Grounded & Steadfast

est. 2008

Blogging Tools

It feels like a long time since I posted my first entry to my first WordPress via Mars Edit. That was early in 2008 and I still remember the sinking yet thrilling feeling I had when Shawn Blanc first linked to one of my articles. Blogging tools have come a long way since then.

Back then, I used MarsEdit and only MarsEdit to publish to my WP run blog, The Weekly Review. Now days, I use a set of web based and desktop tools to share my thoughts on my Kirby run blog.

I realize many folks consider talking about your blogging toolset is akin to talking about your relationship issues in public. Loudly. But I appreciate hearing how the writers I respect get content on their site and hopefully someone can benefit from hearing about my own. Rian shared his own use of Pinboard lately, so he’s truly to fault for this post.

Here’s how I do it in 2015.

On the Mac

As mentioned above, I use a collection of tools to get content published to my flat file Kirby install on my Media Temple server. The full list:

The full process is for writing link posts. I start by finding something I want to share and add commentary. I save the article to Pinboard and add a tag titled “link”. Like Rian, this is picked up by IFTTT and the linked article is saved to a text file in Dropbox. IFTTT uses my link article template to populate the text file.

IFTTT Template

So far, pretty simple. The real action happens on OS X after that. I have Hazel watching the writing folder in Dropbox for various activies. I use 4 rules to prep my articles for writing, to remind me to write, to actually publish to my site, and to keep my Dropbox folder in sync with my journal folder on my server.

Hazel rules

This may sound complex, but each rule is fairly simple.

Prepping

The first thing to do is get the new text file created by the IFTTT recipe to match the structure of my Kirby install. Because Kirby is a flat file CMS, each post lives in a folder with a certain name and number. As well, each text file within the folder has a general file name of article.txt or article.link.txt (depending on the article type).

I wanted Hazel to do most of the manual work for me.

1st rule in Hazel

What does this do?

That’s it. If you step back and ignore all those details, the process is simply this: I find an article of interest, add it to Pinboard, and the minutes later the file and folder are sitting on my Mac and are ready for me to add commentary.

Reminding Myself

Sometimes I get busy or am away and have little time for writing. The 2nd rule is in place to simply remind when I have some older link article files ready for publishing.

2nd rule in Hazel

After a week, I’ll get the Hazel notification that some items should get attention.

Publishing

The most important step here is publishing. Before this setup, I would simply connect to my site in Coda and add the new file directly. Now, when the article is filled in, edited, and ready to go, I just make a few changes in OS X.

3rd rule in Hazel

I simply add a green label to the article folder. That’s it. Hazel then uses the Upload command to connect to my server and add the folder and file. The article is then fully published.

What is not shown in this rule is my change to the folder title. Usually, the title that IFTTT pulls from the original source is long and cumbersome. So I change the folder name before publishing, giving it a shorter, more sensical name along with the proper number to be the newest article on my site.

N’Sync

The last step is simply to mirror the content of my server on my desktop. Why? Simply because I can then make sure my folder names (and the number that is included) for new articles are ordered correctly.

Kirby structure

Because Kirby is flat filed, the order of posts on your blog is dictated by the number in the folder name. And so the 4th rule in Hazel makes sure I never forget the most current number on the server. It’s a rule that is run once daily to sync from server to desktop.

4th rule in Hazel

As you can see, the rule does little. The details are in Automator. It simply runs Transmit and uses the Sync option available in that app. I filled in the server details, path included, and when the rule runs, Transmit launches and syncs away.

Sync options

It would be nice if this part of the process happened in the background, rather than have Transmit pop up and interrupt whatever I’m doing (I’m open to suggestions!).


My process is slightly different for writing full articles. They start in Ulysses and are simply put into the correct folder with the green label. The Publish rule takes care of the rest. So my Mac workflow is automated and about as easy and frictionless as it can be. Which is great as most of my writing takes place on the desktop.

iOS

But what about iOS? I do write on my iPad frequently. And if inspiration strikes, I will simply fire up Ulyesses and write away. Dropbox is available, so the full folder structure that is synced thanks to Hazel is available to me.

The only downfall is that I can set the OS X color label on a file or folder on iOS (that I’m aware of). This means I either finish up on my Mac at some point, or use Transmit or Diet Coda on my iPad to publish an article manually.

I’m guessing that more automation would be possible. If I could just sit down long enough to finish one of Federico’s articles, I could probably get inspired on how to improve this. However, the last 12–18 months have proven that I spend far more of my writing time on OS X than iOS (perhaps because iOS 8 runs like crud on my iPad 3) so this set up fits my current habits well.


Whether on OS X or iOS, the 3rd party tools like Hazel and IFTTT are incredibly enabling. And the result is that self publishing involves little friction, helping me spend the majority of my publishing time actually writing.

That’s a good thing.

Tools for Formatting Your Ebook

Gumroad has published a guide for self publishing. Who isn’t interested in self publishing in 2015?

If you publish your own writing of any sort online, there’s a good chance that you’ve entertained the idea of putting out a book. This guide from the Gumroad team covers formats, then the tools that you can use to produce your book.

Sadly, the list is a little lacking. Many writing apps today, such as Ulysses, do a nice job of preparing your content for export. And there are plenty of new services targeted at this need as well. A more detailed article may be more useful.

The Ideal Relationship Between You and Your Boss

Such a good topic to consider. If you’re running a company and you want employees to believe yours is the best they’ve ever worked for, how will you make that a reality? If you’re hoping perks are the answer …

I strongly believe you hire people for who they can be, not who they are. This should permeate your thinking as you write job postings, review applicants, and talk with potential (and current) employees. It’s not enough to offer unlimited books or conference budgets, massages and an in house chef.

A team leader will empower her/his team to do their best work and, more importantly, grow. Without growth, in skills and as a person, people will stagnate. All the free stuff in the world won’t satisfy once that happens.

Make It Boring

Joshua Platt shares his own thoughts on owning your own content. He agrees with my sentiments, but adds that this type of thing can also lead to more tinkering than actual writing.

That's an excellent point. I've tended to stick to a cycle of a refresh of my site every 2 years. I deviate occasionally, but the desire to tinker with the design occurs far more frequently than that. But I force myself to leave things as they are when that happens.

I admire those like Shawn Blanc, who write far more than they tinker. Others, like John Gruber, could make things a little easier to read. But in those cases, as well as those who change more frequently like myself, I simply appreciate the care they put into creating their own home.

Build Your Morning Habits First

Scott Young talks about the cult of the early risers and the romanticism around a morning routine. But he finishes with a slight twist on the usual take on this subject.

Rather than preach about the early bird or similar sentiments, he talks about the importance of the routine to start your day. Regardless of the time, he makes the case that your first actions set the tone for the day.

I think this grouping effect, of having one virtuous habit priming you to make the next easier to execute, is a reason why it seems easy to build a fairly complicated morning ritual in one go.

Wise words there. This thinking reminds me a lot of what my bud Mr. Blanc has been preaching in his newsletter as he finishes off his next book. Good habits and personal integrity are built by small steps!

The Best UI Typeface Goes Unnoticed

Similar to the post I wrote for the InVision blog, Thomas Byttebier covers the essential traits of typefaces suited for use in a UI.

His main points are well put and similar to those I made. But he takes it a step further and covers a list of good typefaces for potential use. And the verdict:

All these typefaces definitely don’t burst with personality or creativity, yet they’re crammed with clarity. And in user interface design, that’s only a good thing.

Well put.