Today’s header image was created by Elvis Santana, the original source for the image is available here

Organised?! You Hardly Ever Post!

So it’s been a while since I last posted.

I start all of my catch up posts like that, have you noticed?

Well, I’ve been busy. I really have. I have three blogs now:

I post something new on the .NET Core blog

which chronicles my journey in learning .NET Core

every week. This means that not only do I have to make sure that I know enough about a given topic to write about it, but I also have to have some code written which shows off the topic of that week.

As an example, I spent February and March of this year writing a series of tutorials to go from nothing to this. Along the way, I wrote every line of code, designed a database architecture and published an application to the Azure cloud platform.

All of that in just five tutorial posts. All five of which come in at about 10,000 words

It was based on a project that I’d wanted to do for a while, so most of the design work had been done on the back of envelopes and scraps of paper.

But I still had to write the darned thing, then come up with a way of dividing it into chunks and writing about it in a way which meant that it would be engaging enough with readers for them to try it out.

I guess it helped that I gave the entire source code away for free, too.

On top of that, I have a list of posts, that are either written by myself or my brother, which are ready to be published for the Waffling Taylor Boys blog. This is a blog all about retro games and our thoughts on gaming in general.

They usually go out at a rate of two per month, but I still need to plan, research (read: play all my old games), write and proof read.

The posts are usually quite small, but my posts on Samurai Warriors and the NES classic TMNT have both been over 1,000 words, and my soon to be published post on the first SCUMM based Discworld novel tips over to nearly 2,000 words.

Tools

I use quite a few tools to write my blog posts:

  • Trello
  • Google Keep
  • Google Calendar
  • WordPress
Google Keep

When I come up with an idea for a blog post, I’ll usually have my phone with me or I’ll be near my computer. When an idea strikes, I’ll log into the Google Keep app

which is free, by the way

and start a new note. I’ll usually give it a title like

Blog post on …

and tag it with the blog that it would be relevant to. Here’s an example

in fact it’s an early version of the keep item for this post

Google Keep item for this blog post

I don’t flesh out the points much more than that.

this is a note taking platform after all

From there, I’ll head over to Trello and create a card for it.

Trello

Trello is one of the great fremium task management apps. The idea is that you create a card for a task and move it from list to list as it moves through stages of being completed.

it’s just a virtual version of a kanban board, but it’s really effective

Each of my blogs has it’s own kanban board on there, which means that I can focus on one blog at a time. Having the one board to focus on at a time is easier to manage than looking at the boards for all of my blogs at once.

The layout that works best for me is to have the following columns:

  • Ideas
  • Planning
  • To Do
  • In Progress
  • Published

On the .NET Core blog board, I have a “scheduled for publishing” column. This is because I’ll usually be, at least, one week ahead of myself. So it’s nice to have somewhere for each card to go between In Progress and Published.

Trello board for this blog

A redacted version of the Trello board I use for this blog

After I’ve created the Google Keep card, I’ll create a Trello card for it in the Ideas column. I don’t usually do much with the card while it’s in this column. But every few weeks, I’ll go through and move a card or two to the Planning column.

Once a card is in the Planning columns I’ll flesh out the main points that were on the Google Keep card, adding links and check lists as I go. At this point, it’s a short list of the main points that I want to hit, with some web resources to help me get the point across.

At this point, I’ll start adding labels to the card.

Trello card with labels

Trello has support for colour blindness. As far as I’m aware, I’m not colour blind, but I do prefer gradients and patterns over blocks of colour for my labels.

I’ll add labels based on what the card is about, the above card is about the Security of one of my blogs, and the steps I took within the software to secure it more, so those are the labels that I chose.

Once I’m happy with a card and I’m ready to start working on it, I’ll move it to the To Do column. Basically, this column is a waiting area until I get the time to work on a card.

When I’m ready to start working on a blog post, I move the top card from the To Do column into the In Progress column.

The most important thing here is that there is never more than a single card in the In Progress column at any time.  Each board can have a card in its In Progress column at the same time, but the In Progress column for a given blog can only have one item in it.

The reason for this is simple and can be summed up by quoting Charles Emmerson-Winchester III:

I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on

Doing more than one thing at a time, especially something like writing, can put you under a lot of stress.

ask any university student around the time that their dissertations are due

So I only ever work on one blog post at a time.

