My Mighty Simple Workflow for Link-Blogging

I recently started link-blogging on Grind Well, my blog about meditation, as a way of keeping the rhythm and volume of posts up. The standard Grind Well post was a 300-word mini-essay with an audio version, and that was getting to be a lot of pressure. I just want Grind Well to be a breezy part of my practice. I read a ton about Buddhism, Jewish mindfulness, and mindfulness and meditation in general, so I figured I could share the wealth a little instead of filling the blog with my own thoughts.

I’ve quickly built a largely automated workflow for link-blogging that I think is neat enough to write up here. It involves the following tools:

Pinboard is a blazingly fast web service for managing bookmarks, which I already use to keep track of things I read online. It has a robust API for integration with other services, and there are iOS apps for it (though they’re stagnant, and I worry about them. I prefer Pinner). You can just use it in the browser, though. The key features of Pinboard that make it a perfect starting place for link-blogging are titles, tags, and descriptions.

When I find a link I want to blog about on Grind Well, I add it to Pinboard with a specific tag, I make sure the title is correct, and I paste the money quote from the article into the description field. I might type some filler/reminder text in there as well, and I might include multiple money quotes. This text is not going straight onto the blog, but it’s the raw material of the post.

The next stop is IFTTT, a service dear to the heart of anyone who automates stuff on the web. The IFTTT applet I built for link-blogging fires whenever I post a link to Pinboard with the correct tag. IFTTT lets you preformat your output text, and it provides shortcodes (called “ingredients”) for fetching the various elements of the input from a service like Pinboard. Mine looks like this:

# ⤳ \\> \\### [⤳ “” on SITE NAME]()

The ⤳, or “U+2933: Wave Arrow Pointing Directly Right,” is the symbol I’ve chosen to indicate a link post in titles on my blog. Everybody needs their own signature link post symbol, am I right?

The elements in the s are the relevant Pinboard ingredients.

Most of the special characters in there are for Markdown. The # is the H1 for the post title, the > is to format the description as a blockquote, and the ### and everything after it for creating an H3 at the bottom of the post that links to the article. (Using an H3 for this is just something I made up. It might be bad semantic markup. I don’t care terribly much.) In that link, “SITE NAME” is filler text I have to replace before I post. Pinboard doesn’t have a field for that, so I don’t know how to automate that part yet.

What are the \\s for? I’ll get to that in a minute.

The IFTTT applet is set to output that text as a reminder in iOS Reminders, which I have allowed by installing the IFTTT app on my phone. My pro tip is to only install the app on your phone. If you run it on multiple devices, you’ll get duplication issues, and the phone is the one that seems to wake up in the background the most to fetch things like this. The IFTTT website is perfectly great on the iPad, anyway.

I also recommend setting the IFTTT applet to add the reminder to a particular Reminders list, probably called “Drafts.” That’s because the only reason you’re using reminders is that it’s the best go-between for IFTTT and indispensable iOS (and soon-to-be-Mac) app for working with text, Drafts. In the settings menu of Drafts, you’ll want to turn on “Reminders Import” and specify the same list. This tells Drafts to automatically inhale all reminders on that Reminders list as new drafts in Drafts!

Now, here’s where the \\s come in. Reminders import from IFTTT can only suck in the text in a single line; it can’t use Reminders’ note field unfortunately. So the reminder, and thus the initial draft, comes in looking like this:

# ⤳ Very Cool Title\\> Something really wise that is worth linking to in this article.\\### [⤳ “Very Cool Title” on SITE NAME]()

That sure doesn’t look like a blog post yet. But this Drafts action will turn those \s into line breaks instantly, so when you run that, it turns into this:

# ⤳ Very Cool Title

> Something really wise that is worth linking to in this article.

### [⤳ “Very Cool Title” on SITE NAME]()

Now we’re talking! I set a keyboard shortcut of Control-Command-\ for that Drafts action, which makes it blazin’ fast on iPad.

Next I fill in the site name at the bottom, unpack whatever it is I put in the blockquote, and write whatever I need to write to explain why I’m linking to this. Then, believe it or not, we’re one tap away from posting this puppy. Using this Drafts action by @mattbirchler, that draft goes straight up onto my blog as is. Boom!

Here’s an example on my site of what you’ll end up with.