As bloggers, we tend to do the same repetitive tasks over and over again. We open the same URLs. We launch the same apps. We ftp, we search Technorati, we comment, we do this day in and day out. The 80/20 rule would tell us that creating content in the form of blog posts, podcasts, and comments provides 80% of the value to our lives while pressing buttons, opening URLs, and dealing with blog spam provides 20% of the value to our lives. Using tools like AppleScript, I’ve been able to raise the value of my time by automating low-value activities which gives me more time and creative space to create high-value content.
Consider this. Let’s say you have more than one blog that you have to moderate comment spam. If you use Akismet, it could take you two minutes a day to open your blog URLs, click Comments, click Akismet Spam, and hit Delete. But if you go directly to the Akismet URL and hit Delete, it could take you only 5 seconds per blog. If you have 5 blogs at 5 seconds of work a piece, then you’ve saved yourself around 80% of your time. That adds up to a huge chunk of time at the end of a year. If you blog 5 days a week, or 260 days a year, then the time saved adds up to around 390 minutes, or 6.5 hours! What if you can find 6 more tasks like this one, and I bet you can. You’ll have saved an entire 40 hour work week!
Well I’m going to do my best to give you a week’s vacation by sharing my top 5 AppleScript productivity hacks for WordPress bloggers and podcasters.
#1. Open URLs
This is a very simple script. It opens directly to the Akismet page of all your blogs. Any time you can batch your tasks and reduce the steps, you should. It’s this kind of simple workflow hacking that can turn into lots of extra hours.
Spam comments and trackbacks will skew data for plugins like Popularity Contest. Run an AppleScript that will reset the counts automatically.
The main point is to notice your path as you click around websites. If you notice a path you take regularly, see if you can get there directly. If so, AppleScript it and batch it with similar online tasks.
#2. Workspace Launcher: Launch Apps and URLs
Sure, Quicksilver makes launching apps a breeze. So why not save this script as an application so Quicksilver can launch your feed reader, blog editor, and browser all at once. Plus, you can toss in some URLs for linking, blog commenting, or writing inspiration.
This script opens NetNewsWire, TextMate, Safari, and opens Google and Technorati along with a couple prepared searches to get you started. It also does some slick GUI scripting to create a new TextMate HTML blog post.
This AppleScript is for podcasting. It opens GarageBand, Audio Hijack Pro, Transmit, and Safari. It also opens Google news and Technorati WTF in case you need something to talk about. If you’ve got GarageBand set as Audio Hijack Pro’s audio source, you can add music, stingers, and all kinds of effects on the fly as you record.
These scripts deal with work contexts. Define the purpose of your work and create special context workflows, e.g. @blogging, @podcasting, @surfing, @marketing, etc. This will focus your energy and streamline your time at the computer.
#3. Automatic WordPress Database Backup
If you use cpanel web hosting, it’s a breeze to download your WordPress MySQL backups using AppleScript. Login to your cpanel, go to Backups, and copy the URL to your MySQL database. If necessary, repeat for your other blogs. Just like the earlier Safari ‘open location’ AppleScripts, paste the URLs into the script.
Here’s the best part. If you save this script as an application, you can set it as an iCal alarm so it automatically runs at a specific time. In iCal, create a new event and name it. In the Alarm section of the Info pane, choose “Open file” and select the AppleScript application. Adjust the schedule using the lower pop-up menu. If you want iCal to trigger the script regularly, choose an interval from the “repeat” pop-up menu. Automatic backups!
#4. Post to WordPress with Quicksilver
Not every blog post you will write needs all the bells and whistles of an app like TextMate or ecto. Whenever you feel like doing some quick-fire blogging, call up Quicksilver, type your post title and content separated by a colon, tab to the Action pane and type “QuickPress” (or as much of it as you need), and Execute. You might be able to blog faster, but I doubt it.
Did I mention this AppleScript has Growl support? That’s right. Growl notifies you of a successful post by returning the post ID number. Pretty sweet.
#5. Automated Podcasting
This final AppleScript is my favorite. Podcasting can be time consuming. You have to record and convert your audio, tag it, upload it, and write and publish your blog post. If you’re not already AppleScripting your ftp, then that step alone can take 5 or 6 steps. But this script makes it downright simple to record, upload, and publish your podcasts.
Rather than tell you all about it, I’ll show you how you can create a frictionless podcasting environment.
You’ll want to save these scripts somewhere useful. Probably the best place is in your script library (/Library/Scripts/). If you open AppleScript Utility, you can check ‘Show Script Menu in menu bar’ and ‘Show Library scripts’ so that you are only a mouse-click away from saving time.
Many of these scripts, as I mentioned earlier, can be saved as applications. Like other apps, you can launch these scripts with Quicksilver. That puts them even closer to your fingertips. Or you can put them in your applications menu or on your dock for easy clicking.
A huge part of the GTD (Getting Things Done) mindset is setting up your system so you don’t have to think about it. That includes automating reminders so you’re not responsible for reminding yourself. Using iCal to schedule repetitive tasks frees up your mental energy for more important things. If you’re not afraid to get under the hood of your Mac, you can set up cron to run the script at specific times.
I hope you get a sense of the power you have and recognize the time you can save by using AppleScript to automate your most tedious tasks. You might want to check out my LifeHacks: Automation series for more tips and tricks. And about that week’s vacation I just gave you, where are we going?