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Barriers To Blogging - #4 - Getting The Tools Out Of The Way

AddnewpostAre the tools you use one of the barriers to your blogging? Is it easy for you to jump in and write a post? Or does the system you use make it complex or slow?

In a response to my last post in this series over on Google+, Jeff Porter left this comment:

I don’t wish pre-empt your next post, but the biggest barrier for me is the blogging system itself, in my case WordPress. Combine with writing (and coding) the perfect post, and that pretty much explains why my blog can sit idle for a month or more.

Seriously considering switching to a simpler system that allows me to save Markdown files in Dropbox and auto-publish from there.

To be honest, I was not originally going to include this topic in my list of barriers to blogging, because for me I've pretty much solved this. I have a fast system... at least on my laptop and desktop - blogging on my mobile devices is a different matter.

But Jeff's comment was a good reminder that this IS a big barrier for many people, and still is for me on the mobile platform.  

As I noted in my post about writing the perfect blog post, if you want to have all the various elements in a post such as images or links, you need a writing interface that makes all of this simple and easy.  Even for just blowing in text, you need an interface that makes it quick and easy to do.

Once I was helping with a site that had such a klunky interface that it did take seemingly forever to get to the point where you could write.  Once you finished an article or page the process of then publishing it was equally painful.

So much latency and inefficiency in the publishing process that, yes, it dramatically slowed down building out the site. 

I personally find the WordPress user interface fairly easy to use, but I do admit it has become increasingly laden with options as WordPress has evolved over time from a simple blogging platform into a full-blown content management system (CMS). This is perhaps the reason there was such a huge interest in the "concept" of a "lite version" of Wordpress called Ghost that would simplify WordPress and return it to its blogging routes.  Now who knows whether Ghost will actually be created, but there certainly is interest in the idea.

The point is, though, that the tools should just get out of the way and let you write.

My own solution for speed is to not use any of the web-based editors and instead use a dedicated, standalone blog editor on my laptop or desktop.  This allows me to have an app that I can just flip into and start writing.  Over time I have built up my own set of keystrokes, macros and other commands that speed up my writing.  I know by heart the keystroke to drop in a link, and to edit a link and to add various formatting I frequently use.  I can just drag and drop an image in and it works.  I can be writing several different posts in different windows.  I can have local drafts in progress.

The other great aspect for me is that I have one user interface across the different blogs I write on.  For instance, this Disruptive Conversations and my Disruptive Telephony sites are hosted on TypePad.  Voice of VOIPSA and my, as well as my books, are hosted on WordPress.  The Internet Society Deploy360 Programme's blog is on WordPress.  I have some older sites floating around on other platforms.

I don't have to care about their user interfaces - I just use my editor and write my posts.

Simple. Easy. Fast.

Most of the time... there is a caveat that I often need to write my post in the blog editor and send it to the blog site as a draft because I need to actually publish it using the web interface.  For instance, when the blog site auto-publishes the post to Twitter and Facebook, I want to be able to change the text of the tweet to include hashtags.  I need to do that through the WordPress UI.  So there is this extra step I need to go through.

For me on the Mac, the offline blog editor I choose to use is MarsEdit, and it rocks for a whole number of reasons I should probably write about in a post sometime.  Over on Windows, I used to use and love Windows Live Writer, and I still hear good things about it.  There are other good apps out there, too, but these are the ones I have used and can recommend.

Still, all of this may be too complex for some folks.  A developer friend of mine just posted that he is ending his use of WordPress and just writing his articles in text files with a light form of markup and publishing them via a git repository.  He'll lose out on many of the functions of WordPress like the social sharing, commenting, etc. ... but he just wants a simple system that lets him write.  John Porter in his Google+ comment mentioned looking at other simple systems as well.

I am still looking for the best solution for me on mobile platforms.  The WordPress app on the iPad/iPhone app is okay, but that only helps me for the WordPress sites. I've not been a fan of the TypePad app for iOS.  I've been experimenting with Blogsy on the iPad and that seems pretty decent.

The key for me is how to make it fast to write.  On the mobile side, I'm still looking.

You need to figure out what works for you.  How can you get the tools out of the way and get to a point where you can just write?

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