I read way too much for my own good sometimes. I don’t mean books, I probably don’t read enough of those for my own good at this point, but websites. I’ve always been a junkie when it comes to reading about new software, people’s workflow for getting things done, etc. The problem with reading too much is the tendency to only read and not actually put into practice any of the things that I’m reading about. Markdown can be the greatest thing in the world but if I don’t actually do something with it what is the point? I finally sat down and came up with a new workflow I’m going to try out for a bit. My main goal is to get more writing accomplished. I’m going to stop reading the reviews and tips and techniques and finally get just get some work done.
This post is the first that’s part of that new workflow. Here is what I’m going to do.
- Write in a journal daily.
- It doesn’t have to be long, maybe just a few sentences but I’m going to write something every day.
- Post something to my main blog at least once a week.
- Again the posts can be of any length really but they have to be consistent.
- Programming posts will go to what I’m calling my “Programmer’s Notebook” which resides at radicalrocket.com.
I will use Markdown for all writing wether long-form, journal, or notes.
That includes this posting This is an important point. I wrote a post a while back asking what the point of it all was? I just didn’t get it. I’ve been reading a ton about Markdown over the last year and it appears to be getting a lot more popular in Mac geek circles; I’m going to try to find out what all the fuss is about. I have selected tools that all support this and they’re noted below. Two tools are missing Markdown support: my WordPress blog and the Simplenote iOS client but more about that below.
Part of the problem of selecting tools to try was that I also had to make sure I selected tools I could use at work. Relying on Dropbox was a no-go because my workplace blocks access to Dropbox. That pretty much left me with using Evernote or Simplenote. Evernote doesn’t make getting my content out easily and one of the main points of using Markdown is to keep everything in plain text and easily portable so that leaves Evernote out. That leaves me with Simplenote for syncing and cloud storage.
This is the list of tools that I’ve chosen to implement my writing workflow.
Simplenote is both an iOS application and a web service. It provides storage of plain text notes with tagging and syncing between devices. The web application also provides a Markdown preview unlike the iOS applications for iPhone and iPad. As a web service Simplenote also provides their services to other applications like nvAlt.
nvAlt is a note entry and storage application sort of like Evernote but it only stores plain text files. It can sync with Simplenote and Dropbox. It also provides full support of MultiMarkdown (a superset of Markdown).
ResophNotes is basically Microsoft Windows version of Notational Velocity on which nvAlt is also based. Also syncs with Simplenote and Dropbox.
Byword is a multi-platform (Mac OS and iPhone/iPad) text editing application. It syncs with iCloud and Dropbox. It supports MultiMarkdown as well and contains a window to preview the Markdown output.
MacJournal, obviously by the name, is geared towards keeping a journal but it does a lot more than just plain text. It handles pictures, rich text, etc. It also has the ability to post to various blogging system including WordPress.
So that is the list of applications I’m planning on using for any work that involves writing. Here is how I’m going to use them.
Workflow – Notes
For taking/keeping notes of all types I’m planning on the following workflow:
Use nvAlt on the Mac synced with Simplenote for notes.
Use ResophNotes on my Windows laptop at work synced with Simplenote for access to notes at work.
Use the Simplenote client on the iPad and iPhone for mobile access to notes.
Have Simplenote set to sync with Dropbox for a plain text resource that isn’t stored in a proprietary database.
Both nvAlt and ResophNotes support local storage of notes in either a folder of plain text files or a database. They also both support syncing notes via Simplenote or Dropbox. Since I can’t access Dropbox from work Simplenote I will have nvAlt and ResophNotes sync with Simplenote and have the Simplenote web service sync those notes with Dropbox.
Workflow – Long-form/Blog
Having instant access to Dropbox from work isn’t necessary for my longer bits of writing. For that writing (as I have done for this post) I will use Byword. The places where I would do personal writing I’ll have access to Dropbox from both iOS and Mac so I’ll have easy access to everything via Byword. I can then either copy those postings into MacJournal to use it’s blog posting abilities, copy HTML output from Byword’s Markdown preview right into the WordPress website, or use Blogsy on my iPad. It really depends on where I happen to be working. From my Mac I can do two of those three (no Blogsy there). From the iPad I can do all three.
