Moving the blog around again (and again)

A funny thing happened recently. I was sitting at my desk one afternoon playing with the new iA Writer updates, and I wanted to test iA Writer’s new style check features, so I opened my Blot folder.

Uh oh, I knew right away that this was a mistake, because it reminded me how nice it is to edit simple Markdown posts in iA Writer (or BBEdit, or Typora, or Ulysses, or Emacs, or…) and have things magically collected and posted to a blog.

WordPress can do anything. It works with all kinds of other tools, and its ecosystem is unmatched. It also bores me and I don’t like using it. Editing with “blocks” can be handy, but more often than not they get in the way. To avoid this, I bought the Iceberg editor plugin so editing would feel more like living in text files.

I don’t like writing in Iceberg. It seemed like a great solution at first, but it feels like an editor pretending to be something it’s not. (Or more accurately, it’s pretending not to be something it is). You know what feels like editing a Markdown file? Editing a Markdown file!

My move to WordPress didn’t stick. I can never get comfortable in WordPress for any length of time. There are too many things about it I don’t like.

I don’t like any of WordPress themes I’ve found. They look like they were designed by recent graduates of some SEO-self-branding-professional-development course conducted by a YouTuber “coach” fresh out of a real job. If I cared about an “audience” or subscriptions I might feel differently, but I don’t, so I don’t.

I don’t like updating plugins and themes on a daily basis, even though it’s easy to do. I don’t like having to host yet another app/stack.

Long story short, while I pretend to have valid “reasons” for doing this, they’re really only cover for the fact that I do it because it’s fun.

So yeah, this blog is back to being managed by Blot. Blot is an occasionally fragile but glorious tool made and supported by one person (Is it still just David?) and remains a pleasure to use.

Fun, huh?

Lathe Updates: Week Ending July 12, 2020

After moving my daily notes back to the wiki, a couple people mentioned that they missed having the posts available via RSS. Trouble is, one reason I prefer posting those notes on the wiki is because there’s no RSS feed.

So, as a compromise, I thought I’d try posting a weekly summary here and see how that feels.

All 7 days transcluded into a single tiddler: Journals: Week ending July 12, 2020

Or, each day individally.

Monday, July 6, 2020 – About daily notes, Roam, Safari, wiki notes

Tuesday, July 7, 2020 – Buddha Board, Readwise.io, iPhone SE, Roam, Keyboards

Wednesday, July 8, 2020 – Hassles with Fish shell, Keychron K2 update, iPhone SE, Blot, don’t use silly words

Thursday, July 9 2020 – Browser tabs, moral superiority, cameras, wear a mask, Notion.so, window managers

Friday, July 10, 2020 – Driving in the rain

Saturday, July 11, 2020 – Needing Twitter, painting a bedroom

Sunday, July 12, 2020 – Docker, my 1-year anniversary, Safari, free speech thread, nice emails, laptop stickers, Blot, what I should be doing.

Thinking about keeping my Daily Notes here

Here’s what I’ve been thinking.

You may have noticed that my Rudimentary Lathe wiki has evolved into a blog. 90% of new content is simply added to that day’s “Journal” entry. It got me thinking again about consolidation. I mean, I have a blog, right? You’re reading it now. I wonder if it’s possible to create Daily Notes posts right here instead.

The trick is that there’s an RSS feed, and the day’s post would show up in the feed as soon as it’s first published. Not ideal. I don’t actually want the daily posts to show up in the main feed at all, so I suppose I’d need to categorize them and exclude them from the feed.

I also want today’s post to be “pinned” to the top, even if I add other posts that day.

Ideally, the Daily Notes post would be a collection of microblog posts, collected into one entry. Somehow. That should allow for permalinks to be created for each microblog post in addition to the one for the enclosing post. This is secondary, but feels important enough to consider.

The best example of what I’m looking for is Dave Winer’s http://scripting.com. Also see Colin’s blog. And to a lesser degree, my wiki.

I’m running this site on WordPress (again) now so I’m betting this is all possible. Just need to find the energy to try it.

