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Eric: Kind of puts the Daily Grind into perspective, doesn't it?

2000!

(From Schlock Mercenary!. Click on the thumbnail for full sized you'd think they'd have heard those legs coming....)

For those playing along at home, a man name Howard Tayler has been drawing a little strip called Schlock Mercenary for a few years now.

And he's become known, among many other things, for not missing updates. In fact, it's been a little while since he missed an update.

How long?

Two. Thousand. Strips.

Today marks the two thousandth consecutive Schlock Mercenary strip, done seven days a week, without missing a day.

Wow.

I'm sorry, that's just a little boggling to me.

I have long maintained that there are certain clear general "best practices" for webcomics. They're not always easy to follow, and they don't work for everyone. One of those best practices is to have a buffer of strips. Some folks hate buffers -- they want the capacity for immediacy that the daily deadline forces. At the same time, you remember earlier this week how freaked out I was that Chris Crosby didn't update? Well, he was several days without power. He's making up his backlog now, but this is a man who always updates.

Only, well, that's not true, is it? The world can prevent him. In part because hey -- no backlog.

Well, a backlog isn't perfect (it won't stop a server failure, of course, and Murphy loves to smack folks around), and it's hard. (How hard? Consider John Stark. The simplest webcomic on the web to produce, and there hasn't been a new strip this week. Why? Because I've been exhausted, and I never had more than one week's backlog. Now, consider what it means to have to, oh, actually draw something every day as part of all this.)

But, the simple fact of the matter is, in 5.4757849 years of continual updates, Howard Tayler has missed precisely none.

Dude. Raise the Ovalkwik vats high. The man deserves it.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at December 2, 2005 11:32 AM

Comments

Comment from: djcoffman posted at December 2, 2005 11:51 AM

Hmm... You know, back when I was doing Gravity and talking with Howard back and forth around 2000, I remember him actually being late a couple of times for technical reasons, or his buffer ran dry.

So i don't know if you can say for sure he has been on time 2000 times.

Still, pretty friggin impressive lasting that long!

Comment from: siwangmu posted at December 2, 2005 11:53 AM

DUDE. That is... boggle. (Must... resist... urge to archive crawl this...)

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at December 2, 2005 12:08 PM

By point of comparison, I have been publishing for nearly 10 years, and I'm only up to 1197.

Which is supporting evidence for Howard's "power of the buffer," since I don't have one.

Buffer-envy aside, though, Schlock Mercenary is an outstanding comic.

Comment from: Kneefers posted at December 2, 2005 12:14 PM

It is indeed. Stop resisting, Siwangmu. ARCHIVE CRAWL!!!
Heh. I loves me some Schlock...

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at December 2, 2005 12:20 PM

Man, am I glad I trawled those archives years ago. 2000 strips would take quite a bit to go through.

Also, though not too pertinent to the current moment, Schlock Mercenary also deserves credit for managing to be funny from the very first strip. It might even be the funniest first strip in comics history. And he improved from there.

In short, Howard Tayler kicks ass.

Comment from: Clint H posted at December 2, 2005 12:26 PM

Howard and I started around the same time, To date he has over twice as many strips done,

Pretty amazing work ethic.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at December 2, 2005 12:37 PM

Schlock Mercenary was the first webcomic I moved to my daily trawls without finishing the archive, just before I quit reading archives altogether. I said at the time I quit that it was due to an apparent growing susceptibility to CRT fatigue. Howard, you've scarred me for life; congratulations.

(I missed an update, once. Plumb forgot, till update time the next day. However, since my scheduled update time is 00:01 GMT, which is some thirty hours in advance of 23:59 PDT the same day, it didn't cost me the Daily Grind. And, therefore, didn't officially happen.

(So, Eric? You. Me. Snark. November 10, 2009.)

Comment from: Lyndon W posted at December 2, 2005 12:48 PM

I didn't quite catch it. Did you say it was Schlock or Crosby who have a backlog? Do you have a list of comics that actually use backlogs? I would like to see such a list...

Comment from: Will "Scifantasy" Frank posted at December 2, 2005 12:49 PM

Indeed. What amazes me is that for one reason or another he's not actually in the Grind.

