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How to Improve Workflow in a Multi-Author WordPress Blog

This guest post is by Syed Balkhi of WPBeginner.

Running a multi-author blog can become a hassle, especially if you do not have a dedicated content manager for your site.Having run several multi-author blogs myself, I understand the issues you face and decisions you have to make.

If you’re running a multi-author blog, you may have asked yourself questions like, should I give the writer access to my WordPress dashboard? Is it secure? How do I monitor their activities to see they aren’t messing up my website? How do I improve my workflow?

In this article, I will share my personal experience in managing a collaborative WordPress site safely and effectively.

The “t” in “team” is also for “trust”

If you want to improve your workflow, then you will have to give your writers access to your WordPress dashboard. Otherwise, you will find yourself copying and pasting a lot of elements from a Word Document into your WordPress dashboard, attaching images, adding styling elements, and so on.

Fortunately, WordPress comes with numerous user roles with various permission levels.

user capability

If you look at the charts above, the two permission levels that make the most sense for multi-author blogs are Contributor and Author.

The biggest issue with Contributors is that they can’t attach images because they do not have the ability to upload files. Since you want your authors to have the ability to upload and attach images to their articles, you will want to give them Author-level permissions.

The big issue with that is that it gives them the ability to publish posts, delete posts, edit published posts, and so on. While I trust all of my authors, I don’t want things to go live without going through an editorial review. So I don’t want them to have this capability.

The good thing about WordPress is that there is a plugin for just about everything. You can use a popular plugin called Members to modify the capabilities of the Author role. Once you install the plugin, go to Users > Roles and modify the Author role. Your final permissions settings should look something like this:

The roles editor

As you notice, the only abilities we’ve given Authors here are editing posts, reading posts, and uploading files.

Security and monitoring

In the past, I have seen hackers trying brute force attacks through the login page. Because each author’s URL contains their username, they only have to guess the password for an author to get access to your site. What’s worse is if your author has used the same password elsewhere, and the hacker knows this.

To prevent this kind of attack, the first thing you need to do is to limit the number of failed login attempts. This means that after three failed login attempts, the user will be locked out.

The second thing you need to do is make sure that you use the plugin Force Strong Passwords. To monitor users’ activity, you can use plugins like Audit Trail or ThreeWP Activity Monitor.

Last, but certainly not least, make sure that you have a strong WordPress backup solution in place. Of course there are other security measures you can take to protect your site in other ways, but these are the ones that are specific to multi-author blogs.

Improving your workflow

A good editorial workflow can make things a lot easier. The key to a good workflow is communication. I use a plugin called Edit Flow to make things easy for me.

The first step is to define the stages of your workflow. My workflow looks like this:

  • Draft: default auto-saved posts, or any un-assigned posts
  • Pitch: when an author pitches a post idea
  • Assigned: the editor or admin assigns the post idea to a specific author
  • In progress: the author puts the article in this mode so everyone knows that someone is working on it
  • Pending review: once the author finishes the post, they submit it for an editorial review.
  • Ready to publish: once the editorial review is complete, we make the post Ready to publish. From there, I or another admin can take a look at it and schedule it for publication.

This workflow makes the process really easy, especially when we have a lot of writers. This plugin comes with default statuses, but you can always add your custom post statuses.

The best part is that you can sort posts by the custom status. Changing the status is extremely simple.

Custom status

You can also use the Edit Flow plugin to communicate with the author from within your dashboard. This makes the communication part really easy, and prevents you juggling through emails. Also, when assigning posts to a specific author, you can set deadlines in the Editorial Meta Data option.

The plugin also gives you a convenient month-by-month calendar-view of posts. This lets you know if you have a post scheduled for a specific day or not.

Calendar view

A private area just for contributors

Over time I have learned that I don’t have to do everything myself. I can assign tasks to trusted folks in my team. The best way to establish this trust and find out who is the right person for the job is by judging their interest level. Setting up a private area just for your team members can help you determine that.

I recommend that you set up a site with P2 theme and invite your team members and authors there. Password-protect the site, so only logged-in users can see the content. And when an author stands out in this environment, you can promote them to an Editor or another position within your business.

What’s your workflow process? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Feel free to share your tips and tricks for multi-author blogging, too.

Syed Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the largest unofficial WordPress resource site that offers free WordPress videos for beginners as well as comprehensive guides like choosing the best WordPress hosting, speeding up WordPress, and many more how-to’s.

We’re Spending the Week On Your Blog!

It’s Monday—the start of a new week on your blog—and I wonder what challenges you’re facing.

Woman_writing_in_the_agenda

Image courtesy stock.xchng user Jan Willem Geertsma

If you’ve neglected your RSS or social media feeds over the weekend, you’ll likely find plenty of good advice there—advice that you feel you really should try out if you want your blog to be its best.

But before you become overwhelmed by all the things on your weekly To-Do list, let me tell you what we have planned for the week ahead.

This week, we’re focusing not on promotion or social networking or reaching the right readers or affiliate programs or SEO.

We’re focusing on you and your blog. Entirely.

A week on your blog

Imagine if you could put aside all the other, external things you usually do to keep your blog humming along for a whole week.

Imagine if you could instead spend the next five days really honing your approach to blog design, content, and your own productivity.

If you’re anything like me, you rarely spend this much time focused exclusively on your own online presence. I know I normally slot the tasks of content and design around other things, mainly to do with product development, reader engagement, and promotion.

