Since getting my new Mac a few days ago, I’ve been trying to move my iOS writing automations over. However, one of the main shortcuts just wasn’t possible on the Mac. It’s the “Link Post” shortcut that I’ve been using for quite some time on my iPad.
It doesn’t exactly do much, but it saves a lot of time and effort. It essentially uses the share menu in Safari to pass the article and the highlighted text to a shortcut. From there, it extracts the title, author, and url of the article, along with formatting the selected text as a markdown blockquote (using my app, Text Case), formats it nicely, and creates a new sheet in Ulysses. Leaving me to add some comments to the sheet, before publishing it to my blog.
Turns out the Mac’s a bit more complicated, as while there’s a share menu, you can’t use it to launch a shortcut. So, my existing solution was out the window.
I tried a few other options that sounded promising, such as the “Get Article from Safari Reader” action that seemed to be precisely what I wanted. I’d be able to detect the URL somehow, and then be able to extract any information manually. Unfortunately, this action doesn’t work, and I’ve been told it hasn’t been working for some time.
After some experimenting, I realised that as long as I could have the URL and highlighted text, then I would be able to come up with something sufficient. Because from the URL, I can make a quick GET request, and get the page title. I haven’t worked out how to get the author using this method, but it wasn’t exactly reliable on iOS anyway.
My last option was to try to use macOS Services. I discovered that if I used a service from Safari, then it received the selected text as the input. And to top it off there was also a way to receive the “onscreen content” inside a shortcut, which in the case of Safari, returns the URL of the current page.
That meant I was able to combine the selected text from the input, and the URL from the onscreen content, and put together a link post generator.
After fetching the page title and url, the only thing it needs to do is to format the selected text as a Markdown blockquote using Text Case, and put it together into a nice format.
It’s definitely not the quickest shortcut, with it taking around 5 seconds to create the Ulysses sheet, but it’s definitely better than doing all of this manually. I also added a notification after the sheet is created, so you can be sure it’s done. And you also get an option to open the sheet straight away.
There’s a type of content, that I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but for quite a long time, I’ve itched for it to find a place. There might be a word or phrase for it already, but I can only describe it as informal, ephemeral, and sometimes very meta.
I think for some, this is social media. But as a person with a blog, I’ve always felt as if it should be more like that, instead of writing on a closed platform like Twitter. That has led me to trying to use Micro.blog multiple times, and also Mastodon recently (which I haven’t been active on for a while).
The only places where I’ve similar content to what I’m talking about is actually on Micro.blog. However, not those that use Micro.blog as a Twitter replacement, which is what I essentially did. But instead, those that really leant into Micro.blog as their sole blogging platform.
Part of me always wants to steer towards hosting all of my writing in one place, and keeping it live and accessible forever. Which is the reason I always end up giving up on platforms like Micro.blog, but I’m starting to think I might just have to accept that it’s probably the best fit. Because the alternative is to share it here on this blog, and I really don’t want to go through all the hassle where I have essentially a full blog and micro blog merged together, but also separate.
I think I’ve talked myself into microblogging again.
Should I use Micro.blog, or keep it self-hosted and syndicate it to Micro.blog (and everywhere else)?
Weirdly a lot of this was already "available". Albeit marked as being experimental. For example, I've been using the members feature and email newsletter feature for a few months, and I have an accent colour selected already.
The thing I'd like them to focus on next would be for a better mobile/tablet interface. I don't think we'll ever see a native app from them, seeing as they are a web company. But I'd settle for a website that's at least usable on an iPad.
Earlier this year, WordPress .com introduced an easier way to post your Twitter threads, also known as tweetstorms, to your blog with the introduction of “unroll” option for Twitter embeds. Today, the company is addressing the flip side of tweetstorm publication — it’s making it possible to turn your existing WordPress blog post into a tweetstorm with just a couple of clicks.
The new feature will allow you to tweet out every word of your post, as well as the accompanying images and videos, the company says. These will be automatically inserted into the thread where they belong alongside your text.
My immediate reaction when I first saw the headline, was "oh my god this is terrible". But after reading the article, I think it actually makes some sense for the world we live in right now.
As much as I dislike the situation, a lot more people read Twitter than they read blog posts. So in regard to your content being accessible, it's great. I still feel it moves away from content having a canonical place on the internet, but that could just be the idealist in me.
One part of me thinks that is a feature that will please some people, but I wouldn't use it for my own blog. Another part of me deep down, wants Ghost to add something similar so I can try it out.
Whenever I read about blogging, whether it’s people asking how to get started, tips on how to be better, or just anything in general about writing online, I tend to disagree quite a lot on the feedback that is shared.
I think that, especially when you are starting to write a blog, nearly everything that I see being suggested is detrimental.
Everyone’s telling you to start worrying about SEO, prioritise getting your website linked to from popular websites, working out monetisation, creating a schedule, creating the perfect design, blah, blah, blah.
If you are trying to start a blog, then the best advice is to just start writing, and then press publish. Sure, it might not be the best content you’ll ever produce, but it’s something. Then with the experience of writing and publishing that post, the next one will be slightly better.
