Category Archives: Blogging

Writing Kit is the best Writing App for iPad Right Now

The New Writing Requires New Tools

Writing, INKNOP-style. This blog is all about tools for independent knowledge professionals. If you are an INKNOP, as my friend, Mike Van Horn, likes to call us, you are running your own business. Among other things you need to market yourself. I consider blogging and eBook writing the two best ways to do your marketing, so I blog and tweet a lot about writing tools.

The reason this makes so much sense for a knowledge professional is that you are in the know in your specialty and you can show off that knowledge, help people and gain fans, even sales by sharing some of that precious knowledge you have in your head.

Researching while Writing. Since I’m in the technology field, my knowledge is deep but the playing field, players and tools are constantly on the move. It is rare that I don’t need to do some research in order to write a decent blog post. Since the whole world seems to be changing out from under us, you too might need to do some research when you write.

Writing is Changing. That brings us to Writing Kit for iPad (and iPhone/iPod Touch). As I’ve mentioned previously, writing itself is changing. Paper is no longer the primary output. Email has been king and still dominates. PDFs get sent around. People blog, tweet and lately lots of people are writing eBooks. It’s pretty wild. Word Processors still sometimes apply and some may never give up their love affair with Microsoft Word. But we are moving on.

Online All the Time. We live in a net-connected world. We work online a lot now and Writing Kit is designed for the online writer.

Laptops in Coffee Shops. We have moved from sitting at a desk to do our writing to just sitting somewhere. First with laptops that allow you to move around the house or go down to your local coffee house to write and research online.

Now iPads and iPhones. Now there is this big surge towards even thinner, lighter, smaller devices that fit us even better. The iPad is the brand new writing tool that is starting to take hold – and replace laptops for writing and research.

Writing Kit is designed for this new world and explicitly designed for the iPad. The iPad is big compared to an iPhone but small compared to the typical laptop. You operate the iPad with your fingers which means controls need to be bigger so you don’t really have room for multiple windows like you do on a laptop.

One App, Many Apps. This lack of screen real estate on iPad gives the advantage to a single multipurpose app for writing and online research. In this single-tasking, smaller screen, apps need to have mini-apps within or temporarily handoff tasks to other apps which can politely work with them.

Writing Kit is Leading the Way. The maker of Writing Kit figured this out faster than many others and has built this awesome app for what we need in our new world. The feature set is truly killer.

Killer Features:

  • Built-in Web Browser which uses Readability
  • Built-in Search (DuckDuckGo)
  • Deep integration with Instapaper
  • A URL Queue for saving links
  • Markdown to write easy, non-distracting shorthand HTML in your documents.
  • A great Markdown cheat sheet built-in
  • A really nice scrolling extra keyboard row
  • Gesture control of the cursor and indenting.
  • Outline navigation
  • Great monospaced fonts like Anonymous Pro, Inconsolata and Droid Sans Mono.
  • Terminology integration (cool dictionary and more)
  • A giant list of Open in… Apps
  • Dropbox, Text Expander, etc. of course

True, you may not always be writing and researching. maybe you can get by with iA Writer or Byline or another less powerful tool. But I recommend you hang out in Writing Kit a lot when writing on your iPad. It is more fun to bring iPad with or without a Bluetooth keyboard when out and about. Compared to the alternative of a laptop. Writing Kit does very well with an external keyboard in case you doubted it.

One man show, Anh Quang Do. Be afraid! Be very afraid. He is an amazing developer! And he writes so you get good documentation othrow to use the app. Check out his blog here. Other larger text writing app firms will catch on – one would think. So I’m hoping some judicious hiring is in the works. I have no complaints at all with how fast the features are rolling out, though. A big new 3.0 release came out in February and I wouldn’t be surprised by a 4.0 release in May or June.

You can buy Writing Kit for iPad and iPhone/iPod touch for $4.99. A great, great deal. If you like this post, you may want to check out: Writing on the iPad: Top Dropbox Text Editors. I continue my thinking about writing in my next post: Writing on Mac, iPad, iPhone – Best Apps. There are a couple more nice writing apps to include in your toolkit.

Writing, Branding and Mining for eBook Gold

If you are an up and coming independent knowledge professional or an old-timer at the INKNOP game, you have good reason to be creating, giving away and selling information products of various kinds.

The new information product on the scene is the eBook. It used to be that you would write a book about something and invent yourself as the expert in your field. I’m not sure what percentage of independent knowledge professionals actually write traditional books, but it’s probably a significant chunk. It’s a bear to write a book though, especially one of any quality that would reflect well on you. Getting it published aint easy either.

But, that problem just went away. We now have eBooks, eReaders like the Kindle for $79 and millions of iPads, iPhones and other smart phones that are hungry for content.

Almost overnight, there’s a rush of eReaders and Amazon is selling more eBooks than they are paper books.  The times they are a changin’ and we are lucky to be here now to take advantage of this white hot phenomenon.