Comment from: Howard Tayler posted at December 2, 2005 12:49 PM

Re: DJ's comment -- I've never been late due to not having something uploaded. There were a few "late" strips thanks to Keenspot outtages, but as near as I can tell, every strip appeared or was available on the web on the calendar day for which it was created.

Most of the KS outtages made the strip about 10 hours late... which means 7am Pacific time on the day of the strip. In "Grind" terms that would still be what, 17 hours ahead of the deadline? ;-)

We ALMOST had an outtage several weeks ago thanks to Hurricane Rita. We lost 2 of three DNS servers, the FTP server where updates are stored, and the primary automation box, all of which live in and around Houston, where about 30% of the city was without power for 12 hours. The secondary automation box (which lives in Utah) and the Primary webserver (which lives in Houston) stayed up. One of these days I'll get some failover DNS stuff going, and you'll have to take out power in TWO cities (or maybe THREE) in order to make me miss an update.

Or, you know, you could kill me and then wait a couple of weeks.

I'll be hiding here under my bed.

Comment from: Howard Tayler posted at December 2, 2005 12:50 PM

Oh, and thanks everybody for the kind words about the strip itself. Not missing updates is all well and good, but creating something that people like, THAT's important to me.

--Howard

Comment from: Kirath posted at December 2, 2005 1:16 PM

Schlock Mercenary is one of the first strips I started reading when I discovered webcomics as a concept a few years ago. (The first were Penny Arcade, and Sluggy Freelance. Then I found Keenspot and it was all downhill from there.)

It was, in fact, a front-page post on Schlock Mercenary that led me to Websnark. And on top of being consistently funny, and a really cool story, I've never seen anyone write and draw so MANY strips. Lots of comics only update once, twice, three times a week and have trouble sometimes with missing an update here or there.(Some do much worse for whatever reason) Howard keeps a two to three week buffer for a comic that updates seven days a week. That's awesome. The only other comics I know of that even try are John Stark, which I am eagerly awaiting the next installment of whenever you get around to it, and GPF, which I don't read quite so religiously any more. I am sure there are others, but I don't know them.

Comment from: Kirath posted at December 2, 2005 1:18 PM

Oh, yeah... also, I recently re-read the entire Schlock archive with the beginning of the current story arc. Took me about four days, hehe, to read it all while working.

Comment from: Sili posted at December 2, 2005 1:20 PM

Interesting. So a neat round 2000 strips are needed to to be considered reliable?

If he cared about that sort of thing, I wouldn't blame Ryan Smith for feeling a bit dumb. He took a scheduled break after a mere 1985 solid updates. Silly him. He might as well have made another fifteen just to make the break 'irregarless' of storylines and whatnot.

R. Smith? In case you forgot, he's still in the Daily Grind: http://www.funnyfarmcomics.com/

Comment from: djcoffman posted at December 2, 2005 1:31 PM

Yeah, Howard, I wasn't dissing you... In Grind comparison, you'd of been out though with the Keenspot outtages.... Heh.

That is a crazy amount of webcomics. I wonder if you lined them up, how many miles would it be? Someone do the math!

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at December 2, 2005 1:39 PM

I didn't quite catch it. Did you say it was Schlock or Crosby who have a backlog?

Tayler has a buffer. Crosby has a backlog, of the strips he missed updating while he was without power early in the week, which he has since updated.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at December 2, 2005 1:50 PM

That is a crazy amount of webcomics. I wonder if you lined them up, how many miles would it be? Someone do the math!

That depends on whether or not you printed them out, or you saved the individual comics to your hard drive and lined them up side by side.

If you printed them out, you'd get 2000 8.5"x11" comics (because we'd ignore the rest of the page), which is roughly 1,416.7 feet of paper lined up side-to-side, or 1,833.3 feet of paper lined up top-to-bottom. A mile is currently 5,280 feet, so you have roughtly .268 miles side-to-side or .347 miles top-to-bottom.

If you saved them to your harddrive, the size gets much *smaller* because your primary unit of measurement drops from inches to pixels.

However, if Howard used his *original* graphics, I have no idea -- because I don't know the dimensions of his original versions. They could very well be much larger, and be shrunk down after being scanned in...

Comment from: ItsWalky posted at December 2, 2005 2:12 PM

Howard is a machine. A sexy machine.

