Monday, 9 May 2011

Posting Rate

I started this blog early in April as “private” to a few people, primarily to see how consistently I could post. I opened it up to the world two weeks ago – and, as Murphy's Law would predict, was unable to post since then. The trouble is that I have some good days, many not-so-good days, and some very bad stretches of days, but they're unpredictable, and there are many other things that have to get done on the good ones. This seems to be a common problem. I follow about two dozen web comics these days. A lot of them have a schedule they try to keep, but most have gaps when the author gets sick, loses net access briefly, hits a writer's block, or just disappears without explanation.

There are only two of my favourites that have posted consistently, seven days a week, for years on end: Schock Mercenary, and the ironically-named Irregular Webcomic. Both authors count as geeks in my books: Howard Tayler once worked for a computer company, in what capacity I don't know – but writing high-tech science fiction gives geek cred in and of itself. David Morgan-Mar is a physics geek who can explain physics and other stuff way better than Wikipedia (and some physics profs). Their consistency results from their employing a geekish concept: buffers.

A buffer is a storage structure (hardware or software) that compensates for speed mismatches between a producer and a consumer. Well, look at those two webcomics: each of the authors can work in burst, doing a lot of work in a block of time when they're at their most productive, then putting their work in a queue from which a computer posts their stuff for them on a completely regular schedule. If one of them were sick or otherwise preoccupied for a very long time (God forbid), the buffer would empty, but I'm pretty sure that hasn't ever happened. David in particular switches among several threads of related comics, each produced with a set of legos LEGO® pieces and painted miniatures; I suspect he produces several with each set, then intersperses them with the other threads in his buffer.

I don't have a buffer yet, and consequently have no prediction on how frequently I'll post. If I'd succumbed to timidity I'd have written a lot of entries and set a schedule for posting that spreads those out over the typical maximum length of my serious downtimes. A math-geek approach to planning, I suppose.

I manged to figure out how: Blogger lets you set a future posting date, so that's what I've done with this message, just to test it out. I haven't seen a way to robo-post from offline yet, for when I want to get at little more control. For example, if I decide to post Mondays and Thursdays, and have 3 weeks of advance postings, there doesn't seem to be a way to simply insert something on an upcoming Monday and have the Monday post (and all the ones thereafter) shift to the next posting date, without editing all the posts individually to set new dates.

That's the sort of thing a software geek thinks about when exploring a new thing: “I'd have designed this better differently...”