Maybe no-one will ever see your first blog post, but that’s not exactly important. The most important thing is that you wrote it. And with it being made available for the world to read, I’m sure you’ll immediately find something you could have done better. So you learn from these mistakes and fix them in the next. These aren’t necessarily mistakes, just a representation of experience, which of course, comes with time.
Just like experience, in time your audience will grow, and if they like your content, they’ll come back. And maybe they’ll even think about sharing it with other people. But the content needs to be there before they can do that, and it needs to provide them with some level of value. But even that isn’t majorly important when you start.
Your aim should be to produce the best content you can. And if people value that content, then even better. If your aim is to make the most money possible or to get high numbers on your analytics, then in my opinion, you’re focussing on the wrong thing.
Maybe I’m too much a fantasist in that I think every blogger should at least be attempting to produce great content. But isn’t that the most logical target? If not, then I think you’re blogging for the wrong reason.
After you’ve built up a body of work, and still regularly providing content, then it wouldn’t hurt to try and get that content to more people. But it’s not the most important thing. And I would argue that it’s especially not important for people that just want to start blogging.
All I’m saying is, if you want to start blogging, then the only thing that matters is getting words out of your head, and published somewhere. You don’t need to worry about the overall theme of your content, your writing style, the name of your blog, getting the perfect domain name, figuring out what tools you want to use, you’ll figure that out once you’ve actually started.
The most important thing is that you actually start.
If after all of this you don’t agree with me, that’s fine. Simply write it all down and publish it to your blog. Then write some more, and some more, and maybe send me a link.
However, I’ve now managed to automate the publishing part of my writing process. Which I’ve been using for every blog post since, not just my daily journal.
I started off with Federico Viticci’s Publish to WordPress shortcut1, which he posted on his incredible Behind the Tablet article. But I had to make a few changes to make it work with the way I’ve configured my blog.
Here’s Federico’s description of his shortcut:
Publish a Markdown post to WordPress via the Shortcuts action extension. The shortcut can extract the h1 Markdown header from a post and use it as title. Optionally, you can publish both standard and “linked list” post types by adding a custom field supported by your WordPress installation.
The changes I made were:
Changing the Format parameter of the ‘Post to WordPress’ action to Ask When Run. This way I can alter between standard and link type posts. The shortcut already handled linked posts so it could extract a URL and add that as a custom field on a post. But my theme styles linked posts slightly differently, and it depends on the post format to do that.
I also changed the Publish Date parameter to Ask When Run as sometimes I like to schedule posts. Or if I’m publishing my journal, and I’ve slightly run into the next day, I like to make sure it’s published on the correct date.
One section I removed was the file saving, as I don’t particularly need another copy of the final results. I like to think of my blog as the place for canonical copies.
The last action was to open MacStories in the browser, so of course, I changed that to the url of this blog. So I can quickly check out the live version.
In essence, it’s a relatively simple shortcut, in that it takes text and publishes it here on my blog. However it takes care of so much of the annoying parts of the publishing process, such as setting the categories, tags, post types, extracting links for sources, and still more. I guess that’s the perfect case for automation.
One last thing I have to call out, is the natural language parsing when entering a publish date for a post. When using the web interface for WordPress, I found it really irritating to use the date/time picker. But now I can write something like “tomorrow at noon” or “yesterday at 23:00”, and it just understands it perfectly.
I’m not sure if this will directly benefit anyone, but I hope it at least shows some benefits of using automation when publishing to a blog. And also, that it’s very beneficial to keep checking out the many Shortcuts that people like Federico are sharing.
I spent a few days over the past week working on a little project that’s been bouncing around in my head lately. I’ve wanted something like this to exist for years and with the skills I’ve obtained from Treehouse over the past several months, I thought it was finally time to build it myself. Today, I’d like to announce #OpenWeb.
The site aggregates headlines from independent publishers that focus on Apple products and software. It also serves as a directory of single-person weblogs within our community. Over the past few years, social networks have become less and less exciting to use and there have been some subtle indications that the open web is poised for a comeback. With Micro.blog, JSON Feed, the meteoric rise in podcasting, and the frustration that many of us have had with Twitter and Facebook — I think weblogs could be the next big thing.
The idea of a place to discover new bloggers, and to help push more independent writers (like myself), has always been something I’d liked to have.
There are 16 sources currently being fed into #OpenWeb, and I’m sure this will grow and be refined over time. But along with the combined feed of posts from these blogs, you can also find an .OPML file, which will allow you to add all of them to your RSS reader of your choice.
Obviously, I’m massively grateful that I was included as one of the sources! I’ll have to pay that back by trying to write better, and more often.
We have something really big to announce today. Micro.blog now supports hosting short-form podcasts, also known as microcasts, with a companion iPhone app called Wavelength for recording, editing, and publishing episodes.
What a great idea!
The service is slowly growing in “clients”, with the official apps, Micro.blog, Sunlit, and now Wavelength, supporting three slightly different types of content. The Micro.blog app is it’s purest form, Sunlit is focussed on photo’s, and telling a story, while Wavelength is introducing audio to the mix.
I know I’m building a basic client for Micro.blog, but this may inspire other developers to try out new ideas with Micro.blog.
I’m a big fan of Manton’s Timetable, and the Micro Monday microcast, so it will be very interesting to hear what others come up with. I’m partially interested in making one myself!