Only when the card is in the In Progress column will I start to write it. By this point I’ve:

  • chosen the topic
  • planned out the content
  • picked a header image
  • picked out tags and categories

For instance, here is the card for this blog post:

Trello - Blog Post In Progress View

As you can see, I’ve fleshed out the original idea, added a header image, and added labels.

Once a blog post has been published, I’ll add a direct link to the live post to the card then move it to the Published column.

I can’t show you that for this blog post, so I’ll show you the last thing to go live, which was a post on my  .NET Core blog:

Trello - Published Post Example

Google Calendar

Having the cards move about is all well and good unless you have some sort of schedule for moving them around and getting the work done.

The best way to explain my work schedule is for you to see it, dear reader. So here’s my schedule for this month (April 2017):

Google Calendar Blog Post Schedule

Not included here is socialising time (time with friends and family), chill out time (because they’re different), bleed over time (when one blog post takes longer than the allotted time to complete), publicising time, and sleep.

oh, and work

Every Monday, I work on a post for the .NET Core blog. More often than not it’s me doing a write up on some code that I’ve written or some project that I’ve gotten live for people to play with.

Tuesday is my night for working on something for the Waffling Taylors blog. This is usually typing up my thoughts on a game, series or some other topic related to retro gaming. I’ve usually spent time during the preceding weeks playing the game or discussing the topic with my brother.

Unless it’s something that my brother has written, in which case I’ll have an evening of not writing

Wednesday is proof reading night. I take the post that I’ve written on Monday and proof read it. I read through it slowly, and some times out loud

which is a great way to check punctuation

I make my edits to the text and start again. I keep doing this until I’m happy with the post.

Thursday is the night that my .NET Core blog post goes live. I’ll usually spend half an hour before it goes live making sure that the post still makes sense (I make very minor edits here – capitalisation, usually).

One the post has gone live, I’ll grab a link to it and put it on the card as a comment. Then I’ll move the card to Published and spend part of the evening publicising it.

Friday is when Waffling Taylors posts go live, but that happens during the day. They go live during my lunch break, which is when I publicise it. Then all I have to do in this instance is to grab a link to the published post, add it as a comment to the card, and move the card to published.

Saturday is a free day.

On Sunday I’ll take some time looking at this blog. Sometimes it’s a post, sometimes it’s maintenance. If it’s a maintenance task, then it’ll get done on all three blogs.

Scheduling

Before I even started my .NET Core blog, I’d taken the John Sonmez course on blogging.

Here’s a direct link to it.

I found it insightful and helpful in picking a topic and getting everything ready for the off.

The basic rules that I set myself as a result of taking that course where:

  • Set a schedule
  • (as far as possible) Stick to it
  • Have a large backlog of articles ready to go
  • Engage with your audience

There’s a lot more to it than that, and I’d recommend anyone who wants to get into blogging take the course.

psst. It’s free

After All That

I often wonder how I’ve managed to stay on schedule

and there have been a few times when I almost haven’t

but it’s just a matter of putting the effort in and trying to be ahead of yourself.

When I am writing a blog post, it’s rarely posts that will go out that week. It’s usually due to go live the week after, at the very least.

It took a lot of effort to get to this point, and I’ve only had to pull something out of thin air very quickly once. It was when .NET Standard 1.0 was officially released and Immo Landwerth produced a bunch of videos talking about it and what it was.

then again that’s gone on to be one of my most successful blog posts, ever. And I’ve been blogging since 2010

It’s even been cross posted on Medium and it’s even been (partly) translated for a Chinese audience.

I was quoted for a Chinese technology news site.

I’ve had to relax the schedule of this blog to make room for the other two, but I still love doing all three.

Do you write for a blog? If so, what’s your schedule like?

Just One More Thing

No, it’s not my Columbo impression… this time.

I’ll tack this onto the end of the post, because it doesn’t really fit with the theme of the rest of the post, but I wanted to get it out there.

This week, I finished putting together the beta of an application that I’ve been working on for a while: The Discworld Disorganiser.

It’s a search engine (of sorts) for Discworld books. Take a look at the video and tell me what you think of the beta

Jamie is a .NET developer specialising in ASP.NET MVC websites and services, with a background in WinForms and Games Development. When not programming using .NET, he is either learning about .NET Core (and usually building something cross platform with it), speaking Japanese to anyone who'll listen, learning about languages, writing for this blog, or writing for a blog about Retro Gaming (which he runs with his brother)