What is a good way to start a digital journal?
June 11, 2019 7:47 PM   Subscribe

I want to synthesize my lived experience, explorations, random knowledge gains, and art prototypes in blog form, but I'm very intimidated by the blog software. Can you please suggest some resources and actions that would help me accomplish some or all of my objectives (listed inside)?

I want to do more recording of my plans and reflection on my actions. I want to include interesting things I learn, and interviews with people. I'd like to be able to take it out of the paper notebooks and journals where things tend to get lost, and combine in other streams of content.

I don't know what's feasible and what's not, so here are some ideas that sound really useful to me:

1. Archiveable / transferable. If i eventually get sick of hosting online, or technology changes, I'd like it to at least export into simple files for my hard drive or PDFs.

2. beautiful. I know wordpress and many other sites have many beautiful themes but I'd mostly like something that is unbreakable, timeless, elegant. Something I can select once and not have to worry about. My favorite layout of the blogs I read is http://www.homemade-modern.com/ but I've got no idea how complex that is.

3. Import content from Instagram, calendars, maps, etc.

4. Content creation from desktop or mobile

5. public, semi-private, and private sections.

6. able to push content to facebook or other social media, for followers to view

7. this stuff is cool too - a previous similar question

OK so like I said, I don't know what's feasible and what's not. I would love feedback on each of these ideas so I can understand which is low-hanging fruit.

Also, I would love advice on a roadmap - i.e. first start writing blog posts in simple HTML on such and such platform to get the hang of that, then start incorporating these bells and whistles, and finally publish it all into a wordpress. What are the things you need to figure out first? And what are things that are easy to add/alter later?
posted by rebent to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Some notes as a Wordpress user:

1. There are free Wordpress themes that work very much like the Homemade Modern link you link to.

2. Wordpress has widgets that allow you to import content from other platforms, just by plugging something in.

3. You don't need to know coding or HTML for posts, most of the time. Most of the time all you need to do is type.

4. There is some ability to set individual posts as public, private, or friends-only.

5. I have to manually link each of my posts to my Facebook and my Twitter, but that may be more a function of me not minding that I have to do it manually. I'm sure there's a way to push things from Wordpress to social media, I just haven't been arsed enough to find it.

Honestly, I would recommend just jumping in. Get a simple free Wordpress site and start writing things. You don't need to know HTML, again; Wordpress posting is very user-friendly. It sounds like most of what you'll be doing is mostly text, so you'll have an even easier time of it. Just type like you were typing in MS Word.

It's easy to be seduced by the different themes, but at the end of the day the theme is really just window dressing. The layout of the theme for my blog is not 100% exactly what I had envisioned,and I did get kinda hung up on figuring out how to tweak one or another bit of the appearance, but at the end of the day I realized that what was really going to count was the quality of the content itself, so for the look of it I settled for "this is fine for now" and just got going. And I honestly don't think that the fact that the color of the background is black instead of the red I'd originally envisioned has mattered damn-all.

Just start playing around and getting used to producing content. You can always go back and play with the theme later on, but it's the producing of content that matters more. and you don't need HTML for that.

Memail me with any questions if you like.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:22 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I would recommend just jumping in. Get a simple free Wordpress site and start writing things

I agree, and wanted to add that I've had no issues downloading backups of my WordPress content. Additionally, the current mobile app isn't perfect, but it's much simpler for writing than other blogging apps I've tried.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:07 AM on June 12


Oh, here is another item that would be really, really useful - the ability to sketch, diagram, and add notes to images. I know you can do things like this in OneNote and Evernote. Is there something like that, but will publish to the web?
posted by rebent at 4:25 AM on June 12


May I clarify - do you believe that there isn't a way to simply add notes to images and then just paste those annotated images into a blog post?

I apologize if the questions I ask are coming across as condescending (I'm terrified that they do). I just get the sense that you may be operating on somewhat older information when it comes to "what it takes to make a blog", where you used to have to know all sorts of code to make the text display properly and remember what the code was for italics or bold or all that - but it really is much more user-friendly now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:44 AM on June 12


A free wordpress.com blog is a great way to start. The number of themes are limited because you have to choose one of theirs. However, if you eventually want to learn CSS, you can pay for that upgrade. You can also pay an upgrade to use your own domain name.