While I don’t think any of these elements exists in a vacuum—they all interplay thought our blogs and our lives as bloggers—I do feel that sometimes it’s good to take a break and really home in on our blogs themselves.

Stepping back

Blogs evolve over time. Each day we learn new ideas to try, and we want to see what the produce.

But ongoing blog tweaks can be a curse as well as an aid. If we never step back, the tweaks we make to our designs, our interfaces, our content, our structure, and our brands overall can slowly erode the sharp focus we began with. That can be more than unfortunate—that can undermine your ability to maintain and grow reader loyalty.

So if you’ve spent the past months in the trenches, head down, backside up, working hard at a tactical level, then this week’s posts will hopefully help you step back and look critically at some key elements of your blog.

We’ll have posts on landing pages and logos, on voice and audience, and on making the most of the time you dedicate to your blog. We’ll mix writing and design tips with productivity advice.

The aim? To help you focus on the thing that matters most—the thing that keeps you attracting readers, converting subscribers, and selling products: your blog itself. And to help you take stock of where you’re at, and where you can improve to make your brand more coherent and powerful.

We’ll kick off later today with a post by the Web Marketing Ninja which is designed to help those with bigger blogs whose growth has stalled. He’ll show you how to look closely at your online presence and face up to the tough questions: why has your blog stalled, and what do you need to do to get it going again?

Before we get to that post, I’d love to hear about the challenges you’re facing in building an online presence on your blog. Share them with us in the comments.

Kickstart Your Stalled Blog Content, Part 3: Let Your Publication Inspire Your Next Post

Over the last week, we’ve been kickstarting stalled blog content. We’ve worked through the process of planning, writing and editing a post, and I hope that by now some of you might have published that post.

At this point, I hope you’re thinking that kickstarting the content on your neglected or burdensome blog hasn’t been such a challenge after all. We’ve taken a pretty pragmatic approach to the challenge‚ and if you’re feeling inspired, you could certainly go ahead and refocus your content strategy now, for example.

But I’m going to assume that, while you’re feeling positive, you haven’t miraculously found more time to dedicate to your blog, nor have you rediscovered a hidden passion for it that makes you want to take the breaks off and hurl yourself into creating content for it.

Instead, I’m assuming that you want to keep the blog going, to see where it leads, and that after some time publishing quality content, you might reassess your priorities and see if it’s something you want to keep going with.

So what we need here is a process for keeping your blog content rolling in that time.

Our first post described a process for sparking ideas, and of course you can certainly repeat that now. But today I wanted to show you another way to build directly on the success of your most recent post—something you can do whether you’ve only ever published one post, or you’ve only published one recently.

Check the stats

As a first step, check the stats on that post.

Maybe you have barely any stats—maybe only a handful of people visited it. Okay. If you haven’t already, share it with your social networks and promote it any other way you have. This might give you a few more pageviews or shares to work with.

The aim here is to have some figures for the post, so you can compare it with past publications—however old—on your blog. Ideally, you’ll be able to see if it attracted many readers, and be able to gauge if the visits it attracted were engaged—so bounce rates for the post would be helpful.

This information leads directly into our next assessment: comments.

Review the comments

Did anyone leave a comment on your most recent post? I like to balance comment counts against visitor stats and shares, and also look at the quality of comments that are left, since that’s a good gauge of reader engagement.

If your post only received three visitors, and each of them left a comment or shared the post, that’s good news. If, on the other hand, your post attracted 100 pageviewss, but no comments or shares, you may have some work to do to reengage your readers.

So consider your post’s visitors and actions, and see how you feel about this information as a measure of the post’s “success.”

Consider the niche

Finally, look around in your niche. If you followed this series to the letter, you probably published this post because it filled a gap in the information available in the niche.

So now’s a good time to check the main sources of content in your niche and see if any of them have either followed your lead and responded to your post, or published something that covers the same topic in the same timeframe.

You might also do a few keyword searches for the topic of your post, and related topics, to get an idea of what’s been published on the topic beyond your niche. This, too, might spark ideas for posts that you hadn’t considered before.

Your next post

Whatever the answer to these questions, this quick analysis should present you with somewhere to go with your next post.

You either know that readers did or didn’t find your last post engaging. You know others in your niche either have or haven’t taken the topic up.

Perhaps that other coverage (or lack of coverage!) suggests that you should (or shouldn’t) write a follow-up piece. Perhaps the feedback or lack of interaction indicates that there is—or isn’t—more demand for content on this topic, or a related one. In that case, start researching, using the advice from the first post in this series to plan the post, if you like.

If the answers are all negative—no comments, few views, no coverage by others in your niche—then you might feel a bit lost for where to go next. In that case, you could also repeat the exercise from our first post in this series. Or you could instead look at past posts that did well with your readers, and have a think about why that was—was it the topic? Format? Timing?

If you can identify some elements that may have had a hand in making past posts popular, you can try to tap into a parallel concept or approach now, and see how that resonates with readers.

And if you’re really stuck, take a look at our posts on bloggers’ block.

Keeping committed

From this point forward, it’s up to you. But the first post in this series should give you a good template for planning, writing, and editing you posts, and making the time to get those tasks done.

And the second post provided some tips for fitting those tasks into a busy life.

