Make blogging part of your workflow

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For all my tagging evangelism, I’ve been enigmatic and elusive about how I myself use tagging to be a better blogger, a better worker, and a better human being. But the whole reason I’ve become such a tagging fanatic is because it’s allowed me to dramatically streamline my workflow so that I can track and share resources much more effectively. Thanks to my Vice President of Documentation, I now have a summary of my integrated workflow using Spurl, del.icio.us, WordPress and FeedWordPress.

I use these tools together to:

  • Store links to web sites I want to remember, along with an archive of each web page I store in case the original disappears.
  • Blog easily about some of the sites I store, at the same time as I bookmark them.
  • Make these blog entries look like regular blog entries, not like a linkroll.
  • Keep my blog posts about a web site in the same categories that I use to tag that site in del.icio.us and Spurl.

Here are the tools you’ll need to do the same thing:

  • An account with Spurl
  • A “spurl it!” bookmarklet in your browser, which you can find under Settings/Setup once you’re logged into Spurl.
  • A WordPress blog
  • FeedWordPress installed on your WordPress blog
  • Optional: a del.icio.us account. If you set up a del.icio.us account set your Spurl account to save any new links to del.icio.us, too.

Here’s how I use these tools together:

  1. Find a web site that you want to write about in your blog.
  2. Spurl the page (i.e. bookmark it in your Spurl account) using the “spurl it!” bookmarklet on your browser toolbar.
  3. Optional: Assign the bookmark a category, if you’re using categories as well as tags (I recommend that you just use tags — or at least, avoid nested categories.)
  4. Tag the bookmark with “blogthis” and any other tags you want (I have some advice on choosing tags).
  5. Enter a description or comment on the link in the “description” field. This description will become your blog entry, and can include full HTML code (though you should be careful about using special characters like dashes or quotations marks in your actual text). I’ve yet to encounter its upper limit in terms of post length or number of characters.
  6. Go to your Spurl account and navigate to the page for your “blogthis” tag. Click on the “ATOM” button in the upper right-hand corner. Copy the URL that loads (it will look something like http://www.spurl.net/myspurls/library.php?p=atom&userid=XXX&c=259295 ) to your clipboard.
  7. In WordPress Dashboard, go to Links / Syndicated. (We’re assuming you have FeedWordPress installed.)
  8. Paste the URL you’ve copied from Spurl into “Syndicate a new site” and click “Syndicate”
  9. A confirmation page appears. Click on “Edit.”
  10. Change the link name to whatever you’d like, and add a description.
  11. Click “save changes” at the bottom of the page.
  12. In Options / Syndication, set “Unfamiliar categories” to “don’t create new categories”.
  13. Load the URL http://www.YOURWEBSITE.com/blog/wp-content/update-feeds.php?shibboleth=fooble to update your feed. (You should have changed your “shibboleth” secret word” in the WordPress Dashboard under Options / Syndication; use your secret word in place of “fooble”. And you may want to set up a cron job to run regular updates of your feeds.)
  14. Go to your blog; your recently Spurled page should now appear as the most recent blog post. If not, try updating your FeedWordPress feeds again because it sometimes takes a minute or two for Spurl’s feed to update.

Coming soon: tips on customizing FeedWordPress for your personal workflow.

FAQ:

Q: Why use Spurl instead of del.icio.us alone?
A: Del.icio.us limits its description field to 255 characters, which is too short for most of my blog posts.

Q: Why use del.icio.us instead of just Spurl?
A: Spurl is pretty slow, which can be frustrating when it comes time to accessing your bookmarks. So I use Spurl as a nice way of storing (and backing up) my bookmarks, and del.icio.us to retrieve the. Also del.icio.us has lots of interesting complementary tools that make it useful in other ways too.

Q: Why shouldn’t I use categories in Spurl?
A: Give up on hierarchical (nested) categories; these can screw up your tags, especially if you synchronize with del.icio.us or an external blog. Single-word, non-nested categories will work well ok as tags when Spurl exports them to del.icio.us. But at that point you might as well just be using tags.

Q: What’s the relationship between tags and categories?
A: They’re basically the same thing. WordPress calls the topic of each blog post a “category” but FeedWordPress handles incoming tags as if they were blog categories. So you’ll make your life much simpler if you harmonize Spurl categories, Spurl tags, del.icio.us tags and WordPress categories. You may have a lot more tags that you use in Spurl and del.icio.us than you have WordPress categories, but make sure that all your WordPress categories exist in Spurl and del.icio.us, and that you spell them the same way in both places.

8 Comments on this site

  1. eric jones

    as an employer, I don’t want my employees blogging all day

  2. eric jones

    as an employer, I don’t want my employees blogging all day

  3. Marshall

    This is a very interesting article, though I came hoping it would be applicable to very novice bloggers. I don’t think it is, as there are many psychological steps that need to be taken before any multi-step workflow integration can happen and blogging regularly and efficiently is realistic. I think that this post is suited to more advanced users, unlike for example your into to RSS or Technorati posts. That’s cool, though.

    Is it Spurl that saveds a chached copy of the page to your archive? I know Furl does that, and I’ve been using it religiously for months. But yesterday the Furl It button just refused to work on a client’s computer while I was sitting with them demonstrating it and I couldn’t figure out why. I felt like an ass and less helpful than I intended to be, so I’m considering looking into another social bookmarking tool to advocate. Delicious’s UI is way too geeky, and I don’t want to miss out on the cached copies of articles. But maybe Spurl is what I should look into. Thanks for the interesting write up.

  4. Marshall

    This is a very interesting article, though I came hoping it would be applicable to very novice bloggers. I don’t think it is, as there are many psychological steps that need to be taken before any multi-step workflow integration can happen and blogging regularly and efficiently is realistic. I think that this post is suited to more advanced users, unlike for example your into to RSS or Technorati posts. That’s cool, though.

    Is it Spurl that saveds a chached copy of the page to your archive? I know Furl does that, and I’ve been using it religiously for months. But yesterday the Furl It button just refused to work on a client’s computer while I was sitting with them demonstrating it and I couldn’t figure out why. I felt like an ass and less helpful than I intended to be, so I’m considering looking into another social bookmarking tool to advocate. Delicious’s UI is way too geeky, and I don’t want to miss out on the cached copies of articles. But maybe Spurl is what I should look into. Thanks for the interesting write up.

  5. Leda

    Alex, you are the queen of helpful blogs. This is great! Thanks for taking the time to write this all out… super helpful.

  6. Leda

    Alex, you are the queen of helpful blogs. This is great! Thanks for taking the time to write this all out… super helpful.

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