57 posts categorized "Writing"

New WordPress 4.1 Provides Much Improved Distraction-Free Writing Experience

WordPress version 4.1 is out today and the greatest feature I like is a new and MUCH improved "distraction-free writing" experience.

Wordpress4 1 dfw

The beautiful part about this is that when you click in the window and start typing, all the sidebars and menus fade way so that you can just focus on writing...


... the moment you move your mouse outside the writing window all the sidebars and menus come back!

This is a huge improvement over the previous experience with WordPress 4.0 where once you clicked the button you were in a white screen with no way out unless you scrolled up and clicked the link in the menu bar that appeared:

Wordpress4 0 dfw

I found the WordPress 4.0 way so annoying that I never used it. Inevitably after I entered the mode I needed to change categories or tags or something like that - and so it was simply easier to NOT use the distraction-free mode.

The WordPress development team produced a video that shows how well this new writing mode works.

I like it because it lets me write but also makes it super easy for me to get back to the menus and sidebars.

All you need to do to enable the "distraction-free writing" mode is to click on the box on the right top of the editing window:


It acts as a toggle to turn the "DFW" mode on or off.

Very nicely done!

There were of course many other aspects of the WordPress 4.1 release. The release post and the field notes as well as the codex entry go into much more detail. The Twenty Fifteen theme is pretty cool... and some of the other features are also interesting. But for me... I just like this new writing environment!

What do you think? What do you like best about WordPress 4.1?

An audio commentary is available as TDYR 200:

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Two Weeks In... How Is A Blog Post A Day Doing? #Finish2014Strong

So, two weeks after saying I would write at least one blog post a day (and talking about that) for all of December 2014, how am I doing?

Well... so far so good.

  • I posted at least once on the Deploy360 site every work day.
  • I did put something up on my personal sites every day so far.
  • I recorded a new "The Dan York Report" podcast on 10 of the 14 days.

I've had a serious cold/cough that made for really poor audio... so on some of the worst days I skipped it. I didn't think it made sense to record a poor-quality audio podcast just for the sake of saying I did it.

In fact, I'm honestly surprised how much I did write, given how foggy my head has felt and how most days it has seemed like I'm moving through molasses.

Now... the question will be whether I can continue this through the remaining days that include holidays and vacation time!

Here's the list of the month so far:

Monday, December 1

Deploy360 Programme:

Personal Sites:

The Dan York Report audio podcast:


Tuesday, December 2

Deploy360 Programme:

Personal Sites:

The Dan York Report audio podcast:

Wednesday, December 3

Deploy360 Programme:

Personal Sites:

The Dan York Report audio podcast:

Thursday, December 4

Deploy360 Programme:

DNSSEC Deployment Initiative:

Personal Sites:

The Dan York Report audio podcast:

Friday, December 5

Deploy360 Programme:

Personal Sites:

The Dan York Report audio podcast:

  • (no podcast - too sick)

Saturday, December 6

Deploy360 Programme:

  • (no post)

Personal Sites:

The Dan York Report audio podcast:

Sunday, December 7

Deploy360 Programme:

  • (no post)

Personal Sites:

The Dan York Report audio podcast:

  • (no podcast - too sick)

Monday, December 8

Deploy360 Programme:

Personal Sites:

The Dan York Report audio podcast:


Tuesday, December 9

Deploy360 Programme:

Personal Sites:

The Dan York Report audio podcast:

Wednesday, December 10

Deploy360 Programme:

Personal Sites:

The Dan York Report audio podcast:

  • (no podcast - too sick)

Thursday, December 11

Deploy360 Programme:

Personal Sites:

The Dan York Report audio podcast:

Friday, December 12

Deploy360 Programme:

Personal Sites:

The Dan York Report audio podcast:

  • (no podcast)

Saturday, December 13

Deploy360 Programme:

  • (no post)

Personal Sites:

The Dan York Report audio podcast:

Sunday, December 14

Deploy360 Programme:

  • (no post)

Personal Sites:

The Dan York Report audio podcast:

Now we'll see what the rest of the month brings...