So hopefully you’re in a good position to follow this process and keep your blog going a bit longer—long enough for you to see if you’ve still got the passion and push to revamp or reinvigorate the blog properly.

If you have any questions, or tips or ideas you can share, we’d love to hear them. Tell us in the comments.

Kickstart Your Stalled Blog Content, Part 2: Make Writing Work For You

On the weekend we looked at a little exercise for kickstarting stalled content on your blog. This approach can be useful for reviving a long-neglected blog or just for reinvigorating your blogging when you’re struggling to keep up a regular posting routine.

For all the advice you can read online about blogging productivity, the one thing no one else can do for you is actually sit down and write content (unless you hire someone to do just that—which is an option for some, but not one we’ll consider here). But for many of us, finding time to write is a challenge and even when we have a great post idea, it can be difficult to get it out onto the page or screen.

For those who joined in on the weekend—who decided to participate themselves and kickstart their stalled content—I hope you’ve had a chance to write up the post you planned back then. We scheduled time for writing and editing back on the weekend, so hopefully you’ve been able to stick to that schedule.

But life can get in the way of blogging—believe me, I know! So if you’re falling behind your plans, or you’d just like some tips for the next time you’re struggling to fit writing and editing into your day, these ideas might help.

Break it up

The first post in this series introduced the idea of breaking up the writing task: in that post we researched and planned the post (which in itself was broken up into a series of individual tasks you could tackle when you had time). We then set aside separate time for writing, and for editing and publishing.

By breaking up the writing task, you can make it more manageable. You can even break up the writing itself: spending five or ten minutes of each section of the post you’ve planned as and when you have five or ten minutes available.

While this can make it difficult to keep the thread going, if you have a solid plan and a writing tone or voice that is effortless for you, this approach can be a good solution if you’re really strapped for time,

Tasks for times

Tackle the right part of the task at the right time—or whenever you have time. If you write better in the afternoon, try to schedule your writing then. If you edit or research better in the mornings, try to schedule that task to fit.

Perhaps you regularly find you have a few minutes’ spare at some point in the day. Try using that time for research or post planning, rather than tooling around on social media or checking your web stats. You’ll be surprised how much you can get through when you make the most of what might otherwise be wasted time in your blogging day.

While it won’t always be possible, knowing the best times to do the tasks involved in producing content can help you write better posts on a more consistent basis—not to mention that it can also make each task easier.

Make a habit of it

Get into the habit of using “dead time” like commuting or waiting places in this way. The trick, though, is to make a habit of this kind of work so that it’s a natural part of your day or week.

While you probably don’t want content planning, writing, and editing to take over every minute of what is currently your spare time, you can make decent inroads into blog productivity by using a reasonable percentage of your empty time in this way.

And if it’s a habit, there’s no argument—you don’t even think about opening up Evernote to compose an irresistible opening paragraph (or unforgettable ending) on the morning bus. It simply becomes part of life.

Focus for 15

For many of us, it’s the thought that we won’t get a post finished in the time we have available that puts us off even starting.

To get around this—especially if you’re the kind of person who likes to sit down and focus when they write—consider writing in 15-minute bursts.

Set a timer for 15 minutes and dedicate yourself to writing the post for that time. Don’t do anything but write, and write as much of the post as you can in that time. Stop as soon as the 15 minutes is up (or finish the sentence or thought if you like). Do another 15 minutes the next time you have the time to spare.

Do this three or four times, and you’ll likely have your post drafted. The advantage is that the time you’ve scheduled for editing will give you a chance to clean up any inconsistencies and make sure the flow is smooth.

Do it on the go

If you can’t find more time for your blog, find ways to fit content production tasks into the time you already have.

If you can write texts or emails on your phone, you can get down the bare bones of a paragraph or two (in Evernote, for example) while you’re on the commuter train in the morning.

Driving? Consider recording yourself dictating parts of the post, its key points, or outline, while you’re behind the wheel. Waiting in the doctor’s office or the car while your kids play sport? Take the laptop or tablet and work on your post. Even the ad breaks in your favorite t.v. show can be useful for doing short-burst topic research.

Can’t write in chunks like this? That’s fine: why not use those times for other blogging tasks so that when you do get back to your desk, your schedule is clear enough for you to devote some time to focused writing.

Keep the content flowing

If you joined us on the weekend, have you written the post you planned? Have you edited it?

Do you have any tips to add to this list? I’d love for you to share your advice with us in the comments. And don’t forget to check back on Friday, when we’ll be looking at your published post and using it to inspire your next piece of content.

Kickstart Your Stalled Blog Content, Part 1: Six Steps to a Fresh Post

Just starting a blog? Longing to revive an old, forgotten blog? Or just feeling guilty because you’ve let your blog languish without a post for a little too long?

Typing a post

Image courtesy stock.xchng user tikideputy

If your blog’s fallen behind your ideal post frequency, you’re in luck. Today, I’m going to give you a six-step plan for kickstarting stalled blog content. The work we’ll do today takes just 40 minutes in total, but you can split it up in to five- and ten-minute blocks if that’s all you can fit in.

Then, over the coming week, I’ll check back in with you periodically to see how you’re going—and provide some more tips for staying on track along the way. Are you ready to kickstart your content? Let’s go!

