Archival Quality Blogging

I love blogging! It has so many advantages for the genealogist/family historian that I can’t imagine trying to research without including a blog in the process. Not only does it allow me to write the stories of my ancestors as my research develops them, it’s also easy to update those stories when new facts come to light. And, it’s amazing how quickly that collection of family stories grows! While…

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Archival Quality Blogging

I love blogging! It has so many advantages for the genealogist/family historian that I can’t imagine trying to research without including a blog in the process. Not only does it allow me to write the stories of my ancestors as my research develops them, it’s also easy to update those stories when new facts come to light. And, it’s amazing how quickly that collection of family stories grows! While even the idea of tackling THE FAMILY HISTORY is overwhelming, blogging “little stories” is a joy.

Blogs are also cousin magnets. Even if your blog stats show few visitors reading your posts, the search engines are keeping a sharp eye on even the smallest blog and will deliver a research cousin in a heartbeat when their search matches your content. Then there is the commenting system included in most blog platforms which have turned blogs into community centers where people gather to share information and inspiration.

There is one issue that has been a concern – a rather serious concern. Most blog platforms have limited backup capabilities and trying to move content from one platform to another is a nightmare. And, there’s the dreaded shutdown notice giving users a short period of time to grab their work before the platform is taken down.

How do you protect your work from crashes, shutdowns and old technology? Here are a few ideas for developing “archival quality” blog posts.

Writing Platforms

This article was written using the Byword [Mac – $9.99, iOS – $4.99] text editing app. It supports Markdown making it a lot easier to incorporate HTML code – especially when writing on a mobile device. It also includes an optional Publish feature – a $4.99 in-app purchase. With it you can publish your Byword files to WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, Evernote and Scriptogram. Byword is just one of a growing number of editing and journaling apps that support blog publishing. Not only do they make it easier to write articles, you also maintain archived copies of them on your desktop. This is handy when you decide you want to turn some or all of your articles into a published book.

Archival Blogging
The publishing screen in Byword

Writing apps that support Markdown have another advantage . . . they produce archival quality text. Unlike word-processing apps, each with its own proprietary data structure, Markdown apps save your stories as plain text with simple codes to define formatted elements like bold, italics, bullet points and more. We all have experienced unreadable “orphan” documents created with software that no longer exists. Plain text hasn’t changed since the beginning of the digital age. Using Markdown insures that future generations will be able to read your stories.

In addition to Byword, you can also take advantage of a number of journaling applications like WinJournal – $40 and MacJournal [Mac – $40, iPad – $3.99] as well as desktop blog editors like Microsoft’s free Live Writer and Blogo [Mac – $30]. Note that not all journaling and blog-editing apps support Markdown.

There’s another advantage to using a writing platform for your blog posts. As your collection of stories grows, you’ll find it very easy to reorganize and repurpose those articles into all kinds of family history publications. For example, you could pull out all the articles on family members who served in the military to create a Veterans Day memory project. Use them to commemorate a special anniversary or honor someone who has passed away.

You’ve done the heavy lifting – researching and writing each story – with your blog posts. Now you can enjoy the fun part of family history publishing – turning those stories into beautiful treasures.

The Hand-crafted Digital Journal

Love digital journaling, but miss the hand-written touch? Now you can have both!

I love journaling with Day One [Mac – $9.99, iOS– $4.99]. I have the app on my Mac, iPad and iPhone which gives me the ability to not only capture my thoughts but also capture special moments when they happen. The geek in me appreciates its use of markdown to help insure my ramblings will survive future technologies, but the doodler in me misses the hand-written page embellished with doodles and…

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Blog From Your Journal

Blog From Your Journal? You bet! It’s easy & insures you have a backup copy.

Blogging is an easy and affordable way to document your family history and the efforts taken to discover it. Blogging makes it easy to discover research cousins and has had a significant role in building the online genealogy community that connects so many of us today. And blogging is fun.

But.

Bloggers are dependent on the platforms they use to build their blogs. As we learned last year with the…

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Blog From Your Journal

Blogging is an easy and affordable way to document your family history and the efforts taken to discover it. Blogging makes it easy to discover research cousins and has had a significant role in building the online genealogy community that connects so many of us today. And blogging is fun.

But.

Bloggers are dependent on the platforms they use to build their blogs. As we learned last year with the Posterous shutdown, that one fact can quickly turn blogging into a nightmare.

Fortunately we have options. One very good option is to take advantage of the growing number of journaling apps that support blog publishing. Day One just announced its first steps into publishing, but there are other apps that have been doing it for some time. Two good examples are Mariner Software’s MacJournal [$33.24 at Amazon] and WinJournal [$30 at Amazon]. With these apps, you can write your articles on your desktop – complete with photos and other attachments – then publish a copy to your blog.

MacJournalBlog01
Setting up a MacJournal blog in WordPress

Both journal apps allow you to create multiple journals within the interface so I one have specifically for blog articles. That journal has also been set up to connect to my blog. Most blog platforms support attached files (like photos) but for those that don’t (Tumblr, for example), you have the option to set up an alternate location to upload those attachments. In the example above, you see the configuration panel for connecting to a blog – in this case a WordPress blog. Once the connection is accepted, the panel you see on the right appears, showing me the categories set up in this blog.

Now you just start writing your blog post as if it was any other journal entry in MacJournal. Once it’s ready to publish, click on the Share menu and you’ll see a menu item to Send to (your blog’s name). The options panel appears next. The options you’ll see depend on which blog platform you use. In the example below, I’m posting to WordPress so my options include the ability to choose a category for this blog. Make your selections, then click OK to send this entry to your blog.

MacJournalBlog02.jpg

I usually uncheck the Publish post immediately option so the article will be sent to my blog as a draft. This will allow me to review the article, add tags, configure social networking connections and schedule when I want the article to appear on my blog.

MacJournal also has apps for the iPhone [$4.99] and iPad [$5.99] which support blogging. The iPad version offers a lot more flexibility with WordPress blogs and has a feature to download entries from your blog to the app. Oh, and both iOS MacJournal apps support both Dropbox and iCloud as storage for your journal files. These downloaded entries are text only, but they do show where images and other embeds have been positioned within the post.

Yes, there are other desktop editors for blogging, but because family history blogging is already a very personal activity it just seems fit that a journaling app is the place to create them.