Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Test/Sample Knitters vs. Tech Editors

One of the hand dyers I interviewed, Tabi Ferguson and  I have stayed in sporadic contact since we worked on her interview. This happens occasionally and I really enjoy this aspect of the interview series. I've acquired many efriends and occasionally I get to meet them in the real world which is a lot of fun!

Tabi and I have been talking about the role of test knitters, tech editors and sample knitters. 

She wrote "I took a quick look through your archives on tech editors, but didn't find anything on test knitters. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the role of the test knitter and how it seems to differ so much from the tech editor.

Coming from a software background, a tester tested exactly as written. This is very different than test knitters who seem to make comments and mods at will which makes me admire the skill and experience of the tester but makes me question the pattern itself (why did they make so many mods? is there an underlying problem with the pattern itself? if they make mods, then aren't they sample knitters rather than test knitters?). Testers were also paid. It seems most test knitters aren't paid, even in yarn. They get the pattern for free and they essentially provide additional free 'advertising' on Rav in terms of their posting their finished projects.

I completely get the role of the tech editor (and that they should somehow be compensated), but it seems they often don't knit the item at least not in it's entirety which makes me wonder if they've caught enough. Hence my confusion...or maybe it's just me :-)

Then there's sample knitters what role do they play?"

In my case I don't use test knitters. I prefer a sample knitter who works with my yarn to my specifications. I need a version knit for photography and I need it customized to my measurements (if it's a garment) which are non-standard.  I do know a few designers that have experimented with the Ravelry testing group and they have mixed results with the process. The issue about a tester making modifications limits the value of the testing. My understanding is that they are modifying to make the project suit their needs or to use up stash.

There is a lot of confusion about the terms test and sample knitters. If you ask different people you will get different definitions. Testing a pattern usually means the designer is looking for feedback on the instructions and perhaps hoping for multiple sizes to be tested. In some cases I hear test knitter when I would think sample knitter would be more accurate, The lines are very blurry and it really all comes down to a negotiation between designer and knitter based on the needs of each in terms of timing, compensation and feedback.
My sample knitters do ask questions, I do have numerical or stitch pattern goofs more often than I would like and I have made changes based on their input before the pattern was tech edited. I assign the projects based on their skill sets, project preferences and technical expertise. I have had different levels of success with different knitters in terms of their ability to provide constructive criticism. Often they are my hands and eyes identifying problems or even a design concept that just isn't working out. 

Tech editors usually think through the information and how it's being communicated. They will occasionally pick up needles to test out instruction methods they are unfamiliar with. I tend to like a collaborative approach so my current tech editor is great with the back and forth method. Sometimes we rework wording together if I'm really struggling with a specific section. She also reviews all grammatical changes with me so we can discuss and I can make fewer errors (or at least try to). At times the process is more of an art than I initially thought it would be. Often style or layout issues will lead to changes in the pattern after it has been knit. My editor has an amazing ability to think through the knitting and recognize inconsistencies when I make errors in typing out stitch patterns in text. I'm more visual and much more conformable with charts. I like to think our different skill sets are complimentary. Interestingly, I've been asked about doing tech editing and I don't think I be very good at it. I have improved in catching errors in patterns and books but they seem to be more in the area of copy editing.

To keep my pattern writing consistent I can't make all of the changes that are suggested by both knitters and editors. Working with the same tech editor at the end of the design and knitting process on multiple patterns means she works to an overall standard set by my pattern style. 

Interweave has very kindly offered my readers a link to coupon codes for discounts in their online store. Go here for discounts.

BTW I'd be very grateful if my readers told other knitters about my blog and patterns. I played around with share this buttons on the blog but they keep fighting with my antivirus software. 

1 comment:

  1. I've test knit for several designers on Ravelry, and for the most part, I enjoy it. I don't do for the free pattern(s) -- as my monstrous pattern library would attest -- I just find the creative process interesting and think it's fun to be on the "ground floor" of getting a design sent out into the world. Sometimes, it's because I like the designer and appreciate all she's given to my knitting queue (haha), and so I'd like to "pay it back" a little. The one time it wasn't quite so enjoyable was when there was little communication or response or appreciation sent back from the designer.

    Another reason I think independent designers are using test knitters is to already have a variety of projects linked to the pattern once it debuts.