1. Take stock: readers, niche and blog: 10 minutes

First up, let’s take stock of what’s going on on your blog, in your niche, and with your readers. A good way to do this is to start by looking at the leading sites in your niche—not just blogs, but all sites and other media (press, for example) that your target audience might use.

Look closely at:

  • current news, events and trends
  • what readers are linking and sharing
  • what readers are worried or concerned by
  • where your niche seems to be headed in the short- to medium-term.

Do this now, and in ten or fifteen minutes’ time, you should have a pretty clear picture of what’s happening in your niche—an essential step if you’re reviving a blog you’ve left to languish for a while.

Next, visit your own blog. What topics have you covered most recently (even if that was a while ago)? Where does your blog sit relative to the competition, and to readers’ interests?

Hopefully, this review will give you a clear idea of some gaps in niche coverage that you can fill on your blog. It might also spark your ideas or opinions on topics that are important to your niche and audience right now. We’re off to a good start!

2. Think of three questions readers are asking: 5 minutes

After step 1, you’ll probably be fairly clear about the kinds of things readers are trying to learn or get information on.

Take a minute to write down three questions they’re asking. You might like to write them as if they’re questions you’re tying into Google or some other search tool, or you might just narrow down to fairly specific topics.

These questions don’t have to be actual questions you’re seeing readers ask in blog comments. They might be suggested through the interactions your audience is having on social media, or questions other leaders in your niche seem to be asking, and which are getting some attention from readers.

What you’re really looking for here are audience needs that aren’t being fully met by the content that’s available in your niche right now.

3. Write answers to those questions: 5 minutes

You’ve got a list of three questions; now answer each one in a sentence or two.

In those answers, make sure you’re 100% clear on the meaning of what you’ve written (it’s all too easy to jot down a one-sentence answer and find out later that it was full of holes!), and that you know why you answered the way you did.

Being able to rationalise your points of view will be essential when it comes to writing your next post!

4. Choose one Q&A to expand on: 10 minutes

Hopefully, you’ll find at least one of the questions you’ve identified really interesting. Pick that one, and note down a bit more about it.

You might get into the reader question in a bit more detail, or jot down the logical components of your answer—perhaps just in bullet points or using keywords.

The object here is just to get clear about the nature of the question, and the key elements of your answer. You might also have a think about some of the content you’ve seen on the topic online (if you have seen any) and identify what’s missing from that content. Should you cover those points in your post? Where would they fit?

You might notice now that you’ve got a brief outline for a post. You have a topic, a question for the post, and an answer split into a number of elements. Not bad for a half-hour’s work!

5. Write down what’s different about this advice: 5 minutes

You might be tempted to skip this step. Don’t.

Here’s where you clarify for yourself what your post will provide that no other content on the topic does.

This isn’t just an informational question—though of course knowing what advice or detail your post will offer uniquely is important. But let’s not overlook what you bring to the equation as well.

Perhaps your post will hinge on your own personal experience of the topic, and will provide unique insight from that experience.

Perhaps the approach will be different—maybe all the coverage so far has come from one side of the industry, or of a debate. Perhaps you’re going to provide another perspective from a completely different viewpoint.

Or maybe you’ll use a different format from the rest—one that makes the issues more approachable and digestible, and helps readers understand the topic more easily.

6. Schedule writing time, editing time, and a publication date: 5 minutes

This is the last step for today! You’ve just created a plan for a unique piece of content that responds directly, and uniquely to readers’ needs.

All you need now is the time to write it.

Check your schedule and set aside three blocks of time:

  1. 40 minutes for writing
  2. 30 minutes for editing, on a different day
  3. a publication date.

Commit to these dates and times—make them non-negotiable. Tell us when they fall in the comments, if you like. What I’d love is if you could fit them into the next week, because I’m planning to check back in with you on Tuesday and Friday to see how you’re going.

On those days I’ll be providing tips to help you keep your content kickstart on track, so it’ll be great if you can work along with us. If not, that’s fine—I’d still love to hear when you’re planning your writing, editing and publication in the comments.

Don’t forget to check back on Tuesday, when I’ll reveal some of the tricks I use to blog when I have no time in my schedule. Hopefully, they’ll put you in good stead for keeping the content rolling on your blog long after you’ve kickstarted it back into action. See you then!

Forget Willpower: Here’s What You Can Do to Dominate Bad Blogging Habits

This guest post is by Bea Kylene Jumarang of Writing Off the Rails.

You tell yourself you need to exercise, but you don’t do it. You tell yourself you need to write, but then you go on Twitter. Or, my favorite situation, you tell yourself you need to save more, and then you blow out your cash on that shiny new bag.

It’s a vicious little cycle, and you know you need to end it, but you don’t. Of course, you tell yourself it’s your fault, and add in, “If only I had a little bit more willpower.”

Well guess what? Willpower’s no good.

It’s a limited resource and it’s generally a bad one to draw on when it comes to eliminating bad habits. Barring sudden epiphanies, you’re going to stay stuck in your cycle if all you do is tell yourself that you need more willpower.

What I’m going to show you in this post is a different approach, and how you can use it to remove and replace bad blogging habits.

1. Eliminate temptation

Okay, I realize that sounds trite and sort of stupid. Still, you would be surprised at how many things just need to be removed in order to remedy your bad habits. Like Robert Downey Jr. says in Due Date, “If you’re allergic to waffles, don’t go to a waffle house.”

