Re-posted on Weds 20th June with some corrections:

This is a post at a right angle to the usual. If it sounds like a post about software stick with me, I get to the poetry. I might even make some sense!

The weird trajectory of my journey into poetry publishing goes through a business that makes everyday stuff that you buy in a supermarket. To run that business we need software. Clever punchy complicated powerful software. Only, being a small business, we couldn’t afford the big software company software so we made our own with bits and pieces and string and glue filtched from all over the open source world. In the process of doing this I stumbled across clever people like James Governor who is an analyst at Red Monk. He and his colleagues write the kind of blog posts that have nothing to do with one or my worlds and loads to do with others but they write and point at the kind of stuff that makes my brain jig at right angles. I have no idea whether James & co like poetry. That is not the point. He & they, make me think.

Posts like this one below for instance (which I am going to quote almost whole, but having changed its reference point from software development to publishing poetry) is typical and indirectly influenced my decision to start Burning Eye and later helped the decision making progress as I lined up our first four books:

Adoption of software Burning Eye  is a funnel

At our Monki Gras conference this February, the creator of Jenkins, Kohsuke Kawaguchi, gave an outstanding talk on building a community around open-source software   publishing poetry….

One of the key concepts he talked about was lowering the barrier to entry for new userspoets with the great metaphor of a funnel. If you’ve ever heard of a sales funnel, it’s the same idea applied to adoption of software publishing poetry— a multi-step process, where failure at any of the steps kicks people out of the funnel, but success means they proceed to the next step.

In my view, the key point of this funnel metaphor is that the many small barriers to adoption are not independent minor factors. Instead, they’re additive and strongly interdependent, gradually ripping more and more of your potential users poets out of the adoption funnel.

Let’s take Red Hat’s RHEL Burning Eye as an example, and consider how this affects RHEL’s Burning Eye’s ability to get developers building software on its platform performance poets publishing poetry with Burning Eye. Imagine that we start with 100 developers performance poets who are thinking about basing development on RHEL publishing. I drew a picture to illustrate how many of these 100 might end up actually developing on RHEL publishing with Burning Eye, based on a funnel (with each stick figure representing 10 developers  10 poets):

(ignore the captions!)

Every time users a poet hit(s) a problem, some percentage of them will give up and move on to an alternative (colored red, above). In the end, you might end up with only 20 out of 100 potential users poets actually running your software publishing with you!

I kept this model in mind as I approached the list of poets I hoped to publish. Several were simply not interested or were indifferent to publishing, others had over commitments and priorities, some were holding out in hope that Bloodaxe would one day come calling. These are the ones that drop out of funnelling process. Others moved forward as a. they were ready to publish, b. were thinking about how to do it and c. liked the model I was developing as I moved through the funnelling process with them.

Thinking in this way influenced what I brought to the table to offer poets in terms of creative freedom and collaboration on the creation of the finished book in a way that I gathered was different from the norm. Input into the cover and the editing process for instance, and a fixed mark up + margin sharing commercial arrangement rather than the conventional royalty / discount model.

I guess I am saying that inspiration is found by casting around or maybe I am saying poetry is like software because it is attracts just the coolest geeks on the planet.

(The rest of James’s the post is here, which as James pointed out was actually written by his colleague Donnie Berkholz )