An audio version of this post is available:

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A Blog Post A Day For December 2014 - #Finish2014Strong

Over the weekend I decided that I'd set myself the personal challenge of "finishing strong" in 2014 with publishing at least one post across my various different sites for each day of December 2014.


Well... I started out strong at the beginning of 2014 publishing content very frequently. In fact, I published a post a day on the Deploy360 site for the entire first quarter, mostly just again as a personal challenge. But then as the year went on I haven't been been as consistent.

In running, we talk about "finishing strong"... about trying to keep a little bit of energy in reserve so that you can have a final boost of effort as you get close to the finish line.

With that idea, I'm setting my own personal goal to finish 2014 in a strong way from a content creation / publishing point of view.

My idea is that I'll publish at least one post every day of December, including weekends - and I'll also tag it at least on Twitter with the hashtag #Finish2014Strong. There are others using that hashtag, too, and for similar reasons and ideas, it seems.

I'm writing about this publicly, of course, because if I put it out there in front of all of you reading this... well... I kind of need to follow through on it, eh?

Any of you are welcome to join me! Let's finish 2014 strong from a writing point of view!

TWO Posts A Day, Really

In truth, my goal will really be TWO posts a day. One will be on the Internet Society Deploy360 blog where I am, in fact, employed to be writing every day:

The other post each day will be on at least one of my various different personal sites, including:

  • Disruptive Conversations - how the "social media" of blogs, podcasts, wikis, virtual worlds, etc. are changing the way we communicate
  • Disruptive Telephony - how Voice-over-IP (VoIP) is fundamentally changing the technology we use to communicate
  • CircleID - a site focused on Internet infrastructure where I occasionally contribute articles
  • Code.Danyork.com - a place where I write about programming/developer topics, typically outside the realm of communications/telephony.
  • Voice of VOIPSA - a group weblog from the Voice Over IP Security Alliance on voip security issues
  • Monadnock Curling Club - a site focused on bringing the sport of curling to southwestern New Hampshire
  • DanYork.com - my "personal" site where I write about topics that don't fit in my other sites.
  • Migrating Applications to IPv6, a book published by O'Reilly in June 2011
  • Seven Deadliest Unified Communications Attacks, a book on VoIP security published by Syngress in April 2010

A large part of why I'm doing this is that I haven't been writing very consistently on my personal sites... and I'd like to change that. This is just a personal challenge to see if I can do this.

Quality versus Quantity

A reaction I've heard to this idea is that the quantity doesn't matter if what you do is simply push out a bunch of rather lame half-baked posts. You know the type... a post with one or two sentences that effectively says "Hey, look at this cool new thing..." and then points to another site or article. Or a post that effectively "excerpts" almost an entire other article.

That is very much a challenge with any of these kind of "blog post a day" kind of things... and my goal is definitely NOT to do that.

I want both quality AND quantity!

And the reality is that I have a looooonnnngggg queue of articles I'd like to write - and I need to clean out that queue! In particular, I have a number of more thoughtful/inspirational pieces I'd like to write, probably for my little-used danyork.com site.

The good news is that with the publishing systems I use I can schedule posts out in advance. I don't need to be writing posts each day. For example, there's Christmas in there... and some weekends where I've got some family activities planned. There may be a couple of nights where I spend a few hours getting a number of posts queued up.

The point of the "1 post a day" idea is not so much to guarantee quantity as to motivate myself to get out there and write!

When January 1, 2015, comes around you'll have to let me know how I do. :-)

Plus An Audio Podcast...

And just to keep life interesting, I'm also going to try to record one of my "The Dan York Report" (TDYR) audio podcasts up on SoundCloud each day. Again, I started the year doing one of these a day... and then slacked off a good bit over the past few months. It is so incredibly easy to record these audio segments... I just need to do it!

(And I recorded one for today already.)

DanYork.me - Tracking The Content I Create

I - and you all - will be able to see what content I create this month at my site where I aggregate all the content I write across various sites:

I use a WordPress plugin to pull in the RSS feeds of all the various places I write and display pointers to them on that site. It's a handy way for me to keep track of what I've written and where. A quick scan down can show what I've done.

