How does Raymond decide what to post on any particular day?


Occasionally somebody asks about the timing of an entry I’ve written and wants to know how far ahead with this blog thing I really am.

To give you an idea of how far in advance I write my blog entries, I wrote this particular entry on February 13, 2008. Generally, the articles are published in the order I wrote them; this particular entry ended up on February 27, 2009 because that was the next available open day. If the big news topic of February 27th, 2009 happens to be related to this entry, it’s just a coincidence.

Now, with a buffer of over a year, I do have quite a bit of leeway in choosing when any particular article is published. Although articles in general just get slotted in for the next open day, I will occasionally arrange for one to come out on a thematically-related day. Sometimes the connection is blatant, like writing about time and time zones on the Fridays before Daylight Saving Time transitions, or writing about Hallowe’en on, well, Hallowe’en. More often the connection is low-key, like telling a story about the economics of parking tickets on a day when parking is free in Seattle or warning about fake guacamole on the Friday before the Super Bowl. And sometimes the connection is impossibly obscure, like taking a story that I know a friend will like and slotting it in on their birthday, anniversary, or some other day meaningful to them.

(To answer Paul’s specific question: I found the article on guacamole and said, “That would be a great article to use for the Super Bowl.” Since I already had a Super Bowl article picked out for 2007, the guacamole article was slotted in for 2008.)

There are other patterns you may have picked up on:

  • Mondays are usually spent “answering viewer mail” (i.e., taking topics from the Suggestion Box).
  • Less technical articles appear towards the beginning of the week; more technical articles appear later in the week. Tuesday in particular tends to get the funny stories.
  • There is usually one e-mail related posting per month.
  • There is usually one Microspeak posting per month.
  • Sometimes an entire week is devoted to a theme, such as the annual CLR Week.
  • An unusually short or unusually long technical post is usually balanced by an amusing non-technical post. (I have a stash of about a hundred of these “light diversions”.)
  • I tend to avoid technical topics on major holidays.

But generally, it’s just a FIFO queue.

Oh, and right now, the queue is full up through the beginning of June 2010.

Comments (35)
  1. steven says:

    That is an amazing queue. You could be away for a year and a half (on holiday, working at another company, possibly even [heaven forbid] deceased) and this blog would continue to enthrall us for so long it boggles the mind. Well, mine at least.

    Unless you have a phenomenal memory, I can imagine it might be just as much of a surprise for you to see what the topic of the day is as it is for us.

  2. John says:

    Is the publishing process automatic, or do you have to push a few buttons?  If you were to disappear off the face of the Earth, how long would it be before we knew?  Actually, I guess the lack of chastising comment responses would be an obvious indicator that something was wrong.

  3. Rick C says:

    Well, if you ever decide the buffer is too big you could go to multiple posts a day.

  4. t_sch says:

    You’re kidding, aren’t you?

    You’re sitting in front of your keyboard each day and ponder about what to write next. And if you’ve got no idea you repeat an article from 5 years ago. Nobody will recognize it anyway.

  5. Mark says:

    So by writing content and scheduling it for time-released publication in a full queue, programmers are likely to be writing buggy code for some time to come. :-)

    Raymond prefers a policy of withholding his excellent posts which often contain tips and pointers to useful information that shines the light on Microsoft’s often poorly documented API’s.

    ;-)

  6. Josh says:

    I can see one flaw with this:

    Let’s say you’re about to go nuclear due to nitpickers and snarky know-it-all commenters. You write a post about how annoying it is and asking them to tone it down.  Even if we assume we would listen (aside from a few notoriously uncontrollable types who shall not be named), by the time the post comes up in the queue, you’ve already gone insane, or the problem has resolved itself.

    Of course, I’m guessing when you have cause to complain, you bump it up in the queue a bit, or append it as a post-script to another post that is coming up anyway.  The idea of you writing cathartic posts that no one knows about for over a year is a sad/funny image though.  Kind of like counting to ten before laying into someone; you just count to 31536000 or so (one year in seconds) before unloading.

  7. Jeff says:

    I’m a little bit happier today knowning I’ll be able to enjoy "The Old New Thing" for at least another year! Thanks Raymond!

  8. ChiliCat says:

    So the messages that say this entry was pre-recorded when your on vacation or otherwise away, don’t really mean anything different?

  9. Someone You Know says:

    @ChiliCat

    Well, they mean that you probably can’t expect any "chastising comment responses", as John put it, until the next day.

  10. Leo Davidson says:

    Mark: Less is more. :) With a drip-feed people are probably more likely to read every post than if they were all published ASAP.

    (Indeed, I still haven’t finished the book!)

  11. Technage says:

    Do you write these on microsoft’s dime or your own, if it is all your own you must stay up for hours at night.

    [I do it on my own time because it’s not part of my job. You stay up for hours at night, too. What do you do? -Raymond]
  12. Technage says:

    Of all your articles my favorite is still the guy who came to your office "just to see you" hahahahahaha

  13. Pierre Lebeaupin says:

    What happens if a sync happens and the buffer needs to be flushed? A one-year and a half pipeline bubble? :-)

  14. Dave says:

    How do you organise your writings, do save them as Word documents and keep a schedule in Excel or fancier than that?  And how do you auto-post them, like when you are holiday?