I Bet You Have an eBook in You. If you are one of the vast numbers of people who think you might have a book in you, you certainly do. Right now, while ebooks are still in short supply and eBook readers are the rage, is the time to get your foot in the door.

Books vs. eBooks. The key distinction between eBooks and Books is that (1) there’s no publisher gatekeeper at the door and (2) eBooks can be short as in the 10 to 50 pages you may have written in school! You already know how to write something of this length and no one is stopping you.

You need to start writing and publishing them so that you can create a name for yourself, show people what you know and how you think about things. You might even make a couple nickels to rub together, but I’m not sure about that. You’ll have to be in the right place at the right time to do that – not impossible.

I’m thinking of this ebook writing operation as a means to an end. It’s writing. It’s creating content. It’s creating programs. Knowledge that can then be delivered in lots of ways, some of them in person as consulting, training and other more expensive kinds of services.

But, who am I to talk? I have created some little trial-run eBooks but am still learning how to create them. Meanwhile, the explosion of eReaders, eBooks continues and more and more people are getting comfortable reading digitally. I consider my blogging here at Independent Knowledge Professional a content development effort that is a precursor to some related eBooks.

eBooks are Changing Right Now. The only thing holding me up so far is this jumbled stage we are in relative to eBook formats. The ePub and Kindle formats are clearly of some importance with Amazon behind the Kindle format and Apple, Barnes and Noble and others using ePub. I’m not crazy about the options we have right now because ePub and Kindle formats are so primitive from an aesthetic point of view. There has to be a better way! PDFs at least give you a way to make a document look great if you know what size it needs to be.

eBook Formats. In some ways eBook formats make tons of sense as we read on our computers, our tablets and our phones interchangeably. But Amazon has declared a new format for its Kindle Fire that bears little resemblance to the previous Kindle standard. I expect to see a rush of different formats and hopefully decent end-user formatting tools over the next year.

DIY. As an INKNOP, I want to be able to format my own books just like I’ve been formatting letters and reports over the years. Why should I suddenly have a big learning curve hurdle and hassle to simply get a digital report called an eBook out the door?

If you want a new career and identify as someone who likes to write, you could be one of the new experts in this eBook creation field. We need you now! I know lots of people who are ready to write something if the hassle of formatting the eBook and getting it into the Kindle store could be made to go away. The only warning here may be that when a decent end-user eBook creator tool shows up, INKNOPs may go back to DIY.

The last thing you should be right now, though, is discouraged. We need to persevere and do eBooks, it’s just too logical for independent knowledge professionals to show off and trade on their specialized knowledge. The eBook can be of just about any length which means you can make one quick.  If you aren’t attached to being in the Kindle store (something worth doing when you can), you can make PDFs today and give them away as an incentive to your prospective customers to sign up for your eNewsletter or subscribe to your blog. Just like blogging, writing eBooks is good writing practice and helps you clarify your thoughts. And, once written, these digital items can be repurposed and reconfigured as handouts for presentations or other eProducts.

I work every week with another INKNOP, Mike Van Horn, on cracking this eBook world open so that it takes us both where we want to go on our way to INKNOP success. We explore this space, identify people with skills to help us and brainstorm to learn what we need to know.

Blogging Do’s and Don’ts for the Independent Knowledge Professional

I’ve been blogging for eight years now and have gained some insight about it along the way. If you are starting a new blog or haven’t yet found the success you have been looking for with it, here are a few things I would advise you as an independent knowledge professional.

#1 Don’t put Google ads on your own site. You are already advertising yourself. Don’t junk up your page and drive anyone away to make a tiny bit of money.

#2 Don’t let your own offers clutter your page and diminish the value (and brand). From a marketing perspective, blogging is first and foremost showcasing you as an independent knowledge professional. Building your subscriptions and mailing list is valuable but secondary. Don’t detract from the main event with your requests from the sincere visitor who is either there to read a specific post,  trying to solve a specific problem or learn something or is actually shopping to hire a consultant or knowledge professional like you. Smaller unsolicited positive outcomes could be a subscription, a Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or Twitter update  about your post or blog or about you. The art here is to find a way to make information available about other desired outcomes you might like — like getting a subscription or new mailing list entry — without harming and distracting from the value you are providing, or worse, annoying someone.

#3 Showcasing you is a byproduct not what you want your visitor to experience. The visitor needs to experience value as promised in the about page, post titles and categories. Yes, disclose information about yourself in the about page and in your posts as a way to add value. The reader can better interpret your posts if he or she knows where you are coming from.

#4 Discovery. The marketing value of your blog comes first in discovery. If you gain a readership and begin to rise in Google searches from people who may eventually want your services, you win. People find you and you don’t have to go out blindly trying to find them.

