Managing draft posts

This is a post that should never have been written. “Blogging is brainfarting”, so anything you write is for publication, and there shouldn’t be anything to manage! Why then are there constipated people like me, who end up with more than 70 draft posts, and feel this urge to manage them?

Why?

Vanity might be a reason. Fooling yourself into thinking: “every posting should add something”. It should be original. It should be witty and well-written.

Because, after all, it is yours, and people will judge you on it. So you really still need to work on it before letting it out! And so you procrastinate. You don’t publish anymore. You postpone till next weekend. And then the weekend after that. And when a draft gets stale or obsolete because everybody has read and written on the same subject, you don’t even delete. Because you still might rework it, later. When there’s more time and new inpiration.

If you don’t recognize the state of self-deception described above, count yourself lucky. For the rest of us silly perfectionists and procrastinators, what follows is a guide to manage your draft postings. Oh BTW, you’re asking yourself how I finally managed to post this one? Really easy: following the advice of this essay on structured procrastination, I in fact should have been finishing on this other big posting the world was waiting for. But, well, finishing things is so hard… So in order to have an excuse not to work on it, I finished this one :-)

< !—– end of tongue-in-cheek-mode —–>

How?

What are the ways to manage your draft postings? Let’s start with the most obvious way: saved as draft in your blogging system

  • This works fine for just a couple of posts. As soon as you have a considerable number, you need to be able to search through your drafts – WordPress doesn’t allow to do this, and I do not know of any other blogging engine who does.
  • With longer posts, the typical edit textbox is a pain to use. Here some WordPress-specific workarounds, none of them perfect:
    • in the admin panel, make the edit box bigger to get a better overview: options… writing… Size of the post box (in lines)
    • since WordPress 2.0, there’s a post preview pane in the editing window, but it still takes a lot of scrolling down (and within the preview pane)
    • publish your post with a timestamp set in the future. You can have a look at the posting as it will be published, but it doesn’t show (yet) on the front page or in the navigation. Or you could publish as page (without including them in the navigation) to achieve the same effect. Neither trick solves the search problem however.

There should be better ways to keep an overview of, and search through your drafts, and more comfortable editing environments. Let’s have a look at some other tools I tried *:

  • Collect snippets of text in your Gmail drafts folder
    • the in:drafts <searchword> search phrase solves the searching problem
    • the editing environment still is not ideal for long texts
    • you probably also have draft mails cluttering up the folder (logically, that’s what it’s meant for)
    • could be useful if you post to your blog via email anyway, but that seems more of a quick-posting style which is contradictory to the idea of keeping and working on draft posts :-)
  • Mind mapping tools
    • a mind mapping tool helps you to organize thoughts and concepts (see earlier posting for an example).
    • so it can help you while preparing a text (which is why Mindjet promotes its MindManager tool to bloggers). But it doesn’t help you to get an overview on a collection of individual draft postings. And it is more suitable for the phase of brainstorming and collecting ideas, not so much for editing and finishing your postings.
  • Online text editors
    • Jotspot, Writely, Writeboard, Zohowriter, Thinkfree, SynchroEdit, Goffice… a bunch of “collaborative online text editors” has sprung up and try to be the MS Office for the web (I tried them for a friend who wanted to circumvent corporate IT to work on texts with colleagues – I have a draft post with a comparison somewhere :-)
    • after a while, I gave up on using them: these tools have put a lot of effort in trying to imitate the Office and Windows interfaces (working with menus, pop-up windows…), which is just clumsy and uncomfortable on the web.
    • I found Writely to be the most promising and feature-rich at first sight, but the Writely code is not xhtml-compliant (e.g. tags instead of ) and postings from Writely to the blog lost their title ) I’m wondering whether pro blogger Steve Rubel (see his 10 blogging hacks) really uses it.
  • Write and maintain your draft texts in a wiki
    • not a bad idea: wikis have search built-in, and by the nature of a wiki, editing should be quick and easy
    • you might have trouble copy-pasting from your wiki to your blog, because of differences in how they handle/produce html
    • if you want to get away from a web-based editing interface, a wiki is not a solution of course
    • like mindmapping tools, some would argue that a wiki is more suitable for the brainstorming phase before defining the scope of your blog posting.
    • an example: Dutch KM blogger Ton Zylstra has a WikkaWiki running on his laptop for “working out ideas, filing, keeping notes” (see his overview of information-processing tools).
  • Desktop blogging tools
    • Instead of a web interface, you can use a desktop application that posts to your blog, here’s a quick list (from yet another draft posting :-) ):
      • W.Bloggar and Zempt are freeware oldies with which you edit the html code: only for masochists
      • the more recent Qumana and Zoundry Blog Writer are more sophisticated and very nice freeware aiming to create an advertising network through its userbase
      • you can get Ecto (Mac and Windows) and Blogjet (Windows only) for a moderate fee. They probably are very well worth their money if you spend a lot of time writing and want an intuitive and comfortable interface.
    • Apart from the first two, I find them more comfortable to work with than a web interface – and you can save your drafts on your hard disk and work on them off-line
    • but again, there’s no way to search trough your drafts, unless you use the text search functionality in Windows (or Mac, or…)
  • Blog posting as an extension to your browser
    • the “social browser” Flock was hyped too early and failed the expectations, but the Performancing plugin in Firefox is a lightweight and very practical alternative – have a look at the features.
    • search your “notes”, switch between WYSIWYG, code and preview pane, maximize the editing window… really great! (the plugin saves your non-published notes on your harddisk in \Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\{some profile identifier}\extensions\performancing-notes.xml)
    • what it still lacks in comparison with desktop blogging tools is support for image upload and for extended entries (separating the intro and the “More…” part of the text )

