Author Tools: Publishing from WordPress

Imagine you’re an author who uses your WordPress install to publish your work on your website. What if you wanted to export and distribute your blog posts–an anthology of short stories, research, or an image portfolio–as a PDF? Quite some time ago, I stumbled upon a WordPress plugin called Anthologize that does just that. It was discussed in a post at Dan Cohen’s Digital Humanities Blog. Here is an overview of what this plugin does, lifted from the Anthologize website:

Anthologize: grab, craft, publish.

Anthologize 0.5-alpha includes the following core features:

  • Use your existing WordPress blog content as the basis for your project;
  • Import content feeds from non-WordPress blogs and other publishing platforms;
  • Create a project containing one or more parts (chapters, acts, etc);
  • Add, update, remove, and reorder parts;
  • Add, update, remove, reorder, and merge individual items in parts;
  • Edit project items through standard WordPress editing interface;
  • Export your projects to: TEI, PDF, and ePUB.

It’s important to note that this plugin only works with WordPress 3.0 and PHP5 or higher and it only works on users installations (downloaded from wordpress.org and maintained on a server at a domain other than wordpress.com).

The possibilities created by this plugin are incredibly compelling to me. I’m a hardcore supporter of using WordPress as a CMS for websites. The ability to repurpose blog content into a ePUB, PDF or TEI file makes me a little giddy. I recommend looking at the case studies listed on the Anthologize website to get a better feel for how this tool might be used. My blogs don’t lend themselves well to this kind of tool but I can certainly see the usefulness of this tool for folks who want to distribute their own ebooks, generate exhibition catalogs, or create brochures and pamphlets about their company.

There’s quite a community built behind this plugin. The Center for History and Media and George Mason University developed this app with NEH funding. Some thought has gone into not just the documentation but the presentation of this plugin by way of logos and branding. It is evident that there is commitment from the developers to continue to shape this tool into a something special. The plugin was last updated a week ago today (I’ve known about the plugin since August).

I hope to give this plugin a try sometime.

200

Puddles is 200- posts that is, quite young by web standards. A babe!

When I realized that the 200th post loomed near, I wondered how best to usher in the terrible two’s. A retrospective? Ugh, lame, that’s what archives are for. An introspective account of the usefulness of blogs as self-therapy? Gag. Cake? Candles? No, I’m going to let this one slip quietly by. Let this post be merely a milestone.

Happy 200th PIP.

This is Not News

I’ve been doing a lot of work in WordPress lately. Unfortunately (or fortunately!) for you, fair reader, all of said work has been on the back end. Now that I’ve wrestled back control of the Oliver Crumb blog, I’ve been able to upgrade it and give it some love (again, all on the back end- it looks pretty much the same on the surface). I also have control of the email accounts at the Oliver Crumb domain again. We’re now using Google Apps for Gmail, Google Calendar, GoogleDocs, etc., on all of Russell’s theatre domains. I’m very happy with it. Thus far we haven’t used Google Apps to it’s full potential but as the company grows, I imagine  collaborative workspace will be more and more important.

On the life front, this week got WAY more interesting than originally slated. I’m doing my usual movie night thing tonight. Tomorrow night we are celebrating Father’s Day with Ann and David at Upland. I’m looking forward to seeing the parentals!  Thursday night Russell decided that we needed to see the Fantasticks at his alma mater so we’ll be leaving right when he gets home from work to see the show in Terre Haute.  Then I have to be at work at 6 in the morning because I will be leaving at noon to head to Normal, Illinois, where Tim and I will hit our first drum corps show of the season. I’ll be seeing my Cavies and the Crown (and many other most excellent corps) at DCI Central Illinois. Pysched! We’ll get back in town sometime Saturday afternoon and then I will FINALLY see Duck Soup Saturday night with the Russell-Mama. If you’ve friended me on Facebook, you may have seen the Duck Soup photos by Chris Eller. Exciting! I’ll be winding up the weekend with a Sunday afternoon shift at Avers. Had I known my week would be this full, I would have requested off the whole damn weekend. Oh well. I hope to have pictures (where permitted, of course) from some of these happenings. I’ve been shamefully bad about using my camera lately.

