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« NarrowBoat Magazine | Main | Aunt Sally at The Fishes »

Thursday, 20 July 2006


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Andrew Denny

'The George and The Mary' fetching a lot of money, because of the information inside? Gosh, I have a photocopy of the whole book. I wonder how much that's worth? :-)

Richard Fairhurst

Sarah - I'd be a bit more relaxed if it were WW. But Narrowboat's a new title, which survives on magazine sales alone (there's virtually no advertising), and has a much smaller circulation than WW does. Losing even 50 sales would be a big dent for NB.

Would it happen? Well, fleet lists are really important to a lot of people - you only have to look at the huge prices that The George & the Mary fetches these days to see how prized the information is. Personally I'm not too interested beyond knowing what my own boat is (GUCCC 287, registered at Rickmansworth in August 1938), but others are.

Still, it's early days yet... we'll see how it goes.

Sarah Hale

A few thoughts off the top of my head for Richard. I didn't intend to open such a can of worms with my initial comment, which was meant to be a lighthearted comment on the effectiveness - not the justified-ness - of the shibboleth (and note I didn't take Andrew up on the 'game' of keep posting the new one). Although I do think it is a bit OTT to effectively threaten to take your ball home and ditch the online fleet lists over a few blog comments. If as you say above they are constantly being updated and corrected and are therefore superior to the printed version then they will be a very valuable - perhaps the definitive - resource, having that information gathered together in a format that is easy to access and search. But do you think you are perhaps worrying too much about people getting something for nothing? Surely most people who buy the magazine aren't doing so for the lists, but for the articles and the pictures. Many people who are interested in the lists will be buying it anyway. Do you really think that people being able to access the lists online will lose you magazine sales?

Richard Fairhurst

But it's not "to enter the website", Bones. It's to access one single, fairly obscure page. I mean, none of this fuss would have happened if I'd simply omitted the page - I doubt anyone here would have posted "The website's ok, but it would be better if it had fleet lists on it".

As for personal comments - Andrew is someone I know and respect greatly. As I've said before, Granny Buttons is probably the one regularly-updated waterways site that I look forward to reading more than any other. (And the RSS means I don't need to click "refresh", "refresh", which is always good. :) )

So I confided to Andrew in private e-mail that the current system ("enter a word from p41") was a stop-gap until we could go through all the heartache of getting the subscriptions database to talk to the website, and hence authenticate readers based on their subs code. I was disappointed that he then chose to use this "in evidence against us", as it were. (Quote: "considering that it was only a holding shibboleth until the webmasters got to work installing subscriber passwords")

But, frankly, all of this over such a tiny little thing makes me think it'd just be easier to trash the page, not offer the service of the fleet lists to anyone, and avoid the hassle. (It's taken more time to post to this thread than to create the page in the first place.) Doing websites is something I do in my spare time when I'm not editing the real magazine... I'm really not that fussed about it. :)


Oops - just re-read the posts, and realise that I have mistaken the comments on towpath talk as being of those of the NarrowBoat magazine - sorry about that. However, I do think NarrowBoat have shot themselves in the foot by being rather petty about a word to be found to enter the website, I for one would have rather enjoyed a sneek preview, and it may have been good publicity? Although I appreciate Richards comments that they need the money and a new publication needs all the encouragement it can get, I did think the personal comments to Granny Buttons was a little a little below the belt and unnecessary to say the least. Is this the flavour of NarrowBoat? I'll stick to what I know thanks.


errrr... because it hasn't 'got what is probably the most complex web site....!? Unless of course you are suggesting it has for the 'youngest and least sophisticated of waterways publications' in which case I'll give you my mothers phone number so she can give you some tips.

Richard Fairhurst

Sarah - on the first point, there's a handful of reasons why the fleet list works on the web (or at least, I think so). Firstly, corrections come in over time and we update the list accordingly - so the Claytons list already has a bunch of changes applied to it that weren't in the original. It's kind of hard to do that with a paper version!

Secondly, it's sortable, so you can see all the boats together that were built in the same place, or see them in date order, and so on. Again, something that you can't do on paper.

Thirdly, the idea is to add one every issue, so ultimately you get access to all the lists even if you've only just started subscribing.

And I'll speak to the subs people about the duplicate letter - looks like we cocked up there. Sorry.

Mike - do explain, how exactly is this shooting oneself in the foot?

Sarah Hale

Interesting - I've just been opening my post from last week, and Waterways World have kindly sent me a full colour letter inviting me to subscribe to NarrowBoat. The only reason they have my details in the first place is that I have already got a subscription ... there's a connection here somewhere, but I can't quite put my finger on it.

Mike Beveridge

How appropriate Andrew, that you complimented the Towpath Talk website in March, and concluded:

"Ironically for the youngest and least sophisticated of waterways publications, it's got what is probably the most complex web site. I daresay it'll be overtaken as certain experienced former-webmasters-turned-waterway-mag-editors sharpen their crossbow bolts and take aim."

It looks like on this occasion they missed the target and shot themselves in the foot!

Sarah Hale

Am I missing something here guys? The fleet list info on the website is exactly the same as printed in the magazine (albeit one issue in arrears). You need the magazine to access the website - but if you already have the magazine, then you don't need to access the website. So this is all a bit redundant, isn't it?

Richard Fairhurst

You fund your writing by having a job that pays the mortgage (ok, the marine mortgage). You can afford to give your copy away for nothing because you'll still have a house (boat) at the end of it. That's not the case for a professional writer, who doesn't just "like" to gather statistics about vanished boats... it's his job.

I do get a little exasperated when people expect everything on the Internet to be free (that's "free as in beer", for any GNU types). Good quality journalism and research costs money. Sure, (for example) is sufficiently mass-market that they can fund themselves through advertising, but Google Ads on a carrying fleet list are never going to pay for the research.

Anyway, as you say, I shall hie away from batting this one back and forth and go and work on the WW site instead. ;)

Clive E.R. Field

Come on now chaps... back to your respective keyboards... lets get on with the important business of informing, educating and amusing the public.

The 'two churches' theme could run for a bit with some encouragement.

Best regards to both.
Clive at Saul

Andrew Denny

Aw, lighten up! It's very early days, not just for the NB website but for the magazine too, and here we are giving it a helpful publicity while it's getting off the ground.

I thought perhaps you were joining in the game and interacting with us and encouraging us to get involved with the magazine :-)

"A lucrative PR job to fund their spare time writing"? How do you fund spare-time writing? It's in my spare time, writing doesn't cost anything. Of course, I don't have friends and I don't have a life. Hmm, perhaps I should just go and compile statistics about vanished boats instead. costs me about £20 a month. Some people like to gather statistics about boats, I like to write about the waterways. Hopefully with a smile.

I just have a job, that's all, a near-averagely paid one according to the Govt. (, without a pension. And a boat, not a house, typically 150 miles from my mid-week digs. All my money goes on funding my boat, not writing. Boating gives me something to write about, of course.

Richard, hey, what information did I take in these posts from a private email?

Richard Fairhurst

You can pounce with as many words as you like, Andrew, and if it gets tiresome enough all I have to do is dump the text files for the entire magazine in there and get the website to ask for a new randomly-picked word each time.

Articles and authors' research, like the fleet lists, have to be paid for. Not everyone has a lucrative PR job to fund their spare-time writing.

We could open up the content to all and sundry, for free; and then we wouldn't be able to afford to commission any more articles. Or we could just not put the stuff on the site at all. Which of these would you prefer?

Plea to Granny Buttons: taking information from private e-mails (the "subscriber passwords" stuff) and then using it in evidence against the person concerned generally tends to rile people.

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