10 May 2002 shlomif   » (Master)

Some Extra thoughts about Human Engineering

You may remember my post here in which I preached about the importance of Human Engineering in software. But naturally, good human engineering extends towards other fields. Actually, getting people to know about your OSS project is relatively easy, assuming the project is actively maintained and technically sound. You just post regular updates on Freshmeat, and let Google and the Freshmeat Effect take care of the rest. (just please choose an original name, so you won't clog the whole search like Freecell Solver did).

But the problem is that I'm a writer as well as a programmer, and I'm distressed that my stories did not receive too much attention. But then I remembered how I got the few people who read them to do so: by being a good human engineer. I told them about them, got them interested in them, and got their attention. Until now, I thought the best way to get publicity was to get people to link to me from my site. I did not try too hard doing that, but maybe I should also complement it with a slightly different approach.

What I'd like to do is to get people to read them by making them interested in the story: telling them about it, answering their questions about it, and creating a culture of small and dedicated people around it. Chen Shapira told me she had already read "The Enemy and How I Helped to Fight it" (which I wrote) four times or so, while "trying to look for hidden meanings". So she probably likes it. She's also very fond of "The Pope died on Sunday" which is unfinished. If I can create a web culture of people like that, I will eventually get more people to know about the stories.

Like I said in the article, good human engineering is more about being polite and friendly, and there are some facts about my Internet presence, which I realized are not good HE. For instance, my homepage does not have a News section. Finding something new there is like "Cherche la Femme" - you have to use a web-diff tool. I think I should put one right between the title and the first <h2> heading. (and naturally archive previous news items)

And another thing: I should create a mailing list for discussing my stories, probably on Yahoo-Groups, this always helps creating a Net culture around something. For the time being, there had been some discussion of my stories on Hackers-IL, the Israeli Objectivism web-forum (which I "terrorized"[1] for a while), and perhaps other places. But nothing too serious.

Another problem, which is harder to resolve, is that I write most of my stories in Hebrew, and only when I'm happy with them, I translate them to English. Translating them on the fly is a pain, because I happen to re-write parts of them constantly. Naturally, I'll get a much larger audience had I wrote them in English, but I'm comfortable writing in Hebrew.

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