Writing Tips : Backfill

writingI encouraged one of my former colleagues to start writing a blog (SnapDBA). He had lots of notes he had built up over the years, so he started to transfer some of them to his blog and described these notes as “backfill”. He used the term to indicate it was not a particularly new subject, but he wanted to write about it anyway.

Especially when you become more popular, it is easy to get a bit paranoid about the content you produce. If you write an article on an old subject, you wonder if people will think you’ve only just discovered it. It’s stupid to think that people really care about that, but ego is a powerful thing. 🙂 The concept of putting out backfill articles liberates you from that paranoia. Remember, writing is for your personal development, not all about trying to become the new Tom Kyte.

I often write articles on quite old subjects, which are not really deserving of being promoted to the front page of my website and I won’t write a blog post about their release or push them out on social media. Here are some scenarios where this happens for me:

  • I’m looking at the enhancements in a new release and I notice I’ve never written about that subject before. I may write a backfill article on the original subject, then write the article on the new enhancements. I will often write blog about the release of the new enhancements article, but I will kind-of ignore the backfill article. It’s linked from the enhancements article, so if people are interested they can read it, but I’m not going to make a big song and dance about a new article on an Oracle 10g feature. 🙂
  • While reading through the documentation I notice a feature I have never heard of before and assume it is a new feature. After a quick check I realise it was introduced in a previous release, so I write the backfill article to cover it.
  • Someone asks me a question and I write the answer as an article. If the content of the article is not on a particularly new or interesting (to me) subject, I will not promote it as a new article.

I like writing backfill articles and I write a lot of them. I would say somewhere in the region of 20-40% of my writing is either backfill or revising old articles to bring them up to date with my current understanding. Over the last few weeks you might have noticed very little in the way of new content hitting the website and blog. In fact, I’ve been really quite productive, but I’ve not been writing new and sexy stuff. I’ve been writing backfill articles that have been prompted by stuff going on at work.

I guess the real solution to this is try not to care what other people think, but if you are a “sensitive type” like me, just write it as a backfill article and don’t tell anyone about it. 🙂 If you are using a CMS, like WordPress, you can always put an older date on it (like a month old) so the RSS aggregators won’t pick it up as a new post.

Cheers

Tim…