Iceberg editor for WordPress

When using WordPress, I often use a separate app for writing, editing and publishing posts. This can be anything from MarsEdit, iA Writer, Ulysses, or even Emacs. I prefer writing in a nice editor, preferably in Markdown. In fact, when using a statically-rendered blog engine such as Hugo or Blot, I must use a separate editor.

I switched from a static publishing system back to WordPress for this blog because I prefer being able to edit posts right where I’m reading. In other words, if I’m reading something and want to amend it or fix a typo, I can simply click the “Edit” link, make the change, and click “Update”. With a static generator I first need to find and open the post locally, make the change, and republish. There are convoluted ways to make this easier, but then that doesn’t really make things easier.

What I dislike about editing in WordPress is the Gutenberg editor. Actually, Gutenberg isn’t bad. Block editing can be quite handy when adding images, quotes, formatting, etc. But for just dumping words into a post, Gutenberg gets in the way. Writing in Gutenberg doesn’t feel good.

This is where Iceberg comes in.

Iceberg is a beautiful, flexible writing editor for crafting posts with the WordPress block editor.

Iceberg allows you to write within the WordPress block editor in a way that feels much more natural than working with “blocks”. Our goal is not to remove blocks, but rather to deemphasize them – and any non-essential elements within the editor – to promote a focus on writing.

Here’s what Iceberg looks like for me editing this post right now…

Not bad, right?

The important difference between Iceberg and external editors is that it is actually using Gutenberg’s block editor underneath. It just hides it away. This means I can use the available slash “/” commands when needed, but the rest of the time I’m in a much more pleasant environment than the default WordPress UI.

Iceberg is a WordPress plugin and costs $49. I’ve been investing in my writing, publishing, note-taking setup lately, so I was OK paying what seems like a lot for something like this. I’m writing this post with it, and enjoying it.

Theme change

I ran a quick poll to see which theme people preferred for this blog. Opinion was split, but since I was already inclined to use the Daring Fireball-inspired version, I applied some confirmation bias and went with that one…for a day.

After living with it, I found it hard on the eyes. I simply don’t like dark themes as much. Images looked awful and were displayed rather small/narrow. Also, other than the specific background color, it really did look like daringfireball.net and that just seemed weird.

So for now I’ve reset it to the default theme and will work on some tweaks to that. Sorry it’s so boring.

Apologies to RSS users, since none of this matters a whit to you :)

I miss Blot

Since archiving my Hugo blog at baty.net and moving my blogging to copingmechanism.com, I’ve been feeling nostalgic for a simple, text-based workflow. By “simple” I don’t mean locally rendering a static site (ala Hugo) and syncing it to a server. That sounds simple, but really isn’t. It started when I “accidentally” opened my Blot folder in VS Code (don’t ask). There all my posts were, organized in folders, as plain text.

Mmmmmm, nice.

Blog posts fall squarely at the “Records” end of the Thoughts vs Records spectrum, so posts in plain text are ideal.

Blot has always struck a good balance between the simplicity of text and ease of use. I like using CMSs like WordPress and Ghost because the words are right there: type, save, done. Blot works much the same way, but with only plain text, on my local machine.

I wish I could say that I wasn’t thinking of reviving this blog for something, but I’d be lying.

I'm not ignoring the pandemic, I'm just not writing about it

People have been criticised for writing about trivial things during the Coronavirus pandemic. By “trivial” they usually mean anything not related to the current situation. 

It’s true that the things I normally focus on aren’t important right now. I have found myself not posting about them because I didn’t want to seem uncaring or oblivious to current conditions. I am neither uncaring nor oblivious. I simply feel that I have nothing useful to add to the conversation. The Coronavirus topic continues to be covered thoroughly by others. If I have something personal to add, I will. Otherwise, I plan to continue writing as usual.

I am finding it nearly impossible to think about anything other than our immediate global crisis. Even so, it is therapeutic to distract myself by writing about other, more mundane topics.

My blog has perhaps earned its name.

Stay safe.