be part of the ritual, I'm listenning to Guy Chadwicks "Lazy, Soft & Slow." I really like everything he's done - he used to be lead singer and songwriter for the House of Love which are one of my favourite bands and initially I was lukewarm on this album but it's one that has really grown on me with listenning. It's very different to his HOL period but the songwriting is excellent and the mellow style suits him.

So, I've done some major updates on the site since the last entry. Not least of these is the guestbook which I'm honoured to say has, at this point in time, received 3 entries. This means a lot to me - it's so nice to have feedback and really encourages me to keep going. I also added an e-mail referal system as I figured this would help me get more hits.

One thing that has helped no end is being referenced on Yahoo! DMOZ, Google, etc. I'm starting to receive visitors who found me on the web through search engines which gives me a real thrill.

A really major change is that I've decided to start changing for the booklets except for sample 16 page booklets. I decided this for a couple of reasons. The first is obviously that it would be nice to recover some of the costs (the paper, postage, not to mention all the time). The second is that I'm genuinely curious to see whether all the orders will simply dry up because curiously, in the case of Portable Poetry, I have the distinct impression that I couldn't give them away for free. Amazing but over the last year, I've given away no more than 60 which is only about 1 a week. Perhaps people think that there really is no such thing as a free lunch or perhaps it's because they don't like what's on the menu.

Before I sign off, I will mention that I'm going to start working on a new project over the coming months so I'll probably not being doing much here except processing the orders and adding the odd poem. I'll post details of the new site once it's up and running (it's connected with film). It's only for fun but I'm very excited about it.

 

17 October 2000

So, here I am back again. I haven't been up to much on the website, just enough to get those portable poetries out and make sure things are ticking over. Since early August I got "diverted" by Java. I decided I needed to learn at least the rudiments to set up a new facility I want to add, which will allow poets to enter poems on-line for a customised portable poetry. Javascript just doesn't have enough control over text formatting so I abandonded that idea after a week of fruitless experimenting. Of course, I also had the option of simply letting people upload a text file with their poems on it but I think that would be messy and I wouldn't really learn anything myself from the experience! So I stocked up on Java books and struggled away with it for about 2 weeks and I still haven't written a word of code. That was mid August to early September. Then I was away on holidays in Portugal for two weeks (actually, I got married, if you must know!) and I decided wisely against bringing my laptop with me. I got back a month ago. But we've been busy moving and I haven't really had time for the site or much else.

Besides, I decided to put the java books aside for a while and start looking at Flash - why? well, mainly because it's there, hee hee. I just thought it would be interesting to know. Interesting, not fascinating!

One of the things I'm happy about is getting listed on yahoo at last. This took a long time and everyone says you need to be on there to get hits. I've been on a few days and apart from a little commercial stuff (spam like stuff) I haven't noticed any extra visitors. Time will tell, as it always does...

 

Tuesday, 2 August 2000

Yet again, it's just after midnight on Tuesday (so technically it should be Wednesday the 3rd but most of me is still in Tuesday, so there!) I've just finished updating the "yours" section to include pre-select buttons. I've only got 4 for the moment but I'll add more over the coming days. It wasn't nearly as hard to do as I imagined. I ran into some complications with the way I declare poems in the Javascript and had to re-generate the code to take this into account but that sort of stuff is pretty simple when you're using AppleScript for the monotonous updating. I'm really happy with these pre-select buttons. Adding the poems, I realised that I have a lot more poets to add so I'll probably stop working on the site for a while (besides the odd bit of tinkering) and concentrate on getting some more poets in - afterall, ultimately, that's what it's all about!

 

Tuesday, 25th July 2000

It's just after midnight on Tuesday. I'm listening to The Byrds "Fifth Dimension" but the sound quality is pretty poor. It's a CD but I'd never noticed this before when listening on the CD player in my room. I wonder if this has something to do with digital remastering because, if so, this recording could really do with it. Anyway...

I've just added some long-awaited updates to the site. All poems are now displayed with their footnotes - originally, I had planned to keep the footnotes for the paper versions only but then I thought, why not, it's something that sets the site a little bit apart from other poetry sites and they're definitely one of the things that take the longest when entering the poems. The display is simple enough but that's not really a problem. I really think they facilitate the reading of the poems. Footnotes are one of the first things I look for when browsing poetry books. It's hard to find good ones (I'm not saying mine are, but they're better than nothing).

I've also added some poems that I actually entered and formated a while ago but hadn't got to uploading to the site. I now have 22 poets: my objective is to 30 in the shortish terms, 50 in the medium to longer term.

I've decided to contact a poetry publisher to see if they'd be interested in allowing me to host some of their poets' works. I have a publisher in mind but I won't say whom for the moment as that would be premature. Besides, there's probably only a very slim chance this will work as they'll probably be quite wary. I'm small fry and what I'm doing in obscure, to say the least.

People often ask me how many hits I have - I don't know to be honest but I would say, roughly, that I probably have between 0 and 10 visits a week (the latter being my equivalent of a concerted effort by hackers to bring the server down - call in the CIA! (and yes I like Radiohead)) I've sent out about 30 booklets so far.

I've asked Maria to provide me with a list of French poems and poets to add to the site as I think I might get more hits. Living in France, people get excited when I tell them about the site but then usually are disappointed to learn that it's only in English, which I understand.

Got other things to say, but I'm tired and I need to go to bed - go to work tommorrow.

 

16 July 2000

Made the first entry in the Portable Poetry journal. It's late at night, I'm listening to Lisa Germano ("Slide") to keep me awake but I want my bed! There (I just didn't want to start this page with "under construction"). I've decided how I want this page to appear - I'll have a "The Story So Far" bit and then the rest will be a dated journal of what I've done and what I plan to do (a bit like this). Now to upload all the recent pages (the "stuff" pages of links, thanks, books, and this) on to my server. It's been over a month since I last uploaded something new to the site. Not that anyone has noticed or that I'm under any illusion that I'm not talking to myself most of the time. Sometime during the week, I will update the po