Wave of the future, working in the cloud.
For some of us, wave of the here and now, actually.
To the uninitiated, all “cloud computing” is is a fancy techno-hip way to say you’ve got your work apps/data/info stored and running on a Net server, typically remote, accessible and letting you “work” on your stuff from pretty much anywhere you’ve got a Net connection — Starbucks, say, or the computer at your day job where all your supervisor is trained to “catch” really is the green of a Solitaire screen (hehe). Virtual computers, this cloud concept, rendering our real machines as nothing more than dumb terminals, if you think about it. Talk about the world going full circle, huh?
Went off on a tangent again, sorry about that. The point of this post is, with the cloud and this day and age of laptops and tablets and smartphones and what have you that effectively help let us stay connected to it 24/7, a lot of our physical tools and resources can now be virtualized on the cloud.
Like the typical writer’s notebook.
Not that I’ll ever get rid of mine — my black pocket Moleskine with unlined paper is with me more often than not (yup, there it is right now next to the mouse) — but I find myself using it more nowadays exclusively for my creative and philosophical junk, while any work-related notes and jottings go straight to a “notebook” I’ve set up in the cloud. On a WordPress blog. Running on my server.
No reason why you can’t do the same.
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I am aware that there are a number of services, free and pay, that let us maintain these kinds of cloud-based notebooks and journals, and maybe I’ll take the time to explore them someday. But back not too long ago when I was first thinking about setting up such a tool, it didn’t make much sense for me to expend the time and energy needed to look at, study and learn those possibilities considering that I already had a server to host my blogs, mail, etc., that I was paying good money for. Yeah, a miniscule amount of money, sure (I use Site5), but I already had it available nevertheless. Like many of you already do too (or plan to get).
The best part — my server account lets me oh so very easily and quickly do a full WordPress installation. I don’t even need a separate domain for each one (although that’s cheap and easy to do too) — I’ve got a number of separate WordPress installations running on Wordpreneur.com, for example, under different subdomains and directories.
So, I figured, I’ll just do my online work notebook in WordPress, off of a subdomain or directory under one of my root domains. If you think about it, as blog software, WordPress itself is at its core designed for this kind of use. On top of which, you can store a lot more on your WordPress notebook set up that you probably won’t have the space and bandwidth for on a third party service, not for free anyway.
We’re in no brainer territory, quite frankly.
Here’s something beautiful: If you already use WordPress, a learning curve would be practically non-existent. Unlike if you went with a third party service. And, if you don’t already use WordPress? This is a heck of a way to learn the tool, don’t you think?
Well, I’ll quit selling you on the idea now and move on to more practical stuff we need to deal with to get this WordPress online notebook thing working properly.
• You’ll want it private, of course. Last thing you want is other people poking around your notes. Never was too comfy relying on a “no password hidden link” approach to security that some folks actually take (if they don’t tell you the link, they figure you don’t know it’s there, hence, it’s secure). That might work for something technically simple, maybe — wouldn’t bet on it, but maybe — but with something like WordPress and all its bells and whistles, much of which are designed to communicate externally, a stronger privacy solution is in order, I would think. Thing is, WordPress doesn’t have something like this built-in.
Well, free plugins to the rescue. You’ll need just one, actually, but here are a couple for you to try out, both personally real world used and tested by me.
There are a number of other plugins that serve the same purpose, so can’t really say that these I mentioned are the best in their space, but I do use these and know that they do what they’re supposed to do and have been pretty gosh-darned easy to set up and use.
• You’ll probably want a simple, workhorse theme. This online notebook is for your own, internal use, so fancy-schmancy graphics and features are not only going to be a waste, they may even get in the way of you having a useful tool. What theme you end up choosing obviously comes down to taste and preference, but it really is hard to go wrong if you go with something basic and simple.
The default themes that have been bundled with WordPress installations — currently Twenty Ten and Twenty Eleven — are particularly well-suited for this purpose. One of my favorite “minimalist” themes for notebook use, however, is good old White as Milk, which, it seems, is no longer available direct from the WordPress.org site (it used to be) but, interestingly enough, is still one of the themes available on WordPress.com. Go figure.
• Install the WordPress Press This tool. As far as I know, every WordPress installation comes with this. Press This is a little bookmarklet app (while in WordPress, click on Tools) that you easily install on your browser’s toolbar. I’ve basically been using it to bookmark webpages direct to my cloud notebook — when I’m on a webpage I want to bookmark and take note off, I just click on my browser’s Press This button.
Beyond these basic tips, there’s not really much more I need to add! Since your notebook is essentially a pretty powerful WordPress blog, you can set it up in a myriad of ways to suit your needs. Have fun, and welcome to the cloud!
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