I year ago I started a new project, printing the family blog. At the time it looked like a quick enough project, convert all the 2014 posts into a book. Each post was fast enough, copy-pasting from the web to a word template. It did take me longer than I thought, and the result was good enough. Here are some pages:
I was very happy with the result, but I wanted something better for 2015, and I wanted to complete the project early 2016 (I finished with 2014 the end of July 2015, over 2 months of work). To accomplish this I converted all previous 2015 posts into the Word format I was using for the book, and all new post where first written in the new format. Also, all images were added to the book in full resolution, the 2014 book since it was copied from the web had the images in a lower resolution. Also, the 2015 book is a bit more aggressive in the page design and flow: not all images from the web are included, smaller images, more attention to image collages, etc. Here are some example pages:
I am very excited with the results from the 2015 book, and I feel that creating these books has helped me understand the importance of page flow and composition. I’ve also learned a lot about how to format well in Word and the importance of negative space (white on pages). It also ups the ante for the 2016 book.
Somethings that I learned with the 2015 book:
The book file became unmanageable after 100 pages, because it was heavy with images.
I had to stop writing directly on the book file, but rather wrote in separate files.
The best way (so far that I know) is to write each post on a file, add all images and format the way you want it, then import the file to the book file. Importing is much better than copy/paste.
For 2016 I’m writing all my posts in separate files using the book template. I’m formatting each post to look as best as I can. I want to explore some new formatting and try to keep the look consistent across the whole book.
I wanted to tell you about a tool I use every day, an RSS Reader. My reader of choice is Newsblur.com. According to Newsblur I’m subscribed to 114 RSS feeds.
“RSS uses a family of standard web feed formats to publish frequently updated information: blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video. An RSS document (called “feed”, “web feed”, or “channel”) includes full or summarized text, and metadata, like publishing date and author’s name.” via Wikipedia
Some people think of an RSS Reader as an inbox, and they see 100 unread stories, and feel overwhelmed, don’t do that. RSS is about scanning, not reading. If there is a feed you don’t care about what happened the last week, mark it all as read and go on. You can also skim through the titles and only read the ones that are interesting.
One of the things I love about Newsblur is that I can train it to show me only the authors or topics I’m interested in for each particular site. There are some sites that have hundreds of stories each week, but I only care about 1 author that writes a weekly on a particular topic. I can train Newsblur to only show me that topic from my favorite author.
The last thing I love, and it might be counter intuitive, is that I pay Newsblur $24USD each year. I love the value that I get from Newsblur that I don’t want them to go away. I think that $24 is a good value proposition and hope to see them succeed.
I’ve been a loyal Dropbox user since 2010 and have now incorporated it into our family’s workflow. I started using the free version mainly for myself, over the past years I upgraded to the Pro version and added my account to all devices in the family. Here is an overview of the workflow.
As you can see most of the devices are connected to 1 dropbox account, right now the Pro price is $9.99 USD per 1TB per month. Our family is using about 24% of the capacity, and we are only adding about 60GB per year.
The way we have set it up is mainly for images, this way either one of us can take a picture and it’s uploaded to Dropbox. I can use images from either phone to add to the blog or share in social media.
Notice that I also do a backup of the whole system to a local hard drive, just in case.
I am sure there are other ways to do this, but I am happy with our current set up. Except for the following and maybe they are deal breakers for you:
You have to trust your family members, they will have the power to delete files, you can undo anything within 30 days, but still you have to trust them.
To share in social media a picture my wife took on her phone, I have to download the image to my phone before I can use it. Dropbox is smart not to upload it again, but if you are trying to get a lot of images, it takes time. A video, a lot more.
When I hit the 1TB mark the next level up is $15 / month with unlimited data.
I don’t consider Dropbox a backup solution, mainly because it mirrors deletes. Right now I have a local backup, but there is room for improvement.
I have in the back of my mind some possible upgrades to this workflow:
I know I need an offsite backup solution, I really like Amazon’s Glacier service and at some point I want to embrace it.
Phones are essential part of our digital life, I do have the phone backed up to Apple’s servers every night, but I might have to give in and add iCloud Photo to have a second line of defense to my images and to easily navigate past images.
I have to upgrade my home computer, the drive is only 500GB and I want that machine to have at least everything on Dropbox. Hopefully this year I will build an HTPC.
