How a Project is Put Together

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Richard Marsden
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How a Project is Put Together

Postby Richard Marsden » Sat May 25, 2013 11:49 pm

How a Project gets Done

The Polish Saber PDF is a free project put together by the HEMA Alliance.
https://www.dropbox.com/s/ubsfz17mo4glw ... 20HEMA.pdf

I was asked by the Hema Alliance President to keep track of how the project was started, what it took to make, and how it was completed. Here are my guidelines.

Have a Goal
A goal needs to be tangible. Get rich or die trying- is not tangible. Knock off a jewelry store is. In this case the goal was a free PDF covering the basics of Polish saber. Anything extra was a bonus.

Have a Leader
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Richard Marsden File Photo

The project needs a leader. Whoever sets the goal should be that leader. I referred to myself as the Engine. As a team was assembled they were made aware that I'm the Engine. I always run, I never stop, and the car will get there with or without you. This wasn't meant to be hostile- but rather to excuse people who could not donate time in a consistent manner. This also prevented people from getting tasks, then being unable to finish them, and the project stalling out. As the Engine, I took on the responsibility of seeing the project through, knowing that any part not fulfilled by others, had to be fulfilled by me, or someone else I found.

Assemble a Team
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwWmRiS3G0Q
People are needed to help with the project. In the case of the Polish Saber PDF, the largest issue was one of research. We needed people who knew about sabers, Polish sabers, Polish history, and the Polish language. I used Facebook and the Forum to find these people- directly appealing to those I knew would be incredibly valuable. Keith Farrell and Daria Izdebska are examples of the invaluable sorts I had to go court. Daria knows the language and local texts, has an interest in the subject and in Historical Fencing as a whole, while Keith has his own club and active blog in which he's promoted Daria's work. An added, and unforeseen bonus, was that Keith was willing to play the role of editor. Olek, meanwhile was already fencing with the Polish saber and provided local resources as well as direct insights.

My club provided me with people to work with putting things into practice. John Patterson for example helped me work through techniques, and theory.

Assign Tasks
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Members of the team were asked to research. Tyler Brandon, for example, provided everything and anything he could find on the forum and in email. Jonathan Hill and I went back and forth on what a basics PDF might entail and how detailed it should, or should not, be. These tasks were given time-limits. They included requests for email correspondence and video. I didn't get any video responses. Did it matter? Nope. The Engine keeps running. I had plenty of email though and a wealth of information from the team.

Did everyone participate? No. People get busy. Those listed on the PDF as contributors helped out, but there were more on the team than that. It is ok if people on the team can no longer assist. Find others, use what you have, but keep moving.

Not all email should be group email, and as you understand the abilities of your team, you can start corresponding with them one on one. While everyone's input is valuable, decisions are not done by committee and consensus. Those are things that are nice to have, but not a must. Otherwise the project will stall out.

Tasks for the PDF were on research.
A - How much does non-European influences matter?
B - What about Western?
C - 1400-1500's relevant text and art.
D - 1600's relevant text and art.
E - 1700's+ relevant text and art.
F - Modern examples of those who've tried a similar project.
G - Stances, Guards, Techniques, Attacks and so on.
H - Structures
I - And so on...

Some of these topics were open to everyone, some were between myself and a few others or even just one other as I got to know the team better.

We did not reach consensus on all of the topics. While I had my own ideas, I had to temper them and deeply consider others and if their ideas were backed by text or art or some other historical link-if so, I had to accept it. The PDF became a wider view of Polish saber than just my own. Though after awhile I found myself adopting it in its entirety. If you're leading a project, you need to know when to set aside your own views and adopt others, and when not to. In this case, I tried to deeply consider fact-based and source-based ideas. Opinions were nice to hear, but something I didn't let sway me without a clear source or link.

Example - Based on Almonte's art, which is period, I was fairly certain a toes-forward stance had to be the way to do it. When I was provided with sources showing other stances, ranging from Starzewski's 19th century descriptions, to near-period art, I had to broaden my view. This worked out for the best. The team was right, I was wrong.

Perfection Leads to Failure
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I've had about 50 short stories published, just had an RPG PDF (and hardback soon) project approved and on the market courtesy Savage Worlds and Studio 2, and I've had two novels published or self-published, oh, and a few of my works have been turned into audio-pod casts. I get things done. I sometimes make money off it too. So, it can't entirely be luck.

