Day One Journal Has A New Owner

Last month, I caught the news that award winning Day One journal app was acquired by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress. My reaction was, “Whoa, really?!” Then I realized the two have something great in common: the regular writing of words. Blogging and journaling are similar, which should be no surprise on this site.

My current journaling home, outside of Jason Journals, is the simple Apple Notes app. For my needs, Apple’s elegant solution is enough. I’ve benefited over the years from journaling, both the private and public types. And in my endeavors to record my introspective thoughts and fluctuating feels, I’ve tried a few other journaling apps, including Day One. The recent news of Day One being bought caused me to give it another look, so I downloaded it to my iPhone.

After installing it, I confirmed what I had recalled from previous times when I had tried the app. It’s elegant and easy to use. It also has a feature or two that I wish Apple Notes had. But for me, Day One is overkill because it has a lot of extra capabilities via buttons front and center, which appear like clutter to my mind. This hinders me from journaling because of increased friction. The app is robust with features, yet I find it’s too much. I just need a blank sheet, a cursor, and a minimal amount of text formatting (and also, of course, passcode locking).

I intend to keep journaling in my comfort zone of Apple notes. But I do have some questions and concerns about WordPress’ acquisition of Day One:

  1. Will the premium subscription plan of Day One somehow be included or bundled in a WordPress subscription?
  2. Will Day One remain end to end encrypted?
  3. Will Day One suffer from feature bloat with the addition of integration options for publishing journal entries directly to WordPress?
  4. Will the WordPress app for iOS include new options for Day One?

Depending on the answers, I may grow interested in using Day One. Its rich feature set, though a bit much for me, could become more useful in ways that suit my needs. And I’m sure I could acclimate to the app. Also, I don’t know how Tumblr has done, another acquisition of the WordPress company, but I trust Automattic will be a good steward of Day One.

For now, the purchase of the Day One journal is noted, and I’ll keep using the Notes app to journal.

Hit The Blog Refresh Button

Something Changed

If you visit my blog regularly, then you likely noticed some big changes around early April. I had started rethinking how I blog and what I could do to make it better…which led to a new theme. Plus it wasn’t just any theme.


Rethinking Is A Theme

So how was I thinking of blogging better? I wanted to post more often. In fact, the holy grail of blogging to me is posting every single day! Why is this so hard to do? I would like to achieve that, but awesome I am not. I guess I’m not very disciplined either.

Instead of blogging daily, I would settle for just more frequently. But long-form posts of 500 words or more are hard to come by for a dad with 5 kids and a full-time job.

So I thought about doing post series. I would maybe break up one long post into three short posts. The idea of doing short posts more frequently (hey look there, it’s the quantity versus quality issue again) stuck with me.

I pondered different variations of short posts. What if I challenged myself to write posts with a 100 word limit? Then it occured to me that WordPress has short post types built into the platform: Asides!

To me, asides are like tweets on Twitter. Why not put my tweet-like short posts on WordPress instead of Twitter? This would potentially give me more frequent posts. Then I could still cross-post to Twitter when I hit the publish button. Two birds; one stone.

Thinking about the Asides on WordPress set me off to searching for a new theme that supports the aside post-type. After much sifting, I found Baskerville 2 was the best fit. What is most noteworthy to me is the fact that this theme happens to be designed by none other than my favorite, Anders Norén! I’ve written about him before because, like now, I somehow always gravitate towards his blog themes before realizing they’re his.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

While still aboard the change train, I also decided to add more photos to my blog as Image-type posts. I like photography, and this would again increase how often I publish to WordPress. It would be kinda like replacing Instagram as my go-to fancy photo share spot.

Along with adding images and asides to my articles and changing the entire theme, I also added a new homepage and rearranged widgets. And in the process, all this helped me refocus on what I want to write: articles and notes on consumer tech, entertainment, and photography. It’s a lot of change!


So How’s That Refresh?

Almost two months later, I noticed that despite the big blog refresh in April, for some odd reason my posting frequency in May has slumped. And on top of that, I’m starting to wonder now if I should have narrowed my writing focus to three broad areas specifically as mentioned above or if I should have left it more open ended.

