Errata – the bane of my life (part 2)

On Wednesday, I wrote about the work that we do to avoid mistakes creeping in to our publications. Thank you for all the kind feedback I have had following on from that post. I’m always going to find it hard dealing with making a mistake, but it definitely helps to feel that people understand. In today’s post, I’m going to explain what we do when we find a mistake.

A few themes cropped up following Wednesday’s blog post, and the main one can most easily be encapsulated by a quote from the Headteacher at the school where I was a newly-qualified teacher. Dr Guthrie sat down next to me in the staff room after I’d had a very difficult meeting with a parent and said, “If you don’t make any mistakes, you aren’t trying hard enough.” I reflect frequently on this advice, and it’s definitely a point of view I try to share with our kids. It applies so well to so many parts of life. If you work hard to improve, then you will make some mistakes: in your paid work, in your knitting projects, in parenting, in wider society, and in generally trying to be a better person. Making a mistake can be deeply uncomfortable, but unless we make them and own up to them, we won’t grow and learn.

Dealing with errors in digital publications

Having tried to be philosophical about dealing with mistakes, I’ll come back to the practical ways in which we deal with them here at Arnall-Culliford Knitwear.

The first thing I do when an error in a pattern comes to light is to identify at what point in the process the error occurred. In the case of the chart error in the Heartgyle Socks, it occurred when transcribing the original chart from the designer (Julia’s chart was correct) into Illustrator (the software we use for all our charts and schematics). We made the mistake. The more we understand about how mistakes occur, the more we are able to adjust our processes to minimise the possibilities. We will never get rid of every possibility, but by evaluating our systems regularly, we can hopefully improve.

Secondly, I contact the designer to let them know that an error slipped through the system, and to apologise. Whether the error is ours or was present in the original files, it is our responsibility to publish patterns that are correct, so an apology is an important part of the process. It helps designers to be aware of any errors, as knitters sometimes contact the designer directly, even for third-party publications.

Thirdly, I’ll add a note to the Ravelry database page for the pattern, to explain what the error is and how to correct it. If I am aware of an error in one of our patterns, then it will be noted on the pattern page on Ravelry. That’s the most visible place to collect information about a pattern, and as such it’s always my first port of call for sharing any update. When you Google a pattern name, the Ravelry page is almost always among the top page results, so this is the most efficient way of disseminating information.

If we are running a knitalong for that pattern, I will post an apology in the thread, and then I’ll add details of the correction to the top of the knitalong thread. In doing this yesterday, a kind knitter (Gracej) also pointed out that 2 more squares needed to be pink to make the design symmetrical. I would hope that when I had corrected the chart file, I would have spotted the extra stitches, but who knows? I was very grateful to Grace for letting me know. And this neatly illustrates why we don’t immediately issue a pattern update via the online shop and Ravelry. When I issue an update, I want it to be fully updated and correct. As a consumer I understand that mistakes happen and a pattern may need to be updated, but I am not terribly keen on needing multiple updates, particularly in a short space of time. So having posted the correction on Ravelry, we do another thorough check to make sure we haven’t missed anything else. And we also wait.

Finally, we issue a corrected pdf file through the pattern update system, and we apologise in the related email. The process does depend a bit on the nature of the error. If we were to discover a mistake that would cause a LOT of frustration and wasted time, or money, to lots of knitters, then I don’t rule out sending out a swift pattern update. Generally speaking though, in the case of smaller errors, in a publication that already has regular updates (as is the case for Boost Your Knitting) we will correct the pdf and include it in the next month’s pattern update email. I believe this gives us the best balance of issuing a timely update, catching any problems all in one go, and not sending out too many updates.

So far this has all applied to digital pattern files. The massive benefit of digital pattern files is the ease with which we can send out a new version. Ravelry makes it ever so straightforward to update a file and let customers know. Our online shop also has a good process for changing the pdf file and sending out a message to inform customers. So what do we do when a mistake makes its way into print?

Correcting errors in print publications

We apply a similar process to correcting errors in print. As soon as I am aware of any mistake, it is noted on the pattern page on Ravelry. We then issue an update to the related ebook files in as timely manner as possible. Once the pdf files are updated and customers have been notified, we add the details of the mistake in the print edition to our Errata page here on our website: Errata

I try to make it clear which version of a pattern it applies to. So in the case of A Year of Techniques, we now have two editions, and the corrections are only required for the first edition of the print book. The ebook files are all up to date and correct, and so are copies of the second edition. Happily, we haven’t had any errors in the print editions of Something New to Learn About Cables or Something New to Learn About Lace.

A link to the errata page on our website is then added to Ravelry, so that it’s straightforward for consumers to find any corrections to their patterns. That link can be found on the individual pattern pages, and also on the main page for a book.

Finally, if we sell out of a book, we ensure that the next print run is fully corrected.

Living with it

Once all of the steps to correcting errors have been worked through, it’s time for me to try to let it go. It probably sounds a bit daft, but I find this difficult. Even having worked through all those steps and having been as accountable to customers as I possibly can be, I still find it difficult to give myself a break. I expect a lot of myself, and of our publications, and our track record on errata is pretty good. But the things that slip through really do bother me. I try to focus on the fact that I’m putting myself out there and having a go. People learn things from our books even though the odd mistake slips through. When I am finding things hard, I come back to the fact that I definitely catch FAR more errors than I introduce or allow through. It doesn’t banish those feelings, but it does ease them a bit.

I hope you have found it interesting to read how we deal with mistakes. I will end how I started… I wish we could say that there will never be a mistake in one of our patterns, but there are simply too many things in a knitting pattern that can be wrong. They are surprisingly complex pieces of code! And we are but humans.

On that note, I will wish you happy knitting this weekend! And if you think there’s a mistake in one of our patterns, please do let me know! I want to correct our mistakes and avoid possible frustration and expense of time and money for our customers.