Clark Goble's Writer Workflow

January 12, 2012 by Gabe | [mmd] |

Clark Goble is the proprieter of the Clark Teck Blog. I’ve linked many times to his site. He writes about the nerdy scripting stuff that I love, like using mdfind with Mail.app. The content is chock-full of little gems of AppleScript and Python as well as well considered thoughts on technology. I think the best summary of his site is a quote from the About page:

I have a sense of “pay it forward” so that others don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

If that isn’t enough, Clark is also co-owner of Amano Chocolates. The guy’s pretty busy.


How do you capture your ideas and research an article for Clark Tech Blog?

Can you provide an overview of your writing process?

I do two kinds of posts. Short ones typically with a link to some other site and a pithy comment and then the longer ones. The short and pithy ones I generate as I read my news feed with NetNewsWire. I have some scripts that do most of the work for me. The longer ones typically arise out of me trying to solve some problem for my workflow and writing a script. Alternatively I prowl Stack Overflow looking for a good idea to expand upon. I have some stored search terms I check fairly regularly. (Primarily Applescript and Python) Sometimes I just decide to do some commentary based upon some post I read. Sadly I’ve been so busy that of late it’s been more commentary and fewer scripts but I hope to get back to my regular writing routine this week.

How long have you been doing it this way?

I have a philosophy blog that goes way back to around 2003 or so. There I wrote to force me to think through my ideas. When I started doing some scripting to help with some workflow (primarily automating mailing of packages via FedEx) I realized that for many of my questions there were no answers on the internet. Having used Google a lot in programming to find solution I knew the importance of stuff like that being out there. So I decided to write up my scripts with an explanation so others could learn from it. I realized this was pretty similar to my academic blogging - it forced me to think through the issues and end up understanding things better. My computer blog was born. It’s not that old - probably only about 3 years. However I think it does let me understand things better and let off a little steam.

Do you have a specific work environment or setup for researching and composing an article?

Not really. For scripting it’s typically just finding a problem and then spending time in BBEdit figuring things out. Applescript is pretty ambiguous and it’s surprisingly that there aren’t better resources on the net for solving a lot of problems. So I try to make it so someone like me could benefit from it. For the rest I just compose in MarsEdit with a few scripts to make life easier.

I learned to type in the old monospace days on a typerwriter so I’m habitually adding two spaces behind a period. I have a script that fixes that and an other that does proper title case for a selection. I used to have a footnote script but discovered I rarely used footnotes. So I’ve not kept it up. I used to edit purely in HTML but I’ve started using MarsEdit’s formatted text mode more and more.

Does your workflow change based on the type of post?

Yeah. What I call commentary is more me just thinking through things. I probably should leave it for a while before posting but often I just post and then edit it an hour later if I see something egregious. That means there are more typos than there should be. And the “document all edits” police probably are horrified. But it’s not like I’m a journalist.

For scripting I try to discuss the fundamental issue in the script but don’t add a lot of commentary. I figure most people can figure it out from the script and everyone else can just make a comment asking for help.

What are the custom tweaks to your workflow?

Primarily just the scripts mentioned before. I do have in my Wordpress and nice plugin for source code that colorizes it based upon the language. Other than that not a lot.

What parts of your workflow are you looking to change or improve?

I’ve been so busy I’ve not been doing a lot of scripting. I’m hoping to change that this week. Less commentary which frankly has most blogs saying the same sort of thing. I’d like to see more comments, which goes against the tide in blogging. However I kind of miss the level of discussion and back and forth that was so common in the 90’s. (Minus the flame wars) In a lot of ways the internet is less sociable than it used to be. It’s probably naive and I know a lot of people just look down their nose and blogs. But c’est la vie. As I said I use blogs to force me to think through issues - kind of like how back in college you’d form study groups and try to have one struggling student in them. If you could get them to understand you really had to understand it yourself. It was amazingly helpful. Blogs are my semi-successful way to try the same thing. You just can’t take it too seriously.

I’d really like to therefore have a few issues I want to learn about better and then use the blog to do that. Thus far it’s been a bit too ad hoc in things. More a kind of escapism.

What parts of your workflow are you least willing to change?

I’m open to any change if I could find something better. But I’ve no desire to make it like everything else. I try to have good content and that often means I go a while between posts. Most blogs just seem to say what others say and I’m just not interested in that. My news feed has the vast majority of posts being “me too” like things but very few with good solid content. If anything I feel bad I’ve verged towards that the past while.

Anything else you would like to share about your workflow?

Nope.

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