I’ll give things more time before I make any other changes or decisions. I still enjoy blogging and will keep striving to improve it when and where I can.

Sometimes blogging slumps happen; I’ve noticed sporadic cycles in my own writing too. Even when I seem to get into a groove, seasons change, life happens, and it throws off my blog vibe. But I always end up coming back to it one way or another.

Maybe I need more coffee.


Do you ever hit a blogging slump? What do you do about it? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Blogging Is Thinking Out Loud

Up front, let me say that this post is meta; I’m blogging about blogging. Sometimes when I start to draft a post for my blog, it begins as an essay. It’s like I feel the idea in my head is important enough to warrant something like a formal treatise. But my circumstances often make it difficult to write seriously. And that’s when I step back and remind myself – it’s just a blog.


Thinking Out Loud

Blogs, of course, can be about anything. Your posts can be essays or stream of consciousness writing; it’s up to you. The types of posts you write are not necessarily or inherently better than other types of posts. That’s one of the great things about blogs; they are flexible.

That said, my blog preference is less formal and more casual. I think blogging is best this way. I would describe it as thinking out loud. A blog is a place where you can express your thoughts even as you think them. So your writing can share the less well-formed thoughts in your head. Your mind is a work in progress, and your blog is sort of a record of that progress1.

What I like about this liberty is the ability to admit you have not thought it all the way through. You can be unpretentious and give voice to your less polished ideas. It also just lets you freely throw your nascent notions out there.

The cool thing is that even though your thoughts might be a bit lame, even just the essence of the thought could be enough to strike a chord in someone else reading your blog. That, in turn, might inspire them to write a bit more about the same subject. Your idea could spur someone on to a greater one. Call it spitballing or brainstorming, throwing stuff on the web to see what sticks.


Tweeting Out Loud

There’s another place online where people throw up stuff all the time. It was once called a micro-blog: Twitter. I bring this up for comparison. I was wondering, if blog posts are “thinking out loud,” then what are Tweets?

At first, the 140 character limit was the kind of restriction that spurred creativity in pithy, succinct statements. But it also promoted short bursts of words that really seemed more like emotional rants than rational thoughts. Now with 280 characters and Tweet threads, Twitter has greater conversation than before.

But still, the infamous micro-blog is not quite as thoughtful as an old-school blog.

Yet I’ve found Tweets to be fitting for sharing little nuggets of ideas. I would call Tweets the seeds of thoughts, or seedlings. If blogs are thoughts, then Tweets are thought-lings.

A Tweet can often be a single premise to a larger argument. I have sometimes Tweeted out a succinct notion to encapsulate the essence of an incubating idea. And sometimes it’s just for fun, to share a silly sentiment. Tweets can be similar to wisdom nuggets or proverbs. But beware, often you’ll find dreck and banality or a Tweet-storm.


Tinker With The Thinker

So those are some of my thoughts about thinking, Tweeting, and blogging. If I had to choose one over the other, Twitter or WordPress, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment. My blog would get all my attention, and Twitter would be no more.


What do you think? Would you rather blog or tweet? Be thoughtful and leave a comment below or message me. Thanks for reading!

  1. Progress or regress. Hopefully the former. But I digress.

Using Ulysses For Better Blogging

If writing about a writing app is too meta, then call me guilty. I’m still in my honeymoon phase using my newest tool – Ulysses. Switching to it has been like going from a hammer to a nail gun! It’s a great app for blogging if you’re on WordPress, Medium, and now Ghost! So I want to share a little how I’m currently using it.


Library Setup

In the Library, where Groups and Filters go1, I’ve got a top Group for my blog. Under that, there are four sub objects:

  1. Meta is a Group containing all my personal notes about my blog. For example, I’ve got notes about what categories I want to use.
  2. Drafts is a Filter and is just what it says. Like on WordPress, this is where I start writing stuff. More on this later.
  3. Scheduled is also a Filter. It’s like what you find on WordPress. After I’ve written a draft post, it gets edited and polished in the Scheduled filter.
  4. Published is the last Filter where I keep all my live posts. It’s my local “raw” copy. After publishing to WordPress through Ulysses, I also publish to PDF and store it in the Files app on my iPad. This means these copies are in iCloud.

