Writing on Tablets Tech stuff from @yeltzland

A Workflow to upload web content to Medium

Building an efficient way to copy posts from my web site to Medium

In the near future, Writing on Tablets is obviously be massive success, when the whole world discovers pearls of wisdom like these.

However right now, I get many more readers on Medium - although still not many! - so I’m currently duplicating posts from the website to Medium.

I want to automate this, and in theory I should be able to do this through IFTTT by hooking up the site’s RSS feed and my Medium account. However, for whatever reason this has never worked for me.

On a PC, it’s pretty easy to copy and paste the website page content into Medium, but as ever this isn’t quite so easy on an iPad. However, what we do have is the Workflow App to help, and I’ve built a workflow to do just that.

The workflow takes a selection from Safari as input (via the Share extension), and uses the Medium API to first get your user ID, and then post up the selected content as Markdown. I also added some code to automatically append an attribution for the original page at the end.

The code needs an Medium Integration Token, which can be generated on your Medium Settings page, but other than that is simple to configure.

I’ve submitted it to the Workflow Gallery, so I’ll add a link if/when it’s approved.

If you’re reading this on Writing on Tablets, the generated Medium article is at https://medium.com/@yeltzland/a-workflow-to-upload-web-content-to-medium-writing-on-tablets-8e5798b8f56e#.49ymh1stz

Workflow Medium

Trello vs GitHub Projects. Power vs Simplicity

Trello is great and has lots of features, but I've switched to using GitHub Projects for tracking my work items

Big news this week is that Trello is being acquired by Atlassian for a whopping $425 million!

Now I like Trello a lot. I’ve used it for my own projects for a while, as have a few companies I’ve worked with recently. It’s got a nice interface, is easy to use with some powerful extensions and can be easily integrated into other systems to make it really useful.

However recently I’ve switched to using GitHub Projects for tracking my work items and I’m pretty happy about doing so.

GitHub Projects has a similar style Kanban card-based interface, but has no extensions and as far as I can tell, and the API is currently only in Preview mode. The web interface is also slightly flaky in Safari on iOS.

So what’s to like? Well for me, the big advantage is that the work items are right next to the code in GitHub, so it’s really easy to find when you are working on multiple projects. It integrates perfectly into managing issues via GitHub - great for my open-source projects, especially when following the GitHub Flow process using pull requests Also, even though Trello is very extensible, I never really use those power features, and a simple Kanban board is enough for me.

I really hope GitHub do add a few more features to their Projects board - for example webhooks for when a card changes column, and the ability to assign cards to commits - but for now it’s good enough for me.

It’s interesting Atlassian recognise the potential synergies with their existing software management software too. However I’ve recently gone all in with using GitHub, and I’m really happy about that decision right now.

GitHub Trello Productivity

Consolidating Some Old Posts

Just a quick note today.

In case you were following closely and thought I’d be unbelieveably productive and added lots of posts, I’ve moved over my old blog posts from my bravelocation.com site on to here.

I didn’t make sense to have two homes for my writing, so this is now the home for all my posts. Some of them date back to 2005 when they lived on my old MSDN blog and are now chiefly interesting from a historical point of view.

Blogging

A Social Media Cleanup

Revisting how I use social media to hopefully improve my mood IRL

2016 was a pretty depressing time on social media. So much political upheaval both here in the UK and the US - mostly in a bad way - has meant all sorts of problems with trolling, fake news, isolation in political bubbles. etc. etc.

Clearly I can’t do anything about these problems for everyone, but I can try to be more selective in how I use the various networks to get a more positive experience for ME.

Twitter

I’ve recently switched to using Tweetbot to access Twitter, which I’m mostly enjoying so far.

I miss Twitter cards, don’t really miss seeing Votes and had completely forgotten about Moments until I looked at the official app just now.

What I love most about Tweetbot is the filtering feature, which lets me block certain words or users. Just implement the 2 things in the image below has restored a little bit of sanity to my timeline.

Tweetbot filters

One thing Tweetbot has encouraged is reading every tweet in my timeline, so I thought it would be a good time to stop following people who I’m not interested in any more.

I spent a day reading every tweet, and removing people whose tweets I’d been regularly skipping. I also went through the complete list of people I was following and I didn’t why (or indeed who they were!). There were quite a few obsolete accounts too.

All in all I’ve removed about 20% of my following list, and will try harder to be more selective who I follow, or be more ruthless about removing people.

I’m not sure if I’ll be in more of a bubble or not going forward, but right now I don’t really care.

