Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bloggers: Play with ifttt, Evernote and other tools to build a content stash

They'll tell you that to blog, you need to read widely (and they're right about that). Social media means my reading covers a wider swath than ever. But what they don't tell you is how to cull, curate and store what you're reading to make it into a useful content stash, an easily searched warehouse of great ideas, fodder and resources.

I've been tweaking my system for saving and searching the sources I collect. Typically, I find blog content on Twitter and Facebook, in ebooks on my Kindle, sometimes in emails, in feeds I follow in Google Reader, and on the Internet. My modus operandi for finding good content sources is the same one I use at cocktail parties: Show an interest in everything, collect plenty of contact information, and save what you find to use later.

My primary storage warehouse is Evernote, and I challenged myself this year to use it more thoroughly. For feeding my blogs, I have notebooks devoted to each blog, as well as separate notebooks for ongoing series or features (like the "weekend read" on this blog that collects my retweets and favorites from Twitter). For series or articles that my freelance writer works on, I've got shared notebooks full of story ideas and source material that either of us can add, alter or use. Because I read widely and don't want to spend all my time moving and filing things, even in Evernote, I've kept an eye out for more efficient ways to save it all. Lately, ifttt has helped me get the saving process down to one or two keystrokes, or less. Here's how I get all that organized into a useful stash:

  • Internet-browsed articles go straight into Evernote, thanks to its fantastic Chrome extension. Right from the toolbar, I can clip a selection, the full article, or just the URL, and indicate into which Evernote notebook the article should go. Once in Evernote, the saved web article is entirely searchable, so I don't even need to remember its title, author or event the notebook in which it's located. This has put years back on my life, years I plan on spending in exotic locations eating good food and drinking good wine.
  • Tweets, retweets and favorited items on Twitter--all a goldmine of blog fodder--get automatically saved in Evernote in a couple of ways. Any tweet or re-tweet of mine gets saved through an ifttt automated task in a notebook that's specific to my "weekend read" feature. Right now, I can't specify only retweets, so they all go into this notebook. Each week, once I've noted the retweets in my weekend read post, they're deleted from Evernote--although I could just keep them there as an archive. I use favorited items differently. Some wind up in the weekend read, some in other blogs. Another ifttt task puts them automatically into the Evernote notebook for this blog, where I use them most frequently. This, too, has put years back on my life, during which I expect to start a third career.
  • Google Reader is perhaps the main net in which I catch all sorts of content sources. I subscribe to the Twitter feeds of people whose tweets I really don't want to miss; other blogs; news sources, and much more. Once upon a time, I kept subject files right in Reader. Then I used the email feature of Reader to send any post you want to save into Evernote, using your specific Evernote email and adding tags (an @Notebook name tag puts the item in a notebook, and a #tag tags it). But of late, I find I use fewer keystrokes and work by creating another ifttt task: Whenever I star an item in Google Reader, it gets sent to a notebook just for that purpose in Evernote. Daily, I go into that notebook and refile the items in the notebooks where they belong, via a drop-down menu selection. This has put enough years back on my life to allow a world of naps.
  • Email subscriptions are not my favorite way to collect content (not if there's an RSS feed, anyway). But when nothing else will do, I subscribe using my Evernote email, which dumps the subscribed email into my default notebook, where it can be sorted appropriately. Saves me the step of forwarding it there. Probably puts weeks back on my life.
  • Search: I use YouTube, Google, Flickr and other great search engines. In Google, however, thanks to the Evernote Chrome extension, my search results tell me when I have related items already in my Evernote stash. I'm expecting this to save months and later years of time, as my Evernote storehouse grows. Maybe another hobby, then?
Please share what you're doing to save your content and sourcing stash in the comments.

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Zanarama said...

Thanks for this Denise. I too am a huge Evernote user and use it to keep all my blogging ideas and drafts. Now I'm going to check out ifttt.

Jim Garrow said...

Thanks for the post, Denise. Most of my blog posts are long-form, so I tend to use Instapaper as my repository. I have IFTTT automatically send GReader and Twitter starred items directly to Instapaper.

I've been looking to incorporate more "flow" type posts and have been wondering how to make Instapaper work for that purpose. Maybe Evernote is the solution?

Thanks again!