Unshelved comic strip for 2/9/2004

Switching Gears

I spent the latter part of last week (and much of the weekend) working on our orders database. This is a crucial piece of technology for us. When we start accepting orders for our first book the only means we had to track orders were the emails PayPal sent us when someone ordered something, and the not-very-useful reports we could download from their site. We also got a large number of mail orders, and integrating them into our process wasn't easy. Managing all this has been painstaking ever since.

But PayPal has a feature called "Instant Payment Notification" where they will dump the order data to us in a more useful form, one we can put into a database. I had played with this before but finally got it working right before we turned on preorders for the second book. Good move. Now those hundreds of orders are safely in the database, which is a good start. We then needed a way to convert PayPal's data to a format we could use, and now that's done too.

The next step is to allow us to manage those orders and hand-enter mail orders. Each order is potentially three shipping events for us - stuff to ship via our fulfillment agent (e.g. Read Responsibly shirts), stuff to ship from home now (e.g. prints), and preorders to ship from home when the books and shirts come in next week. I've put in defaults for these, but sometimes we'll need to override them. Or someone will change an order after they place it (typically letting us know about an inscription they'd like). And so on. We also need to print reports and invoices for actually shipping things.

It's not done yet, but after about five days straight of programming I'm going back to doing strips. One of the nice parts of my job is the ability to switch gears. Writing, drawing, programming, marketing - I get to do them all and I love to do them all. And when I'm not behind the ball on any one thing then I get to choose when to do them. Which is great, because right now I never want to see another line of code again. So today I'll finish rewrites on a big batch of strips Gene and I wrote last week, then I'll draw them.

Then who knows what I'll do tomorrow. Oh, right. See a bunch of movies. I guess I have a pretty good life. I hope we can sell enough stuff this year so that I can keep doing this instead of getting a real job.

This Unshelved strip

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