Comment from: theliel posted at December 2, 2005 2:19 PM

is the last of my 'first line' of webcomics i read, and I started when Steve Jackson posted that he read two things: Sluggy and Schlock.
I don't read sluggy anymore but i stuck with schlock. I read scholock back in college, and then when i moved back home, and still read it to this day.
I love it, it's awesum and Howard taylor, like all great men, is a madman for doing what he does.
but we thank him every day that he does it, and fear the day where he posts "good news/bad news: good new, i'll be starting a webcomic. the bad news is that scholocks ending. when the current buffer runs out it's over. fortunatly that should be in about 18 months...."

Comment from: Connor Moran posted at December 2, 2005 2:23 PM

In my comic, which because of its brevity may very well take the "simplist to produce" crown away from BGJS, I started out with a two month buffer, mostly to be sure that I could keep up writing with only one image. The buffer lasted about three months. For me, it's just difficult to keep producing when I know I have the buffer.

Comment from: quiller posted at December 2, 2005 2:49 PM

Yeah, I think I've read Schlock Mercenary since the first month or so. It has remained a staple ever since I read that first footnote. It has the hard science fiction feel (though if I think about it, there are rayguns, time travel, a teleportation type device and artificial gravity so it may not actually be much harder than Star Trek), the mercenaries act like mercenaries without being unlikeable, and oh yeah, it is consistently funny. And its got Ominous Hummmmmm! And the Serial Peacemaker, and Post-Dated Check Loan, and Petey...

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at December 2, 2005 2:58 PM

I started with a one-week buffer and maintained it for about a month. Then I gave it up. To me, there's no thrill to equal updating on time with a gag you hadn't written when you woke up. I don't do this every day, but the buffer was disallowing it entirely. I maintain a reserve of fillers for the bad days (which I can only use on weekends during the Grind), which I run out at the end of the year to keep the gags from going stale. I try to keep seven; at the moment there're three. You can tell fillers from real gags because fillers say "filler" at the bottom left instead of the date, and are usually sendups of other webcomics.

Comment from: bartles69 posted at December 2, 2005 2:59 PM

Serial Peacemaker has to be the best ship name ever.

Mad Science Means Never Having To Say
"What's The Worst Thing That Could Happen?"

Comment from: Paul Southworth posted at December 2, 2005 3:27 PM

Congratulations, Howard! It's something to be proud of.

Comment from: larksilver posted at December 2, 2005 4:03 PM

I loves me the Schlock. It's one of the most consistently-funny strips out there.

I also recently read through the entire archive, and even after several days of rather intensive reading, I still found the newest ones fresh and original. Not many strips can say that, after 2000 of the things in a row, they'll be just as much fun as the first ones were. This one can, and it's remarkable.

Also, there are terrific puns (possibly only David Morgan-Mar is the better.. er.. more evil PunMaster.. and it's a close thing). And the occasional explosion or three. Thanks for all you do, Howard!

Comment from: Chris Crosby posted at December 2, 2005 4:21 PM

I went 2,463 days without missing an update, and only because of dedication and dumb luck! (I almost never had any sort of buffer.)

Two. Thousand. Four. Hundred. And. Sixty. Three. Days. Of. Dumb. Luck.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 2, 2005 4:32 PM

You see, guy? You were asking Murphy to dump snow down on your head! Doom! DOOOOOOOOOOM!

(Glad you're back.)

Comment from: David Morgan-Mar posted at December 2, 2005 5:00 PM

Also, there are terrific puns (possibly only David Morgan-Mar is the better.. er.. more evil PunMaster.. and it's a close thing).

*Blush*. And here I was about to say I'm only up to 613 consecutive daily strips. (It would be 929 except that the one time my server melted I was on vacation and so couldn't force a manual update in time.) But 2000... dude...

I do however have a minor landmark coming up in just over a week... keep your eyes peeled. :-)

Comment from: miyaa posted at December 2, 2005 5:12 PM

I suppose it would be wrong to suggest a celebration by allowing Howard to take a month-long vacation? To Hawaii, perhaps?

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at December 2, 2005 5:19 PM

Howard tends to fret about his buffer. When it gets too low he posts on his site that his buffer is too low, and isn't happy until it's back up to a reasonable size. He actually tallies and reports on the size of his buffer. The effort it would take for him to build up a buffer large enough to make him feel good about taking a month's vacation might very well either kill him, or drive him insane. :)

(Whereas I simply post on my site that I've taken a month off... after I've come back.)

