A Better Blogging Work Flow

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

For some time now, I have been working on making the blogging process more efficient and I am happy to say that my efforts have paid off handsomely. A few months ago, I realized that, despite having an unpredictable amount and quality of time for writing in the mornings, I wanted to use it more productively. I had good reason to think that this was possible, since I could sometimes spit out a blog post, from finding something to write about, all the way to the finished product, within thirty to forty-five minutes. Unfortunately, on many days, it took much longer, and this wasn't usually due to the baby not sleeping well or other external factors. Frequent crashes and freezes on Firefox, which I used to use to follow news and to write blog posts turned out to be fortuitous in that regard: These got me to look at every aspect of the blogging process with an eye towards improvement. I have found improvement in several key areas, and will show what these are by comparing how I used to blog to how I blog now.

Below is my old work flow:

  1. Find something to write about. Usually, any of a small handful of sites would quickly lead me to a few candidates that I could then read. Other sources of material included RSS feeds, email from readers, or daily life. Quite often, I'd wake with no idea as to what I would write about. On such mornings, between browser crashes and having to read and think, this step could easily take an hour or so. Finding a better browser helped some, but finding a way to better distribute reading time away from writing time and to "dead times" at other parts of the day helped much more. (I won't be blogging about how I do that: It's neat, but it's also proprietary.)
  2. Think about what I wanted to say. This was often the quickest step, since I react to almost every opinion I encounter. Still, if my reaction was complicated enough or would take a great deal of effort to state, this could lengthen the writing process, result in errors from being in a hurry, or cause me to have to choose between (a) changing to a topic easier to post about, or (b) saying much less than I wanted.
  3. Say it. In blogging, I pretty much do this at the same time as the previous step. However, the physical act of writing merits its own step since it involves using editing software, which I have already discussed at some length.
  4. Publish it. I long ago quit using the Blogger editor to compose posts, and use it only for publishing and minor updates.
As I hinted in a few places above, there was room for improvement. Here is what I do now, for a single post.
  • Find something to write about. This can be done any time I have a few minutes to spare to scan headlines in an HTML file I automatically generate from a few web sites I used to have to visit each morning. (Or, heaven forbid, try to use on a mobile phone.) At any given moment, I can scan all the headlines from the last 24 hours or from a smaller time window of my choice. (Again. Sorry: proprietary.) Sometimes I bookmark a link, and sometimes, I compose a blog post or part of one to edit later. At worst, I already have ideas for posts when I wake. Often, I am able to schedule posts to appear in advance from previous work, as I note below. I save writing time two ways here: First, I don't have to read as much during writing time. Second, I don't have to visit the aggregator sites using a browser at all, and I use either Pale Moon or a text-only browser (e.g., w3m) to dodge protracted page loading/rendering and crashes.
  • Think about what I want to say. Any time I read in advance, ideas can percolate in my mind, allowing me to have a better idea of where to go or a more economical way of getting there. At worst, I do what I used to do.
  • Say it. See previous item on reading in advance and post on Emacs linked above. Note that my previous work flow included using an editor that ran within Firefox. As with hunting for blog fodder, the browser is no longer a source of delay.
  • Publish it. Here, the Blogger suite actually shines. I often write two or more posts in one session and dump them into Blogger, which allows me to schedule their appearance on the blog. This means I can skip blogging entirely, sometimes for a couple of days in a row, and work on other projects. Of course, if I don't feel like blogging on a day a post is due, I usually can crank out a post and have time for something else. My improved efficiiency has also led to me building up a significant pile of "rainy day posts". My initial goal was to have ten ready for publication at any one time, but I believe I have somewhere between a dozen and fifteen. So it is that today, upon oversleeping by two and a half hours, I can still crank out an original post and schedule one for the next day, preserving that time for other things.
It had been quite frustrating for a long time to spit out a blog post one day, only to struggle to get something out the next -- on top of the general unpredicatbility that babies and young children bring to the wee hours. It has been equally rewarding to examine my blogging process for ways I could make it more efficient. That effort took away writing time at first, but it was clearly a very good investment. In fact, I think I have established a habit that will serve me well in many other ways, given that I have already used a few of my new "writing tricks" for entirely different things.

-- CAV


Scott Holleran said...

Good for you! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips. Keep at it.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Scott.

Scott Holleran said...

Likewise, Gus. Blogging is hard work. Your breakdown is a good guide.

Vigilis said...


re: "My old browser was Firefox, and when it started gumming up the works, a related process called something like "plugin-container" was usually the culprit. "I don't use plug-ins," was my thought upon seeing this information. (This turned out to be incorrect: I was actually using built-in plug-ins, most notably one for Flash content. More on this later.)"

This is exactly what has been confounding me for quite a while. Would be imterested to read your "More on that later", if it ever developed, and for your thoughts on why Firefox still tolerates its annoying Flash (plugin-container) temper tamper after so many equally annoying updates.

Gus Van Horn said...


I'm glad you find this useful. It hadn't occurred to me that the breakdown of the problem could be helpful to others, but now that you mention it, it makes perfect sense.


No thoughts on why Firefox tolerates the plugin-container, except that it seems typical of other cultural oddities on what is tolerable in software. (Don't get me started on the Microsoft Surface. I saw someone composing an email (I think) on one during a flight and was flabbergasted at the quarter of a screen he was using after two "ribbons" and insetting the composing window left him...)

As for the "more", Pale Moon also has Flash capability. I discovered that with Pale Moon (or Firefox), you can turn that off by default and really speed lots of things up. In Pale Moon, if I decide I want a video, I can grant that page a one-time permission to run Flash.