Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mick's Answers to Rona's Questions — Part 3

We can find ourselves stuck in so many facets of blogging -- stumped for content, fazed by image management, unsure how to insert a table in a post, lost when it comes to graphic design, fearful others will steal our work, clueless about developing readership or sponsors or advertisers, just for starters. Name a few important resources you use to get unstuck, and identify which kinds of problems lead you to that resource.

I'm a designer by trade — graphic, information, idea, visual, all kinds. And this figures into my blog in a surprising way, which I'll get around to.

But first I want to say why graphic design doesn't matter, and how that is the core of the blogging experience and the blogging explosion. What is amazing — revolutionary, in fact — about blogs is that they take the focus off of the form and put it on the function. Let me clarify: Most people, including me, use one of the many templates that are built into all the major blogging platforms. If I knew how to do the search, I could find dozens or hundreds or maybe even thousands of blogs that use the same template I use.

And that's ok.

Because my blog isn't about my template, it's about what I post there. I don't care how it looks as long as it looks clean, simple, organized and decent. And it does. Most blogs do, in fact. That's kind of the magic. Instead of spending too much time fussing over tiny bits of code — which is what you do if you're a web designer — I spend time fussing over tiny bits of any given post. The blog itself is just kind of a reliable frame for holding my thoughts, experiences, and reflections.

When I do get stuck, I'm surprisingly low-tech, I confess — I'll consult blogging friends, I'll do searches, and as often as not, I'll consult the help pages of my blogging platform (Blogger).

I'm more driven by inklings of "I wonder how I…" and that usually leads me on some kind of search. Principally, I'm always looking for ways to make blogging more intrinsic in my life. Simpler. More organic. I don't want to labor over it (though I totally do). I want to chronicle the interesting things in my life, both for me and also for those who by some crazy serendipity find their way to a post of mine.

So I'm often looking for tools or perspectives towards this end. I'm mostly looking for bits of software to help. With that in mind, I browse a lot. Because I'm not entirely sure what I'm looking for. I browse Firefox extensions because I might (and have) find some tool that I didn't even know I needed. I follow a crazy breadcrumb trail that swerves and veers its way occasionally to something that revolutionizes my blogging.

A couple examples:
  • Clipmarks: A Firefox web browser extension that is the closest thing that I've found to a tool for snipping pictures and words out of other web pages (as opposed to a simple HTML link) and adding them to my blog. I have such a need to do this. I still puzzle over why it's not easier. Clipmarks does it, although it's not always as elegant as I would like. This is a classic quandary where I feel like I'm missing something, something obvious. Until I figure out what that thing is, there's Clipmarks. (Maddening aside: Even Clipmarks seems to be veering from this path with their new, seemingly-similar app called Amplify, which basically does with Clipmarks does — but it only seems to support the social networking world of Facebook, MySpace, etc. and leaves out the blogging world. And again, I wonder: What am I not getting here?)
  • PixelPipe: This app is my dream, my savior, my friend. I call it a personal aggregator. What it does is simple: it posts content for me (mostly photos from my phone) to my blog, Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter. Can you say amazing? I use it relentlessly, every single day. It exists as a smartphone app, a computer app, and as an extension for a variety of browsers and image editors like iPhoto and Adobe Lightroom. I owe my current blogging life to PixelPipe.

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