Most people? They have great ideas, and they often don't realize their ideas because they seek perfection. They think if the product isn't perfect, it isn't worth doing. They mistake the adage, "If a job is worth doing, it's worth doing right," for "If a job is worth doing, do it perfectly." The problem with perfect is that it doesn't come around that often. My goal was a free PDF on Polish Saber basics, soon as that goal was met, I decided that the info-gathering stage of the project was done. Anything else gathered after that I decided to put aside for a future project I would do on my own. I didn't want people waiting forever for the PDF and if I sought perfect, the wait really would be forever.

Good Enough Approval
With a core outline written, based on everything the team provided, I then shared that core outline with them. My instructions were, "Is this good enough to have your name on it? No, it's not done, but will look kinda like this." Everyone said 'yes'. This doesn't mean they agreed with everything in the PDF. If someone had said 'no', I'd see if we could come to common ground. If not- then I'd remove their name, thank them for their time, and with no hard feelings, keep running. Luckily, there was no grand revolt at what I had produced with their help.

Make it Usable
What's the point of a Polish Saber PDF if there are no Polish saber trainers? John P and I worked on that. We found a woodworker, I cajoled Purple Heart, and we were led to some Polish smiths by the team and Cold Steel directed us to Dave Baker at Hollywood Combat Center. In a few months we bought, and ensured were available, swords that could be used for sparring. We also ensured that the price ranges were reasonable. This works out for everyone. My club has plenty of trainers, there are now curved military sabers on the market, and the smiths all made some money. I hope this added bonus helps the community at large!

Make it Pretty
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Now here is where near-perfection is a more worthy goal. Once the information is gathered, presentation becomes important. I wanted a document that was concise, sourced, and had color art in period costume. Here, John P and I decided to spend some of our own money. I asked some re-enactment groups for photos-lots of interest, but no luck. So, we did it on our own. This was to help illustrate the project. We paid for costumes and the photographer, and snapped photos. We had one photo-day, so we had to get every image we could muster that day, and from them, pick ones that would work for the PDF. The images were a 'nice' thing to have for the PDF.

I write, a lot, and make errors and mistakes all the time. Here, a more critical eye was needed. Keith volunteered to play the role of editor. He also nit-picked (in a good way) to ensure the document had the right look and feel and footnotes. We did not have a layout person (John and I had dropped enough cash) and made do without. For the planned book, we'll have photos in borders, numbered, nifty font-choices and all that. For a free PDF- we deemed it 'good enough'. What's great is we can routinely update the PDF as needed. No harm there.

Time from inception to completion? Roughly, September 2012 to May 26th. 9 Months.

Release It
A Free PDF for the HEMA crowd is easy to market. We're a tight community and through the forum, FB, and other social media, things like this spread quickly. I think this will apply to most projects. To help advertise, if you run one, be sure to use the forum to update people as to its status. It will help stir interest.

Haters vs Critics
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Most people will probably like your project. In this case, what's not to like? It's free and covers a little-known area of HEMA. That said, those who don't, will probably be vocal about it. Be able to tell the difference between legit criticism, and someone who has an agenda. It's probably not worth defending yourself. You can't undo your project. Soak it all in and move on.

Samuel Becket said, "Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

Take the good criticism, change what you can with your project, and remember for the next one to make sure it 'fails better'.

Closing
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Not every project will end up run the way mine is. However, I hope bits and pieces of how I did it can help others do the same. Good luck, and the best of fortunes on your projects.

Reinier van Noort
Posts: 108
Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 8:09 pm

Re: How a Project is Put Together

Postby Reinier van Noort » Mon May 27, 2013 9:55 pm

Richard Marsden wrote:Most people? They have great ideas, and they often don't realize their ideas because they seek perfection. They think if the product isn't perfect, it isn't worth doing. They mistake the adage, "If a job is worth doing, it's worth doing right," for "If a job is worth doing, do it perfectly." The problem with perfect is that it doesn't come around that often. My goal was a free PDF on Polish Saber basics, soon as that goal was met, I decided that the info-gathering stage of the project was done. Anything else gathered after that I decided to put aside for a future project I would do on my own. I didn't want people waiting forever for the PDF and if I sought perfect, the wait really would be forever.



I think this, and having an engine that keeps running, are the important take home lessons from the above post, for any project, not just those done with a group. I have seen a lot of people stall and fail seeking unreachable perfection in their projects.

Thanks for posting that.
…en A alſoo liggende kan aen B, ſonder eenigh beletſel, met de zijde van ſijn hooft, op het aengeſicht van B, ſoo veel ſtoten als hy begeert. – Nicolaes Petter, 1674.

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