Categories
Writing

Permission to Write Stuff

Brendan Dawes:

I would say treat the web like that big red button of the original Flip camera. Just push it, write something and then publish it. It may not be perfect, but nothing ever is anyway. I write all sorts of crap on my blog — some of it really niche like snippets for Vim. Yet it’s out there just in case someone finds it useful at some point — not least me when I forget how I’ve done something.

Fantastic advice.

(via Andy Bell)

Categories
Writing

Some Unsolicited Newsletter Advice

Robin Rendle:

It was a conversation between like minded friends and so the tone of each email was deliriously excited and informal. This is what I think newsletters crave to be.

Sure, this applies to newsletters, but this is just great general writing advice. My worst writing is always the product of over thinking and forgetting about you, the person reading this. I try to write the way I talk, and that just happens naturally when I write to my friend instead of writing to an “audience” (gross).

Categories
Writing

Some Unsolicited Blogging Advice

Uncle Dave:

If you read something and feel like offering more thoughts, write and add hyperlinks.

Yes! If it’s anyone whose advice you take, it should be Dave Rupert’s. His post is the epitome of what makes blogging wonderful. The whole thing is what, nine sentences? And that’s just fine because it doesn’t need to be any longer but still packs a punch.

Categories
Writing

This Tumblr Story Proves You Should Own Your Content

Last Friday, Jared Sinclair realized Tumblr had terminated his account (and therefore deleted his blog) without any notice:

…rather than wait for a response that might never come, I decided it was past time to bring my blogging setup in line with the rest of my backup paranoia.

I decided to move everything over to Jekyll, backed by a comprehensive GitHub repository.

What a sucky situation to be in, and unfortunately for Tumblr that means yet another person leaving its platform. Jared continues:

I hope Tumblr understands that I simply cannot trust them anymore. I’m grateful that they responded to my contact request and that my account has been reopened, but it’s unacceptable that a years-old account still in good standing can be terminated without any advance warning or preventative recourse.

Unfortunately this has become the norm for free platforms. Your content doesn’t matter to them, so as I’ve said many times, it’s best to own your content. Obviously, that still means you’re putting it somewhere and trusting someone, whether it’s GitHub, your preferred web host, or something like Micro.blog. One thing is for sure, that trust is misplaced with free services.

Categories
Writing

Always Own Your Platform

They control what gets amplified and what gets monetized. A few conference rooms in Silicon Valley dictate our online culture.

Hot damn. This whole page is 🔥!

Categories
Writing

Quick Capture with Ulysses on iOS

Matthew Cassinelli on The Sweet Setup:

Thanks to Apple’s Shortcuts app, you can streamline and automate just about any aspect of your Quick Capture process, allowing you to grab richer information from an app you’re sharing from, format it exactly how you want it to end up in Ulysses, and define places where you send the text deep into your groups.

I’ve been looking for a better way to capture ideas from my phone and then actually write about them. If you’re feeling similarly, this might help you.

Categories
Writing

It's Time for the Blogroll to Make a Comeback

I find myself reading more and more personal blogs these days. While many ditched their RSS reader years ago, I’ve always had my list of subscriptions. Some of my favorite people stopped writing over the years, but more are writing on their blogs again as we’ve come to understand the cost of a centralized web.

Unfortunately, I feel as if there’s isn’t a good way of finding this content. Remember the blogroll? Maybe it’s time we bring that back. I’ll be adding mine to the footer of this site soon. Kyle Dreger has one on his blog, which helped me find a few new writers that I’ve come to love. These types of personal recommendations are much better than any algorithm.

I’ve also created a GitHub repo. If you write a personal blog, please add your info to the list. If you don’t know how to use GitHub, no problem! Send me an email with your info, and I’ll add it for you. I’m hoping we can build a diverse list of people writing about a whole range of different topics.

The reality is that no one wants to write in a void (which is what made platforms like Medium so appealing), but with small measures like this, we can start exposing more people to the excellent content out there.

Categories
Writing

Grammarly

Grammarly for macOS© Timothy B. Smith

Kelly and I got Hulu in November when they had their 99¢/month promotion. 99¢ is a killer price, but that price tier comes with ads (of course). As I binge-watched Brooklyn Nine-Nine—and was rudely interrupted with an ad—I came across an app I’d heard of many times: Grammarly.

Hot damn Hulu! One of your ads converted me!

So here I am, writing this into Grammarly as it wonderfully checks every word. I’m excited. I’ve considered hiring an editor many times for Brightly Colored but it, unfortunately, doesn’t align with how fast I tend to publish articles.

