Posted in Blogging Support, Publishing Resources

Why You Need a Blog Editor

Those of us with a treasured family journal, scrapbook or collection of letters have a window into the personal side of our family’s history. That one or more generations of people took the time and effort to protect and preserve those treasures makes them even more precious. Today, we have a large community of bloggers documenting and sharing their research and family stories. It’s amazing how quickly these “little stories” become impressive historical collections.

That’s the good news.

What happens to all that work when the blog platform you are using shuts down or has a server crash? There are all kinds of disasters that can impact your blog and its content. What are you doing to protect your work?

While most blog platforms include an online editor to make it easy to write and publish your posts, you may want to consider using a desktop (or mobile) editing app instead. There are a number of advantages to using an editor. Besides the obvious backup advantage, an editor will also make it easier to repurpose your posts into other family history publications.

I found two wonderful apps (for Mac and iOS) that support both my blogging effort and my writing projects while protecting both. I use Byword (Mac – $10.99, iOS – $5.99) as my blog editor. Its publishing feature supports posting to WordPress, Medium, Tumblr, Blogger and Evernote. I use iCloud to save copies of each post. I also use the Ulysses writing platform (Mac – $44.99 and iPad – $19.99) to manage my writing projects. Ulysses supports an “external folder” option that allows me to connect those Byword folders for easy access to my blog posts. Copies of any post is easily dragged into a writing project.

Even better … both Byword and Ulysses support Markdown so not only am I protecting my posts from disaster, I’m future-proofing my stories – saving them from the scrapyard of obsolete software.

Posted in Project Ideas

Reimagining the Scrapbook

Did you keep a scrapbook in your childhood? Was it something like this – black pages with all kinds of ephemera pasted or taped to it?

old scrapbook page
Childhood scrapbook

It was always a delight to pull out an old family album or scrapbook and take a trip down memory lane. It’s even more exciting when we get our hands on an ancestor’s scrapbook. Unfortunately back in the day we never heard of anything like “archival quality paper” to preserve precious childhood treasures. Today some of those treasures are in pretty sad shape.

It dawned on me a while back that my family history blog had turned into a sort of scrapbook. It wasn’t anything I planned. It just happened. I thought for a while and decided I liked it. Apparently my family does too. My subscribers list is growing and many of them are family with a surprising number of childhood friends too.

What does it take to build a scrapbook blog? Not much. My Moultrie Creek Journal blog is hosted at using the personal plan ($36/year). This gives me a domain name along with 6GB of storage for images, movies and PDF documents along with a broad range of site themes. I’m using the Fictive theme which has a simple, but eye-catching design and supports post formats – a different look for each post type (text, image, video, quote, etc.).

Sharing an old photo on my family history blog.

What really makes WordPress a great platform for a family history scrapbook is its social networking integrations. Family and friends can subscribe to receive new posts via email or newsreader and WordPress will “announce” each new post at my choice of social networks where family members are known to hang out. WordPress also has an impressive commenting system that works much like Facebook so visitors can add their own comments, photos and other ephemera to the conversation.

One of the very nice things about blogging your family history is that it will attract more than just your “close” relatives. Blogs are very search-friendly and it’s not unusual to have a distant relative discover your online scrapbook. They may even have useful information to pass on – like who is that unknown person in a family photo.

GGGGreat Grandmother

Using a blog as a scrapbook doesn’t limit your creative urges either. I like to create collage-style graphics like the one you see above and use them as the “focus” image at the beginning of a post. It attracts attention and provides time and place for the story that follows.

Blogs are surprisingly versatile and a great place to get creative. Even better, it can attract attention and start conversations you never expected. It’s definitely worth a look!

Posted in Blogging Support

Why Blogs Matter

I admit it, I’m spoiled. I’ve been reading news feeds in one form or another for more than 10 years now. Starting with a customized My Yahoo! page and moving on to newsreader platforms like Bloglines, Google Reader and now feedly, I’ve been able to follow my choice of authors and news sources covering an eclectic range of topics that I find interesting.

The big news organizations have created gorgeous news and magazine apps, but I’m not interested in the latest misadventures of some spoiled celebrity nor am I a big sports fan. The topics I find interesting are often things the media ignores. As a result I have turned to blogs for a lot of my news. Through blogs, I got war news from the Soldiers who are fighting it, how-to instructions from the developers who created the app and research tips from experts in their field. I also get local news that even my local paper doesn’t print. Few of the people I follow would be considered “objective” reporters. Instead, they have a passion for their causes.

Until the iPad came along, my biggest concern was the ability to “process” a large number of news items quickly to find and read the interesting articles. Now I combine Twitter, tumblr and feedly with apps like Flipboard to create a delightful reading experience that’s always ready for me when my schedule allows me to relax and enjoy some pleasure reading.

What I get out of all this is an informative and interesting reading experience customized just for me. Why? Because of a simple and inexpensive online writing platform called a blog.

Blogs are so easy to use that anyone can be up and running in a matter of minutes. There’s little to learn so writers can focus on their story and not how to build it. Yes, learning a few blog basics will improve the look and feel of an article, but even those lessons are quickly learned. As a result, the story tellers can tell their stories, the knowledge experts can share their expertise and the newsmakers can keep us updated in real time.

The next best thing about blogs is their construction. Blogs are designed to travel.


Blog platforms were built with syndication – as in RSS – in mind. This means anyone can subscribe to any blog using their news-reading platform of choice and each time a new article is published, it is automatically delivered to that reader.

Using newsreader platforms like feedly and the WordPress app, I can organize and manage any number of subscriptions to create a customized reading experience that matches my interests. And, like I said earlier, a whole new collection of devices and applications are now making my reading experience as beautiful as it is informative.

It’s not just readers finding blogs either. Search engines and news aggregators are finding them too. Once again, the structure of the blog platform makes them very search-friendly and when authors add keyword tags to their posts it increases their visibility even more. This gives unknown writers opportunities they might never have otherwise. Family historians have found blogging is a great way to attract cousins. With blogs and news reading apps, there aren’t any gatekeepers limiting access to content. The reader now makes that choice.

The information junkie in me is lovin’ every minute of it!

Reprinted with permission from Moultrie Creek Gazette.