I’ve seen a bit of discussion lately on how folks use Evernote for blogging. There are a variety of different ways that people seem to use it. I thought I’d throw my own into the mix. One thing I’ll say right at the top is that I rarely use Evernote to write my blog posts. Instead, I’ve found Evernote to be most useful in managing my blogging activities. I blog quite a bit and having a tool to help manage the activities involved in blogging makes my life easier. And the fact that it can all be done paperless is wonderful. (When I first started blogging, my “management” method consisted of lots of Post-It notes framing my monitor.)
In order that you have some context, a brief history of this blog. I started blogging regularly1 back in late 2005. At first is was simply a replacement for the diary that I’d been keeping for the previous 9 years. Over the years, it settled into three general areas: science fiction, technology, and miscellany. This was an entirely evolutionary process, growing and changing organically until late 2010. In December 2010, I decided to try improving the overall quality of the blog, not just the look and feel but the quality and relevance of the posts as well. That is when having tools to help me manage my blogging became most useful. Since late 2005, I’ve written nearly 5,000 posts, totaling over 1.5 million words. The audience for the blog has grown substantially and appears to be continuing its growth. It is unthinkable these days not to keep it up-to-date, but I am also constantly pressed for time. Here are 10 ways that I use Evernote to help me manage my blogging.
1. Capturing Ideas
If you go back to the earlier days of this blog, you’ll see that I wrote about anything that came to mind. In late 2010, I started focusing those posts onto the three areas I mentioned above. Before that focus, I would just write about whatever came to mind, and if I thought about something specific that I wanted to write about later, I jotted it down on a Post-It. Now, my posts are more targeted. I have 2 regular “features” on this blog: my Vacation in the Golden Age, which comes out every other Monday; and these Going Paperless posts, which come out every Tuesday. Beyond that, there are other things that I think folks who read the blog will find interesting. It is much more important these day for me to capture targeted ideas, as opposed to writing just anything that pops into my head. I use Evernote to capture these ideas. There are a couple of ways that I do this:
Jotting a brainstorm
Sometimes, I’ll get an idea for a blog post that seems worth keeping. Usually, it is just an idea. For instance, last week, after reading several discussions on using Evernote for blogging, I thought: this would make a good topic for a Going Paperless post. So I popped open Evernote on my iPhone, created a new note, and jotted a brief description. I tagged the note as “blog topics” and tossed it into my “Ideas” notebook. Later, I came back to the note and started listing the ways that I use Evernote for managing the blog. Indeed, I am using that note right now to organize this post.
Capturing something interesting
Sometimes a post idea is based on a response I have to something interesting I read online. When I am reading online, I am more often than note reading via my RSS feed. I read a ton of science fiction blogs and an equal number of technology blogs. Usually I read these on my iPad using Reeder. When I see something interesting, or something that I think is worth commenting on in some way, I’ll “star” that post. I have an IFTTT recipe that takes all of my “starred” Google Reader items and sends them to a notebook in Evernote. Once the article is in Evernote, I’ll grab the note link for that note and create a new note in my Ideas notebook (tagged with “blog topics”) where I can put my notion of a response into some kind of context that will be interesting on this blog. I’ll paste the note link into the body of the note so that I can get back to the source of my inspiration with a single click.
2. Frequently-Used Links
There are certain “core” posts on this blog that I refer to quite a bit. In order to speed things up the creation of posts, I’ve developed over time a list of those frequently used links so that I don’t have to go searching for them every time I want to link to the post. Some examples of this include:
- Vacation in the Golden Age index
- Going Paperless index
- What I Have Read Since 1996
- My About page
- My Bibliography
To speed this up, I have created a Note in Evernote that contains a list of all of these posts. Along with the list, there is the full hyperlink to the post, as well as the shortened (bit.ly) link to the post, in case I wasn’t to embed it in a Tweet. This note is kept in my Reference notebook stack and I have a quick link to it on the Evernote desktop client so that I can pull it up quickly when I am composing a blog post and need to refer to one of these frequently-used links.
3. Templates for Regular Posts
My Vacation in the Golden Age posts follow a pretty standard template. These posts can be anywhere from 4,000-8,000 words long and contains lots of different sections in a fairly specific order. Even if I’ve done the writing ahead of time, it can take an hour just to put the post together in the right format. To speed this up, I created a template that I can paste into a blank post that will create all of the basic sections and formatting for me. The template contains the HTML code for formatting the post, and content for the rough outline of the post.
I keep this template in my Reference notebook stack, along with all of my other templates. When I want to create a new Vacation in the Golden Age post, I copy the HTML out of the note and paste it into WordPress. Then I fill in the blanks. This probably saves me 30 minutes on every post.
