Why You Need a Blog Editor

Those of us with a treasured family journal, scrapbook or collection of letters have a window into the personal side of our family’s history. That one or more generations of people took the time and effort to protect and preserve those treasures makes them even more precious. Today, we have a large community of bloggers documenting and sharing their research and family stories. It’s amazing how quickly these “little stories” become impressive historical collections.

That’s the good news.

What happens to all that work when the blog platform you are using shuts down or has a server crash? There are all kinds of disasters that can impact your blog and its content. What are you doing to protect your work?

While most blog platforms include an online editor to make it easy to write and publish your posts, you may want to consider using a desktop (or mobile) editing app instead. There are a number of advantages to using an editor. Besides the obvious backup advantage, an editor will also make it easier to repurpose your posts into other family history publications.

I found two wonderful apps (for Mac and iOS) that support both my blogging effort and my writing projects while protecting both. I use Byword (Mac – $10.99, iOS – $5.99) as my blog editor. Its publishing feature supports posting to WordPress, Medium, Tumblr, Blogger and Evernote. I use iCloud to save copies of each post. I also use the Ulysses writing platform (Mac – $44.99 and iPad – $19.99) to manage my writing projects. Ulysses supports an “external folder” option that allows me to connect those Byword folders for easy access to my blog posts. Copies of any post is easily dragged into a writing project.

Even better … both Byword and Ulysses support Markdown so not only am I protecting my posts from disaster, I’m future-proofing my stories – saving them from the scrapyard of obsolete software.

Ulysses Updates

This month Ulysses issued a major update which takes advantage of a number of features included in the iOS 11 release. The one that caught my eye first was the image previews. When you add an image as its own paragraph, you will see it as a black and white thumbnail. Images within a text paragraph will still appear as the standard IMG-bubble. This lets you see what the images look like without distracting users from the text. Yes, text is king in Ulysses.

The new drag and drop feature allows you to pull in images, attachments, text and sheets. Along with that, you can now quickly move paragraphs up or down within a sheet. Place the cursor anywhere within the paragraph then use control-command-up arrow or control-command-down arrow to move the entire paragraph to a new spot.

Ulysses is now a subscription-based platform. The apps – both on the Mac and on your iOS devices – are all free downloads, but you will need a subscription to unlock all your apps on your devices. That’s one subscription, not one for each app. There is a 14-day free trial available to see if Ulysses is for you. The US subscription is $4.99/month or $39.99/year.

UlyssesPublishing.png
This article was written in Ulysses and posted here using Ulysses’s publishing tool. What you see here is the article as it appears in the Ulysses app.

 

Archival 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 those articles into a published book.

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 (November 11th) 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.

Day One for Family History

Day One for Family History

family history journal in Day One

My Family History journal in Day One I am a big fan of the Day One journal app [Mac – $39.99 & iOS – $4.99]. It’s great for capturing both the special moments and the common ones. It’s also a great place to capture your family history. The latest version (desktop and mobile) supports multiple journals. In addition to my personal journal, I now also have a Family History journal. I do not use it…

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family history journal in Day One

Day One for Family History

family history journal in Day One
My Family History journal in Day One

I am a big fan of the Day One journal app [Mac – $39.99 & iOS – $4.99]. It’s great for capturing both the special moments and the common ones. It’s also a great place to capture your family history. The latest version (desktop and mobile) supports multiple journals.

In addition to my personal journal, I now also have a Family History journal. I do not use it as a research journal to keep track of my research efforts. Instead I use it to tell the stories of people, places, things, events and special moments. In the sample above, I’ve documented finding the grave of my father’s first wife and told the story behind a painting our landlord in Germany gave us.

Since I am my family’s unofficial archivist, I’m the one who gets all the “stuff”. Unfortunately, many of the stories about those treasures are lost. Since their original owners are gone, I only have questions. Because of this, I am working to tell the stories of the things I do know something about so that future generations won’t be as lost as I am.

It’s not just about old stuff either. We’ve collected our own treasures and most of them have a story too. You can’t miss the huge piece of driftwood in our living room. It’s more than decoration but who will know its significance if no one tells its story. They will when they read my journal.

Which brings me to one last point. For all the many features Day One has to make journaling as easy as possible, there’s one that rises among the rest. Day One saves my journal entries as plain text using the Markdown standard.

This means that my journal files will be readable long after today’s technology becomes obsolete.

If you would like to learn more about Markdown, journaling or Day One, click the appropriate tag at the bottom of this post or in sidebar’s Tag Cloud.