July 16, 2013

Rethinking My Blogging Workflow

Blogging, Markdown, and attempting to simplify a messy workflow.

I recently wrote here regarding the pains of using Tumblr as a blogging platform. While not much has changed since writing that post (since it was only a couple months ago), I was struck by just how inefficient my blogging workflow was when I finally wrote it all out. Since then, I researched and completely revamped my methodology around how to post on this site.

As I wrote last time around, Tumblr is not built for long-form text editing, let alone long-form writing. Between the sub-par, built-in text editor and the convolution of the UI design, I am less than ecstatic about the built-in tools being my main resource by which to post. In addition, while the mobile apps and Web 2.0 posting tools may be great for those that intend to use their blogs as catch-alls for any and all content, for me personally they leave a lot to be desired when it comes to my purposes for building and maintaining a website.

However, among Tumblr’s more-useful built-in tools, the company has included the ability to post various content types via email and bookmarklet. I have used the bookmarklet in the past with varying amounts of success and continue to use it often with my links blog. Until recently, however, I had a contact in my address book to which to email my Tumblr content and had never used it; in the past, I had seen little to no reason to use what I would consider an antiquated method for creating and posting new content. How ironic then that my iPad has limited sharing options, but among the few is email; now I type this post on my iPad in iA Writer, using Markdown, prepared to email its content to a neglected email address for publishing. With that, I have literally condensed my workflow from a complicated mess of writing, copying, editing, and publishing—using less-than-desirable tools—to only a few steps, using tools with which I am both comfortable and happy.

Markdown

While I have no idea just how many people actually use Markdown or practice anything close to my workflow, I assume that the number of technology bloggers that use the Gruber-published standard is a large majority. I had always been interested in the Markdown standard and was forced to revisit and learn it when I started to write as much as I have here. Copying plain text and adding URLs and other formatting in post was unacceptable as someone who expects to be posting even once a week. In addition, I fancy myself an amateur programmer, so something as simple and useful as Markdown is right up my ally. While I am still learning the idiosyncrasies of Markdown and how to better utilize it for things like footnotes, I have started to use it full-time and feel comfortable with the basics. Tumblr has a basic understanding of the standard, which has allowed for a simplification of my workflow, but if I use anything more than simple links and blockquotes, Tumblr doesn’t always act like it understands Markdown, which has led me to fall in love with an app called Marked.

Marked

The bullseye that made Markdown all the more useful to me was Brett Terpstra’s Marked. Tumblr’s ability at random to misunderstand my Markdown information was infuriating and Marked allowed me to preview the final results of my Markdown, as well as copy out the preview as HTML, which guaranteed the final product would look as I expected, when handed over to Tumblr. In addition, Marked allowed me to add my own CSS information to the preview pane. Now, when I write on my Mac, I’ve got iA Writer open next to Marked, which automatically updates its preview based on my edits. In addition, keyboard shortcuts and automation have allowed me to create a sustainable and reliable workflow.

Aside and Final Thought

As an aside, I have yet to see a huge difference between emailing my content to the Tumblr address book contact instead of simply pasting the HTML output from Marked into the Tumblr window, so my workflow has allowed for either, mainly dependent on where I make the final edits to a post. On my Mac, I copy the HTML directly into Tumblr’s dashboard. On my iPad, I email the content and hope for the best. While the Tumblr email system has caused me problems over the last couple of months, the ability to publish from anywhere is invaluable. In the future, I hope to be able to automate the entire process, so that no matter where I am writing, I can email my content and know that the output is as I expect.

In closing, I am often reminded that I am fairly new to this and, as time goes on, I will continue to grow and mature in my writing, in my personal style, and in my workflow.

post Blogging Markdown Tumblr Automation


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