The thing about the last three Filters is that I never need to “send” or “move” or “drag and drop” any of my posts to them. This is because each one is set to one Keyword2.

My “Drafts” keyword is red. “Scheduled” is yellow. And – you guessed it – “Published” is green!

I simply add the right keyword to my posts corresponding to the stage they’re in, and they auto-magically get sorted into the proper filters. Works every time!

Template Setup

This is where things get more interesting. I like my blog posts to be done a certain way. And I want them to be consistent. With Ulysses, I can make this happen easily.

I created a “Sheet” and called it “Blog Post Template.” It’s already got the red keyword, “Draft,” applied to it. It also has one extra keyword in the color grey, “Template.” Creative, I know.

When I’m ready to start a new draft post, I swipe the template, tap the ellipses, and then tap, “Duplicate.” Viola! Right there in the Drafts filter is my new post. But wait, there’s more.

This template – now a new draft – is preset with text fields in it. At least that’s how it looks. The fields are indicated by the ‘%%’ Comment Blocks that span entire paragraphs. Each one is labeled for the different parts of the post: intro, body, conclusion, call to action. And the dividing lines between each section are ready to go.

On top of that, my “Call to action” section already has the basic text I use, including a link to my Contact info, and it’s already defined to be strong and emphasized.3

Finally, this template is also marked as a Favorite sheet, so it’s always ready to get at in the special Favorites group.4


This is how I’ve set up Ulysses to help streamline my blogging. In addition to that, I simply use the built-in publishing features to automatically get my posts up on WordPress. I’ve mentioned a bit how that process works on my recent write up about Ulysses.

It’s a great app, and I hope to learn how to use it better with practice. Out of the gate, it already makes blogging – and journaling – better.


What’s your writing or blogging set up? Keep it simple, or do you have an elaborate process? Let me know in the comments below or you can write to me. Thanks for reading!

  1. Think: Folders and Smart-Folders.
  2. Keywords in Ulysses are applied to any “Sheet.” A sheet can be a note, a blog post, or a scene in a book you’re writing. They’re like documents but better. And Keywords are color coded however you like!
  3. Read: Bold and Italic.
  4. When you duplicate a favorite sheet, the new sheet does not get the ‘favorite’ status duplicated. For my setup, that works out great.

Ulysses Is The Right Tool For The Write Job

When you’ve got to get work done, it’s great when you have the right tool and super frustrating when you don’t. What’s more awesome is when you can have high quality tools that help you the best. I think I’ve found such a tool for writing: Ulysses.

I don’t know why they chose the name Ulysses, but it’s memorable. Maybe that’s why. It kinda stands out, which I guess is by design, because it’s considered a “Pro” writing app. So what’s it like? I had two weeks to find out. Let me hit the highlights.


Markdown

First up, Markdown. I had heard about writing in markdown before, but using Ulysses is the first time I’ve ever experienced this simple kind of markup language. It’s not code, and it’s simpler than HTML.

To me, it’s a natural way to mark up your text in order to…define it. Instead of formatting or styling, you “define” text with special characters. If you’ve ever used a hashtag – # – symbol to tag your Tweet or Instagram photo, then you’ve got the basic idea of Markdown.

It was very quick for me to pick it up because there’s nothing to learn about it. Like picking up a hammer and whacking a nail, the concept is simple. It just takes practice to get good with the tool.

And I love it! Markdown is superb in its simplicity. It makes the process of writing better because it let’s you focus on getting the words out onto the screen rather than spending time on how those words look. It’s almost just like writing plain text in email.

The real advantage to using Markdown is how flexible and easy it is to export your text to practically anywhere and not have to worry about formatting. Have you ever written something in Microsoft Word and copy/pasted the text to some other app or site and had to fight the glitchy formatting of your words after you perfected them? I have.1 It’s a real headache.

Get your texts in order

I like the organizational scheme of Ulysses. It has a very nice library where you create either folders or smart folders called Groups and Filters. You can also make any number of sub-folders. This lets you go deep with putting stuff where you want it, but you can also just keep it simple.

You can also add any number of color coded keywords to your sheets. Sheets are like individual documents in Ulysses, but you never have to hit a “save” button. And if you want, you can forget using Groups and instead just use Filters for Keywords to auto-populate with all the right sheets.

