Blogging Workflow

-this will take more than 5 minutes to read-

A lot of folks start out to blog, and then quit soon after. Since I started blogging mainly as a way to build some discipline in my writing, I was determined not to let my blog become a cob web, a page that was not updated on a regular basis, I started blogging determined to build a process, or a blogging workflow. I should emphasize at this point that blogging, as all writing, is a habit and a discipline. It’s not just “something that happens on its own.” If you are going to blog, start with the same mindset—focus on the habits and discipline first, the blog second.

I (mostly) build all the content for ‘net Work on Saturday mornings. Sometimes it slips to Sunday or Monday, depending on what is going on, but I normally spend no more than about 2 to 3 hours a week on keeping this blog up and running, including normal maintenance. There are times when I spend much more—for instance, if I’m switching platforms, or switching themes. There are other times when I need to spend time in code, or researching something specific, for a blog post (or a set of posts), but I don’t really consider this time “blogging time,” as I’m normally doing the research for some other reason than blogging. Using research and learning time for two purposes is a great way to double your effectiveness in the real world.

The actual process looks something like this.

First, during the week, I’m clipping interesting information. I normally only get material from Slack channels, a pretty large swatch of RSS feeds, email, and LinkedIn. I really don’t use many social media services other than LinkedIn; I find the signal-to-noise ratio far too high. RSS feeds are my primary source of current events; I follow about 100 feeds from various sources, categorized by the type of information. All the technology feeds I follow are grouped into a single folder. When reading, though, I normally don’t even bother splitting out different kinds of feeds, I just read from the oldest to the newest unread in my feed.

I use Feedly with NextGen Reader as my two tools here; there are other combinations that work, but the tight integration between NextGen Reader and OneNote, as well as the ability to pull the full article when the initial content seems interesting speed the process of reading and clipping up a great deal. There are a number of readers out there; I would suggest looking for integration with other services and the ability to pull the full article as the most important features.

I normally use just the keyboard to navigate—v to open in a web browser, c to clip to OneNote, the arrow keys to move up and down and into the next article, and f to pull the full text. I am very disciplined about reading articles; I read the headline, the first and last sentences of the included text (not what’s in the middle), and then I move to the next article. Something has to catch my eye about the article for me to hit the keystroke to pull the full text and skim the entire article. One other thing about NextGen is that it works on every device I have, so I can read articles while waiting in line, etc.—wasting time is, as most folks know, one of my biggest horribles.

Second, at the end of each week, I organize the clippings, opening those that either made me think of something to write about, or something I think is worth sticking into the worth reading pile. With tabs open for each item, I start with the worth reading category, closing tabs as I create posts for them. The remaining tabs are either simply closed, or they are left open to write a reaction or to tee off a larger post of some sort.

As for the writing process, I’m old school (as always). I just use the native WordPress editor in the text view. I know a good bit of HTML (and XML), so I find it counterproductive to spend a lot of time on markup, markdown, marksideways, or whatever. HTML is more useful to know, anyway, in the long run; just learn enough to do italics, bold, ordered and unordered lists, and a few other things, and you can skip knowing 14,568 ways of doing the same thing.

One thing I’ve noticed about the technology industry in this regard: it’s true enough that if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem becomes a nail. What we forget is the corollary: When you have ten thousand hammers, every problem becomes a different kind of nail. Learn a few basic tools well, rather than learning every possible tool just well enough to solve one problem with it.

Once the basic posts are in place, I write the two or three “main” posts for that week, using the WordPress native editor. I do have one or two things I use to help ease editing; specifically the HTML special characters helper, an auto featured image tool for some specific categories, etc. I also have some common sets of css properties, such as right and left aligned images and padding, saved off in OneNote. I avoid the GUI tools where possible, as they seem to just slow me down.

Generally, though, I just write in straight text, inserting HTML tags as needed, and then I schedule the posts. I do have a specific schedule I follow; I’m far too organized to allow myself to just post randomly. This is also a part of the discipline, as well; if I skip a day, I can see it in the scheduled posts, which helps me to visually see how much more I need to write, etc.

That’s it. Hopefully someone profits from hearing how I keep up with the blog here at ‘net Work. The tools are simple, honestly; don’t overthink this stuff.