Join Me?

Do you, too, want to "finish 2014 strong" from a writing point of view? Do you need some extra motivation to pick up the electronic pen and create some more content?

Please do!

This is just my own personal challenge to myself... written publicly... but I welcome any others who want to #Finish2014Strong - having others out there doing the same thing can be an added inspiration for those times when it would be so much easier to do something else rather than write! :-)

Let's see how this goes!

P.S. On day 1 I'm off to a great start with so far these 5 posts plus the audio podcast:

... let's see how the next 30 days go! :-)

An audio version of this post is available:

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Every Minute You Spend Consuming Content Is A Minute You Are Not Creating Content

WatchThink about it... right now, while you are reading this, you could be writing an article for your blog or website. You could be recording a video for YouTube or an audio segment for SoundCloud. You could be working on a new application if you are a developer. You could be writing a guest blog post to appear on some site somewhere. You could be writing up future posts so that they will appear at some later date and keep new content appearing on your site.

Or you could be reading this article... or liking posts on Facebook... or interacting with people on Twitter or Google+... or watching the latest video on YouTube that-you-absolutely-MUST-see-because-it's-so-amazing... or watching that series everyone is talking about on Netflix or commercial TV...

In every moment, you have a choice:

Every minute you spend consuming content is a minute you are not creating content.

Do you read this article? Or do you create a new article that feeds your sites and social networks?

Do you spend time interacting with content other people create on social networks? Or do you create new content that you share out onto social networks?

Obviously, the key is... balance.

We all like - and need - to consume content. We learn by reading, hearing and viewing the articles, podcasts and videos that are out there. We are inspired and amused and delighted and saddened and angered... and every other emotion. We deepen our friendships (and meet new people) by interacting with content created by others.

In fact, sometimes we may need to consume content, in order to create new content of our own. We may need to read articles to research a topic we want to write about - or we may want to read other points of view to bring depth to our own article. Or our own new content may be a "curation" of other content with perhaps added commentary for context - and so we need to be a consumer of content in order to create the new content.

Consuming content may in fact be an important part of the creative process.

BUT... if consuming is all we do... then we are not adding to our own online presence. We are not building our own online reputation through the material we create. We are not providing our own content that others can share. We are not out there telling our own stories and sharing our own information. We are not helping people learn and grow from our experience and knowledge.

Are you just a consumer? Or are you a creator?

Consume? Create?

In every moment, you have a choice... choose wisely.

P.S. A month or so ago, I recorded an audio commentary on a similar topic that you may also enjoy:

UPDATE: After a comment by Alan Percy on Facebook related to this post, I added the paragraph "In fact, sometimes..." and the following one-line paragraph to clarify that consumption may very well be part of the creative process... but again, it is finding the balance.

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Can A Blog Post Be A "Work In Progress"?

Are we stuck with the mental model of blog posts as pieces of content that are just published and then not touched again?

Or can we treat a blog post as a "work in progress" that will continue to evolve and expand over time?

I have been asking myself this question in relation to my quest to tear down some of my own barriers to doing more blogging. The model that we have had since the early days of blogging has been one more similar to traditional news media - you write an article, you publish it, you move on to your next article.

You "fire and forget."

Sure, you might go back and update the article if something was wrong or if later information changed the story a bit, but even in the latter case it is often more common to write a new story with the updated facts and then link to the new story from the old one.

But what if we just posted a blog post as a first draft knowing that it would change and evolve over time?

Almost something more like a wiki. ... perhaps a "blicki" :-)

Where you post knowing full well that you will be editing... and then you do so.

Interestingly, I have been seeing news sites doing this. In the rush to be the first one out with a story to get the tweets and retweets and links, they will publish a stub story with "more details to come" - and then they will in those details in the subsequent minutes and hours.

Can we do that as individual writers though? Can we give ourselves permission to post a partially done piece? And can we have the discipline to go back and update it?

An Implied Contract?

To expand on this a bit (and practice this kind of editing myself), I wonder:

Do we have an implied "contract" with our readers?