Also, in the library list, you can choose to focus on just one Group or writing project at a time. This is great for minimizing distraction. It’s also great for hiding sensitive writing from nearby eyes.2

Writing goals

Ulysses is all about helping you write all the words, getting them from your head to the screen in front of you. So it has a bunch of statistics or metrics like total word count, character count, and more. And it uses those with goal setting. So you can be motivated to type a certain number of words in a certain amount of time if you wish.

In the two weeks that I’ve been trying Ulysses, I set a goal to write at least 100 words per day in my private journal. During that time, I’ve hit my goal every day! The goal feature in Ulysses has really helped me achieve this small but consistent step in writing regularly!

The way it helps is with a nice little visual circle that changes color depending on where you are in your goal. You can tap it to enlarge it and see more detail. It reminds me daily to journal every time I see it. So I’m a fan!

Export Magic

The export feature is the magical part of Ulysses. It’s where you can see Markdown go to work for you. And it’s super handy! I’ve published 8 posts in the last two weeks straight from Ulysses to WordPress without a hitch! I’m still kind of shocked that it works so well.

So I wrote several posts in Markdown. Then I exported to WordPress, and the formatting, line breaks, dividers, headings…everything styled perfectly every time. It even got the images in-line correctly, grabbed the excerpt text and the featured image exactly how I expected. Not only that, it let me pick my blog Categories and Tags in the Ulysses app, which got added when I uploaded.

I’ve got to also mention Footnotes!3 They, too, are super simple to quickly and easily “type” in with your text and then upload upon export to WordPress – zero glitches. No fiddling to adjust later!

There’s only one part missing from WordPress export for me. I must use the WordPress app to add any hashtags or custom text to the “Share to Twitter” part. But that’s easy enough to do.

Ulysses also lets me export to PDF with ease, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but found it too difficult due to the whole copy/paste text formatting problem. Markdown plus Ulysses’ magical export feature makes the work elementary.

Writing wherever

I’ve been able to use all of Ulysses’ power exclusively on my iPad Air 2 and iPhone 7! It Syncs across them without any errors! The app relies on iCloud, which has gotten so much better over time4. So whenever I happen to thumb-type texts on my iPhone or tap-out words on my iPad Bluetooth keyboard, all my writing is in unison.

The writing’s in the details

Ulysses can do a lot more than what I’ve highlighted here5. For all its features and functions, the developer has somehow managed to make it seem so simple and clean in the interface, both in how it looks and also how it works. And that’s great design!

Because of the attention to detail and the care the developer has for the process of writing, I love Ulysses!


Finally, let’s talk about the behemoth in the writing nook: subscribing. Some apps, you can just pay a one-time fee for them and be done. I like that. Other apps, like Ulysses, require a subscription where you pay a small nominal fee each month or each year6. There are pros and cons for this from both a user perspective and from the developer’s view.

I like Ulysses and am using it enough that I’m willing to subscribe to it. In fact, I did so today!

Moreover, I’m considering posting some of my writing to Medium in addition to WordPress. This prospect is all the more easy because I can write in Markdown, like I’m doing now, and export to both Medium and WordPress without any fuss!

I think Ulysses is a wonderful tool for writing. I love its focus, utility, and design. It’s robust and reliable. So I want to support the app and the developer, and I hope Ulysses continues to be the great tool it is long into the future.

I have many more words to write; Ulysses is the right tool.


What tool do you use for blogging or writing? Will you consider Ulysses? Comment below or message me. Thanks for reading!

  1. I’ve even found getting text from the Apple Notes app into WordPress problematic. And I never really understood why until I learned a little about what Markdown is.
  2. You can also lock Ulysses with its own passcode and use TouchID to keep your private journal private.
  3. For example, here’s one!
  4. For me, I use iCloud for everything. And it works great. Although I’ve had a recent problem with Apple Music not updating properly on my iPad despite working on my iPhone. But I don’t know if that’s an iCloud error or something else.
  5. The Search feature itself is very robust! Whether searching for text within a Sheet or across all your Sheets.
  6. The annual pricing saves you a good chunk of money!