Manual Updates?

By | Tuesday, November 28, 2023 Leave a Comment
I noted last week that I've had to create my own online funny page because I can't find any satisfactory options. After about a week and a half -- including two weekends -- I'm pretty sure I've got all the kinks worked out so that all the correct updates are displaying properly on the correct days. That is, the daily comics are appearing daily, regardless of what file naming format they use; the other comics are updating properly according to whatever schedule they're on, of even if they're not on a regular schedule; and the images aren't coming in distorted because my code is applying weird dimensions to them or something. So it's definitely working as I ws hoping it would.

That being said, though, I'm still sometimes getting instances where I'll get a broken image link or I'll see the previous comic instead of the current one. My first thought when seeing one of these is that my code is wrong or didn't accommodate for some variable or something, but what I've found is that my code is working fine but the creator simply hasn't uploaded their latest comic. Which tells me that they're still doing a fair amount of manual labor that should be automated.

Let me spell things out a little more clearly. Let's say that you've got a daily webcomic. If you name the images by, for example, the characters that appear or the punchline or whatever, it won't take long before you'll have a nightmare trying to sort through your files. So you come up with a regular naming system, so each comic's file name is tied to the date it goes live. Something like "2023-11-28.jpg". Then you upload the file to your server whenever it's finished, and you set things up to publish that image to your website on that day. That capability is basically built in to pretty much every platform any more. You could, in theory, create months' worth of comics in advance, schedule them to post daily and take a huge vacation for several weeks, and your reading audience would never miss an installment. David Willis actually does that with Dumbing of Age -- he's currently got comics scheduled out through the end of next June, so he could not do a lick of work for seven months and you'd never notice.

Alternatively, you could just update your website manually and just upload files on the day they're supposed to go live. Your latest comic doesn't get published until you manually hit the "publish" button. That certainly works, but it means that you get more variability in your update schedule. Because instead of scheduling at, for example, midnight every night, you might have one comic that goes up at 12:30 and one at 12:15 and one at 11:50. Which is generally not a big deal, unless you happen to be a reader hitting the site precisely at midnight. But that variability can extend when you get busy or sick or whatever.

So I've seen, just in the past week, several instances where a creator didn't update their site until quite late in the day. Despite an ostensibly weekly schedule, one didn't even get theirs updated until literally the day after their normal Sunday update day. It literally includes "Sunday" in the file name, but didn't get posted until Monday.

What I find particularly interesting are the cases where I know -- because of print syndication obligations -- some of these creators have their strips done weeks in advance. But they still seem to be updating the sites manually. I do have friends who have occassionally run into issues where they've tagged the wrong publication date, usually by typing in the wrong year, so the comic's done but it's just scheduled further out than intended, but many of these seem like more manual operations. And while this might be a deliberate choice for some reason (maybe for the sense of control in doing it themself, or maybe a sort-of anti-anything-that-starts-to-look-like-AI concern?) but I can't help but feel that many are still doing that because they didn't finish their comic until moments before posting it. And while I'm doing that this morning with this very post instead of writing the day before like usual, I'm also very much NOT dependent on this blog for my livlihood. I think that if it were, I'd be a LOT more diligent about being farther ahead consistently so I don't inadvertently jeopardize my income.

But, as always, I don't do comics for a living, so what do I know? Maybe there's a lot more going in practice that chucks my ideas and theories right out the window.
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