November 25, 2011

Decision review: Scheduling posts and using themes

November 25, 2011 - Categories: blogging, decision, review

I started using Posts Calendar to plan my blog while preparing for our trip to the Philippines. I wanted to schedule posts, and I also wanted to neatly organize a 15-part blog series so that people knew what to expect. Even after we returned from our trip, I continued using Posts Calendar to organize my posts into rough themes.

Before I started using this editorial calendar plugin, I mostly managed my posts using a modified WordPress post index that gave me some additional information. I wanted to avoid flooding people with lots of posts, so I set it up to warn me if I’d double-posted and also if I had gaps between posts. This is what that interface looked like:

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With Post Calendar, my admin interface looks like this:

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It’s much easier to move posts around, to see gaps, and to get nudged into making patterns. Hence: quantified self / tracking posts on Mondays, blogging-related tips on Thursdays, decision reviews on Fridays, and weekly reviews on Saturdays or Sundays depending on when I get to do them. Tuesdays are a good time to post other bits and pieces, like items from feeds and books, or a round-up of other thoughts that don’t merit their own blog posts yet. Sundays might be for telling stories from life.

This involves more structure than I’ve used on my blog in the past. I started by posting notes as soon as I wrote them, which was a little overwhelming. I limited my blog to around one post per day, but the occasional topic sprints (Emacs week! Drupal week!) were probably less useful to a mixed audience. (My mom skips most of my geek posts, although she occasionally checks out a few.) With this kind of plan, I think I’m making it easier for people to pick which topics they’re interested in and tweak their reading habits without necessarily learning the ins and outs of category-based feed subscriptions.

The plan helps me remember to write about different parts of life, too. Like the way status meetings help motivate me to make regular progress each week on projects, regular blog posts nudge me to keep moving along. It’s a little like the 20-mile march described by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen in the recently-published book Great by Choice. Regular progress can be much more effective than sprints and waits. Knowing I want to post something about self-tracking every week, I make time to work on my systems and analyze my data. Knowing I want to review a decision or think through a future decision every week, I keep an eye out for opportunities to do so. I should dedicate a day to sharing things I’m learning at work, so that I get into the habit of posting those regularly as well.

Because I tend to write about what’s going on in my life today instead of trying to write “timeless” articles, sometimes I feel odd about posting screenshots or stories that might be dated. I still keep personal notes in any sort of order, so I’m not losing stories or ideas because of the blog structure. The value I get from reviewing chronological printouts is a bit lower now that blog posts are less tied to the time they happened, but I might play around with other methods for supporting memories. Despite the disadvantages, I think the system is working well for me.

Conclusion: For me, this is a good decision so far. A possible next step is to post more frequently if I find myself getting a big backlog and if my rate of writing is much higher than my rate of posting. I treat “one post a day” more as a guideline than as a rule, anyway. =)

What’s it been like for you? How can I tweak my blog to make it even easier for you or other people to enjoy it? If you blog, what are your experiences with planning or scheduling posts?