Developing a Writing Workflow

Clay Shirkey on the need to continually rethinking our workflows

I have been following Doug Belshaw’s posts associated the art and science of blogging. In a recent one he spoke about the tools associated with crafting a post. This led me to reflect upon my own processes. I have touched on this [before](secret blog), actually a few times, however what I feel I have not necessarily discussed are the changes that have occurred over time. As my blog turns four, it is interesting to look back at the journey.

My blog was born on Blogger. Coupled with that my early preference was to craft drafts in Evernote. Not only was it mobile, but it provided the ability to work across devices. I soon moved on from Evernote though after I lost a post because I had gone offline and when it synced with an older version. I lost hours of work (maybe you haven’t really blogged if this hasn’t happened to you). I am sure that it was my fault, however I decided to move anyway.

My next solution was the native Blogger app. I liked this as it was all in one place. If I needed to I could move to the desktop. I wrote many a post on my phone, punching out a line here and there. However, two problems arose. My discovery of Flickr and Alan Levine’s Attribution Tool, as well as my move from Blogger to a space of my own. That all meant a different solution.

In my move to WordPress, I lost control of my workflow for a while. One of the differences between the two platforms was the options I had when posting (WordPress has heaps). I also started tinkering a lot more with embedding content, such as YouTube, which were baked into the Google ecosystem. When I think about those challenges, many are now none existent, with solutions seemingly added into subsequent undates. However, it felt different back then.

The first challenge was that the native WordPress app was not as robust as the Blogger one. I subsequently resorted to finishing posts on the laptop, while developing them in a different space. The search for the ideal ‘other’ space ensued. Around this time, the ability to work offline in Google Docs on mobile became available, so I turned there. For the most part, this was my dominant solution. However, this did not work across all my devices due to my inability to update the latest operating system to accommodate these changes. I therefore tinkered with other options, such as Google Keep and Notes on iOS, as they linked with my Google account, therefore making them available in a number of places.

No matter what choice I made, it just never took. For example, Keep was quick but did not allow for links and I did not like how it presented things. Notes worked, especially on iOS. However, they too were basic. Even Docs started bringing across this weird code when I cut and paste it into WordPress. Another problem that arose was the lack of organisation within any of the applications. Fine I could use tags or folders to sort files, however this did not necessarily help in identifying my current posts and projects.

This all led me to revisiting Trello and wondering if I could better utilise it to fit my current workflow. I use it in my workplace to manage projects. However, my attempts to implement a Kanban model for myself failed. It just did not click with the way I work. (After watching Ian O’Byrne’s video, I feel I am not the only one.) I therefore took to it with fresh eyes and created a list for everything ongoing: posts, presentations, projects, resources and items requiring following-up. Rather than saving everything to Keep and getting lost in the ensuing chaos, in Trello I organise items into particular lists.

In regards to blogging, using Trello has allowed me to build out ideas. So rather than have a bunch of text, I can progressively add comments, lists, links and resources to a card. What’s more, Trello allows me to write in Markdown, therefore alleviating any issues associated with hidden code. (I have started writing my newsletter in Markdown in Google Docs.) Having everything coordinated in one place also allows me to easily review what I have done (even if I have archived cards) and survey where to next.

My process of writing will continue to develop. It always has. Technology comes and goes, whether it be devices or applications. What is important is that I will continue to reflect. Taking in new habits and offloading others. There are platforms like Scripting and Jekyll that I still wish to explore, while Naomi Barnes’ post on how she organises her day has me wondering about how I might better integrate my the personal and organisational aspects of my life. Something David White and Alison Le Cornu started unpacking in a recent paper. So what about you? What is your writing workflow? How has it changed over time? As always, feel free to comment. Always interested.


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An Introduction to Google Docs and Hyperdocs


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Google Docs is the application that Google Apps seems most well known for. More than just a basic word processor, Docs provides a space to connect and collaborate in real-time (something Microsoft is finally doing with Office 365.) It includes such features as the ability to import and export a range of formats, extend communication through comments and chat, work across platforms, including the ability to work offline, add text via voice, edit Microsoft Word (originally via Quickoffice), as well as build documents and add to a range of templates found within a gallery. Going a step further, there are also a range of add-ons which allow you to do everything from create a bibliography to making a flowchart.

Some possible uses for Google Docs include:

  • Digital Workbook: One of the greatest benefits of Docs (and Google Apps) is the ability to move to a paperless classroom.
  • Collaborative Writing: Docs makes cooperative learning more doable, providing the means for interdependance.
  • Administration: Whether it be taking minutes or sharing curriculum documents, Docs provides the means to organise such work.

Hyperdocs

An interesting example of the use of Google Docs is in the creation of HyperDocs. A cross between Thinglink and a webquest, a HyperDoc is a document which incorporates different interactive features, such as graphic organisers and linked content. In its basic form, it can be conceived as a digital worksheet. However, as with all technology, it has the possibility of amplifying preexisiting practices, providing a means to structure self-directed learning. As Highfill, Hilton and Landis explain,

A true HyperDoc is much more than some links on a document. Digital collaboration is choreographed through the inclusion of web tools that give every student a voice and a chance to be heard by their classmates. Critical thinking and problem solving skills can be developed through linked tasks that ask for authentic products to be created and shared digitally.

Some of the benefits for using HyperDocs include:

  • Deeper Engagement: With the interactive nature of such documents, students are unable to move on without actually clicking through. This is often provided through scavenger hunts.
  • Additional Resources: Through the use of links, HyperDocs provides a means of providing additional stimulus and resources,
  • More Cooperative Learning: Provides the means of working collaborative, as well as independently, whether this be completing a personal copy through Google Classrooms or adding to shared content.

Here then is four steps to creating a HyperDoc:

  1. Identify area of learning: This might be a skill or a point of understanding.
  2. Choose a structure of learning: This involves two steps, firstly choreographing the learning task (see templates) and secondly how this might look as a series of documents.
  3. Incorporate different content: Hyperdocs involve links to a range of different content, from videos to Forms
  4. Publish document: This might involve simply sharing a link or could be done through Google Classroom. As people will be adding content, it is important to think about how this will be done.

Here are some additional resources for Google Docs:

Google Docs Cheat Sheet – Anintroduction by Kasey Bell covering all the key features

The Best 10 Google Docs Tips For Teachers As They Go Back To School – Joshua Lockhart provides a good list of suggestions as to how to use Google Docs to support you in the classroom, including providing creative feedback and giving access to resources.

Google Docs began as a hacked together experiment, says creator – Ellis Hamburger interviews Sam Schillace, the man behind Writerly, the text-editor that became Google Docs, and discusses some of the challenges faced in the process.

12 Free Add-Ons That Take Docs and Sheets to the Next Level – A collection of useful add-ons, including the ability to add a signature and translate text.

6 Powerful Google Docs Features to Support the Collaborative Writing Process – Susan Oxnevad unpacks the writing process highlighting the many benefits of collaboration.

Google Docs Templates – A collection of templates that users can access, as well as add to.

Voice Typing – A discussion of voice typing and how it can be used to support learning.

Hyperdocs – A resource created by Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton and Sarah Landis unpacking everything associated with Hyperdocs.

Hyperdoc Tour – An example of a hyperdoc whcih provides a tour of some features associated

HyperDocs – Changing Digital Pedagogy – A collection of hyperdoc lessons from a range of subjects and year levels.


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