Chris Hannah

Blogging


My Writing Cycle

I think a lot of internet writers go through a stage where they focus more on refining their workflow than they do than actually writing. What I've noticed is that for me, this can be represented as a sine wave. In that I go through phases of really wanting to nail a perfect workflow for every situation, then periods of time where I just don't care about how I write, I just get on with putting words somewhere and then publishing it to my blog.

Right now, I'm at a stage where I feel like I can write a blog post in any application that can handle plain text. In the past few weeks, that's mainly been Obsidian, but I've also used TextEdit recently, and even the Ghost web interface for my blog.

That may sound rather boastful, but I say that while thoughts about refining my workflow start to creep back into my head.

I already know now, that at some point in the very near future, I'm going to be spending more than necessary trying out new writing apps, working out more efficient ways to publish to my blog, and generally focussing on my writing process.

That's not necessarily a bad thing though. While it may seem like misplaced effort, a moment of introspection can be very valuable. Because it can make you think about not only the process of how you write, and how you publish, but also what you write about and who you're writing for.

The next stage I usually go through, after a short period of refinement, is that I usually write about what I've learned, and what my new writing workflows are. Essentially, I start to write about writing. At times that can be seen to be a tad too meta, but I've found that process useful to get myself back into the habit of writing regularly. Once you've built up that habit, you can start to relax back into the flow of writing more, and focus on the actual content. And with that, the cycle starts to repeat.

As you may expect, this will probably mean that I will no doubt be doing the above very soon. I'm sort of looking forward to it. Once I've improved my writing workflows, the tools I use, and also spend time deciding what I want to write about, I know I'll then be able to spend more time writing. Which hopefully means I can continue to improve.

Do Blog Posts Have an Expiry Date?

As someone that tends to both subscribe to a lot of websites via RSS, and likes to sometimes quote what I've read on my blog, I sometimes worry if that piece of writing is too old. If maybe the post has had it's time.

This is mainly caused by my regularly high unread count, meaning if I always read the newest posts first, it can potentially months before I get to read something. Once in a while, I go through the entire list and clean out some posts that I know I won't read, and try to make it more manageable. But regularly, I find myself a few months in the past, with something interesting that I've read. And then I'll want to use a portion of the writing as a quote, and offer my thoughts/perspective. Except, I'll notice how old the post is, and wonder if it's worth bringing up again, or if it's moment has passed. Which means I refrain from writing. And I just move on to the next unread item in my list.

Maybe this is odd, but this is something that I've thought about quite a lot. And I've come to two conclusions. The first one being, yes, of course, you're "allowed" to quote a piece of writing many months after it has been written. And the second being that, if after a few months a piece of writing becomes "out of date", meaning the contend is no longer valid, the situation has changed, or it was only ever relevant in that hyper-specific moment of time, then has anything been lost? Because if I feel like the content I'm quoting was only ever relevant at that point in time, then anything I would have added, would have also become irrelevant as well.

This realisation has stemmed from thinking about my own writing, and that I don't always want my writing to be about current affairs, or reactions to immediate events. Because if that's the case, in a years time, nothing on my blog would be worth reading. I want to have pieces of writing that can stand at least some length of time. So with that personal goal in mind, if it's relevant, then I think quoting another piece of writing from months (or maybe years) ago, should be perfectly fine.

Blogging Like It’s 2010

Matt Bircher has been taking time away from Twitter, and spending more time writing on his blog. I find his reasoning very convincing, and I think I will also try to share more things on my blog, rather than condensing thoughts into hot takes on Twitter.

Parts Unknown

Only a few years ago, after his passing, I was made aware of Anthony Bourdain. Ever since then, I’ve watched a lot of his television shows, and read quite a bit about him. I’m not sure I’m able to describe him in words, but one of my favourite aspects of him and his work was his focus on real people. Not large population statistics, or generalisations, but individuals.

And now, thanks to Nick Heer, I’m now aware that he used to have a blog on Tumblr. The first post I read, Parts Unknown, has to be one of my favourite blog posts I’ve read.

Here is the beginning of the piece:

Before I set out to travel this world, 12 years ago, I used to believe that the human race as a whole was basically a few steps above wolves.
That given the slightest change in circumstances, we would all, sooner or later, tear each other to shreds. That we were, at root, self-interested, cowardly, envious and potentially dangerous in groups. I have since come to believe – after many meals with many different people in many, many different places – that though there is no shortage of people who would do us harm, we are essentially good.

I think that quote gives you a glimpse into his feelings on people, but I’d still urge you to read the full piece.

I’ve since read more on his blog, and I’m constantly left amazed at his writing. Not only because of the stories he told, but also how he wrote, and the type of things that he wrote about. I wasn’t blogging much in the “good days” when things like Google Reader existed, and when RSS apparently wasn’t dead, but if people’s blogs were anything like his, then I can only imagine how much I missed out.

Safari to Link Post Shortcut

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.

Here’s a quick video of the shortcut in action:

Download the “Safari to Link Post” shortcut.

Finding the Right Place

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)?

Here's What's new in Ghost 4.0

In case you were wondering what was actually new in Ghost 4.0, Matt Birchler made a great video going over the major changes.

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.

WordPress Can Now Turn Blog Posts into Tweetstorms Automatically

Sarah Perez, writing for Tech Crunch:

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.

Focussing on the Wrong Things When Starting a Blog

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.

How I Automate Publishing Blog Posts

I wrote recently about how I’m automating my daily journal, and it mainly focussed around how I started the writing, as the publishing was quite a manual process.

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:

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.

Download Federico’s “Publish to WordPress” shortcut.

Download my modified “Publish to WordPress” shortcut.


  1. The shortcut also includes the Title Case action from my app, Text Case. Which I (with a massive bias) find very helpful.