My blogs have been an epic ‘crickets chirping, tumbleweeds blowing’ kind of quiet lately but I’ve been posting away to Twitter and Google Reader.

Currently reading: Nothing. Oh, sorry, I’ve been reading Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters via DailyLit on my iPod, usually while I’m on the bus. Other than that, nope, nothing.
Currently listening: “Anodyne,” Down and Above

Time Wasters

I spend a lot of time staying connected via email, feeds, Twitter, etc. but that time spent pales in comparison to the shocking amount of time I spend per day online playing with various tools and web goodies. Here are a few that wasted my time today. Ah, well technically, I wasted my time. The goodies were just THERE, all shiny, waiting to be played with…

Blog Widgets

Generally, I try to be selective about which widgets I put on my blog because I don’t want my sidebar to be miles long. However, I love my book-related widgets (LibraryThing and DailyLit). I was going through my starred items in Google Reader this morning and was reminded of a recent LibraryThing post announcing updated widget creators.”Oh, boy!” Jenny says, pointing her browser to the appropriate link. And then I wasted time- lots of time- customizing a new widget for my blog.

I’m still not completely happy with my results (my own fault probably) but I’m curious if the newer widgets will load faster than the older ones as promised. It *seems* like my blog is loading faster (but honestly, there are so many other factors that could potentially affect load time, that it’s not fair to blame it on just one widget!). The CSS customization is a huge improvement, as is the mega-cool lightbox feature (click on one of the book covers to see what I mean). Curiously, they coded the author links to open in the same browser window, instead of in the lightbox, which to me is quirky but ultimately forgivable.

I opted for one of the lighter versions that stay static. There are, however pretty flash versions that rotate book covers, for those who wish to add some bling to their blogs. I also like that my own reviews can now display in the widgets. This is almost incentive to start writing reviews in LibraryThing. I haven’t reviewed there yet but I do make an effort to rate each book (which appears in the widget). Incidentally, I discovered today that I can rate 1/2 stars by clicking again on the star. This may have been a feature that’s been around for awhile but I found this by accident. The discovery is liberating and annoying- now I have to reevaluate my previously rated books. Ah well.

Facebook

I have begun interacting on Facebook almost exclusively via my iTouch app because when I visit Facebook on a computer, I end up taking quizzes and getting distracted by all of the random shinies that live there. This is great if I need to kill some time but lately, I haven’t had time to kill. And really, isn’t my time better spent doing something else? I still prefer Twitter over Facebook. On Twitter, I can still chat with or message people, follow specific topics with the use of hashtags, and share links, photos and videos on a simple platform without all of the other dren.

Whines the acolyte, “But EVERYONE is on Facebook!”

“Hah!” scoffs the skeptic, “That’s what Facebook and its hordes would have you… oh. Nearly everyone IS on Facebook.”

It wasn’t until I saw more friends that I speak to on a normal basis and a few family members that I finally decided to join. Even though not everyone I’d like to see has an account, I see the utility of a large social network. I get it, really. But if I must go to where the hordes are and put up with a horrible user interface (I joined after the redesign), then I will do so using what I’m referring to ‘Facebook Lite’ on Pan (i.e., iTouch). I even found a way to bypass having to visit Facebook on a regular basis by having Twitter cross post to my Facebook status. This last tactic proved awkward though, as @, #, and RT don’t mean anything to people who don’t use Twitter.

Lovely Charts

I received an email newsletter from Lovely Charts informing me of various updates they’ve made. Nothing seemed earth-shatteringly new. There are a few nice things for Premium users but even with the new features, Lovely Charts is still not a service I feel strongly enough about to pay for. The free account allows you to create and save one project, which you can come back and edit later. I suppose you can get by on the free account if, like me, you don’t have an ongoing project and you can delete your completed chart in order to create another. It is easy to use and I don’t know any other tool like it that is free.

