One of the biggest changes to my Internet use over the last year is that I no longer spend all day in the office sitting in front of a computer. It used to be that if something interesting caught my attention, I’d open it in a browser tab and in the next slow patch — perhaps over lunch, or during that long dark teatime of the soul that happens around 4:30pm when you’re watching the clock, or the far more pleasant beer-time of the soul that happens when you stay at the office after everyone’s gone and actually get some productive stuff done — somewhere in one of those times, if I felt the urge, I could easily whack out a blog post if I felt the urge.
These days, I mostly check Twitter on my phone, and just reading links that get posted there turns out to be a bit fraught, let alone actually doing anything with them. All too often, when I click on a Twitter link, I wind up on a page that’s been “helpfully” (please visualise my sarcastic airquotes) “optimised” for mobile users, which means I have to click through a suggestion that I install their special app (no thanks!) before winding up on a dumbed-down version of the site’s front page. Any link to the actual article I wanted to read in the first place is, of course, absent.
Assuming I can get to the article, what I can do with it is more limited, too. My Twitter client of choice includes a cut-down browser which is great for quickly checking out ephemeral links, but opening in “real” Safari requires a couple of clicks. (You can do it by default, but that is overkill for most links, so I choose not to.) Once in Safari… well, a mobile browser is no place to get real work done. Nevertheless, I spent a chunk of yesterday trying to bash my newly-mobile-centric Internet workflow into shape, and since I’m rather proud of it, I thought I’d post it here.
The key parts are:
- Pinboard — a bookmarking service which I started using as replacement for Delicious, and which has the feel that Delicious did back in the good old days, before anyone invented the term “folksonomy”.
- Instapaper — one of several “read later” apps (the main other contenders are Pocket and Readability); one of the features that endears it is that it integrates well with Pinboard and with other apps I use.
- WordPress — this blog runs on it, and I’ve got a bunch of handy plugins installed (and wow, sometime when I wasn’t looking, WordPress plugins got really useful).
- ifttt — “If this, then that”, a glue application that connects various online services based on triggers.
So, I’ve now set myself up with these three bookmarklets everywhere, including on my mobile devices:
- Pinboard bookmark
- Read later (Instapaper)
- Press This (i.e. Create a blog post here)
Read later with Instapaper
I use Instapaper for things I want to read later (obviously). I can add webpages to Instapaper via the bookmarklet, via the Instapaper link that’s native to my Twitter client, via the integration with Longreads (whose app I’ve recently installed), or, through the magic of ifttt, by bookmarking something on Pinboard and tagging it “instapaper”. (You’d think that Pinboard’s “read later” checkbox would do this, but it doesn’t; the Pinboard/Instapaper integration, from Pinboard’s point of view, consists only of automatically adding items from an Instapaper folder to your bookmarks. Anyone got any other insight on this?)
Instapaper, of course, has apps for my phone and tablet, as well as the website when I’m at my computer. I always have something interesting to read. The question is what I do with it after that.
Recommending interesting links
From my experiences over at GF I’ve found that most links I want to do something with come down to either “this is interesting, and I want to point it out to people” or “this is fascinating and/or enraging and I want to respond in detail”. So, I have workflows for both of those.
For the first category, I bookmark them on Pinboard and tag them “rec” (short for “recommended”). Through ifttt, these get posted immediately on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. But on WordPress, I’m using the Postalicious plugin, which supports Pinboard and lets you collate a number of links into one post. I post this under the user “autoposter” and in the category “Autoposted”, which makes it easy for people who don’t want to see them to skip them through clever RSS feed selection or whatever other filtering means appeal to them. (I use this myself later, as you’ll see.)
Writing about the really good stuff
For something that’s fascinating or enraging enough that it deserves its own blog post, I’ve got a “Press This” bookmarklet in all my browsers, including the mobile ones. While it doesn’t actually do much — just opens WordPress’s posting interface with a little bit of pre-filled text — the fact that it saves me several clicks and some copy-pasting (especially tedious on mobile) is enough, I hope, to get me at least starting a rough draft or placeholder for things I mean to write about.
Normally I’d write on my laptop, not on my mobile devices, because of the keyboard crappiness. I learnt to touch type for a reason, dammit! But I’ve got the iOS WordPress app installed (it’s really slick, by the way) and once I’ve saved a placeholder draft via Press This, I can open it in the app and write, if I am so inclined. (Whether I will or not remains to be seen, but I can see it being workable for short posts at least.)
The WordPress app is also great for comment moderation and other admin tasks, and since I really want to encourage commenting/discussion here going forward, this is going to be pretty handy for staying on top of things.
Pushing blog posts out
I’ve recently realised that I really ought to make a bit more of an effort with Facebook since most people outside the tech industry don’t use Twitter, but I don’t like it, and I certainly don’t want it to be a central point in my online life or the primary host for my updates/writing. So, my plan is to push out updates to Facebook when I post here on my blog, and I’ll also post links on Twitter and Tumblr at the same time. I do all this via ifttt. (I previously used Twitterfeed, but it’s far more limited, so I’ve shut that down and standardised on ifttt for now.)
ifttt supports triggers from WordPress (either wordpress.com, or self-hosted if you use version 3-point-mumble or above) and also from RSS feeds. However, the WordPress triggers are limited to “any new post” or “any new post with tag or category”. If you want more flexibility, WordPress’s wide selection of RSS feeds can be handy. For instance, I’m using my author RSS feed to catch everything that I personally write here and post it to various places. This skips things posted by “autoposter” which generally aren’t content original to this blog and which I don’t want to propagate from here (I’d rather propagate them from their original source). Of course, I could have done this using the “Everything Else” category, which currently includes all non-autoposted material; either would be fine, really, except that I can foresee myself messing with categories in future and breaking stuff by accident.
The other important bit of workflow’s going to be actually doing it. My schedule’s full of classes, lately, and they’re pretty mind-numbing. Apart from that, I spend a lot of time at gigs and in the studio. I’ve taken up bike commuting again, so I don’t have much time on public transport. None of this is particularly good for engaging with the Interwebs. I’m hoping, though, that all this stuff I’ve set up will help me snatch moments for it in between other things, rather than feeling that I can’t possibly do anything now I’m not sitting at a desk for eight or more hours a day.