30th May 2019

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:

  • 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.

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. 
30th May 2019
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Ryan Christoffel, writing at MacStories:

Linky is a tiny utility for iOS that I love. The app serves as an easy way to share to Twitter or Mastodon from the iOS share extension, and I use it every day to tweet MacStories articles or new episodes of Adapt. Used from Safari, the Linky share extension can automatically populate a tweet compose field with information from the site you’re viewing, such as its title, URL, and featured images. Linky’s ease of use makes it my favorite way to share content via tweets.

Earlier this week, Linky was updated with two new enhancements to its text shot feature. For years now the app has enabled easy creation of text shots for sharing portions of an article, or personal thoughts that exceed Twitter’s character limit. That text shot feature is now better than ever though thanks to the addition of highlighting and visual customization options.

I’ve been looking for a good quality “text shot” app for a while, and I was even thinking about making my own one. However, I already use Linky for sharing links, so it’s great that it’s now incorporated this feature.

You can expect me to be sharing more text shots on Twitter from now on.

30th May 2019
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Sharon Bradford Franklin and Andi Wilson Thompson writing for Lawfare:

Last fall, Lawfare published a piece by Ian Levy and Crispin Robinson of GCHQ entitled Principles for a More Informed Exceptional Access Debate. Our organization, the Open Technology Institute, has worked alongside other people and organizations to coordinate a response from an international coalition of 47 signatories, including 23 civil society organizations that work to protect civil liberties, human rights and innovation online; seven tech companies and trade associations, including providers that offer leading encrypted messaging services; and 17 individual experts in digital security and policy. Our coalition letter outlines our concerns that the GCHQ proposal poses serious threats to cybersecurity and fundamental human rights including privacy and free expression. We shared our letter with GCHQ officials on May 22, and we are now releasing it to the public as an Open Letter to GCHQ.

In the open letter, which is notably backed by Apple, Microsoft, Google, WhatsApp, and others, explains how the “Ghost Protocol” would work, the consequences, and also the recommend to abandon the idea completely.

Lawfare and the letter explain the Ghost Protocol quite well, but in essence it means every message and conversation would also be sent to a hidden recipient. Similar to how BCC works with email.

It’s pretty serious stuff. And I sincerely hope it’s abandoned. However, institutions like GCHQ seem to always have another idea up their sleeves to try and bypass your personal privacy.

Here’s one section from the paper I found interesting about the risks it creates in regard to cybersecurity, and threats to human rights:

The GCHQ’s ghost proposal creates serious threats to digital security: if implemented, it will undermine the authentication process that enables users to verify that they are communicating with the right people, introduce potential unintentional vulnerabilities, and increase risks that communications systems could be abused or misused. These cybersecurity risks mean that users cannot trust that their communications are secure, as users would no longer be able to trust that they know who is on the other end of their communications, thereby posing threats to fundamental human rights, including privacy and free expression. Further, systems would be subject to new potential vulnerabilities and risks of abuse.

Read the Open Letter to GCHQ

28th May 2019

I was going to try and write a big long post about my wishes for iOS 13, but my list sadly never passed 6 items. So seeing as WWDC is just around the corner, I’ll publish what I’ve got.

Dark Mode

I’ve wanted this for quite some time, and it looks like we’re going to be getting it. So I think this is a near-guaranteed part of iOS 13.

Shortcuts API

I want apps to have a much deeper integration with Shortcuts. Mainly the ability to add native actions into the Shortcuts app. But also parameter support, so apps like my Text Case won’t need to interact solely with the clipboard.

Home Screen Widgets

We’ve been waiting for a refresh of the home screen for a while, and I think the ability to add “widgets” would be a good fit.

Picture-in-Picture on iPhone

This is a feature that I don’t hold much hope of being implemented. However, there are scenarios where I want to watch a video while quickly doing something else on my iPhone. So Picture-in-Picture would
Be very handy. Although sporadically used.

More Widgets on the iPad

I’m not sure why this ever changed. But on the iPad you used to be able to see two columns of widgets, and now it’s restricted to just one. I want the whole screen to be filled with them!

Do Not Disturb while Using a Device

One last annoyance that has turned into a feature request, a Do Not Disturb setting that still applies when you’re using the device. If I’m watching a video with my girlfriend during dinner, I really don’t need to see notifications. Especially as it usually pushes what we’re watching momentarily.

25th May 2019
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Raisa Bruner, writing for Time:

Hugh Grant is one of our most iconic rom-com leads, often playing a dashing — but hapless — British suitor.

In perennial favorite Love Actually, he achieved perhaps the pinnacle of the form, even going so far as to very winningly dance through the halls of his residence at 10 Downing Street (also known as the prime minister’s home) to the tune of the Pointer Sisters’ “Jump (For My Love).” The spring in his step is all due to love, of course.