Post from Pan

Testing WordPress for iPhone app. I can post to multiple blogs either on or offline with my iTouch (Pan). There doesn’t appear to be a way to include hyperlinked text, so I’ll write out the HTML here. Ah, the app saw that I was inputting a link and gave me a helper. It appears that it supports some HTML.

I’m trying this out with a saved photo. There doesn’t appear to be a way to format the photo or add a caption or alt tag. I’ve left the default ‘resize’ photo option on, to see what that does.

A lot of the bells and whistles that make WordPress really fun to use are missing but, for quick on-the-go blogging, this seems like a very capable tool.

Who’s Driving this Thing?!

Depending upon a.) when you may have stopped by today and b.) if you stopped by at all (RSS subscribers wouldn’t actually see my site), you may have noticed some weird things going on with Puddles. I’m sprucing for the new year. My current theme (Typebased from WooThemes) is rather spartan but I’m not sure I’ll even be sticking with it. I may show off a few other options that are… very NOT spartan. They’re pretty on first glance but can be a bit busy when you’re actually trying to find some information- hence why I haven’t implemented them thus far.

Some new WordPress plugins that I’m playing with:

  • Snazzy Archives by Vladimir Prelovac gives you a graphical way of representing your archives. Click on the Archives page at the top my page to see this in action. I’ve only seen this in Firefox 3.0.5 and, although not perfect, this isn’t the only way to access my archives. WordPress has a quite a bit of redundancy.
  • WP Super Edit enhances and allows for customization of the WYSIWYG editor. I haven’t even really begun to play with this but I will, comrades.
  • cforms II allows for the creation and maintenance of multiple contact forms throughout your site using AJAX. It has lots of options, which I haven’t even begun to explore. I’m considering this plugin for the Starrynight Productions blog because our contact page is so pitiful.
  • Blog Icons adds a  favicon as well as an iPhone/iPod Touch icon and feed image to your blog.  I found out how to do this by manually editing my last theme but of course I can’t just stick with one theme! This plugin will solve the issue no matter how many times I get bored with my theme.
  • Robots Meta is a customizable robot meta tag handler. Also a plugin I thought I already installed. Weird.

Housekeeping

I just clicked on a PNG file and it opened in Fireworks. Finally! UITS installed Adobe Design Premium CS4 on our work machines. Woo-ha!

In other news, I’m looking to spruce up the blog. I’m seeking out new themes. I’m also debating whether or not to upgrade the Cursedstorm and Starrynight blogs to WordPress 2.7. Decisions.

Plugins

WordPress Plugins

As you may have guessed from my previous post, I installed a couple plugins yesterday.

  • RSS Footer allows you to add a custom footer that will appear on each post in your feed.
  • WP Existing Tags displays all of your tags in post-writing mode.

The later was something I missed about Blogger. Opening up ‘Manage Tags’ in a new tab every time I wanted to publish a post was getting old; the librarian in me doesn’t like having the tag ‘ebooks’ AND ‘ebook’. Ecgh.

A few other plugins I may give a try:

  • Meta Robots adds meta tags to the header of your blog to instruct robots what to do with your site.
  • Advanced Excerpt gives you more control over WordPress’s existing Excerpt feature (which I don’t use on the cursedstorm domain but I may consider using it on the Starrynight blog).
  • Feed Pauser gives you a time window (which is customizable) to review your published post and make any edits before your post becomes available via RSS. I almost always discover a stupid spelling error or left out word after I post, no matter how many times I edit before publishing.

In addition to the plugins I already mentioned, I use Akismet and WordPress.com Stats. Do those of you using WordPress have any must-have plugin suggestions? Please share.

GIMP

I logged into my work computer this morning to find that UITS and/or LIT pushed down GIMP, GNU Image Manipulation Program. I’ve been meaning to give GIMP a try, after someone mentioned it as an alternative to shelling out $600 (that’s with the education discount) for Adobe CS4. I haven’t had a chance to play with it yet but it looks quite promising- promising enough to download at home.