If you’re getting wordy, Grammarly is quick to suggest a more concise way to get your idea across

Grammarly helps me just… write. I have a bad habit of editing myself as I write, which frequently blocks me from expressing what I feel. Grammarly does a lot of the editing work for me, so I don’t have to. My only job is to write in the moment, then edit all those thoughts later.

Grammarly checks to see if you’re using the same word too often and suggests a suitable synonym

Grammarly also helps me if I’m using a word too much. I know this to be an issue of mine; reusing the same adjectives over and over. Before, if I noticed I was using the same word, I’d look the word up in a thesaurus to find a suitable synonym. However, that only works some of the time since I only do it when I notice. Computers are much more reliable for this type of task.

The app’s UI for suggesting alternate words is excellent. It’ll show you the word you used, a suggestion for another term that may be better, and then an example of how more descriptive words can add meaning and flavor to a sentence.

Grammarly’s statistics are another fantastic feature. It’ll give you statistics you’ve come to take for granted like word and character count, but it also shows you the average length of words used, sentence length, and even a readability score. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t give you any suggestions on how you could improve that score, which I think would be great.

Grammarly offers helpful insights like sentence length, word count, and a readability score

Getting content in and out is easy too. You can either write in Grammarly or write in your app of choice, then import or paste your text into the app. Once your content is checked, you can have Grammarly export a .txt file, print your document or copy everything to your clipboard.

As I said before, I wrote this article in Grammarly, but I usually write in iA Writer. Once I’ve got a solid draft, I copy the text and paste it into Grammarly.

Instead of using the same old words, Grammarly can suggest more detailed terms

So far the app hasn’t made a big deal about any of my formatting. I write in Markdown with some HTML interspersed in there too. Thankfully, Grammarly plays nice with that and instead focuses on the actual content.

It’s important to note that this app can’t replace an actual human. I’m almost embarrassed to write that because it should be obvious. But Grammarly does about 90 percent of what I’m looking for, and that’s significant. It does so much more than check grammar and spelling; it helps me punctuate sentences accurately, helps me be more concise, and even use more descriptive words.

In the small amount of time I’ve been using Grammarly, I already feel my writing has improved. I definitely recommend it.

Categories
Writing

How to Write a Blog Post

Michael Lopp:

Randomly think of a thing. Let it bump around your head a bit. If the bumping gets too loud, start writing the words with the nearest writing device. See how far you get.

When you are close to done, print it out on paper. Sit somewhere else with your favorite pen and edit your work harshly. If this piece is important, let someone else edit harshly.

I liked this. When I was in school, I’d often print out essays and edit them. For the first time in a long time, I did just that.

Editing my upcoming review of Things 3
Editing my upcoming review of Things 3

The technique is supposed to put you in a different space. It allows you to separate yourself from the work and critique it as if it were someone else’s. Try it. My soon to be published review is better because of it.

Categories
Writing

How to Read the Internet

Robin Rendle:

Folks now seem to recognize the value of having your own little plot of land on the web and, although it’s still pretty complex to make your own website and control all that content, it’s worth it in the long run. No one can run ads against your thing. No one can mess with the styles. No one can censor or sunset your writing.

Not only that but when you finish making your website you will have gained superpowers: you now have an independent voice, a URL, and a home on the open web.

Robin here writes an ode to RSS—an under appreciated technology in my opinion. I’ve long believed in writing on your own website. I’ve written this blog since 2013. Before that I wrote on my personal site. These days, I’m also paying more attention to how I consume content.

We’ve seen how social media algorithmically suggests content, and how damaging that can be. I for one am done with allowing a bot to tell me what I should read or what I need to be interested in.

As Robin remarks, it would seem that the blog is coming back this year, and just in my personal experience, I’ve seen many write for the first time in a while. I hope more people understand how toxic social media has become and start writing on their own sites.

Writing on your site obligates you stop and think about what the hell you’re writing before actually publishing. And then there’s the thread trend that’s become extremely popular on Twitter where people write full blog posts in tweet form—an absolute absurdity to read.

Sadly, some of these threads are well written and important, but they’re quickly forgotten due to Twitter’s inherent focus on the disposable. Where on a blog, writers often carefully curate the content they publish, social media is riddled with a confusing cocktail of thoughtful posts and the mundane.

I sincerely hope 2018 will be the year of the blog. The year those of us who love the web will decide to own our content and control the way we consume it. In return, not only will we have refined our “independent voice” and cemented our home on the web, we might even recover our sanity.