What

Finally, here’s the recipe I settled for (for now :-) ):

  • publish snippets of text to a separate blog set up on a different subdomain or subdirectory (such as test.vanhecke.info, but with another name :-).)
  • searching is the same as searching on any blog, and you see the text as it will be published
  • the described desktop blogging clients and the Performancing plugin make it easy to manage multiple blogging accounts – when the text is finished, swith the target blog and publish to the actual blog
  • configure the image upload for the test blog to be the same location as the actual blog
  • if you want to keep your testblog private, don’t forget:
    • to put <meta content="noindex, nofollow" name="robots"> in your html or disallow search engines with your robots.txt.
    • switch off trackback and pingback

So, will it make me more productive? Dunno, but at least it made me write on technical solutions for a psychological issue. How more geeky can it get?

* (not necessarily alone in the context of blogging but for keeping notes and editing texts in general)

15 Responses to “Managing draft posts”

  1. LVB Says:

    Very interesting post, especially with regard to tools and methods.

    Me too, I continuously have some draft posts in the pipeline, some of which will never be published because by the time I find the time to further elaborate them, they are outdated.

  2. Jim Brodhead Says:

    Not a big volume poster yet but I use MS One Note to keep stuff that I am thinking about or working on. The features make it very flexible in keeping ideas sorted out and sice I use Outlook, it’s easy to use the plug in that allows me to send incoming e-mails that may pertain to a post in progress right to the OneNote program.

  3. Kevin Sheridan Says:

    This is a great overview of an important and often overlooked stage of blogging.

    However, one solution you overlooked–on the Mac side of the equation–is NoteTaker and NoteShare. I’m not employed by AquaMinds, the developer of these apps, but I have posted approximately 66 entries on how to create and manage your weblog with these versatile tools. For anyone interested, feel free to visit me at http://culturehack.typepad.com/notetakerblogging/

    Keep up your excellent work, Pascal!

    Kevin Sheridan

  4. Zoli Erdos Says:

    OneNote is not bad, but freebie EverNote is better, IMHO :-)

    I also use both Blogjet and the Performancing FF extension. In the latest release of Blogjet you now have a setup option to delete the draft (local) file as soon as the post is published to your blog. This is helpful since now any time you do file > open, you’re only looking at your unfinished drafts.

    Performancing for FF allows you to save unfinished posts as notes, which is really cool. You still have to manually delete the note after posting to the blog, which is not cool …

  5. Mary Ann Davis Says:

    Great information! Any ideas on how I can include a search engine in Blogger?

  6. Robin Capper Says:

    Interesting post, I use a combination of MindManager and Blogjet. MindManager is my “idea aggregator” collecting links to posts I may reference or other resources. I also use it to link to BlogJet drafts and maintain a simple progress status with the “% done” icon in the MindManager map. Some ideas never become drafts, some drafts never become posts but you can get a quick overview from the map.

  7. Robin Capper Says:

    Your post inspired a post on my own blog. It shows my blogging process in more detail. Apart from BlogJet, the tools mentioned are also used in my work rather than just for blogging.

    http://rcd.typepad.com/rcd/2006/02/blogging_tools_.html

  8. Pascal Says:

    Hi, thx for the pointer to your posting!
    You might like other postings on the same subject from Ton Zylstra: http://del.icio.us/pascalvanhecke/tonzylstra+knowledgemanagement

  9. Library clips Says:

    Google Notebook for blog posts…

    Google Notebook is a way of saving snippets of text, and being able to share it.
    It’s got similar features to many services…
    Bookmarking
    - you could use it to save bookmarks (but there is a lack of tagging, and social tagging)
    Clipping
    -…

  10. Leroy Brown Says:

    I follow a bit of a different plan. I don’t let myself start a new post until I finish the draft I was working on. That way I never get 70 unfinished posts!

    Granted I have less total posts, so it does have it’s downside.

  11. Xander Says:

    The smart thing to do would be to find and use an approprirate plug-in for WP (or your software of choice)… unfortunatly I have not found one. Very frustrating.

  12. Library clips :: Collecting links for future blog posts :: January :: 2007 Says:

    [...] Managing draft posts Listen Print Email Follow Save Related …more site_url = “http://libraryclips.blogsome.com”; link_url =”http://libraryclips.blogsome.com/2007/01/24/collecting-links-for-future-blog-posts/”; title= “Collecting links for future blog posts”; color = “green”; width = 115; height = 40; customcss = “none”; «« Previous: Communal twittering [...]

  13. Glenn Says:

    Hey, just found your site… you’ve got some interesting posts here.

    Anyway, I came across this page: http://tragicallyleet.com/projects/wp-drafts/

    …and just wondered if you’d ever finished/released it. Sounds useful.

  14. T-zine van e-zine naar blog: blijdschap en ergernis Says:

    [...] serieus als je er niet om geeft dat het zomaar kan verdwijnen? : zie ook een Engelstalige posting van een tijd geleden – al gebruik ik tegenwoordig bijna uitsluitend Gmail om ideeën en lappen tekst te verzamelen [...]

  15. Makkelijk en snel screenshots en screencasts gebruiken in blogs (presentatie op Barcamp Gent) | Weblog Pascal Van Hecke Says:

    [...] op Barcamp was voor een groot stuk een zelftherapie sessie…  Zoals bij heel veel mensen stapelen de blogkladjes en halfbakken ideeën zich op, maar kom je er niet toe om dingen te posten: wegens te veel moeite om een volwaardige uitleg uit [...]