Now, let’s apply that to you. Say you’re a blogger who’s a little too addicted to being online. You know that it damages your productivity, but you tell yourself you can limit your online time just by having more willpower. If that sounds like you, please do take a reality check. You already know it doesn’t really work that way.

Why? Again, willpower’s no good.

So what do you do? Once you open your laptop or tablet, or wherever it is that you write, get your writing done first. The moment your device boots up, go straight to your word processor. Don’t open a browser. Seriously, don’t even think about it. Just click the word processor icon and start getting words on a page. Remember, you’re not a writer until words are on the page, and you’re not a blogger until you have a blog post published.

Got that? Eliminate temptation. It’s the first step.

2. Now, just show up and do it

So here you are. Your word processor’s open, but you’re just itching to close it and come back later. You’re thinking of all the emails you might have, or how many tweets have piled up in your timeline. You’re in the danger zone.

Solution? Tell yourself out loud, “I will not open my browser. Instead, I will write 1000 words.”

You’d be shocked at how a verbal affirmation can do wonders for your behavior. By speaking the words out loud, your thoughts get redirected to the affirmation you just said. And did you notice the 1000 words bit? That wasn’t random. That amount is a manageable daily goal. It’s not that hard to reach, and it’s a specific, measurable number. Remember, getting specific with your goals is always a good idea.

Now you might say, “But I need willpower to reach the goal!”

I get that, which brings me to the words, “Just show up and do it.”

If you’re a writer, just start writing. Turn off your internal editor and just get words on a page. Just write. Free yourself up to write really badly, because at the end, you’ll have something. Far better to have a poor chapter or a flat blog post to edit, than to have nothing at all.

Each time you’re tempted to stop, whip out the verbal affirmation again. “I will not open my browser. Opening it will make me unproductive. I will finish my writing.”

If you just keep on going, you’ll find that you’ve gone over the 1000 word goal, or you’ll have finished the blog post you needed to write.

Here, I’m giving you the template—you can apply this advice to whatever blogging task it is that you want to get done. That said, it’s a good thing to know what your personal limits are. That way, you can customize your affirmations depending on how many words you can normally write.

It’s now time for the feel-good step in this process.

3. Reward yourself

Let’s say you’ve finished your writing goals, or you’ve done your blog post. Congratulations! Two things can happen at this point.

The first possible outcome is that you might feel so good you’ll want to continue. If that’s what you feel, by all means do it. However, if you’re just starting out on the road to dominating your habits, the better thing to do is to stop and reward yourself.

This is pure conditioning, by the way. Studies show that we do what rewards us, and we actively avoid what punishes us. As much as you may want to claim being above such caveman simplicity, in the end it’s a matter of psychology and common sense.

So, what I want you to do is just stop. Go say a verbal congratulations to yourself, and then reward yourself with something that makes you happy. Now would be the time for you to open your browser, check your email or say hi to Twitter in all its 140-character glory.

To be clear, you can only reward yourself if you did what you set out to do. Don’t go cheating (hint, use the verbal affirmations and stop yourself), because cheating will defeat the entire purpose of rewards in the end.

4. Take it a step further: automate

The three steps above are a rinse-and-repeat process. You just do the whole thing over and over again to replace bad habits with good ones. Of course, ones the habits are in place, you won’t need rewards because the actions will be automatic.

However, you can still tweak this process to get even better results. If that’s what you want, my advice to you is to automate. To make it easy, here are some extremely actionable automation posts, courtesy of finance whiz Ramit Sethi.

How can you apply automation to your blog writing?

The answer is, you can’t. The only things you can automate are the things that get you even more writing time.

Let me give you an example. Social media is a huge distraction when you want to get writing done. Usually, that’s because you’re always on the hunt for things to tweet or link to. Now, I love Twitter, so this applies best to that service. If you want to get more time and not have to manually tweet, you can use a scheduler like HootSuite or Buffer. If you’re more of a Facebook person, HootSuite also has scheduling for that.

Throughout the day, you can list content in these apps, then just schedule the updates for the next day. With that method, you’ll have more time to write and get other errands done. Even so, you’ll still have the added comfort of knowing that you’re sharing great stuff.

These are my tips on dealing with the limitations of willpower. If you have some to share, I’d love to know in the comments!

Bea Kylene Jumarang is a fiction writer and the blogger behind Writing Off the Rails. When she’s not working on her books or her blog, she’s writing on tissues inside a Starbucks café, or socializing with people on Twitter.

Escaping from Desktop: Online Document Editing Tools for Bloggers

This guest post is by Nina Gorbunova of TeamLab.

I first faced the problem of document immobility a couple of years ago, when I was far away from my PC. I lost my flash stick and realized that I didn’t have my documents stored anywhere in the cloud. That’s what we call epic fail. Of course, “it’s not the end of the world,” you may say. But being a freelancer, sooner or later you realize the importance of round-the-clock access to your files.

Another problem I faced was appropriate document management—in terms of document creating, storing, editing and sharing. Being an active blogger, I deal with document editing almost 24/7 and have strict requirements for the software I’m using. I need it to have an intuitive interface, rich toolset, and flexible sharing features.

Microsoft Word and Pages were pretty much enough for me formerly, but since I decided to step into the world of SaaS, I needed something different.

It took me half an hour to find more than a dozen services that promised to help me with remote working in the cloud. However it took me several days to figure out that most of them were not what I was searching for.

