Working through “How to blog?”

I’ve established that the way I have WP setup does not align with the blogging experience I’d like to have and I need to find a way to fix that because Twitter and Instagram don’t deserve it all but that’s where I’ve been putting it.

A tweet of mine from September, after spending a few weeks off Twitter

I’m not even sure if “blog” is the right term anymore, but it’s the term I have. How to share thoughts and narrate work?

Workflow objectives. On my phone, I want a low barrier interface for posting something. This may be a photo, video, link, or text. This needs to be as quick and seamless as Instagram or Twitter. I would prefer this happens through a website I own rather than an app I don’t.

I’ve used Twitter’s PWA rather than the app long enough to know I don’t need an app for this.

On my laptop, I want to spend time focused on writing and editing text-heavy content. Simple formatting, linking, and text manipulation should be straight-forward.

Own the content; own the code. I should own the content I post and the code I use to post it. As an example, I have the liberty of licensing everything on this site under the CC BY-SA 4.0 International License. This is not a liberty I (explicitly) have when posting content to most platforms owned by others.

Own the domain. The trade-off for fluid interfaces and networks like Twitter and Instagram is the domain. If Twitter goes away tomorrow, anything referencing that content no longer references anything. This may be fine for some material—there’s absolutely an argument for being able to mark content explicitly ephemeral so that it disappears into the ether—but that’s an individual’s decision rather than a platform’s decision.

So how do I get there? I guess the good news is that I already have a domain and I already own this content. I mostly need to establish workflow.

When I write for Waxy.org, I write directly in WordPress’s new Gutenberg editor, which is now on par with Medium as a best-of-class writing environment for the web.

Andy Baio, from his “uses this” interview

I like the sentiment expressed by Andy, and I really do enjoy seeing people enjoy using WordPress. I’m also confused because I don’t have the same “best-of-class” experience. Something about the way I write and edit a post—almost always entirely in text—doesn’t align with how Gutenberg treats data.

I can’t select text across paragraphs. I can’t easily maneuver text around. I can’t casually drop links into a new post without an attempted embed appearing.

Almost every time I write a post with more than two simple paragraphs, I find an annoyance that causes me to stop and determine whether I want to go through the process of reporting a bug.

This is not in any way meant to be a dig at Gutenberg or the team working on it. I love the possibilities that it opens up for building sites and I’m excited about the future. It’s okay that WordPress’s goals do not align with “how Jeremy writes”. 🙈

This also isn’t new. Editors are hard to make and bugs are a chore to report.

So no I don’t think Gutenberg, which is a new text editor for WordPress, is the answer [to a writer’s flow]. It is the answer to other problems, how to mix text and other elements in a blog post.

– Dave Winer, “Flow in WordPress for writers

I connected with this recent post by Dave and I think “flow” is probably a good term for what I’m looking for. I’d like to be able to get into the groove of writing without an interface built around blocks interrupting me at every turn.

My favorite writing interface on the web right now is Dropbox Paper. It allows for basic formatting, provides a large blank page, and is very fast and comfortable in Firefox—something Google Docs is not.

My favorite writing interface outside of the web is Ulysses, which I’ve been using to draft posts and organize other writings and thoughts.

Neither option satisfies my objective to own the code, though at least Ulysses is something local rather than hosted and creates markdown documents I can manipulate and move elsewhere if needed.

It is somewhat strange to me after all these years to write content outside of the place I’ll be reading it, but maybe that’s the kind of workflow I should be exploring.

Markdown files can be converted into HTML with any number of static site generators. I could still use WordPress database tables and create my own editor for posts, separate from pages—though if I choose that, what is the “best-of-class” open source writing experience?

I also wonder if there’s room in my brain and schedule to vote with my ideological feet and start playing with smaller tools to try and figure out which might be better for encouraging writing and communication.

There’s probably a level to this where I need to figure out what’s best for my workflow while also finding something that I would like to be engaged with. Maybe I just need to start tossing things around and talking about how they connect.

I don’t know!

In any case. This is something I’m still working on figuring out and this post itself is probably useful as a general ask in addition to a general thinking exercise.

If you have open source tools you use as part of a writing workflow that you think are particularly good, please let me know. ✌🏻

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Jeremy's profile photo: a selfie taken while walking through Berlin.

Jeremy Felt posted this piece of content on the internet.

Reactions on “Working through “How to blog?””

Replies

  1. Not that I've published much of… well, anything at all lately, but I write everything in Simplenote (since NValt died; syncs to all my devices) and copy-paste to wherever it's going. The downside is any formatting requires its own final pass, which sucks.

    I've heard several people praise Grammarly.

    I didn't know you can't select across GB blocks — that's terrible!

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