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.
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.
Michael Rockwell, writer for Initial Charge, has come up with a fantastic new project, #OpenWeb:
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.
Check out #OpenWeb, and read Michael’s blog post introducing it.
Manton Reece on the latest addition to Micro.blog:
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!
Check out Micro.blog, the new Wavelength app, and also have a listen to Timetable, and Micro Monday.
Read the full announcement.