Chunks, anchors and textcasting

Lloyd is experimenting with adding anchor links to the chunks of text that make up his daily note style blog posts. It’s an interesting thing to do, and is very reminiscent of the way Dave Winer structures his blogging. Lloyd is doing inside of WordPress, which I can imagine must be a bit of a faff, while Dave W’s got a custom blogging platform that just works like that.

Most of my blogging here is in the form of daily notes, which are, like Lloyd’s, chunks that I write as it occurs to me to do so throughout the day. Interestingly, if for some reason I don’t open MarsEdit (the editor I use to compose all my posts here) first thing in the morning, the daily note often doesn’t get written at all. It has to be open, almost to encourage me to record and reflect as I go about my day.

I think maybe the concept of ‘textcasting’ which Dave W has been promoting recently might be a part of all this.

I would really like to find a way to improve my flow around this stuff, particularly now I have landed upon Raindrop.io as a really great way to store helpful links. I took a look at IFTTT to see if I could at least send the links automatically from Raindrop to Bluesky, but it appears that Bluesky hasn’t built out that kind of integration yet, which is a frustration.

What I would like is for Raindrop bookmarks to be pinged out to Bluesky (maybe Mastodon and Twitter/X too, why the hell not?) straight away, and then for the title and the link to be dropped into the daily note post for that day. So not a WordPress post for every Raindrop bookmark, but the post for that day is created if it doesn’t exist, or added to if it does.

What complicates this is that I use MarsEdit to write these notes, and that’s a desktop app on the Mac. Maybe there’s something I could do with Shortcuts or Automator on MacOS instead? I’ve never used those though and wouldn’t know where to start.

Thoughts on blogging formats

I spent way too much time thinking about this stuff.

My recent playing around with the daily note format, plus tinkering with Mastodon etc, and following the exploits of Dave Winer and others on their blogs, has made me start to think a bit more about how I would really like my blogging to work in an ideal world.

Most of my posts these days are effectively snippets – a link here, an aside there. It’s rare that I actually write longer posts (like this one!) that feature more than a paragraph and a link, and which justify their own title.

I type everything into Obsidian – as a desktop text editor – which has a simple WordPress integration that sends the text to be published online, converting Markdown to HTML along the way. Offline typing just feels much more natural to me and reduces down any anxiety around hitting that publish button (totally irrational, but there you go). The main downside of this approach is that the snippets I post only exists as parts of a longer, daily post; and also I can’t tag posts, only put them into a category.

The other issue is that posting these snippets to places like Mastodon and Twitter only happens when I remember to copy and paste them into each of those sites, or when I post a link to the daily summary post manually. Posting interesting links to Twitter used to be something I did all the time, and I got good feedback on it from folk.

The way this used to work, maybe 10 years ago or more, what that I would bookmark links into delicious (remember that?!), adding tags and commentary along the way. That then automatically tweeted them out, but also, thanks to a WordPress plugin, added them to a daily aggregated link roundup post, which gout published automatically every 24 hours. That was great! Although of course it only works for link-snippets, not simple asides.

I love the format that Jason Kottke seems to be using now. He posts links throughout the day, which seem to exist on their own on the site itself, but which emerge in his RSS feed as aggregated posts (“5 quick links for Tuesday afternoon… etc”). This seems sensible to me – although of course it’s hard to know these days how much of a thing RSS is.

Kottke.org runs on Moveable Type and, given it has existed for over 25 years, probably has a fair bit of custom stuff going on. I’m not sure what he uses as the main editor.

Dave Winer uses the outliner format for his blogging, which I have never quite managed to get my head around. He mostly posts snippets, which are individual posts that get published under the heading of the date they were published. Longer, titled items are also published within the flow and under the date banner too. This is totally understandable when you remember the outliner format:

  • Date
    • Snippet 1
    • Snipper 2
    • Title for longer post
      • Content of longer post
    • Snipper 3

And so on.

Each snippet, and paragraph within a titled, longer, post has it’s own permalink, so you can point to just that item or paragraph. Dave’s system is custom, I guess, and having had a dig around his site, I can’t quite figure out which iteration of his online outliner tool is the current one to use for blogging. Am sure there would be a way of posting to it via a desktop text editor or outliner, but am not sure my tech chops would be up to figuring it out.

Maybe micro.blog is the answer, but I can’t see myself migrating away from WordPress for various reasons. But it must be possible to build out a micro.blog-esque approach in WordPress, using customer post types integrated with a desktop text editor, which maybe can also aggregate snippets into daily roundup posts like Kottke.org along the way? Oh, and which makes for easy tagging and distribution around place like Mastodon and (while it lasts) Twitter?

Maybe?!

Blogged elsewhere: Why tech SMEs are Crucial to Public Sector Digital Transformation

I was asked by my friends at AdviceCloud to write something for the TechUK blog about how small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) can support public sector organisations in their efforts to transform.

Technology is not the be-all and end-all of digital transformation. However, any organisation looking to disrupt itself in this way must have a sufficiently flexible technology stack to support the radical change that is needed – and tech SMEs are in the perfect place to deliver what digital transformation demands.

