Number 6 out of the 10 tips on blogging is on keeping notes. Writing blog posts that are interesting and well-informed isn’t easy. Sitting down in front of your blog editor waiting for an idea to come is pretty hard. Ideas for posts, though, can hit you at any time. So you need to be ready, with a system for taking notes that you’re comfortable with.
While you are browsing the web, or reading through your RSS subscriptions, you’ll often come across posts you like and want to have another look at later, or maybe just save a quote from it and the link back to the post. I used to keep a copy of a text editor (like Notepad on Windows) open all the time to copy snippets into. This is still a pretty good system, but there are far easier ways of doing it.
Google Notebook is great for storing post ideas. You can select text on a web page and then insert it automatically into a notebook entry – no need for copying and pasting. You can have several notebooks (I have one specifically for this blog, for example, as well as my personal blog) and divide them up with headings. It’s possible to turn them into pseudo-wikis too, by inviting friends to edit them and making them public as web pages.
Similar ways of storing notes like Notebook are the other free wikis that are available, like WikiSpaces, BackPack, PBwiki or Stikipad. I use WikiSpaces myself and it’s a great, simple solution for those that are new to the world of wikis.
Your reader will probably provide a clipping, sharing or news bin type feature, where you can store or mark posts for future reference. You could also post interesting tidbits to your del.icio.us account.
The advantage of these solutions, being web based, is that they are accessible from anywhere. But if you would prefer a system saved on your own computer, or a USB key, say, then you don’t have to stick with the text file option. TiddlyWiki provides a full wiki experience inside a singe HTML file you can run on your PC without being connected to the web. It’s worth mentioning here, though wildly off topic, the GTDTiddlyWiki for fans of Getting Things Done, which is great.
Of course, you can always just write things down. Get a nice notebook, like a Moleskeine maybe. Or just fold a sheet of A4 into quarters and use the different sections for organising your notes.
So it’s really important to have a system you like for holding onto posts and information you’d like to use later. Part of the joy of RSS is the fact that you can access so much more information than before – but keeping a handle on it becomes harder. Fortunately the tools are out there to help you. So try them out and stic with the one that works for you. Your blogging will become much easier, and the ideas will flow!