Judging Time

Time, and specifically timing, is a very hard thing to judge and something which is largely overlooked in our day-to-day lives. That’s probably fine for common household chores, such as washing dishes or taking out the trash, but even these can benefit from a little temporal introspection. Don’t believe me? Okay, well, where I live we have two common problems: wild animals (read: gulls and foxes) and a storage heating system*. Stick your garbage bag out the night before and the gulls are likely to come raiding, but I often don’t have time to sort everything in the morning. Timing becomes important. As for the dishes, leave them for the first thing in the morning and you get scolding hot water, perfect for greasy pans; conversely, try and do them in the evening and you might not have enough water for a bath!

I’ll admit these types of examples will change for everybody and are highly subjective. So what about more measurable, universal timing issues? There is a common factoid that Thursday is the best day to upload a video to Youtube. I have no idea if this is correct, but a lot of content creators do abide by it. What about blog posts? Are there preferential days for either publishing or reading articles?

I imagine this will largely be dictated by the demographics that comprise your majority audience, but I also feel it safe to assume that most blog posts are “time-less”**; that is the “when” of reading is much less important as they are time non-specific (this will obviously change if you blog about current events, news cycles etc.). Impact, however, is often largely dictated by that self-same “when” – not the “when” of publishing, but of reading.

Take for example A List Apart, which I’ve been pushing to the bottom of my “to read” list since early December. There’s no particular reason for this decision, I’ve just felt like catching up on other RSS feeds for the past month or so, but that trend ended today. I fired up my feed-reader, opened up A List Apart and scrolled down to the oldest article: Professional Amateurs, Write What You Know (Now). The article is by Mark Llobrera and, as ever, is well worth the time to read through and absorb. It also happens to be highly pertinent, given my recent return to this here website.

Now, I’m not saying I wouldn’t have enjoyed the article in December, but it definitely would not have had the same impact. In the run up to Christmas, an article arguing that I should spend more time writing about the “mundane and obvious”, because everything was worth capturing, would probably have elicited a sage nod of the head and a mental note to revisit at a later date. If it was lucky, I may have saved it to Evernote, then likely forgotten it (possibly indefinitely). However, reading it in early February, at the start of my lunch break, having just found the time to return to blogging resulted in, well, this post. It both sparked my desire to write and gave me fresh ammo, but crucially did so at a juncture when time was available. As a result, the article has had a tangible impact and will likely stick in my mind for many months to come (as well as getting added to Evernote).

It would have been pretty much impossible for Mark to have correctly judged that timing, and I’m not claiming he should have. But it definitely strikes me that thinking about content with regards to the when of its readers is probably worth considering a lot more than people currently do. I may also be stealing the “Technology’s Betrayal” blog category… but that’s largely unrelated!


* FYI this means that our hot water/heaters do all their “heating” over night, when electricity is cheapest. Not a perfect system, but another example of optimising timing.

** Mine certainly are!