Do they expect that the content will not change from when they first read it?  Or at least not change dramatically?

Many of us, myself included, seem to feel there is this implied contract and so when we do go back and update a post, we'll often put those updates at the top or bottom of the article with some kind of marker like "UPDATE:" to clearly show what was been updated.  Or we will use strikethrough to indicate that text is removed.

But what if we just wove all the updates in together to make a cohesive article?

Would readers find that troublesome?

What if the initial content is only a few paragraphs... and then over time it evolves into a lengthy document going on for several pages?

What about the "integrity" of a piece?  If someone else quotes an article or references an article as containing a specific quote or bit of information... but then the article gets modified so that that quote or content is no longer there... what does that mean for the original reference?

For these reasons we tend to think of writing that gets posted online as "fixed"...  but what if we move away from that and let posts evolve over time?

What About The Aggregators?

In the comments to this post, Michael Richardson asks "what will my aggregator think?" And indeed that is a good question. Many people read blog posts in aggregators / news readers / other clients that often pull copies of the articles down onto the local system for the user to read. However, once the article is retrieved, the aggregator may or may not go back and retrieve the article again. And so the user may be sitting there reading an article that is now outdated.

Even with my own aggregation site, danyork.me, where I aggregate pointers to all of my writing, I have it set to pull in the RSS feeds from all my sites and store the contents in that WordPress site. (The site is not indexed by search engines to avoid "duplicate content" issues.) Now, in the particular syndication plugin I use, I have set it to merge in and overwrite any changes that come in from the RSS feeds. So as I update this post, the changes should be reflected over on that site. But I don't believe that was the default setting. I think the default was to ignore any changes in the RSS feeds... so the aggregation site would be out-of-sync with the real content.

For all these reasons, it's not clear to me that we should move away from the way we work today. But could we?

I don't know... it's a shift in thinking.

What do you think?

P.S. You may also be interested in reading "Subcompact Publishing" by Craig Mod. It's a long piece that is exploring a different question, that of our mental model of a "magazine" online, but a similar kind of thought experiment...

The Problem Of Trying Blogging From An iPad Using TypePad

Yesterday's blog post epitomizes one of the problems I have with creating blog posts on a tablet that work with TypePad, the service with which I started hosting this site way back in 2005.

All I wanted to do is have an image that was right-justified with the text wrapping around it. Instead I got this:

Rightjustified not

(Which has now been changed to be correctly right-justified, but through the regular desktop web interface, not to the mobile interface.)

In order to write more regularly, I've been trying out using the iPad as a writing platform. It's been working well for sites hosted on WordPress, but not so well for TypePad.

Because the TypePad app is fairly useless on the iPad, I wrote the post using Blogsy, a fairly interesting and useful blogging app for the iPad. However, try as I might, I could not get Blogsy to right-justify and wrap the image. The issue seems to be that Blogsy would only send to TypePad the <img> tag with this attribute:


Now this might be fine if the CSS for my theme on TypePad defined a class like that, but it doesn't. I tried multiple times to edit the raw HTML in Blogsy to add the simple inline CSS to the IMG tag of:


However, Blogsy kept removing that style attribute when sending it to TypePad. Now, maybe there is some setting in Blogsy that I couldn't find that would pass along CSS attributes... but if so, I have no idea what it is.

Trying other apps to correct the problem... as I mentioned, the TypePad app is fairly useless on the iPad. It is only an iPhone application and so while you can blow it up to take over the whole iPad screen, it is still an iPhone app and doesn't make use of the iPad's screen nor of its improved keyboard. More importantly, it only lets you create new posts - there is no way to edit or modify existing posts... so there was no way to get in and modify the post to add this style attribute to the image.

Next, I tried the "mobile" website for TypePad, but it doesn't seem to work so well on the iPad. I tried to get in and modify the post above and wasn't able to easily do so.

Finally I tried logging directly into the "regular" TypePad website on the iPad. It looked like it might work as I could get into the HTML view (which was the only view, actually) and add the style attribute. But when I went to try to publish the updated post, the Publish button didn't work.