Facebook

To be honest I very rarely go on Facebook any more. I was a pretty early user, starting in 2006 when my friend Kurt invited me to this new thing only just open to the world.

4-5 years ago I used Facebook a lot, as many of my friends were also actively posting interesting stories. However many of them were also early adopters, and I think we all got a bit bored of sharing so much.

That meant in general the quality of posts I was seeing declined, and as more friends were coming online, the interesting stuff was either being swamped in the deluge, or in more recent years being filtered out by Facebook’s aggressive ranking algorithm and insistence of forcing it on me.

Last year, as an experiment I started on using Facebook only on Friday, and once I’d broken the habit/addiction I’ve pretty much stopped using it since.

What I’ve done today is go through the notification settings, and really dial back everything to the bare minimum. Facebook are terrible at updating their badge number/sending you app notifications for stuff you have no interest in, especially if you haven’t used the app much recently.

I have lots of friends who work at Facebook who I have a lot of respect for, but the company as a whole is really cynical at doing whatever it takes to try to get you to open their app.

I doubt whether I’m a typical user, and I see lots of people who still spend tons of time in Facebook. However I do think as more and more people reach 10 years+ on the platform, they’ll reach the same fatigue with it as me and it will just become more of a place for wishing Happy Birthday to people once a year.

Instagram

Again I used to love Instagram, but seem to use it a lot less recently.

It was always the most positive of networks, just nice pictures you could like without it meaning too much and very little/ no negative comments.

However Facebook seem determined to compete with Snapchat by changing Instagram to steal its’ features, which seems really misguided. Even though it hasn’t really changed much, as it’s easy to ignore the stories (and in my feed no-one uses the Snapchat-style editing), strangely just knowing those crappy features are there has devalued the whole product a little.

Also, getting so many spammers as followers (although maybe this has got better recently?) turned me off the platform a bit.

I also may be a bit biased after the Instagram API changes to discourage 3rd party apps ended my Pixagogo app. Not really bitter, but another signal that Instagram was concentrating on making money at some expense to the quality of their offering. Completely understandable, but a shame.

I while back during the Stories launch, I did a cleanout of many people I didn’t actually know IRL. The amount of irrelevant stories I was seeing irritated me, but now I rarely look at any stories at all. Maybe I need to follow more great photographers again.

Snapchat

I actually like Snapchat, but I’m too old for many/any of my friends to also use it, so not much point in me opening it up much.

Conclusion

I’m hoping these changes will make a more positive online 2017 for me. I get lots of value from social media, but the networks are so prevalent now I think everyone needs to be thoughtful about how they use them, so they continue to provide the tremendous and positive benefits they can do when they are at their best.

Be interesting to see if any of these changes have any effect.

Twitter Facebook Instagram

Writing a Category Index Page for Jekyll

I’ve added a Posts by Category page to the site, as now there are a few posts on here I thought it would be useful to be able to browse them quickly.

As I’ve mentioned before, this site is statically generated using Jekyll which is great but it can be challenging at times to do anything slightly different.

How Jekyll works is that each post is a Markdown file with some meta-data (also known as Front Matter) at the start. For example, this post has this meta-data:

The offline generator can then use this meta data in the templates as required.

I use the categories in two places:

  1. The category labels used at the end of each post showing the category a post is in (and linking through to a section of the index page)
  2. In the categories index page itself to group the pages by category

Templates in Jekyll use the Liquid templating system from Shopify, which is pretty flexible if a little obtuse at times.

For example, here’s the template I wrote for the category index page:

Basically what this does is a hell of a lot of work to get:

  1. A unique list of category values in a concatenated string (get_items)
  2. A count of how many categories there are (num_words)

We then go through each category name in sorted order, and go and get the posts in that category.

Clear as mud really, but luckily I’d built something very similar already on another site a while back with a lot of help from the Internet.

The one downside is that I can’t find any way to do a case-insensitive sort of the categories. According to the documentation, there should be a sort_natural which does exactly what I want, but I couldn’t get it to work 😒

The workaround is to only use lower-case categories (I couldn’t face mis-casing iPad and iOS - too ugly), which isn’t perfect but it will do for now.

[Update: I added some old posts that had title casing for the categories, so gave up on the lower-case only, and will continue to search for a case-insensitive sort soultion]

P.S. This was all written on my Mac and not on my iPad - turns out there are limits on my patience, especially when copy and pasting code between files. Don’t judge me.

Blogging Jekyll