Google Docs

The most popular online document editor deserves to be covered first. Google Docs‘ interface tends to be minimal. As for the toolset, although in comparison with desktop editors it is not that rich, I believe it can suffice for an average user.

Google docs

Your Google Docs document can be downloaded as ODT, PDF, RTF, text, Word and HTML formats. Despite its popularity I had quite a few troubles when it came to inserting an image and huge problems with editing tables.

The Sharing feature is simple enough: as well as the options shown below, you can share the document with anybody and set up access rights to let them edit, comment, or just view the document. The only hindrance that might bother your collaborator is that they’ll need to be logged into your Google account to access the document (unless you use private sharing, which is preferable).

Google sharing

As a positive, the Comments feature is amazing and appears to be a huge advantage. However, I had troubles uploading and editing large docs and docs that contained several images.

Zoho Documents

Zoho is another well-known giant in the world of collaboration software. From the first glance I was impressed by its colorful and bright interface. On the other hand, it appeared to be a little bit tangled and confusing.

Zoho docs

It has a custom dictionary, word count and Thesaurus—though I’m not sure how many people would use these features. Zoho developers did their best to put some fun into tables and even included Table Themes. Unfortunately, though, even those didn’t let me make the table look the way I wanted.

Zoho tables

Working with images went smoothly. One thing that was difficult me was pagination, because when I downloaded the document (you can see available formats in the screenshot), the number of pages was different from what I expected it to be.

Sharing was another feature that left me confused. The terms of sharing are standard, but the document didn’t look the same on my screen and that of my colleague; moreover, he couldn’t edit it even though I gave him “read and write” access. That’s a serious problem that might be a stumbling block for many users.

Zoho sharing

On the plus side, the toolset is extremely impressive. However, an average user would find many of the tools superfluous, besides, some of them, like tables and headers, seemed to have serious bugs.

Microsoft Office 365

Office 365 hasn’t gained as much popularity as Google Docs yet, but the service definitely looks promising. Its interface is close to what most of us are accustomed to, and the basic toolset reminds us of a desktop application.

Office 365

The number of fonts and styles significantly exceeds that available in other online editors. Furthermore, users have the ability to switch to the desktop version of the software using the Open in Word button.

What confused me most of all—and it can be seen on the screenshot—was working with images and tables—there was no drag’n’drop functionality at all. For me, this is on the “must have” list, but its implementation is probably only a question of time since Office 365 is still quite a young solution.

The application does not provide sharing capabilities, though SkyDrive by MS enables users not only to share the document with a others, but even post it directly to social networks. I’m sure this software has a bright future, being a part of such a strong suit, but for me currently it’s not functional enough—I would prefer to use SkyDrive or some alternative app.

Office 365 share

Central Desktop

The tendency of software engineers to include document management capabilities in collaboration and project management platforms has become widespread these days, and Central Desktop is an example of such a tool. A user-friendly interface and basic features, however, don’t make the service unique.

Central desktop

Document editing is inseparably linked to the other parts of the platform—Project Management, Calendar, and People, which is a benefit if you are planning to collaborate with your colleagues using this tool. If not, it may be a serious obstacle, since the sharing feature is available for system members only.

That said, the Central Desktop Document Editor can’t help but produce a good impression. The drag’n’drop deature works great, and editing tables is convenient. There does seem to be a poor number of fonts and font sizes, though.

Although I haven’t tried to collaborate with this platform, it seems to me that the opportunity of inserting Calendar and blocks of Group Activity might comes in handy especially when it comes to reporting—as you might do within a blogging team.

Central desktop 2

There’s no opportunity to use Central Desktop for free, so it’ll be a closed book for many bloggers. Prices start at $99 per month for 20 users—again reflecting its team focus. Initially you get a 15-day trial for free.

Teamlab Document Editor

This is another tool that includes an editor as a part of an online collaboration service. But I intentionally put this one to the very end of the list because—cards on the table—I work for TeamLab. Now you might say that every cook praises his own broth, so I’ll do my best to stay as impartial as possible!

Among various online document editors this one looks the most like your favorite desktop application—Office 365 is probably the only alternative that would compete with TeamLab in this realm. The toolset is also impressive—Teamlab Documents provide you with a large number of styles and fonts, using those already uploaded to your computer.

Teamlab view

Image editing is good. Images stay exactly where you put them and can be shifted easily. Tables offer the same flexibility and nice designs. The editor has its drawbacks, of course. The lack of a spell checker and drag’n’drop text pasting are the biggest issues I’ve found so far.

One of the most noticeable advantages of the application is the “document identity,” which became possible with the usage of HTML5 canvas technology. Technically, this means there are no more formatting losses when you convert your doc into another format (which is the most irritating thing about most online editing tools). You can download your document as PDF, text, DOCX, DOC, ODT, RTF, HTML, or EPUB, and it won’t change a bit.

Sharing is available for those who are registered to use the platform as well as for third parties, which means groups of collaborators aren’t dependent on the platform.

Teamlab sharing

This option also offers Dropbox, Google Docs, and Box.com integration. However, right now, Teamlab can process text documents only, as it is still in beta. Spreadsheets, PDF files and presentations are on the way, according to the developers.

Jacks of all trades, masters of none?

Though we can find a dozen services for online document editing, many users still have to admit that most solutions lack functionality and remain far behind the best offline editors, such as MS Word and Pages.

