How I blog

In one way or another, people keep asking,

Doesn’t all this blogging take a lot of time? Isn’t it a lot of work? How do you gather the information for a post?

My answers are in part inspired by a post by Joanne at the blog Tomorrow Museum (h/t Tyler Cowen). She discusses the various ways in which she gathers and keeps track of ideas using modern tools.

First of all, blogging is not work for me. It’s entertainment. So whatever time it takes escapes my notice. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter how much effort I exert doing it. If it ceased to be enjoyable I would stop. Nevertheless, I can answer the question how much time it takes.

When I started blogging I spent hours per post. I recall one post (OK, maybe two) on which I probably spent over four hours, but most took me about two until I got the hang of it. I no longer spend nearly that length of time, and I don’t think it is because quality is lower. I think I’ve just gotten more efficient at writing blog-length pieces. Writing nearly every day does improve one’s skill. Now I tend to compose blog posts in my head during spare bits of time. When I get a few minutes in front of a computer I type out my thoughts. The paragraphs mostly flow. There’s hardly any wasted time at the computer puzzling over words and structure. My thoughts are in order well in advance.

I write two kinds of posts. The “real time” type are responses to and thoughts about events that are in the news and public (blogosphere) debate right now. I usually want to get those out quickly and they don’t take much time. Sometimes fifteen minutes is all that is needed to write such a thing. An example of this type is Consequences of Obstruction. When I write these I publish them immediately.

The other type of post is less time-sensitive and I write them far in advance. They do not rely on any current news or information and will seem fresh even if published months after I write them. I typically have blog posts of this type scheduled two to four months into the future. I wrote this sentence on 1/1/10, for example. These types of posts take longer to write because the ideas come more from me and less from news/blogosphere sources. They take an hour at most.

I gather and keep track of information that goes into posts using several Google products. Most information comes to me via Google Reader. Anything that sparks an idea or is related to something I’ve written or am working on I flag in some way, either by sharing it (putting it in my News & Links feed) or staring it (a way to mark Google Reader items to find them easily in the future). I also keep a Google Notebook dedicated to blog ideas. I drop in links and notes into that as I see them. Then when it comes time to write a post I just pull up my Google Reader and Notebook and plop in the links. The two references I made in the third paragraph of this post were stored in my Google Notebook until I was ready to use them. The second of them (the link to Tyler Cowen’s summary) was shared in my News & Links feed the minute I read it on 1/1/10.

Because I have access to Google Reader and Google Notebook nearly everywhere (on my phone or on any internet connected computer) these are the only tools I need to gather and keep track of information for blog posts. Once upon a time I also kept a small spiral notebook in my work bag in which I would jot notes. But I don’t see a need for paper and pen anymore. It’s hard to jot down a URL anyway. Cut and paste with Google tools is far better and faster.

That answers the questions posed, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to know much more (feel free to ask if you do). I think I’m sufficiently far into my navel now that escape is uncertain. I’d better stop.

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