Worked out an images workflow

I mentioned a few days ago that I’d got my microblogging working about the way I wanted. There was one exception to that: my “images” workflow.

There’s pretty good “media library” functionality built into WordPress, but I’ve always found it a bit too blog-centric in how it works to be a good general solution to images hosting.

I was a Flickr user from way back, but when the new owners ruined it I decided I should host my own images, and ended up going with Lychee to provide self-hosting functionality.

Lychee works great, but it took me a while to sort out how to integrate images hosted there into my blog.

Here’s what I’ve ended up doing:

  1. Upload images to images.philipbrewer.net. The Lychee software lets me keep them private or make them public, and it lets me organize them into albums. It also produces an RSS feed of all my public photos.
  2. If I want to use one of my photos in a blog post, I select the photo in Lychee, click on the share button, and select “direct link” to get a link to a .jpg file. The default is the full-size image, but I can edit the link to get a link to a medium or small image if I prefer.
  3. In my blog post I insert the image as usual, except instead of selecting the image from my media library, I click “Insert from URL” and paste in the link I acquired in step two. If it’s the main image for the post I also paste it into the “use this image” field in Open Graph (a WordPress plugin I use to generate the metadata so that links shared in Twitter and Facebook use the image I want). If I want to, I can also specify the Lychee page for that image as the target URL if you click on the image.

Here, for example, is an image I took yesterday:

The utilities right-of-way past the U of I research fields is mowed until you get to the solar farm, but after that there’s a long stretch of tall weeds. Not impassable, but not a path either.

Pretty much everything works the way I want it to now. The images are hosted on images.philipbrewer.net, I have access to small, medium, and large versions of the images, and an easy-enough way to include them in a blog post.

Two things that could work better:

  1. A one-click way to get the link for the images pasted into all the right places in a new blog post, so I’m not having to go back and forth to make the image block, get one link, paste it (usually twice), then get the second link, and paste that one.
  2. A one-click way to get a srcset, so that my pages can be more automatically made responsive.

Still, after a bunch of posts where I was testing things out, in which things didn’t work quite they way I wanted them to, I’ve now got things just about set.

Using my microblog

Often—I’d say usually—when I craft something to post to social media I end up disappointed eventually. In particular, when I want to refer back to it and find that it’s lost in the depths of Facebook or twitter and I can’t find it, or can’t refer to it in the way I want to.

I think I’ve got this problem solved now, via micro.blog, which is social media done correctly.

Use micro.blog like this: Have your own blog that generates an RSS feed. Sign up for a micro.blog, and configure it to watch that feed. It will build a twitter-like timeline out of your blog posts. There’s a clever detail about how it does so: Your regular posts will just be posted with your post title and a link. But your short, status posts—your tweet-like posts—show up with the full content instead of just a title and a link. (You signal the difference to micro.blog by omitting a title on your status posts.)

I set up a micro.blog a couple of years ago (I was a backer on Kickstarter), and was very pleased with how it all worked, with the sole problem being that nobody reads my micro.blog feed. My frustration with that, however, has finally prompted me to do something that I’m always loath to do: Spend money.

I signed up to spend $2 a month to have micro.blog forward my feed on to twitter (and, of course, to support micro.blog). A link to this post will show up with the post title. My status posts are showing up as tweets, just like they’re supposed to.

Going forward I’ll still post to twitter, but generally just replies and retweets. With those exceptions, my plan is to publish all my content here and let micro.blog handle the rest.

Fixed my Clarion journal

Some time ago (trying to fix something else) I switched my web host to run PHP version 7.2, and didn’t notice that doing so had broken the glue code that made my Clarion Journal entries work.

When I did notice that it was broken I didn’t fix it right away. Partially that was because I had been meaning for some time to import all those journal entries into the WordPress blog. (Among other things, that would mean all those entries would be properly included in my site map.) More to the point, it was because fixing it would require debugging and coding PHP, something I hadn’t done in more than 10 years.

Today, though, I got email from a guy who had tried to read my journal and had found it missing, and that turned out to be the kick I needed to go in and fix the PHP code. (The fix turned out to be utterly trivial.)