Workflow – Journal
Like anything else writing takes practice and the best practice is doing something on a daily basis. Even if I don’t have much to say I’ll still write something down just to keep up with the process. For that writing I’ll use MacJournal. MacJournal stores text in it’s own database (which I believe is an index of files in a folder but it isn’t an obvious system) but that really isn’t an issue to me. It has many export options for entries and one of the main features I do like is the ability to password-protect my journals. I don’t want anyone else reading this stuff but me unless I choose to export it. They are my words and my thoughts. I’ll only share them if I choose to.
So that’s about it. I’m finally getting moving on writing vs. just reading about it and all the wonderful tools out there to accomplish it And this post is just a bit over a thousand words….wonder if I could come up with a picture to say all of this instead……
I’d love to know what the designer of the TwentyEleven theme was thinking when choosing font sizes for headers. They’re all off. H1 should be larger than H2 which should be larger than H3, and so on.
As can be seen here they aren’t different sizes. h1 and h2 are the same size and h3 is smaller than normal text. What was this designer thinking? Looks like it’s time to find a different theme.
My shared hosting account with Hostmonster is now closed after a year. Overall I actually had a pretty good experience with them save for the ridiculous CPU throttling. I understand why they do that however they have to really watch what they’re doing. The way its working now is just a bit repressive. It’s a non-issue now. My blog is where I want it to be . It’s cheap. I don’t have to worry about updates. I just need to actually write stuff
Update: I’ve noticed several clicks from Google to this and one other posting here related to Squarespace. While this blog is running on WordPress.com now I have since signed up with Squarespace for another site that I will be running for an iPhone software endeavor I am starting. So while my personal site here is still on WordPress I still like Squarespace enough that I wanted to use it for a new site and did sign up for that.
Three days ago I wrote a post about trying Squarespace as a blogging platform. Three days later that trial is done. I had planned on giving Squarespace a trial of a month or two. Fantastic service from the quick look I had but I ended up moving my blog to wordpress.com from my self-hosted environment on Hostmonster. The intent was to try both services because I wanted something hosted on a platform where I don’t have to worry about site performance issues. On Hostmonster my WordPress set up was experiencing a lot of CPU throttling which seemed ridiculous given the amount of traffic I receive on any given day. Looking at what they define as slow-running queries against MySQL I was also baffled because nothing was very slow. My desire to debug those kinds of issues is smaller than zero so it was time to look at one of the hosted solutions where the only thing I needed to care about was writing blog postings.
For such a small traffic blog I do have some pages that are routinely very popular via Google searches. When I imported my posts to Squarespace it created a bunch of custom URLs to maintain those WP-generated permalinks which is great. But for trial purposes anything created after that initial import wouldn’t have the same link structure. On Squarespace everything ends with “.html”. If I had done a significant amount of writing over the next month or two on Squarespace I would have been in trouble as far as Google search results go because I wouldn’t have been able to map those URLs to something in the wordpress.com permalink structure so that my results on Google were valid. Since my intent was to try both services, losing my potential Google ranking on those pages when I started a wordpress.com trial wasn’t an attractive option to me. There were two other items that weren’t obvious issues for me: the social aspect that comes with using the wordpress.com platform or integration with Twitter for new posts.
A blog on wordpress.com has the ability to become part of the full social structure of the set of blogs hosted there. I’m writing because I want to, but the point of making it public is to have other people read what I’m putting out there. I’d hope that for many of the types of posts I write somebody might get some value from them. With a wordpress.com account there is already a large social network built up. That simply isn’t an option on Squarespace. That’s not an overall problem with the Squarespace platform but it’s a feature I want that they don’t offer. If I’m going to be paying $10 or more a month for a service I want to make sure it serves my needs as closely as possible.
The other thing that Squarespace doesn’t seem to offer is a way to post new entries to Twitter. On my WordPress self-hosted install I used the WP-to-Twitter plugin. I don’t have the plugin option on wordpress.com but they do have the ability to link up a Twitter account, Facebook account, etc. to accomplish the same thing. Again, this is something I really want and Squarespace doesn’t offer it and again if I’m going to pay $10 a month for a service…
All that being said Squarespace is really cool. The website editing system is fantastic. The iOS apps are far better than what WordPress is offering. At the end of the day though the cost for a custom domain with wordpress.com is $1 per month. The beautiful thing though is that there are fantastic options out there if I change my mind. Options are a good thing