4. Maintenance Records
This blog is run on a self-installed version of WordPress. I manage the entire thing myself. When I want it upgraded, I do the upgrade myself. When the database needs work, I do that myself. When it’s time to update a plug-in, I do that myself as well. I’ve found it helpful over the years to keep a kind of maintenance record of all of the changes I make on the blog. I use Evernote to keep these records.
Whenever I perform an upgrade, disable a plug-in, or note some kind of outage on the site, I create a note which details that action. For example, I noted a month ago or so that my crossposts from this blog to Tumblr stopped working. It turns out that was due to a change in Tumblr’s API. The plug-in I was using wasn’t being maintained any longer and wasn’t current with the change to Tumblr. I installed and configured a new plug-in which got the crossposting working again. Behind the scenes, I created a note in Evernote that looks as follows:
Note that the created date is the date/time at which I installed the plug-in (approximately). The title describes what I installed. This goes into my general “Timeline” notebook and is tagged “blog” and “change management.” The plug-in can be configured to crosspost to many services, but I noted that I’m just using it for Tumblr.
From these entries, I can produce a saved search showing me all of the changes and maintenance I’ve performed on the blog over the years, which can be handy in those rare instances when I am trying to figure out why something isn’t working.
5. Capturing Blog Entries
I don’t anticipate my blog going anywhere. Both files and database are backed up daily to a cloud backup service (IDrive) in case something goes wrong. Even so, I am not always online and it is sometimes useful to be able to look up a post that I’ve written before. With nearly 5,000 posts, it is often hard to remember everything I’ve posted about over the years. So I have an IFTTT recipe that grabs every new post I make from my RSS feed and sends it to Evernote. This gives me the posts in a set of notes that can be searched even when I am offline. I find this most useful for when I am planning future posts, or trying to organize my thoughts on a subject about which I have written before.
In addition, these posts are tagged “blog” as well so if I wanted to see all my blog activity, I can search for just the tag “blog” and see not only the posts I’ve made, but the maintenance that has been performed right in step with the posts. It comes out looking something like this:
You can see that my maintenance events (circled in red) show up right along with the posts themselves. You may also note that only 192 notes show up in this search instead of thousands. The reason is that I didn’t start using my IFTTT recipe for capturing my blog posts in Evernote until May of this year. So those 192 notes represent all of the blog posts and maintenance activities I’ve done on the blog in the last 5 months.
6. Planning Future Posts
Sometimes, I schedule posts in advance. For instance, back in mid-August, I took a week completely off the Internet. I didn’t want readers of the blog to miss any content, however, so I scheduled a series of daily posts that would go out automatically even though I was not online.
I used Evernote to plan out those posts, determine the order that I wanted them to appear, and list off items I wanted to cover. I then used those notes to create the posts themselves, which I scheduled using WordPress’s scheduled post feature.
7. Managing Guest Posts
I have on rare occasion had a guest poster on my blog. More often, I’ve written guest posts on other blogs. I use Evernote to manage these in a very rudimentary way. For instance, I’ll create a note describing what I’ve been asked to write about. In this note, I’ll start to jot notes about how to take these instructions and make an (hopefully) interesting post. After a guest post has been up for a while, I’ll sometimes follow up with the site where it was posted and ask about how popular it was. (I want to know when things don’t work so that I can learn from them.) I’ll add this information to my note so that I have a kind of record of the guest posting I’ve done over time and how well (or poorly) it has worked out.
8. Capturing Statistical Milestones
I’m a sucker for statistics. That should be clear from some of the personal analytics posts that I’ve done in the past. Along with capturing the blog posts from my RSS feed and the maintenance work I do on the blog, there is one other thing I will occasionally add to my timeline using Evernote: blog stats. Usually, these are just brief milestone statistics. I almost always capture a note with “beginning of year” stats. This will include where I was with certain measures on the blog on the first day of the year. The following year I can look to see where I’ve gotten and compare. Other times, I’ll make brief notes of certain milestones. For example, I have a note from December 6, 2011 indicating it was the single busiest day on my blog so far, with nearly 11,000 direct visits that day. I suspect it was because that was the day I posted a picture of the Tardis parked outside my house.
One thing I don’t use Evernote for is actually writing my blog posts. I prefer to use either the WordPress web interface for this (which I’ve grown used to). If I am on my iPad, I’ll use Blogsy, which works very well for me, too.
These are some ways that I use Evernote to help manage my blogging. How do you use Evernote in your blogging?
- And by “regularly” I mean at least once a day. ↩