If you’re working with all document types—spreadsheets, texts and PDF files—neither Google Docs nor Central Desktop can be called a full-featured editor, though they reach the furthest of the options we’ve looked at here.

Do they offer additional tools for file processing? Yes. Are they desktop editor replacments? No. Nevertheless the younger generation of editing apps already gets closer to perfection.

Do you use online document editing tools in your blogging? Why, or why not? And if you do, which ones? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Nina is an active blogger, a marketing manager at TeamLab and CeBIT 2012 participant. She is interested in technology advance and believes HTML5 is the future technology.

11 Heads Are Better Than One #QLDBLOG

This guest post is by Jodi Friedman of MCP Actions.

When it comes to the world of blogging, multiple people working together almost always achieves better results than just one. So you can imagine the energy that happened when ten lucky, talented bloggers from around the world were selected by Tourism Queensland to join Darren Rowse in Australia in June. We discussed, brainstormed, critiqued, and networked with each other about the topics of blogging and business.

Since I own a blog for photographers about post-processing in Photoshop and Lightroom, I typically attend photo-related conferences and workshops. A blogging get-together was new to me.

In addition to the amazing excursions to see wildlife, marine-life, and incredible views of the Great Barrier Reef, we had plenty of time to interact with each other.

We had two blogging workshops, one of which included critiquing each participant’s blog. I listened closely to the observations and advice given about my blog and company. I took notes and then made to-do lists and processes to implement the changes that were suggested.

I also asked questions of the other bloggers about how they run aspects of their businesses. Again, I documented things that I could apply to my company, MCP Actions.

Here’s what has happened since the trip.

1. Blog design

Critique 1: The text on my blog was hard to read.

I was told that the lines of text were too close together, and the text was slightly too small. Great suggestion. I adjusted the sizing and spacing of the text on my blog.

Critique 2: It was hard to find my products from the main blog.

My blog has two goals: to educate photographers on photography and editing, and to lead people to our Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets.

Up until now, I had a slideshow at the top of the blog with links to some older posts. A few people said to me, “How do we get to your products to see what you have to offer? Nothing exists for this above the fold.”

Since the trip, I have gotten rid of the large images leading to older posts and replaced them with buttons that take you to our actions, presets, and training classes. As others mentioned, this is a much better use of the real estate at the top of the blog. The key here is to make it easy for people to get to where you want them to go.

2. Social networking on more platforms

Critique 1: I put too much time and energy in Facebook and not enough in other social networking platforms.

MCP Actions has a large presence on Facebook—it’s approximately 124,000 strong. Since Facebook made drastic changes to its service, our posts are shown to fewer fans. So some of the bloggers suggested I build a stronger presence on more sites.

Since the trip, I have increased my Twitter presence slightly and started building communities on Pinterest and Instagram.

One challenge I face is that it’s difficult to keep up with so many social networks. I am still working on the best way to manage so many. I still have not integrated Google+ as I leave frustrated every time I visit it. I’m unsure the best way to use it for my business, but I am open to suggestions.

3. Figure out a way to better manage my time

My concern: I don’t have enough time to get everything done.

The recommended solution? Outsourcing. When I returned, I finally took the big step I’ve wanted to take for a long time: I hired a virtual assistant company. They helped me implement blog changes and helped me put some other systems into place so I can work more efficiently. This is a work in progress as I decide which responsibilities I can turn over to them.

My concern: I have too many emails taking up too much time.

This time, the solution that was recommended was to create a support desk. On the trip, I discussed with some of the bloggers how every email for the company gets filtered through me. After returning, I researched help desk software and set up a database of FAQs along with canned responses. The virtual assistant now filters my email. She answers some basic ones about downloads and unzipping. She forwards me the Photoshop ones to answer. And she forwards other team members the ones for their area of expertise. This has helped immensely.

My concern: Blogging and social networking take a huge chunk of time.

The solution here was to hire people to do these things. I utilize guest bloggers, in addition to my own posts, but blogging and social networking are a huge portion of what I do every day. And the truth is that I need to do more.

I have not implemented a solution at this point as identifying the best person for the job will be extremely hard. I am also not 100% sure how to “let go” or be less involved in these two areas. I will be on the lookout to contract with someone who is well versed in photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and writing. The hard part is finding someone with all of those skills and an entrepreneurial spirit, who can both follow directions and work independently. But someday I may find this person… Until them, I will juggle these responsibilities myself.

4. Exposure for Queensland, Australia and my photography

The Tamron adAfter I posted some images from my trip to Australia on Facebook, one of my contacts at Tamron lenses asked to see some contact sheets of the images I’d taken with their new 24-70 2.8 lens.

The outcome is that two images from the trip, along with some quotes of mine, are in a Tamron Advertorial in the September issue of Popular Photography.

With a little help…

As you can see, many of the things I have accomplished in the past few months are the result of interacting with ten other bloggers from around the globe. The insight they provided made a difference in my business, and hopefully my ideas helped some of them too. I will also have lasting friendships and collaborations with many of them both now and in the future.

So next time you are thinking you can do everything alone, consider reaching out to other bloggers. You never know where it will lead.

Jodi Friedman is the owner of MCP Actions. Her company makes photo editing easier and faster for photographers with their highly acclaimed Photoshop actions, Lightroom presets, online training and an active photography blog. Jodi lives in Michigan with her husband and twin daughters and loves photography, travel, and teaching.

