One reason genea-blogging is so popular is that it lets us tackle our research and writing in small bits. This brings a gargantuan project down to something much more manageable. Before you know it, you’ll have a significant collection of family stories ready to turn into a family history. A bit of planning now can make the construction effort a lot easier when that time comes.
I am taking advantage of a WordPress plugin called Anthologize which lets me create a project and then populate it with posts from my blog. When I add a post to an Anthologize project, it creates a copy of that post in the project. I can then organize these copies into sections and re-arrange the stories by dragging them into the order I want. I can even import content from another blog. Each story can be edited in Anthologize without touching the original post.
Anthologize is a project of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University – the same people who gave us the Zotero plugin for Firefox. It is still in the alpha stage of development and as such you will find it has some issues. I have found the management and editing platform very stable, but the export functionality is still very much a work in progress. That being said, if like me, you find this platform has potential, you can have an impact on its development by getting involved with the development team.
Here you see the management screen for one of my Anthologize projects. As new blog posts are written, they can be added to the project by simply dragging them from the posts panel on the left to the appropriate location within the project. I can add new sections – called Parts – and drag articles to it. Any of these articles can be dragged up or down to re-order them. To get a look at how a section flows, click the Preview link on the section bar. You’ll see a “draft” view in un-styled HTML. This will make it easy to see how the stories flow from one to another.
Although the organizational and management features of Anthologize work beautifully, the export capability is still quite primitive. While the ePub, HTML and Anthologize TEI (an XML file) formats function quite well, the PDF and RTF formats need work. For me, this isn’t a big issue – yet. I still have a long way to go before I’ll have anything ready to publish. I’m delighted to see the addition of an RTF (rich text format) option since I will need to perform additional layout and editing before I have a finished product. Of course, RTF is a difficult format to build so I expect it will be some time before it’s fully functional. In the meantime, I can help by providing feedback to the development team.
Here’s a look at the export function.
Once a project is ready to publish, click the Export button at the bottom of the project screen. You’ll be presented with a screen similar to the one shown above to include additional information about the publication.
Next, you can adjust the title, add text for a dedication and acknowledgements if you are so inclined and choose a format for your publication. The RTF (rich text format) option will generate a document that can then be opened and edited in your word processor. This is especially useful if you plan to publish using a service like Lulu and need to format it for a specific book size and binding. As I mentioned earlier, this format needs work – as does the PDF format.
You should plan on doing some manual editing of the resulting file – especially if you use plugins on your blog that impact individual posts. For example, I have a plugin that puts social media sharing links at the bottom of each post and another that collects related articles and displays them at the bottom of my posts. Each of these appear in the exported publication and have to be removed.
One other issue is images. Most blogs use low-resolution images to save online storage space and load time. If you’re planning to publish an e-book, these images will work fine, but if you’re planning a print publication, you’ll need to replace them with high-resolution images suitable for printing. In addition, my posts often link to images stored at Flickr. Obviously these images won’t be included in an exported document.
It will be some time before Anthologize is a fully functional publishing platform. It’s up to you to determine if there’s enough potential to get involved. If, however, you do get involved, you can influence how it works. We don’t often get an opportunity like this and GMU’s Center for History and New Media does have an impressive track record.
As for me, I’ve already got several projects under construction in Anthologize and have found it very useful. With it, I not only see what I have, but also what’s missing. I’ve used the Anthologize copies to add the personal information I don’t include in my public posts. I’ve even added posts that only appear in the Anthologize platform. I still have a long way to go so I’m not irritated that the app’s not finished. I am keeping an eye on it’s development and testing the waters occasionally to see how things are moving.