Using a task manager to create blog posts

I’ve been using the static site generator PieCrust for several years now to manage this site and its blog. It’s been really nice having my site in plain, raw HTML files with the bonus of being able to write it all up in Markdown. There’s always been a downside, though: the mechanics of publishing a new post. It’s a process involving rsync, git commits, ssh, or a mixture of these. Contrast this to something like Wordpress with its slick web administration/editor and it feels much more cumbersome than it should be. I’ve always been in search of something that allowed me to start writing blog posts as quickly and easily as possible.

A few months back I stumbled upon myTinyTodo, a very quick and simple web-based task manager. It’s a pretty straight forward app in terms of task management: there’s a field where you type in a task you need to do, push "enter" and it’s added to a list. However, there were a few more features that made it particularly interesting. First, a time stamp is affixed to the task upon creation. Second, it’s the task’s title that you’re writing in the field when you first add a task to the list. When you edit the task, a second field is presented for the addition of expanded content as well as a third field for tags to be associated with the task. Third, an RSS feed can be enabled for each to do list (you can have multiple to do lists, each on its own tab within the app). When you combine these features, you have everything you need to publish a blog. If you wanted to skip any HTML presentation of a blog, just hand out the RSS link for the todo list and you have an instant blogging engine right next to your to do lists. I took this a step further, though, so that I could incorporate it into PieCrust.

  1. I wrote a PHP script using SimplePie to pull in the RSS feed. This script does a couple of things:
    • Checks to see if each task in the feed has already been added as a post to PieCrust. If it has, it will make a diff between the content it’s pulling in and the content that already exists in PieCrust; merge/create as needed.
    • Inserts the post’s metadata section at the top of the post’s page (things like author, tags, date published, template to use, etc)
  2. The script is run via cron every minute. I’ll probably write a custom daemon at some point so that I don’t have to wait a whole minute for cron to run.
  3. I wrote a custom daemon using inotify so that PieCrust can check to see if anything has changed in its posts directory. In other words, any time the script from step one adds a new post or edits an existing post, inotify will see the change to the "posts" directory and kick off a PieCrust update.

After thinking and searching for awhile, I believe I’ve finally found for me the perfect marriage of simple and portable content presentation with PieCrust and the ease and convenience of web-based content creation with myTinyTodo.

This post was created with myTinyTodo and PieCrust