Read the whole thing on the TechUK website.

 

Problogging

I’m hugely envious of folks like Shawn Blanc and Ben Thompson. Their job is their blogs! How lucky is that?

This year I’ve really got into the content-producing swing of things – dunno if you’ve noticed. With this blog settled down and at home on WordPress.com, my newsletter working nicely thanks to Goodbits, the podcast rumbling along nicely on Libsyn and my Pinboard bookmarks providing even more stuff for people to look at if they need it, the tech and workflow is all slotting together very nicely.

It would be fantastic to be able to just focus on this content creation an curation work. It’s what I really love doing. Figuring a way to make it sustainable though is not easy.

Shawn and Ben both have membership schemes. Their core blogging is available for free, but extra bits – including content via email and podcasts – are members only. Members have to pay a certain amount to get access to it all.

This is a great way of doing things, but you need people willing to pay for your content.

Sponsorship is another way of doing things. John Gruber’s Daring Fireball does this, with the blog’s RSS feed being sponsored every week by a tech company wanting to reach his (many) readers. Gruber charges $9,500 per week for this sponsorship. Wowza!

The other option I guess is what I currently do, which is to use the content creation as a way of promoting my consulting work. The downside of this is that a) the blogging etc is a means rather than an end; and b) that I have to leave the house now and again.

Maybe I should just stop being lazy!

Better blogging: separate writing and publishing?

I wonder if one way of helping the process of blogging is to separate the tools you use for writing and for publishing.

Here’s what I mean – when I use WordPress’ editor to compose a post from scratch, I am using the same software to write my content and to publish it.

I have nothing against the WordPress editor, by the way – it’s excellent. But I find that when I use it, I feel under a bit more pressure to get what I am writing finished, so I can hit that big publish button and be done with it.

Using a separate tool to compose the post, then transfer it to WordPress for publication makes the writing process a bit of a calmer affair.

I can still edit my content in the WordPress editor where I spot mistakes, or to add images, links and that sort of thing. The bulk of composition however, takes place in a different editor.

At the moment I mostly use Byword on the Mac and iOS for writing posts, which are then copied to WordPress.

What do you think? Am I talking nonsense – or do you also find that separating writing and publishing is helpful?

Blogging – writing and reading

Inspired, as I often am, by Lloyd and his various experiments in reusing media, finding new ways to use old stuff, and continuing to prod at blogging as a medium.

Thanks to him, I’m drawn back to Tumblr. It strikes me that the follow and post model that Tumblr embodies harks back to the original blogging tools like Radio Userland that combine reading and posting, and facilitates the easy (b)logging of other people’s content.

It is a closed system of course, which is a bit of a bad thing, but tools like IFTTT can be used to ensure a local backup of content is stored somewhere. But it feels better than – say – Facebook, which really is another follow and post type system. As is Twitter, of course, albeit with greater limitations.

WordPress – at least in its .com incarnation – seems to be following Tumblr by enabling users to follow blogs within a dashboard. But with these platforms, you can only (I think) follow blogs within that platform. It would be nice to be able to pull content in from elsewhere too.

The separation between a reading application and a writing application – which happened when? 2003? – was an error, as it enabled platform players to provide that holistic experience, and there doesn’t seem to be an open equivalent, unless anyone else knows of one.

Blogging in Fargo

Fargo is one of my favourite web tools to have emerged recently. One thing I really love is the way that it keeps iterating and adding neat new features.

It’s now super easy to publish your own blog via Fargo. Here’s a video showing how.

Why start a blog?

There are a number of reasons why you might want to start blogging:

  • You have ideas you want to share
  • You have a story to tell
  • You have knowledge you want to demonstrate
  • You want to progress your career
  • You want the great work your organisation does to get recognition

All of these are great reasons. But basically it comes down to wanting to do whatever it is that you do better.

Because if you start a blog, after a little while, that will be the result – no matter what your original motivation.

One reason a great blogger will never give you is “because my boss told me to”. Good bloggers do it because they want to, because it works for them, and not because it serves their employer’s purposes.

Goodbye, We Love Local Government

We Love Local Government, an anonymously written group blog by a bunch of people working in the sector, has closed its doors. How sad!

It was a great resource, providing support, advice and amusement for all those working for councils during an incredibly difficult time.

Those behind it have decided to move onto other things, which is fine – they’ve done their bit!

Hopefully what they have done is to further advance the cause of blogging in the public sector in the UK. That simple act of publishing stories, ideas, experiences, views and opinions is still incredibly powerful, and yet one that still isn’t being effectively used at scale.

My hope is that some of those who followed We Love Local Government now start their own blogs, writing about what they do, why they do it and how it’s changing – developing the support network and adding to the conversation.

It’s my hope that they choose to do so publicly, under their own names too. I understand why WLLG was anonymous, but I passionately believe that being open about your identity as a blogger is best in the long term.

In the meantime, there are loads of people blogging about public service issues, and many of them are aggregated at Public Sector Blogs. Go take a look.