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Blog Struggles: Surviving Offline Downtime

Blog Struggles Article SeriesI travel a lot as part of my work and there are many times when access to the Internet just isn’t possible. Currently, our temporary residence in Oregon is on a farm over 30 minutes from “civilization”. The farm has satellite Internet, so snow, big storms, freezing fog, power outage, or a glitch in the system shuts down all Internet access for us.

When work is so connected with being connected, it is painful to be disconnected. I can’t post to my blogs. I can’t check comments. I can clean out comment spam. I can’t email – I just can’t communicate with the world.

Usually, this is only temporary and rarely lasts more than a day, but there have been times when I’ve been disconnected for a week. While the Internet can be an addiction, for me, it’s a job. Being disconnected for any length of time hurts.

Foreknowledge of Offline Time

WordPress Future Posts Timestamp featureIn the cases where I know I’m going to be offline for an extended period of time, I’m dependent upon the future post or timestamp feature of WordPress which allows me to publish articles ahead of time so they will release at the date and time of my choosing.

I’ve been using this since the very beginning of my involvement with WordPress 1.2. Since I travel so much, it’s easy to write up a bunch of posts and let my blog do the work for me.

Until the feature breaks.

In the rough early days of , there were a few sharp edges that took a while to file down. Since I’m sharing my blog struggles, having the future posts feature break was more than just a problem, it became a nightmare.

At the end of 2005, I kept turning in bug reports that not all future posts were posting. The development team worked overtime and finally fixed it, then it broken again. A few days later, WordPress.com’s server crashed and I lost a few posts in the big bang. It was a reminder to backup, backup, backup.

With the future post bug finally fixed, I worked overtime to have six weeks of future posts filed and ready to go on my blog as I prepared to drive my father cross-country from Alabama back to Seattle. I felt confident that my blog would take care of itself – at least from the publishing angle – for the long time periods in between Internet access points along the 5,000 mile trip from Alabama north to Ohio and across to his ancestors’ long time residence in Michigan, then across to Washington State.

Okay, so I was a schmuck. A few days before we started up the motor home to head north, I checked in to my blog and screamed.

To my horror, I found that all six weeks of blog posts had published at once.

Motor home on the road with my father in North Dakota - copyright Lorelle VanFossenNot knowing when they had released, I hopped over to the oldest posts and punching the Edit button almost through my laptop to change the future post dates and get the posts out of the published queue and into drafts. Anything to get them off the screen. In between panicked emails to Ryan Boren and Matt Mullenweg, I found a bunch of comments on many of the posts, which meant they were already in the feeds and being read. CRAP!

My father wasn’t happy when our trip was delayed three days to fix the motor home’s engine, but I was thrilled and worked round the clock to write all new posts to fill in the holes. Double schmuck me. I should have just let those sit there and had fun on my trip, but the panic to publish daily was still in my veins.

Our trip across the country was not the relaxing time I’d planned. Still, my dependence upon the future posts feature continues, reassured now that WordPress.com is much more stable with excellent backups and security. Still, I keep backups of everything I write, just in case, and I certainly don’t stress out over publishing every day any more.

Unplanned Offline Time

There are just times when I can’t get online. Bad weather, connection down, or my hunt for free WIFI fails. That doesn’t stop me from blogging.

Notetab example of two tabs per blog by Lorelle VanFossenI work with a text editor called NoteTab. I keep two text files on each blog that I write for, one for ideas and work in progress and the other for finished articles.

I keep all my files on a small 5 gig portable hard drive including portable versions of NoteTab, Firefox, and other programs I’m dependent upon for my work. I can hook up to any computer anywhere and keep on working if I need to.

Without an Internet connection, my online research can’t go very far. So, I go through my ideas and start writing. I finish articles, come up with new ideas, clean up articles waiting for final edits, and prepare them for publishing – when I next get access to the Internet.

I go through my paperwork including files where I store notes and pages torn out of magazines I’ve found through my travels looking for new ideas and things to write about. I find my inspiration for blog material everywhere, so I’ve always got a huge list of things to sort through and turn into blog posts.

Sometimes I just rest and do something else, or catch upon other things in my life ignored by my long hours of work and travel. Downtime is time to catch up with my own life, too.

In general, though, I never stop working. I’m reading books, magazines, on the phone, writing, writing, editing, writing, editing, and writing some more. It’s my life. I love it, even when I’m not connected to the Internet, my life line to the world and my work.

Are you constantly connected? Or do you, too, have to work around online down time?

Update: Maybe I was asking for it. Maybe the planets just aligned perfectly for once. Who knows but this post, along with three weeks of other future posts, just published all in one day due to a glitch in WordPress.com. Again. Right as I am in the middle of a three day NOT WORKING vacation. Well, my apologies for this publishing ahead of schedule, and some day, I’ll get a real vacation. :D

Blog Struggles Article Series



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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, the author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.

3 Comments

  1. Rebel4121
    Posted September 7, 2008 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Hi,
    I have lived in a Travel Trailer for 3 years now and have seen more country than most family oriented folks. I have been from Maine to San Diego and from Portland Oregon to Miami Fla. and practically every place between over the years. I have been traveling since 1986. So, I can say that I have been there and done that. I am 52 years old and still traveling. I’m enjoying life each and every day. I do Odd Jobs to keep myself going and thats what life is all about. But I believe the subject is internet connections, so here is my input. Seek out the wireless non secure servers and use them, I have since I got my computer. It works for me.

  2. Posted September 8, 2008 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    @ Rebel4121:

    That is the best solution. And good luck to you for your three years on the road. I’m hitting 15, but we’re finally in a place where we want to call it our “home base” which is an interesting challenge after living on the road for so many years. We hope we survive the transition back to “semi-normal”. :D

  3. Yves Roumazeilles
    Posted January 21, 2009 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Hi,
    My approach seems to be quite similar to your (scheduling posts, preparing a lot of work in downtime on a text editor, etc.)

    Actually, I use my Palm T|X PDA for text edition (it is always with me). However, I am considering going to a slightly more powerful solution. And I am wondering if there is some solution that would allow to fully prepare posts off-line. My problem is that text editor is good for the text itself, but it does not allow to prepare tags and such.

    I am dreaming of something that would be using GEARS-liek technology to work offline on a small laptop in the Admin interface of WP, but instead of pushing “Publish” I could push “Ready for publication” and it would sit on my laptop until reconnected.

    Am I dreaming?
    Yves


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