As always, let me know your thoughts, I especially want to know your family workflow.
I mentioned before that views are not the focus of my blog, but I do love stats. Previous post on numbers. July is the new record holder for page views, it get’s me excited, I try to only post twice a week when there are relevant things.
Our newest member of the family came en of June, so that has been no shortage of things to post in July. And thus it was easy to have 8 posts, all with high interest. It’s been cool.
I’ve been looking at websites, blogs, pinterest and following links trying to find a good example of what I want for my family blog (FamMijangos.com).
I had some good guiding points, I mean there are some really good work out there. I didn’t want the blog to be a product review site. I didn’t want to be a soap box. I truly wanted a family meet up.
Here are some place that I think are really good.
71 Toes (71toes.com): This is a great blog that started with just a few posts. As time went by the followers grew. Shawni, the author, is a good example of constant writing. I’m impressed by the amount of writing she does. The site is also a great example of a simple setup and wonderful images.
Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows (JocelynAndJason.blogspot.com): This blog is this persistent flow of good vibes. I don’t read the posts, because I don’t think I’m the intended audience, but I’m sure the children and family members love reading it. Jocelyn, the author, chronicles the adventures of her children. She strives to capture the minutia that truly are the essence of our lives.
The Anderson Crew Blog (theandersoncrewblog.com): This is a really cool site, minus the product placement. It chronicles the lives of a family with several children, and the quirks and personalities of all the members. I love the energy of the images, and wish I had a cool logo for my images, one day I want a watermark for my images.
I want to highlight a site I recently found, that really is what I want when my blog grows up: www.laceymeyersphotography.com. This is a great blog and great images, the theme is professional and modern. All the images tell a story, but there is also a story behind the images, very cool.
I know that what I have right now makes sense, but at some point the blog will have to grow up. I’ve talked to a few bloggers and it seems that around year 5-7 things really pick up; this is when the audience grows. I’m only been doing this for a few years now, and my audience are my Facebook friends; maybe other people will find interesting my adventures, just as I found valuable these sites. Only time will tell.
I’m here writing this post, because the post I should be writing is not moving forward, because I feel overwhelm. What I’m going to tell you is not a magic pill of how to write the post you want to write. It is not the solution from going from a pile of picture to the perfect 9 images for your post. Last year I wrote a process I use to go from a pile of images to a post, but just starting can be overwhelming.
My hope is for you to move from doing nothing to doing something. Here are 3 things to consider:
You wanted to do this. When you started there was a goal: you wanted to share, to record, to remember, or just write. Remember that goal, at that starting point there were no strings, no word counts, no minimum number of images, no perfection implied. reconnect with that feeling.
Baby steps, small bite, one step at a time, or any other cliché. You took 600 pictures on your trip, you need 5 and can’t decide? Does it matter? You found one that you really like? Use it only that. No time to write 1,000 words to describe your epic adventure? Write a paragraph and move on.
You are the author, you pick what gets recorded. Yes you had a lot of adventures, but you get to decide what gets recorded. Move to the next exciting thing; better to have a hole than to stop the story.
Now pick a topic and start writing; you might even surprise how much you accomplish.
A few days ago my wife was talking about a presentation she saw on printing blogs. She thought that it would be a great idea so that we could have those memories in print.
I looked at several different companies that do automatic printing, pulling the blog and creating a printable PDF. All the ones that I tried (Blog2Print, Sharebook, Shutterfly, Blurb) didn’t offer good control of how I wanted the book to look like. Most created too many pages, figures since they charge by the page, the margins were too wide and there was no flow.
Then I came across this blog post, and this blogger’s experience with a site called Lulu. She explains all the things you have to do to publish in their platform. This was the other side of the spectrum, you got a Word template and you have to pull in every post from your site! How long would that take.
I gave it a try, open the Word document, opened a web page with a short post, copy-past, 5 minutes later was a post I was really proud of. I mean, I was really proud of what it looked like, it looked like the web, but formal, something you would expect of a printed book. Here is a side by side comparison of the same post from Blog2Print and my template:
I started with the Year 2014, it is one of the most complete, after that I hope to order 2015 soon after this year is over. I hope to be able to catch up 2015, and then every time I publish a post I added it to book. Wish me luck.