June 9, 2015

Productivity Experiment: Can you blog from your phone?

It’s way past 3am in the morning and I’m attempting to see if you can blog from your phone.

I’ve decided to do this for two reasons. First is to test the assumption that there’s always time to write, no matter how busy you think you are, and second, to see if it’s possible to come up with some kind of workflow that will allow posting whenever the mood strikes me.

Typing on an iphone sucks.

First let me start by saying, the keyboard on the iPhone sucks! If you’ve got fat thumbs like me, even the simplest of text messages can take an age to send because I’m constantly having to correct mistakes. Autocorrect was supposed to solve this, however I find it almost useless.

Enter SwiftKey. An intelligent Keyboard that learns how you type and, as testified by my sore thumbs, is a lot better at allowing me to type pretty fast than Apple’s standard fair.

Swift Key
Swift Key

They keyboard itself is pretty easy to install, just download it for free from the App Store and add a new keyboard from your iPhone settings. The only mildly worrying thing about the whole process is the warning thrown up when you click “allow full access” which promptly tells you that your keyboard clicks will be sent over the air to SwiftKey servers, including things like passwords or credit card numbers. Thankfully though, you can always switch back to the standard keyboard when entering sensitive stuff.

SwiftKey sends data over the air and builds its knowledge of your crappy typing so it can be synced across all your devices. I’ve always wanted to use my iPad to write with, so this gives me a reason to give it another shot.

Mark down and the minimal writing app.

Now I’ve solved the problem of my terrible iPhone typing skills it’s time to get down to the process of writing. I discovered Markdown a while back and like to use it when writing posts. It’s simpler than full blown HTML, ’nuff said. I also jumped on the minimalist writing app band wagon, which has since turned into something of a wagon train, and was an early adopter of iAWriter. It’s available on the Mac, iPad and iPhone and syncs via iCloud. You simply fire it up and type. No formatting, no distraction, just text and a sprinkling of Markdown. So far it’s working great.

Posting To WordPress.

Like 80% of the sites on the Web today, mine also runs on of top of WordPress. Sure there are other cooler platforms out there like Ghost or even Medium, but I like WordPress. It does exactly what is says on the tin and is infinitely customizable, satisfying my inner nerd. It also has an IOS app that allows you to manage your site from your phone. Here’s where my workflow began to suffer.

I have two instances of WordPress on the same server, one called ‘dev’ and the other, my live site. This, I initially thought, might cause me problems. Not so. The problems started thanks to Jetpack, WordPress’s annoying cloud based plugin that’s supposed to allow you to do all kinds of cool stuff but actually ends up being a pain in the ass. I should really uninstall it. Anyway, the development site setup fine because it doesn’t use JetPack, when I went to add the live site however the iPhone app recognised Jetpack and asked me to sign in to my account to authorise it. Queue head scratching as I tried to remember the password.

When I couldn’t remember I decided to use a little trick I’d recently learnt, using my iPhone to access the stored passwords in my iCloud Keychain.

Note to Apple: Please add search to stored passwords on the iPhone. I have hundreds and it takes forever to scroll through the list to find the one I need.

Password copied to the clipboard I try Jetpack again. No luck. I looked again and noticed a bunch of different passwords stored from different WordPress subdomains. en-wordpress, api-wordpress even jetpack-wordpress. More confused I decided to reset my wordpress password, easy enough you might think, however their requirements for a secure password are ridiculous.

TLDR; The whole process of setting up WordPress on my phone, no thanks to Jetpack, sucks.

The end, for now.

So is it possible to write, edit and post from your phone? Just about, yes. Appart from the sore thumbs and the technical hiccups this whole thing has taken about 40 minutes to write. Now all I have to do is pop it in the WordPress app, hit publish and go to sleep.

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