I’m curious to find out what process others are using to create content for their sites.

The reason I ask is that I just came across a web application called Simplenote that synchronizes with the Simplenote iPad application and a desktop application called Notational Velocity. The API is not currently public, but you can sign up for access.

I’m interested to see how this could be adapted into a Symphony CMS publishing workflow, so I’ve applied for membership to the Simplenote API group on Google Groups.

It would be interesting to see whether it would be possible for Symphony to adapt the API as a means of publishing content to different sections based on the tag applied to a note.

Do you use Google Apps, Dropbox, etc. or compose directly in Symphony textarea fields?

Do you use Google Apps, Dropbox, etc. or compose directly in Symphony textarea fields?

I don’t, yet, but I have been sketching the workflow of a field that imports content from Google Docs. Having used Google Docs last week to collaboratively write a document, it strikes me that they have the most powerful WYSIWYG editor of them all (miles ahead of TinyMCE and CKEditor). There’s an API for getting the HTML rendering of a document, so I was considering a field that would open a lightbox for editing in Google Docs, and pulled in the finished HTML after editing.


Yeah this a great follow through question for the Strategic Content Management post.
I really believe that the tools for content creation and organisation, before it even goes into symphony, are the ones we spend the most time in, and therefore shoudl be able to ‘post’ to symphony, without the need to start duplicating all that content. Such workflow could go as far as not needing to log into the backend ever again, and symphony acting as a ‘dumb’ client for your desktop workflow synced to it…

I can imagine a simple desktop workflow where textmate copies your markdown to xml and xml goes into dropbox…

For blog content I have been musing about using a posterous account I mail entries to (or one), and then have it autopost with XML-RPC to symphone (and other places like facebook, tumblr,….). Or the other way around and pull in the posts on posterous using their feeds (external DS or import xml) I know there are people using a textmate extenion to post to posterous

In fact since posterous supports markdown, you could even convert a header-structured document into multiple fields (levitating a flat file in nodes with xslt). I have a site that uses a flat file in a field for each langauge, containing the entire structure, that field might as wel come from posterous.

As for more catalog-based content (like for ecommerce or more technical structured documentation projects) I would like to start experimenting with Tryton, an opensource ERP (server and client installable as an app called neso on your mac in a click) and then exporting xml from tryton into symphony. (a true ERP sure beats propriatary desktop apps like access, filemaker or MS excel…)

For photo based content, I have been using picasaweb (pull the feeds in with external DS) on several sites: picasa as a desktop app is great to organise your pics, and you can sync changes to the web. I even use pic descriptions and tags. Even some machine tags as extra customfields, and you can use their api for searching…

regarding simplenotes VS posterous

they both support tags the searchfunction on the title of new notes in National velocity sure is unique. and simplenotes ability to go back in time is too.

However posterous just using your kind of offers that too, and offers attachments of all kinds…

I see an added benefit of using imap email that you can also backup all your articles, and that it just makes sense to email your posts; its a comunication, not with a person but with your website.

Altough likely the contant of your entries might be sketched first in simplenotes, or composed first textmate/espresso. True writers will have several versions of a post untill the final one, that can then be emailed (and stored)…

if online would do, rather then offline, anybody ever sticked the symphony backend into a selfcontained app with fluid? or into a menubar tinyapp, using the iphone version of symphony?

@nickdunn, the idea of Google Docs API integration in Symphony sounds very interesting. Our team members are transferring a lot of our processes to Google Apps, so that would be a good fit for us.

@newnomad, thanks for reminding me of @czheng’s reference to A List Apart’s article on Strategic Content Management. Kristina Halvorsen’s talks at An Event Apart have articulated a challenge that we often run into in getting sites to launch: content is often an after thought. The traditional process usually means shoehorning content into a design, which doesn’t fit actual content requirements and forces a redesign after the fact. Obtaining or creating content early, so as to be able to design around the content, opens the door to endless iterations.