In the end, I had to go to my desktop system and login to the regular TypePad web interface to make this change.

This is a perfect example of what I referred to in my "Barriers to Blogging" series as "Getting The Tools Out Of The Way". A whole chunk time spent... simply to get an image to be right-justified. :-(

Now to get the tools out of the way in this case, I may again search for a better blog post editor on the iPad. Another option, of course, would be to move this blog off of TypePad and over to one of my WordPress servers (where the tools work better)... but that's a much longer process. Still, it is another answer.

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

My Report Into FIR #678 - Facebook Mobile Sharing, Barriers To Blogging, and Social Media with Israel/Hamas

In this week's For Immediate Release episode #678 on Monday, November 19, 2012, my report covered:

If you are a FIR subscriber, you should have the show now in iTunes or whatever you use to get the feed. If you aren't a subscriber, you can simply listen to the episode online now. There is a TON of other great information in the weekly episode relevant to those involved with PR, marketing and other forms of communication, so I'd encourage you to give it a listen.

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Embracing Simplicity In Blogging

What if a blog post is simply text? No fancy images. No links to additional articles... except maybe one or two that might provide the immediate context (and perhaps not). Can I truly write that way?

As I wrote about last week, one of the steps I will be trying this next while will be to do exactly that - write posts like this one that are just... simple. Perhaps even... (gasp!).... brief!

In this case, I am using the Blogsy editor on my iPad. For tonight, I am not going to go out and find just the perfect image that illustrates simplicity. I will leave it as a block of text.

Can I eliminate all the trappings of what I consider to be "what should be done" in a blog post? Can I instead embrace the simplicity and just let my words flow?

Stay tuned... this will be an ongoing test... :-)

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 Code.Danyork.com, 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?

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

Barriers To Blogging - #3 - The Tyranny of the Empty Page

empty pageCertainly one of the barriers to blogging is simply this:
You have to START writing an article/post.

You can have ideas floating around endlessly inside your head. You can talk about ideas with people. Write the ideas down on scraps of paper, or in a Moleskine-type notebook, or in an online tool like Evernote. You can collect all the ideas you want.

But until you start the article, those ideas are simply that. Ideas. Fragments. Unformed. Incomplete.

It is that act of beginning that can be the hardest.

Writing the first sentence. Starting the process of taking those half-baked ideas and forging out of them a whole. Taking the fragments and figuring out which fit together well, which need to be simply discarded and which should be put aside for another day.

But it starts with a sentence. With a word, really.

Turning a blank window into one with content.

Even perhaps before that with an action. Opening up your blog editor (my weapon of choice, MarsEdit, is pictured on the right) or logging into WordPress and clicking "New Post". Or opening up your mobile app... or website admin panel... or whatever tool or window you use to actually write your posts.

Starting the process of creating a post.

And then from there... committing yourself by entering the first words.

Most of the time once I have the window open this is easy for me. Sometimes it is in fact trivial. Text springs from my brain, sometimes even fully-formed and my hands become almost as a channel for flowing in the words and thoughts that are exploding out of my brain.

Other times it is not so easy. I struggle with how to begin the post... or sometimes I'm already thinking - and struggling with - how to end the post. Sometimes a story arc is immediately clear to me and the post almost writes itself. Sometimes no narrative arc is clear... and very often posts do evolve on their own even as I write them.

And sometimes... sometimes... that blank window stares back at me... mocking my inability at that moment to turn ideas into prose... taunting me with its emptiness. Perhaps I'll have a title... but what comes next isn't clear.

That's rare for me, but it does happen. Usually I put the idea aside for a while... or alternatively, and this may sound bizarre, I crank some heavy metal/hard rock music and let my brain wander for a bit.[1]

The key is simply to... start.

Start somewhere... anywhere... write sentences... write paragraphs... you can always edit away later.

But you need to... start!

[1] Bizarrely, but perhaps it hearkens back to my growing up in the 70s and 80s, I've found that the Scorpions do wonders to help me move through writer's block. :-)

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