But it turns out that the actor wasn’t actually very keen to get his groove on.

I certainly read some strange articles. But at leat for myself, this was pretty interesting. I’m not embarrassed at all to say that I’ve watched Love Actually quite a lot of times, and this dance is my favourite scene.

18th May 2019
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It’s time for another great and insightful post by Jeff Perry at Rocket Panda. He talks about how we tend to focus on so many things, that it’s very difficult to accomplish anything:

I have been thinking a lot about habits lately and I think that one of my biggest flaws, as many others also have, is that we suffer from 3 Stooges Syndrome.

One thing, I constantly deal with is new interests and goals I set for myself when I want to make a positive change in my life. The issue is when I have so many things that it all seems to be too much.

I would highly recommend reading the full post. It’s something I think affects a lot of us.

18th May 2019

World of Warcraft Classic now has a release date, and it has also entered into a beta testing phase. Which means some players are now getting the chance to either remember what World of Warcraft was in the early days, or in some cases I imagine they are seeing it for the first time, depending on when they started.

If you want to read more about WoW Classic, I would recommend checking out the website. But the short version, is that after 15 years, WoW has grown to be quite a different game than it once was. The sense of community has gradually disappeared, with more tools being added to the game, that simply add you to a random group to do a certain task, and then you leave. Before it was more organic. Another major difference is the difficulty, WoW was full of challenges, and although everything was a lot slower, you felt like you really earned any reward you got.

Just for the record, I’m going to play this game like mad.

So, while beta testing has been going on, there are clearly some people that either have clouded memories of the past, or just had completely different expectations. So much so, that Blizzard has had to write a post on the forums titled “WoW Classic “Not A Bug” List“. To inform beta testers that the bugs they are reporting, are actually art of the game. And most likely were there for some time.

They introduced the post in the most polite way I could think of:

As we’ve discussed before, the nature of WoW Classic sometimes invokes different memories for different players, and this leads to certain misconceptions for some about what is or isn’t working as intended.

I find it funny thinking about all of the reported bugs, and how many of these are actually features that people have forgotten about. It appears some people are going to have a bad time when they first play WoW Classic.

Read the full post on the WoW forums

 

17th May 2019

Since the start of this year, I’ve been writing a daily journal on a separate part of this blog.

After I started writing the entries, I realised I didn’t want the boring task of creating the file in a specific directory, and creating the same title/header over and over again. So I added a tiny bit of automation.

Things Task

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The first thing I did was to set up a task in Things, that repeated every day, simply to tell me to write my journal. After a while, I noticed that I would sometimes get very close to 12 before remembering about it. So I added a reminder for 11 pm, which gives me a bit of time to delay and still get it done in time.

Journal Template Shortcut

To take the hassle out of creating the initial file, I created a relatively small shortcut that creates the template and opens it in iA Writer.

I have a specific directory for my journal entries, and this keeps them all in one place.

It also uses the current date to create the filename and the heading for the post.

From there, it opens iA Writer, so I can jot down what I did in that day. And it’s ready to be published

You can download my “Journal Template” shortcut for reference.

Linking the Shortcut to the Things Task

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While Things is useful enough to help me remember I need to write my entry, and the shortcut helps to create the initial file, I also linked these together.

I did that by adding a custom URL into the body of the Things task, so whenever it notified me, I could tap on the task and then on the link. It would then launch the shortcut, and lets me immediately start writing.

It also allows me to not starting right away, as sometimes I’m not in the best place to do it, or I just want to put it off a bit longer.

The url is quite simple, and is in the following format:

shortcuts://run-shortcut?name={name}

{name} is the name of the Shortcut, but URL encoded. You may be able to work this out yourself, but my app Text Case can also do this for you.

More Automation

After I finish writing my journal entry for the day, I then publish it to my blog. I use the built-in “New Draft on WordPress” share extension, which then opens the draft in Safari where I can add the category, and publish.

It’s a reasonably quick task, but something else I plan on automating. So in the near future, I will be creating another shortcut, that can take the latest journal entry and publish it to my blog using the specific category and time I like.

16th May 2019
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Jordan Merrick shared some great tips on how you can manage Hashtags for Instagram:

My iPhone photography workflow includes sharing some of the photos I’ve taken to Instagram. I usually include relevant hashtags to increase discoverability and have a collection of frequently used hashtag sets—different hashtags for the same topic—that I can choose from. I also include a five-dot prefix (each dot on a separate line) to separate the photo’s caption text and hashtags. This is a commonly used method for hiding hashtags “below the fold” so they’re only visible when tapping the more button.

I’ve used specific groups of hashtags before on Instagram, and used a Shortcut to populate the clipboard with them, however these tips are much better than that.