I’ve wondered how well Symphony is able to perform as a means of facilitating the collection of content. Can a basic install of Symphony be used as a means of collecting data before there is a chance to model the data appropriately for developing designs, templates and utlimately a production-ready site? Or is it better to use other tools and use Symphony to integrate.

If it can be shown that Symphony can adapt to different processes and easily pull data into different forms, that would be a huge draw for people dealing with the pain of pulling content out of clients.

You don’t need google docs to use their wysiwyg editor, the editor is available as opensource project too (has been mentioned on the forum, forgot the name). The html produced by google docs or the editor is far from ‘tidy’. In my experiments, I have come to consider markdown as ‘sacred’

Would it be the goog.editor included in the Google Closure Library?

Basic markdown suffices for me. But my content building is not high-volume.

Just a note re: goog.editor. I’m not sure that’s exactly the wysiwyg editor used in e.g. Google Docs, but the markup it creates is indeed horrible.

As far as I can see CkEditor or TinyMCE are better options (yeah) regarding the HTML output. If you *have to use a wysiwyg editor I would advise CkEditor over goog.editor…

I still believe could be a great alternative but have found the features/interface to be lacking. The project does not seem to be very actively developed and I have not seen it being ‘picked up’ much in ‘real-life’ projects.

I didn’t want to hijack this thread to discuss WYWIWYG editors, so forget about Google Docs for now. I don’t care so much about the quality of the markup output (shock!), I care more about the workflow and user interface for creating content. Google’s got that sorted.

Perhaps we should be looking more at XML-RPC (which has come up before) as a way to post content into Symphony. Most implementations tend to follow a blog format, but could be made more generic.

Stephen, could you explain a bit more about Simplenote?

I don’t care so much about the quality of the markup output (shock!)

Nick, you just made me cry! sniff

Haha! Well I do care, but as a pragmatist there are things that matter more ;-)

heresy! ;)

The topic of this post is great though, as is the issue of posting through XML-RPC. I would love to see some alternative, user-friendly, ways of getting content in Symphony. I, for one, would love to be able to do this from Textmate or Google Apps (I live in both).

yes bauhause, and setting TextEdit’s Preferences to XHTML 1.0 Strict and Styling to No CSS outputs perfectly valid clean xhtml to btw… there is your perfect wysiwyg ;-)

lets keep it on XML-RPC indeed

@nickdunn, Simplenote is sort of like git for the everyman. Basic text files can be created on an iPad or iPhone which can be set up to automatically sync to the free online site. These notes can also be synced to an application like the open source Notational Velocity on the Mac, which can be configured to save individual text files for each note. But it’s not limited to Apple devices.

In the online application and the iOS apps, there is no Save button, but a slider that can be used to select versions of the document.

It’s a very sparse UI and feature set that requires very little time to start using it. I just liked the concept of something so simple that anybody could get it. There’s definitely some bugs to iron out as far as syncing tags, but it seems to have a lot of potential as a means of sharing and distributing text files.

So, you just make notes on whatever device you happen to be using at the time and every device is automatically synced with the full library of notes without even thinking about it.

If this could be synced with Symphony, it would be a great way to have a sort of constant lifestream that could be distributed to different sections of your site, but at the same time be distributed across several devices and storage systems: iPad, iPod, Blackberry, MySQL, TXT, XML. You could even set it up as a Git repo and push it to a private or public remote repository. Perhaps you could even tag some notes to be automatically pushed to Twitter through Symphony.

Just thinking out loud.

bauhause, you can sync an use email with imap across any device to. If you go that way you can use posterous, wich can handle attachments and tags, and can autopost to twitter, facebook,…..

@newnomad et al.

Would posting content in e.g. Posterous and importing this in Symphony not result in a ‘duplicate content’ issue?