#5 Brand-building. This is simply building your reputation as a knowledge professional by means of showing your stuff on your blog. It’s a freemium strategy. Some will subscribe to your RSS feed or mailing list. People who like your blog may tell others and spread the word via social media or on their own blogs. Some of those who like your posts may like what you have to offer enough to buy an ebook from you. If you do trainings or seminars, some may want to pay to attend. Some may contact you about a possible engagement.

#6 Quality over Quantity. We are all busy and the temptation is to just get a blog post done. Short is fine. Personal is fine. Low quality, half-assed efforts, not so much. Truly mediocre posts are not noteworthy enough to get word of mouth, links or anything else. It doesn’t reflect well on you. SEO tricks could juice up a blog with subpar content, but would you ever get a good client that way? Infrequent posts of quality are preferable to regular banal posts.

#7 Fans. If, through your good works, you develop a sympathetic and appreciative following, your fans might help you in return when you launch an important initiative like an eBook or new seminar.

#8 Colleagues. Information sharing. Your fellow travelers with interests in common can be good company and can contribute to your thinking. Who knows? They may link to you.

#9 Informal Partners. Informal, occasional light-weight partners or even a great associate or employee could be a desirable result for you. You may get approached regarding some kind of complimentary cross-referral or other cooperative undertaking. Some of these may be useful and worthwhile.

There are lots of other benefits and I’m sure a few more pitfalls to watch out for. I hope something here will help you get more out of blogging. It’s actually pretty easy to blog when your goal is just to share what you know for free. The pressure is off. Have fun with it!

Starting a WordPress 3 Blog from Scratch, Part 3

More Links in the Sidebar. Since my last post (Part 2), I’ve added more good links to my sidebar. I’ve used the Link widget that comes standard with WordPress 3 and dragged it in several times with different titles. Each link group shows all the links I’ve assigned to a particular link category. You’ll find link categories in the WordPress dashboard under Links. By default all of the links you create get assigned to the link category blogroll.

Appearance / Background. I experimented briefly with the Twenty Ten Background option under Appearance in the dashboard. I selected a shade of red from the color wheel. This was pretty random but I liked it. It can be hard to be objective about your own style choices. I will be trying lots of different color options to see how well this red holds up to the competition.

Customizing the Theme. I’ve been researching the subject of modifying styles in the Twenty Ten theme and found some really good information. The WP-recommended way to change styles is with a child theme.

Child Themes. A child theme uses a reference line to take all the style information from its parent theme as its starting point. Then any additions to the child theme are overrides to the parent theme. This way, when the parent theme is replaced with a newer version, your customizations, safely stashed in the child theme, aren’t overwritten.  There’s a detailed tutorial on creating child themes at

Child Theme-Makers. Bruce Wampler has created a child theme-maker called WordPress Weaver and a version specifically for the Twenty Ten theme called Twenty Ten Weaver. These are donationware offerings. Weaver child theme-makers show up in your dashboard with checkboxes and such. They allow you to make style adjustments to your wordpress site without having to write any CSS code yourself.

I’m on the verge of installing Twenty Ten Weaver myself even though I’ve done lots of CSS work over the last 15 years. The advantage is that clicking checkboxes is faster than writing code. You can quickly try different options in the brainstorming phase and then undo a change by unchecking a checkbox.

Creating My Own Child Theme. I haven’t installed and tried Twenty Ten Weaver yet but I wanted to try a child theme. In my first experiment, I used the Otto on WordPress blog post that walks you through creating a really minimal child theme for your Twenty Ten themed blog. It just changes 1 style: the color of the title for your blog posts from black to green. In the example below, I use a dark red for the heading color and green for code.

Example. You create a new folder in your themes folder with a new text file called styles.css. And enter an @import url reference to tell wordpress to use the twentyten theme as a starting point (parent theme) then override the parent style info with anything you add in your child theme style.css file. Here’s what my child theme style.css file I called jt2010 looks like:

/*Theme Name: jt2010
Template: twentyten
Author: Janet Tokerud*/

@import url('../twentyten/style.css');
#content h2.entry-title a {color: #A81A16;}
code {color: #087F11;}

I’m stoked. Between the excellent tutorial resources I’ve identified above plus the weavers Bruce Wampler has created for us, I’m looking forward to quickly getting my blog styles the way I want. By the time you read this, I hope to have a few more tweaks in place.

Thirty Ten. There’s a child theme for Twenty Ten called Thirty Ten that gives you three columns in case you are interested. The post called Thirty Ten Three Ways gives you the choice to have the content on the left or right with two columns beside.

Update Sep 12: I downloaded and activated the Twenty Ten Weaver theme and got a really large list of style options with checkboxes in a new Twenty Ten Weaver menu under Appearance/Themes in my dashboard. The list is a little overwhelming at first glance but pretty easy to work with anyway. I found it easy to try out many different options to see what I would get. After experimenting I went back to my JT2010 child theme and am playing with that today.