  15. Aaargh! says:

    If you’ve got so much content and things to write about, why not post more often, like three or four articles a day ?

    [Then I wouldn’t have a one-year buffer! -Raymond]
  16. a regular viewer says:

    Raymond, quit Mircosoft. You may not like quitting. I don’t care. Writing and organizing talent like yours is underutilised with a Software outfit. Get into MSM. God knows, they need people like you. Heck, just one Raymond Chen could eat up two dozen columnists.

  17. Jim says:

    Ray, what the things to inspire you to write? You must have some ideas for your audience, don’t u? Can you share some of your thoughts?

  18. eff Five says:

    So what happens the day you leave MS? Or more morbidly what happens if you die in a freak accident? Will we still be getting your posts? That would be pretty creepy for people that personally know you and read your blog.

    How would those who don’t know you, know if one of these events has happened? How do we know it hasn’t already happened?

  19. Mark says:

    Raymond should confirm, but I believe the way he posts entries is using a tool he wrote himself. I don’t think the CMS system used by blogs.msdn.com let’s you save posts for the future. (And Raymond’s system is more elegant, anyway. Posts are not saved for a specific day in the future, they are just slotted into the queue, ready to be posted whenever…)

    The queue of entries is stored on a machine (at work?), and a task fires each morning to publich the post for that day.

    So if, heaven forbid, Raymond leaves Microsoft, his machine will most likely go offline and we’ll not see posts from him. Perhaps he’ll be able to move the blog elsewhere and has a personal backup of his posts. I suspect that he does indeed have a backup, since we’re talking about Raymond! :)

  20. Technage says:

    I definitely would not sit around and work on programming all night working on websites or window apps all night! haha ….haahaha…. I mean that would be geeky haha……. ha….Yea :(

  21. James Schend says:

    John,

    I can’t speak for this software, but WordPress allows you to schedule a post for any date. I’ve used this in the past on my own blog to queue up entries when I’m going to be gone for a long while. If I were more responsible, I’d do what Raymond was doing, and just *always* put articles in the queue with at least a month or so of buffer. That way, even if I don’t feel like writing for a long time, it would look like I’m still active.

  22. OK, I gotta know, when did you take the time to write all these in advance?

  23. Mike Dunn says:

    Just curious, do you know how many entries you have written but then deleted before they appeared on the blog? You mentioned doing this here: http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2008/05/19/8518565.aspx#8519249

    [Around ten. Don’t have an exact count. -Raymond]
  24. Technage says:

    You know I do manly stuff like lift weights, ride my chopper, feed my pitbulls, flex the guns to the ladies, etc. *manly grunt and stretch here*

  25. Nice blogger says:

    Ray, if what you write is true, when do you ever do your real job? The job that Microsoft pays you money to do?

    [When I’m at work. I write blog entries at home. -Raymond]
  26. Lev says:

    I seem to be the only one who doesn’t understand, but what do you call an “open day”?

    [“Open day” = “day that has nothing scheduled.” It’s redundant with “available.” -Raymond]
  27. Anonymous Courageous says:

    Wow man, your time management skills must be exceptional!

  28. Andrei says:

    Only tangentially related, but how often do you back up your queue, and how many backups do you have?

  29. 'softie says:

    "Wow man, your time management skills must be exceptional!"

    He is very involved on internal mailing lists too. The insight dispenser BOT cannot be stopped !! He also has an ‘internal’ MS blog/website which I think is defunct now, but it has an awesome collection of funny geek stuff, archived email conversations and other things. Even if his current entries run out he could just dump that collection..

  30. ulric says:

    You seem to spend so much energy on this, I wonder why you’re not running it on a site where you could sell some ads.

    [I’m not in it for the money. My book is proof of that. -Raymond]
  31. Miral says:

    I bow before your blog queuing skills. :)

  32. Mark (The other Mark) says:

    He is very involved on internal mailing lists >too. The insight dispenser BOT cannot be >stopped !! He also has an ‘internal’ MS >blog/website which I think is defunct now, >but it has an awesome collection of funny >geek stuff, archived email conversations and >other things.

    Until this day, I had been sure I had made the right decision in not moving to Redmond.

    Maybe I can snag our TAM the next time he visits the server support folks and convince him to grab me a copy…

  33. Chris Lineker says:

    So when you say one Microspeak entry a month, does that mean you write a bunch at once and then slot them into the queue a month apart?

    [No, I usually write them one at a time. When I write one, I pick a slot for it approximately a month after the previous one. -Raymond]
  34. john says:

    How does your auto-posting work when on holiday, or is that the topic of another blog entry?

  35. marcelvanderheze says:

    …I bow before your blog queuing skills. :)…. (Miral)

    Respect indeed for your time management in blogging!

Comments are closed.