In addition, you are limited to their "plug-ins". However, there are a lot of them. It's as easy as clicking on a button and following any set-up necessary.

It's a pain free way to start. All of the security is taken care of them. Automatic is the company developing wordpress.

The basic package is free. Your address will be whatevernameyoupick.wordpress.com. That's how I started out blogging. I eventually moved onto a self-hosted site using wordpress and it was easier to transition having the experience from my wordpress.com hosted blog.

Just jump in and do it!
posted by kathrynm at 8:19 AM on June 12


May I clarify - do you believe that there isn't a way to simply add notes to images and then just paste those annotated images into a blog post?

I have no idea. My experience with blogs is that there is a text based field, always with an option to insert an image tag, sometimes with the option to upload an image. My ideal would be something like instagram stories, where you can take a picture with the phone, add scribbles on top of it, and include it in a blog post with as few intermediate "save to cloud service, download to device writing entry on, edit using some 3rd app like Paint.net, upload as part of entry" steps as possible.

So! no condensation received, I am TOTALLY operating on 10 year old knowledge.
posted by rebent at 10:16 AM on June 12


I really love Day One. You can publish individual entries to a blog (like Wordpress), make entries private, tag entries, add photos, import things like weather, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
posted by Brittanie at 10:38 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I agree, just jump in and start figuring things out.

Wordpress offers a plugin called Jetpack, and one of the many things it can do is repost to other platforms (note: Facebook has restricted this so individuals can't post to their walls, only organizations can).

It looks like there's at least a couple of Wordpress plugins that lets you annotate images (there are thousands of plugins available for WP). It may turn out that you'll prefer to mark up your images elsewhere and embed them in Wordpress, or export the marked-up images in static form and upload them to Wordpress.
posted by adamrice at 10:49 AM on June 12


My experience with blogs is that there is a text based field, always with an option to insert an image tag, sometimes with the option to upload an image.

Ah! Things have indeed come a long way. My post-processing experience for my own blog is:

* Click on the "write" button on Wordpress. I get taken to the writing page.

* Start typing inside the text box. It behaves exactly like writing something on Metafilter - I don't need to think of code if I want to italicize something or bold it or underline it, I just type inside the text box, and if I want to bold something, I highlight it and click the "B" thing. Even better - I have more options.

* Most of the pictures I add personally are screenshots from films, so I simply search Google to find an image that i want, right-click on it and pick "copy image", then go to where I want to insert it in my post, right-click and pick "paste". If I have an image on my own computer already instead, I'd have to upload it, but Wordpress has a thingummy that walks me through that.

* The one and only time I have to muck around with HTML is if I"m embedding a Youtube video clip, and even then it's just a matter of "tell Youtube to copy me the code, flip over to the HTML view of my post, find where I want to stick the video and hit 'paste', and then flip back over to normal view when that code from youtube is there."

* When my post is the way I want it, I make sure that the post is set to the audience I want (I always go for "Public" but I have more options if I want), and then hit "Publish". Wordpress will ask me whether I want to publish immediately or schedule a time, I tell it accordingly, and hit "publish" again.

That's it.

I personally haven't done much with Instagram feeding directly to my blog because that's not what my blog is about, but I found this link that suggests that there are a few different ways to do it, depending on how and where and how frequently you want to feed over from Instagram to Wordpress. You'll notice that it mentions something called a "widget" at one point - that's Wordpress-speak for a little set-it-and-forget-it thingummy you can stick over on a side bar or across the top or something and it will automatically fetch stuff from your Instagram (or Facebook or Twitter or whatever widget you're using) whenever you post there, so you don't have to. (If you want to have a look, I have a widget for my Twitter feed on my blog.)

If you want an image to be your post, you may still have to go through a couple steps, but Wordpress handholds you through that pretty well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:43 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I did it. I started a wordpress (which, turns out I had started two other wordpresses over 10 years ago, how about that) and got to it!

the mobile app is exactly what I wanted except that it doesn't let you edit the images you upload - it would be great to correct the lighting, crop, etc. But other than that, WOW!

So thanks for the push! This is working great so far.
posted by rebent at 6:13 AM on June 14


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