Comment from: Chris Crosby posted at December 2, 2005 6:25 PM

It's called xtreme xcartooning, Mr. Websnark! I draw my strip on the EDGE to the eXtreme and it is covered regularly by espn2.

Buffers are for smart people wearing expensive clothes!

Comment from: Canuck-Errant posted at December 2, 2005 7:25 PM

Unrelated:
Bad Sex in Fiction Awards are out again.
"Oooh-la-jolly well-la!"

Comment from: Robert Hutchinson posted at December 2, 2005 8:30 PM

I'm not sure about the reliability of its updates before I started reading it, and it does occasionally have "non-comic" Sundays, but Narbonic is a 7-days-a-week strip with a respectable buffer that, by my math, has to be nearing 2000 strips itself. (If you count the Victorian strips by their pages, it's probably already past 2000.)

I want to read the Schlock archive ... but I already went through two massive archives in just the past couple of months (It's Walky!, Melonpool). For the new year, perhaps.

Comment from: kirabug posted at December 2, 2005 9:09 PM

Congratulations, Howard!

Comment from: Alexis Christoforides posted at December 2, 2005 9:13 PM

Question: Are all Mormons tireless, faultless, art-spewing automatons? Cause the two I know of are.

I resisted Schlock for several years until getting hooked through Websnark (thanks again, Eric). Funny Sci-fi goodness and the best archive trawl since I discovered Sluggy.

Also, in a cool coincidence, Dominic Deegan also celebrated 1000 strips yesterday! Excellent comic, and one more people should look into, if only for the way Mookie can have tens of unique and likeable/hateable characters, and still have a clear direction in his stories.

And for the puns. My God, the puns.

Comment from: Axonite posted at December 2, 2005 9:25 PM

Congratulations, Howard! Schlock is great stuff - looking forward to the next 2000. :)

Comment from: larksilver posted at December 2, 2005 10:05 PM

Alexis, of Dominic Deegan:

And for the puns. My God, the puns.

Oh, aye. Mookie's high on the list of PunMasters, too. My favorite part of his comic, actually.

Comment from: Howard Tayler posted at December 2, 2005 10:58 PM

Yeah, Howard, I wasn't dissing you... In Grind comparison, you'd of been out though with the Keenspot outtages.... Heh.

That is a crazy amount of webcomics. I wonder if you lined them up, how many miles would it be? Someone do the math!

Re: Outtages... Actually, no. Per Grind rules, I'd have still been fine, because my strips were always up by 7am PST the day they were supposed to be (as opposed to 9pm PST the day BEFORE they were supposed to be, which is when I was scheduled to update.) Grind rules knock you out something like 17 hours LATER than 7am on the day it's due.

Re: miles... each original is on 8.5"x14" paper. Edge to edge, those pieces of paper would only run about 2833 feet, or 0.44 miles. Cartooning for distance is a LOT slower than running. Or walking. Or snail racing. It's faster than growing grass, though. Cartooning moves at about eight feet per week, and I'm glad our grass doesn't grow that fast.

Comment from: Maritza Campos posted at December 3, 2005 12:17 AM

Congratulations, Howard! Having surpassed 2000 strips myself (although not with such an excelent reliance, I might say) I can say it's not an easy thing to do. To ten times more!

Comment from: gwalla posted at December 3, 2005 12:41 AM

Congrats, Howard!

Alexis: Who's the other? Mike Allred?

Comment from: gwalla posted at December 3, 2005 3:10 AM

Connor: As far as "easiest strip to produce" goes, I think Warren Ellis's Edison Hate Future has that crown locked up.

Comment from: Guigar posted at December 3, 2005 10:54 AM

Congratulations, Howard. 2,000 strips is an important milestone and an enviable achievement. :)

Comment from: Alexis Christoforides posted at December 3, 2005 3:55 PM

larksilver: Maybe he is one of the PunMasters, but I'm pretty sure he's the Alliterator.

gwalla: Just a guy I work with at my student job. He's an industrial designer, a perfectionist, and he's got a weekly calendar with hours assigned for "FAMILY TIME". And I know he needs it.

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