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Behind the scenes at Packetlife

By stretch | Wednesday, December 31, 2008 at 12:00 a.m. UTC

Once in a while I'll get an email from a reader wanting to know how I go about writing articles for the blog. With the year at a close and most people preparing for New Year's celebrations, I figured now might be a good time to discuss how Packetlife works behind the scenes. If Packet Life had any scenery, that is.

One of the keys to holding readers' interest in a blog interesting is to always maintain a buffer of content. The idea is that you can write on and off, but still post articles at a regular interval. At times I'll have as much as a week's worth of content written in advance, but on average I stay just a post or two ahead of myself.

Another trick which takes some discipline is to maintain a list of potential article topics. Often I'll encounter some technical issue in a lab that I'd like to cover but don't have the time to write about it at the moment, so I'll add it to my "to do" list. If you've ever written in with a suggestion for the blog, I've likely responded that I've added it to this list. I've found that it's crucial that I add a topic to the list the moment I think of it; otherwise the idea tends to quickly evaporate. At the moment my to do list contains well over a hundred article ideas, so rest assured there will be no shortage of content in 2009.

Once I've decided what to write about, I start putting words down in a simple text document saved to my workstation. If the article is technical in nature, I write in parallel to performing a lab with Dynamips/GNS3 or real hardware in an effort to ensure the accuracy of the article. I usually save the labs for some time after writing the post as well, in case a comment or question posed by a reader leads me to further investigate some aspect of the lab after the article has been published.

A surprising number of readers have inquired as to how I create the numerous topology diagrams which often accompany articles. It's just Visio, guys. =) Most of the drawings are created using publicly available icons (my favorite sets are hosted locally for download). When a drawing has been completed in Visio (running inside a Windows XP virtual machine on my Linux workstation), it's exported in PNG format. I use Gimp (a graphics editor) for any touch-up editing like cropping or splicing a collection of topologies into individual images. The end product(s) are then posted to the blog along with the written content.

Once an article has been published, I watch for comments and publish those as well, as soon as I can. Unfortunately comments have to be moderated in such a manner to thwart spambots.

The whole process might seem like a lot of work, and, well, it is. You get used to it though, and at least it makes me feel productive. Now it's time to start writing for '09. See you then!

Posted in Random


December 31, 2008 at 1:38 a.m. UTC

Seems to work well, best of luck in '09 to you and all other packetlife readers

December 31, 2008 at 4:10 a.m. UTC

I love reading your blog stretch. I'm looking forward to what 2009 may bring.

Happy new year to yourself and the fellow addicts.

December 31, 2008 at 5:34 a.m. UTC

Keep up the good work, I am sure I speak for for most of us when I say we appreciate your efforts. Also congrats on making your site IPv6. Happy New year, and look forward to reading your site in the 2009.

Ivan Pepelnjak
December 31, 2008 at 8:24 a.m. UTC

Hey, you're copying my processes :)) All the best in 2009!


December 31, 2008 at 9:33 a.m. UTC

Keep up the good work. I enjoy it immensely, even though I don't do networking in my day-to-day work.

Happy New Year!

Winston van Gemd
December 31, 2008 at 10:54 a.m. UTC

Hey Jeremy,

Keep up the good work

I look forward to read your blogs in 2009.

Happy New Year!

December 31, 2008 at 11:06 a.m. UTC

Thanks for a great blog! Always interesting topics.

Happy New Year from Sweden

December 31, 2008 at 9:07 p.m. UTC

Thanks for a great blog, thanks for your time,

Bonne et heureuse année a tous
Happy new year 2009

December 31, 2008 at 11:21 p.m. UTC

Talk about dedication..... many props to your blog site and +1 for using Linux as your primary O/S. Looking forward to the 2009 line up. Maybe you should develop a page listing future topics to keep everyone on their toes :) Some more Cisco ASA stuff... :)

HaPpY new Year

Chris Gibbs
January 1, 2009 at 12:31 a.m. UTC

Great work mate, love reading the articles.

And all the best for the new year from Australia.


January 1, 2009 at 2:49 a.m. UTC

Wish you all the best from Hungary, look forward to read your articles in the new year..

Boldog uj evet kivanok

January 1, 2009 at 3:23 p.m. UTC

Love your articles! you have some of the best written explanations I have seen out there. Wish you all the best in 2009.


January 2, 2009 at 10:15 a.m. UTC

Thanks for all your hard work Stretch, i wish you all the best for 2009 and look forward to more useful, and interesting article on Packetlife

January 2, 2009 at 11:38 a.m. UTC

Thanks for everything Jeremy , your blog is awesome !

Wish i can do the same !

Happy new year from France !


January 4, 2009 at 12:25 a.m. UTC

Thanks for the brief behind the scenes article. It was definitely one thing on my mind. The cheat sheets and blogs are priceless references for anyone serious about networking. Rock on!

January 6, 2009 at 1:20 a.m. UTC

This is one of the best network blogs ever, keep the good work man, you rule :D

cheers from brazil !!

January 6, 2009 at 7:45 p.m. UTC

Keep up the good work Stretch - happy new year and good luck with everything you pursue in '09

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