By Hand

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How much should we leverage other people's work and how much should we recreate by hand?

Yesterday a friend asked me to provide a full post feed for my site.

I don't feel strongly one way or the other so I thought I'd look at how other sites do it. I opened a terminal and curled a bunch of feeds. There seem to be a variety of ways so this morning I did some research.

By "did some research" I mean, I posted on Twitter.

Two friends immediately suggested a solution that I'm trying today: put the full text in the description tag of the blog feed.

Both also said that my blogging software should be able to handle it.

I used to use a local install of Wordpress to produce this site. I stopped for a few reasons: my site wasn't dynamic in any way, there were security issues with Wordpress at the time, and my posts were stored in a database not as plain text.

So I moved to writing the HTML myself.

The thing I missed the most was that in Wordpress it's easy to define different elements of a page and include them. So the header can be in its own file and be used by every page on my blog. HTML doesn't have some sort of an "include" that imports and pastes the contents of another file in place.

I solved much of this by using the Mac app Hammer. It allows me to build pages from other pages.

I'm adjusting the way I use Hammer today to try to separate out the body of the blog posts so I can use them in the RSS feed as well. Let me know how it looks in your reader.

There's this tugging in two directions. I hate to be dependent on frameworks and apps but otherwise I have to do a lot of the work myself by hand.

As I write this there's a discussion on Twitter about being aware of your dependencies. Ben and Pilky point out that there's a spectrum from people who won't use anything NIH (not invented here) to people who are just wary of dependencies.

Curtis adds "my college professor always said everything in tech is a tradeoff. Know what you're trading."

I wrote the other day about leaving the iBookstore - or at least exploring publishing books outside of the bookstore. But this means I have to do a lot of the work that used to be automated by myself. I'm creating the ePub by hand and uploading it and managing the store page myself.

There are a lot of benefits to making this move and a lot of downsides to not making this move.

But it does mean that I'm spending a lot of time on things that aren't writing books and code that have anything to do with iOS or Mac. I'm doing businessy stuff.

Fifteen years ago when I decided to go into business for myself I read two books: "The Overnight Consultant" and "Inc Yourself". They were both filled with interesting and valuable advice. One of the most valuable was the warning of how much time you have to spend on marketing and collection and doing things other than what you went into business to do.

Mostly, that's not an issue. I am fortunate to spend most of my time working with people I want to work with doing things I want to do.

I think I would add this advice to those books - the pain points are in the transitions. When you change your process or your focus or some other aspect of your business, that's when you'll need to pay attention to these tangential issues.

Any way - here's a small transition. I'm hoping this works. This feed should start displaying full posts.

I'm not retrofitting this ability - but starting today you should see the full post in the feed.

Let me know how it goes.