I’m very interested in seeing if we could decentralize our content management workflow. I love the concept of ‘the Internet is our CMS’ and ‘do one thing and do it right’. It seem natural to e.g. use Flickr to store and manage my photo’s, use Delicious to store my links, use Twitter for micro-content etc. The (Symphony) CMS would need to be able to simply connect all these resources. Since it is XML based and all/most of these services offer some form of (XML) API this seems trivial.

The challenge, obviously, is avoiding duplicate content and integrating all these services and offering the user some form of ‘unified interface’: maybe a simple Symphony ‘Dashboard’ (i.e. Nickdunn’s) with quicklinks to the services is a start.

Importing links from Delicious is simple, but should we really be publishing posts on, say, Posterous, and then import and re-publish these on our Symphony sites?

Since Posterous/Tumblr/Wordpress etc. are all “CMS’s” in their own right I am hesitant to use those if all we need is simply a better (wysiwyg) editor.

The Google (Docs) solution is more appealing to me. Another option would be to use Gmail: I can see myself writing posts using the Richt Text editor in Gmail and emailing them to myself. If Symphony could somehow import these emails as entries that would be great.

PS @bauhause Simplenote seems nice, but I don’t see much value over e.g. Dropbox which does the same (and much more)?

Interesting ideas floating around here.

The big difference between Dropbox and Simplenote is that Simplenotes is made for writing and notes. So you have a great text editor on iOS devices, a nice web interface and Mac OS desktop clients like the already mentioned Notational Velocity and Just Notes, which is made by a good friend of mine. And also tagging is available in Simplenote besides word and character count. As you see it is made specifically for writing. Dropbox does not offer tagging and it is/(has) no dedicated text editors on mobile devices. That is the big difference from my point of view.

On the other hand Information Architects just publish a dedicated writing app for the iPad which of course syncs with Dropbox.


Sure, I understand SimpleNote has a nice interface. What I meant was that DropBox allows for all that syncing functionality. Obviously you can use whatever app you want to actually write your content ;)

The Writing app for the iPad you mentioned is another app that proves the value of ‘simple apps that do one thing and do it right’. I’m all for those. Now to automagically import their content into Symphony ;-)

Duplicate content is not a problem, google is smart enough to see its not ‘evil’. Hence the autopost function of posterous. If you don’t need email posting (which i find great to organise) you could also use ping to post to many services at once.

I would prefer to actually post to my symphony blog with XML-RPC, rather then to import the posts of posterous (I would just use external DS, not xml import with cronjob)

@ciryx, thanks for the links to JustNotes and writer for iPad. I’ve been looking for an app that has arrow keys to navigate around a document. Still missing up and down arrows, though. Old habits die hard.

I’m a sucker for anything associated with such a stellar list of contributors:

Beta Testers & Contributors: Erik Spiekermann, Scott Thomas, Khoi Vinh, Mike Rundle, Liz Danzico, Aza Raskin, Patrick Algrim, John Boardley, Paul van der Laan, Vitor Lourenço, Mark Boulton, Om Malik, Marcos Weskamp, Craig Mod, Joshua Brewer, Antonio Carusone, Aegir Hallmundur, Jürgen Siebert, Indra Kupferschmid, Alan van Roemburg, Paul Bakaus, Jean Snow, Alexander Limi, Matt Roberts, The Design Observer Group, Robin Sloan, Tina Roth Eisenberg, Guido Mingels, Wolfgang Blau, Stefan Seiz, Giovanni De Mauro, Stephan Seidt, Kari Pätilä, Moritz Zimmer, Edial Dekker, Daisuke Don Horie, Christian Steinert, Jay Nelson, Nobuyuki Hayashi, Matthew Solle, Paul Baron, Dan Oliver, Bodhi Philpot, Anatole Varin, Juho Viitasalo, Michael Donohoe, Ben Sekulowicz, Takeshi Tanaka, and the Legendary Shane Berry. Special thanks to Yumiko and Akira.

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