So, I made the necessary fixes and Philip Brewer’s Writing Progress is once again on-line. (The first day at Clarion is June 3, 2001.)

Writing in 2018

My writing this year ticked along at a low level, so low I was almost tempted not to bother reporting on it.

I continued to work on fiction by fits and starts, but I don’t think I finished a single story.

I want to be sure to thank Elizabeth Shack whose Thursday evening writing group, even though I didn’t make it as often as I meant too, still got me writing more than I otherwise would have. (It’s not a critique group at all. It’s a way to make writing a little bit less of a solitary activity. We gather in a coffee shop and spend a couple hours quietly working on our own stuff, with a few minutes of conversation at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. It’s all very companionable and I miss it when I don’t go.)

I can’t even say I’m disappointed in myself for not writing more (which I used to be): Every day I get up and do exactly what I want all day. Sometimes that’s writing, and when I write I really enjoy it. Other days it’s something else, which I usually enjoy as well.

I used to put a lot of effort into arranging my life with writing in mind—making sure I had large blocks of time to write, making sure I had time to write every day, making sure I could get started writing early in the day. I think that worked after a fashion, perhaps more so for the non-fiction than the fiction, but I have largely given up on fussing about that stuff.

Along about the middle of the year I got email from the admins at Wise Bread saying that they were “switching gears” and would “no longer be commissioning articles” as they had been.

Once again, I’m not really disappointed. I was much more suited to their old model where I wrote whatever I wanted and then posted it. There were good reasons for them to hire editors—and the editors they got were great—but the way you have to work when you have an editor didn’t suit the way I wrote. (If I wanted to pitch stories and work on deadline I could make a lot more money writing for magazines.)

Before that shift I did publish two stories at Wise Bread:

I also did a ground-up rewrite of my old post “Treasury Bills for Ordinary Folks,” which they published under the old URL but with inexplicable title Why Treasury Bills Are Always a Worthwhile Investment. (I say inexplicable because the whole reason it was worth a rewrite is that, after 10 years during which Treasury Bills were a terrible investment, they were were finally once again paying a competitive rate.)

I have one more post that they bought, but which hasn’t gone live yet. They say it’s currently scheduled for early January, so I guess I’ll be able to include a Wise Bread section in my 2019 end-of-year post as well!

One place I have been writing pretty actively is here on this blog. A quick count just now found 67 posts published in 2018, and I may post another one or two before this post goes live.

Some of that number are trivial status posts—for which I have the glimmerings of plan. I’d like to post everything which goes to social media here first, and then share it on social media. Working out the logistics has proven problematic, which gets me discouraged. (My glimmers of a plan involve my microblog at micro.blog, but I don’t quite have everything working yet.) When I get discouraged, I go ahead and post stuff on social media—but almost always I end up regretting it. That’s when there’s another small flurry of status posts here.

Besides those, there are plenty of more substantial posts here as well. Since you’re here reading this, I assume you don’t need me to link to those.

Wrote an article pitch policy

It won’t do any good, but I have written and posted an article pitch policy to discourage people from sending me pitches for article ideas.

In the past few of years, I seem to have gotten on mailing lists for any number of PR flacks (and others), who are constantly offering me reports from their experts on this or that aspect of the economy, results of polls that they’ve done, press releases about new upcoming books, invitations to webinars, etc. None of that stuff is ever of any interest to me.

I’ve never written an article based on anything I received in email. I’ve never linked to someone’s infographic because he sent me email suggesting that my “readers might be interested” in it. In the past I did a few times accept free copies of books for review, but (with one exception—a book by a former fellow Wise Bread writer) I quit doing that back when Wise Bread did its last big structural change.

Inktobering

I’ve been doing a pen-and-ink drawing each day this month for #inktober. I’ve been sharing them on Twitter, but obviously I should be sharing them here on my site as well.

So, here’s a gallery with my #inktober drawings, I’ll try to keep the gallery updated as the month of #inktober proceeds.