About last night

So I don’t mind telling you that behind-the-scenes, yesterday’s post went a bit wrong. Well, I do mind telling you, but I think it’s healthier to share such things rather than keep them to yourself. Particularly when you’ve publicly committed to a course of action, such as daily blogging.

Undertaking any sort of creative project puts some weird pressures on you – or rather, you put them on yourself. Also, the project changes and morphs as you make progress on it, calling some of your starting assumptions into question. The strangest thing is a lot of these pressures are invisible. I’ll highlight the first one after this “read more” break.

That’s one of those invisible pressures right there. If you click this link, you will see the archive of all my posts on this website. Thanks to this month, it’s now over a hundred. You can set it up to show posts a few ways: automatic summaries of the first paragraph, show the full post, a manual summary, or a read more link. The first two are chosen at a template level, and the second two are chosen on the individual posts.

I don’t like the automatic summaries, so that’s out. I don’t have the time or inclination to write manual summaries, although I’m sure I’ve done it for a few posts on the pasts. So, I’ve chosen to show the full post on the blog archive, but manually put in a “read more” link after a paragraph or two, at an appropriate point.

But it can’t just be a random point, because that would defeat the object. You have to write a post with the “read more” break in mind. Too late, there’s too much post on the page. Too early, it looks weird, especially with the drop-cap I usually add on the first paragraph (this doesn’t always show up on mobile, and I haven’t figured out how to do it on the mobile app. It also means I have to make sure the first paragraph is long enough so that the drop-cap doesn’t look weird, which is another structural problem). On the other hand, once you’re on the post, the “read more” link won’t be there, so unless there’s a separator it also has to flow naturally as if the link was never there.

On this point, it was a little tricky to write it towards a natural break. In fact, I wasn’t planning to write any of this about “read more” but I had to mangle the second paragraph so severely in order to get to one, that I unwittingly stumbled into one of those invisible pressures that I wanted to write about, so it seemed worthwhile to expand on it.

So we come onto yesterday’s post. The first pressure is the time of posting. I like to get a post up by 6pm on the day, ideally, but as long as it’s up before 7 we’re fine. It’s not like the old days, where you knew a post was being seen from the point you put it up and onwards. It will surface on people’s feeds at any point between immediately and three day’s time, depending on how likely algorithm thinks you want to read it. On Facebook, it may well be on the longer end, because they don’t like external links as a rule. If I wrote the posts up there directly (think how tedious that would be) they would surface much more quickly.

But generally, I aim for somewhere between a boring afternoon at work and an evening in front of the telly, as far as putting this out is concerned. The earlier you put it out, the more chance people have to look at it, and the better the stats page looks (I need to stop looking at the stats page). Plus, it avoids scenarios such as last night, where it gets to 10pm and you suddenly realise you have a post to write. The first pressure is a good one, then, as it helps you get stuff out. However, the frequency of posts will drop next month, which will be better for me, and I really should implement some sort of “sit in front of the blog and write one” schedule. With room for more if I want to, obviously.

The second pressure is formatting. As of when I write this post, the formatting on it is just non-existent. It’s a bunch of text. It’s difficult to format it nicely on the mobile app. However, I guess most people will be reading on mobile, and will be seeing either the mobile version or the AMP version… which is just a bunch of text. So, this pressure is slightly absurd, but it does make me feel better when I do it. (I’ve just made it bullet points. I’m slightly happier with it, but not by much.)

The third pressure is length, which is an interesting one. I have warring thoughts about post length. People don’t necessarily want to read long posts. They don’t want to click on a short post that should have been a tweet. I wanted this blog to have a mix of short stuff and long stuff, so there isn’t a pressure to write a thousands of words here a day if I’m doing something else. I don’t want to put a post up that’s just unsatisfying.

In theory that post should be fine. In practise I don’t think I wrote enough. In future, I need to have the scheduled post done by close of business, because if I had decided by 6pm that was what I was going to post, I’d be happy with it, instead of boxing myself into a corner at 10pm when basically anything would do.

This post Will Do. I think it’s Good Enough. Thanks for reading.