Unconfidence: The Essential Ingredient to Crazy Stupid Success

This guest post is by Steve of Thecodeofextraordinarychange.com

Confidence is over-rated.

At least, it’s over-rated in the homogenized, misused, self-help industry clap-trap kinds of ways.

In today’s world it’s both easy and tempting to start putting a confident veneer over things, because it seems as though the world expects that.  In relationships, friendships, career, blogging and business, there’s an expectation that you have to know what you’re doing, otherwise you just don’t stack up.

So communicating the “I’m know where I’m at” position becomes something we busy ourselves with. We become focused on the portrayal of expertise or success in addition to building that same expertise and success, and sometimes that portrayal prohibits the very thing you’re looking to achieve.

So I think it’s time to stop the BS and to halt the veneer of confidence.  It’s time for unconfidence.

Here’s how it works.

You don’t have to pretend

I work two jobs because my coaching business doesn’t make enough money to support me. I don’t pretend that it does, because to do so requires that I see this fact as a negative and I don’t want to lie to my clients.  

I don’t pretend that I know exactly where my business is going, because I’m largely making it up as I go along. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, because that would make me an asshole.

Pretending to be something you’re not or to know something you don’t is part of the old world. Online, people can now smell that kind of pretence and it’s only a matter of time before the offline world starts behaving similarly (if it hasn’t happened already).

You have an incredible array of skills, experience, strengths and talents and an even more incredible capacity to learn, improve and grow.  Focus on that, not on pretending.

Engagement with meaning is a pre-requisite

If what you’re doing in your life and business doesn’t mean a whole lot to you, or amount to a hill o’ beans, you’re just treading water. If there’s nothing on the line, there’s no need for you to push at the boundaries of your capabilities. If there’s nothing at stake, you don’t need to step up to the plate or raise your head above the parapet.

You can coast.

The things that matter to you matter for a reason.  Ignoring them disconnects meaning from your life and work, and the net result is that you don’t really care what happens.

It’s a place of limbo and increasing constraint, where you die a long, slow death wondering what might have been.  It’s a ghastly place to be (I learned this the hard way). Meaningful success can only ever be derived from engaging with the things that have meaning. That goes for life and business.

Unconfidence is about listening and engaging with the things that matter to you, and requires that you make a choice to grow to the point where you feel ready, willing, and even compelled to get involved.

You’re already worthy

There are a lot of people out there hustling.  Pushing, doing, moving.  Trying to make something happen so they can prove to themselves that they’re good enough or that they’re worthy of their peers, friends, mentors, clients, and partners.

I can’t imagine much worse than that.

You don’t have to prove you’re worthy or deserving to anyone—yourself most of all. You don’t have to fit in with the cool kids or gain approval from others. You don’t need to hide who you are to gain approval for who you think you ought to be.

Unconfidence is allowing yourself to show up as who you are, warts and all.  It’s knowing—and feeling—that with all your imperfections you’re just right. And it requires that you stop judging yourself for who you are and start being yourself because of who you are.

As Brene Brown put it in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, “Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It’s about cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.”

Shaking in your boots doesn’t mean you’re not confident

There’s a common misunderstanding that confident people don’t get scared. That they don’t feel fear. That they’re fearless.

More garbage.

That fear response is deeply coded into your brain—when you’re feeling fear your amygdala fires up, giving you strong signals that you’re about to die and that you need to fight, fly, or freeze. The fear is just there to remind you that things might not go to plan and you might lose out, which is sometimes enough to stop you, right?

But here’s the thing: you can be shaking in your boots in the face of a decision, and still be confident that you can make a choice and deal with whatever happens on the other side.

Unconfidence is the quality that allows you to feel fear without judgment.

You can’t control the whole world

Plans are great.  Go ahead and make them.  Just remember that if you try to have your plans cater for every eventuality, you’ll be making plans for the rest of your days.

You can exert some control over what you do and how you do it in an effort to get a particular outcome, but if you’re focused on outcome after outcome after outcome you’ll be driving yourself loopy trying to control every variable to increase the certainty of your results.

Truth is, the world is uncertain.  You can’t control everything.  There’s always something that can throw you sideways and knock your plans off track.  So what if you knew that you could make a decision and deal with whatever happens?  What if you detached your decision making from a specific outcome or result?

Do that and the focus becomes less about the outcome and more about engaging with your decisions and behaviour.  That’s unconfidence—being able to choose your behaviour with implicit trust in that behaviour, not in the outcome.  You always get to choose.  It’s liberating.

The choice to trust yourself is sometimes the only choice you need

Crazy stupid success isn’t a one-time thing.  It’s not something you hit and then settle back into and ride ’til retirement.  It’s a process.

It’s a process that requires you to strip away the BS, show up as yourself, be vulnerable and start playing because it matters to you in ways that scare you.  I’ve called it unconfidence here in order to differentiate it from your normal assumptions and beliefs around what “confidence” is.  But it is confidence.  Simple, graceful, natural self-confidence.

You have it.  You using it?

Steve is a superstar confidence coach who helps you build an extraordinary life. He also makes a fantastic ragu, and while he can’t promise you a batch he’ll promise to help you put your dent in the universe, which is probably a better deal.  Get more of him on Twitter and Facebook.