My simple, minimalist blogging workflow
Two or three weeks ago, I got rid of my read-later app. I wrote about this decision and I can summarise it easily by saying that I wanted to switch from a read-later to a read-now system. More accurately, from a read-later-but-actually-never to a read-now-or-never system. I wanted to stop saving articles for later as an easy way to exempt myself from the guilt of not reading the article.
I’m not sure if this new system will work, but judging from the past couple of weeks, I don’t think I’ve read less content than I read before, quite the contrary even.
For starters, I’ve been pushing myself to read more about AI, and I find that keeping articles open in Safari is just as efficient as saving them for later; I may argue that it is even more efficient because that way they stay in sight and remind me to read them, whereas read-later apps tend to make things disappear in the background. Maybe I should try paper next time if this doesn’t work out.
But I still need to save articles for later. Not for actually reading them later, but to collect them, come back to them, to archive them, and to be able to quickly find them again if I need to link to them, review my thoughts, &c.
Basically, I need an app that is archiving the articles I already read and liked, along with notes and quotes from them. That is when I realised that the answer I was looking for was in the name of my new favourite writing app: The Archive.
All this time I struggled to find a suitable read-later app to do exactly what the app I already had is made for in the first place: archiving thoughts.
So, how does it work from identifying an interesting topic to publishing a post about it? (Add The Mandalorian soundtrack for maximum dramatic effect)
1. THE BOOKMARKLET
When an article grabs my attention, I use this bookmarklet in Safari. What it does is asking me if I want to add a comment on the current webpage, and then saves a text file formatted in Markdown that looks like this:
> Optional text selection
My optional comment or notes about the article.
The only little annoyance comes from Safari asking me on a per-site basis if I want to allow downloads.
2. THE FOLDER ACTION
Where it gets interesting is that thanks to the wonders of MacOS automation, any text file that is downloaded to my Downloads folder — like the ones generated by the bookmarklet — is moved automatically to the folder that The Archive is indexing. It means that these little text entry drafts are being added almost instantly to the library of my writing app of choice, which makes them very easy and quick to find later.
This automation was also useful when I was using Matter: I could download text files of the highlights and notes of my saved articles too. I can barely think of any other use case in which I would download text files from Safari.
3. THE WRITING
I’ve written extensively on the apps I recommend to write and edit text so I’m not gonna take long this time to tell you how a great app can put a smile on your face.
Today I use The Archive to write, and this is me smiling: fast, simple, does Markdown syntax highlighting, and fast. Did I say it’s fast?
The only thing missing is a native way to add links: no “add a link” menu item to be found. So I use Brett Terpstra’s fantastic Markdown service tool “Links - New Link”, and — once mapped to Command–Shift–K — it works very well, even if not as instant as I would like it to be.
4. THE PUBLISHING
Thanks to the magic of Blot, this step is easy. To publish a post that I finished writing in The Archive, I press Command–Shift–R to reveal the current file in the Finder, and then just drag it into my “Posts” folder, pinned on the sidebar. That’s it.
Maestral will then sync this folder to my Dropbox, and Blot publishes the post after a couple of seconds.
5. THE EDITING
Usually this is when I check my website and notice a few typos. To edit the post I just double-click on the file I just moved to my Dropbox folder and make the changes in the default app used to open .txt files — which in my case is either TextEdit, the excellent CotEditor, or uFocus — and then press Command–S to save.
The fact that all of this stays file-based and not rely on a specific app all along is pretty cool, and it is a much simpler setup than the one I had with the great app Drafts.
Please let me know about your workflow or if my bare-bones setup somehow inspired you to adopt this unintentional Zettelkasten method.