My Markdown Adventure

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It was almost a year ago that I set forth the idea to start writing all my blog posts in Markdown. I’ve been doing my best to keep up with that throughout the year and now I’m fifty Markdown posts into my goal. How is it working out so far?

Markdown Mindset

Learning to write in Markdown took some adjustment. Before, I had just used the web editor or the occasional HTML editing suite to write my posts. Most of the HTML was hidden. With Markdown, you have to think about what you’re going to do before you start writing it. Where are the links going to appear? How is your post going to be organized? Putting a bit more thought into your post gives you more structure to your thoughts. That’s something that’s helped my writing a bit.

The table layout for the 2015 Cisco Live Twitter List really wasn’t all that difficult either. Once I put the initial code together, it was just a simple copy/paste job after that. I’m toying with the idea of putting all my notes into Markdown as well. But given how terrible I am with taking typed notes that may not happen.

Editing In Style

I’ve also gone back and forth with editors for my particular style of Markdown writing. I started off with Lightpaper, which was a nice way to ease into writing. It was easy enough to figure out, but I didn’t like the lag in the preview pane and the tendency of that pane to lose position and scroll back in my writing. Add in the fact that Lightpaper was free during beta and is now a paid app and I can’t see myself recommending it now.

Most of my writing this year was in Mou. Mou is a lot like a traditional text editor. It’s powerful and extensible. I found it suited a lot of my Markdown needs. The preview pane worked like I thought it should and the theming allowed me to customize things to meet my writing needs. Mou did the lion’s share of the work during the year for me. But as I started to explore the gamut of distraction free Markdown writing apps, I felt that Mou was a little rough around the edges. The author has done a great job of keeping up with things so far, but the Indegogo campaign to produce a 1.0 version hasn’t really come to fruition yet. And 1.0 will be a paid release. So take a look at Mou, and if it meets your needs you should definitely get it now and take a look to decide if you want to pay for it later.

The editor that I’ve settled on to in the past couple of weeks is Typora. I like the way that the preview pane is in-line instead of separately. I realized as I wrote more with Markdown editors that seeing the actual code was much less important that the finished result. Moving to a in-line style was much cleaner. Add in support for different fonts in the editor and I got much closer to my actual blog posting style as opposed to plain text. Typora just looks cleaner and nicer. Like a modern word processing app compared to a text editor. If you don’t need the polish and feature set, the text editor works just fine. Typora is free during beta and will be a paid app when it comes out. Try it now and see if it suits your writing tastes before you have to pay.


Tom’s Take

Markdown has helped my writing. I’m faster and better now that I was at this time last year. I like the way things look when I write. My thoughts are more coherent. Markdown has improved my writing so much I use it for all my posts. It takes some acclimation over the course of a few weeks. I found myself going back into the web editor on accident more than once before scolding my muscle memory and going back to my Markdown experiment.

Part of that is finding the right editor. Don’t just take my word for it. Try out some of the distraction-free options or the text editor style programs as well. There are a ton of options out there for you to try. Just download one and start writing. I think you’ll find that Markdown will give you a lot of power in your writing and you’ll be a happier person for it!

 

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A Bright And Happy 2015 Ahead

Welcome to a new year finally divisible by five! This is a year devoid of extra February days, Olympics, or anything else. It’s a chance for us to take a look at technology and make things better and easier for users and IT staff. It’s also probably going to be called the year of VDI, NFV, and SDN. Again.

Rather than writing a wrap up post for the end of 2014 like so many other sites, I like to look at what I said I was going to do 365 days ago and see if I followed through on them. It’s a way to keep myself honest and also to see how the year transformed around me and my goals.

Looking at 2014

Thankfully, my goals for 2014 were modest. I wanted to get more involved with the people in the IT industry. And I did that in a big way. I went to a ton of conferences and events through the year. Cisco Live, VMworld, and HP Discover Barcelona were all on my list this year, as well as all of the Tech Field Day events I took part in as an organizer. It was a grand opportunity to meets lots of people in the technology space. I got to interact with the old guard and see the rise of new stars. Jobs changed. People sought out new careers. And through it all I got a real sense that the people that are going to change the world in technology are passionate about what they do.

Passion is the key to making sense out of what we do. I’m not saying that you have to be so in love with your job that you are blinded to the world. What I mean is that you need to have passion about the things that matter to you. For me, it’s about seeing new technology and exposing people to it. I love Tech Field Day. It warms my heart when people come to me during and after the event and tell me that they were able to see so much more than they imagined. When a delegate tells me they finally had a chance to meet one of their tech idols or had a game changing conversation during the limo ride between presenters I genuinely smile. Those are the kinds of moments that make everything worth it for me.

What’s In Store For 2015?

For now, the major things aren’t going to change any time soon. My Bruce Wayne job is still going to be Tech Field Day. My Batman job is going to be writing on this blog. But I’m going to try a few new things and see how they work out.

Markdown

I’ve played around with the idea of writing in Markdown for a while now. It’s a simple language that turns thoughts into HTML with out needing to remember some of the more irritating code sections. I’ve never really committed to it before, looking at it more as a hobby or a thing I would eventually get to. Well, for 2015 I’m going to commit to writing all of my posts in Markdown. There’s no better way to learn than a trial by fire. I don’t think the regular posts are going to be a big deal, but the 2015 Cisco Live Twitter List could be fun.

If you’d like to see a great reference sheet for Markdown, check out Greg Ferro’s (@EtherealMind) page on Markdown Reference.

Blog Themes

I wanted to retheme my blog for 2015. I investigated several options and ultimately abandoned all of them because I could never find the right combination. I’m picky about many things I work with every day, including my blog theme, my backpack/messenger bag, and my computer desk. Since I’m hosted on WordPress.com, I can’t just install any theme I want or make modifications to it as I would like. I’m going to keep investigating some ideas and may try them out now and then. Just don’t be surprised if things look slightly different one day in the near future.

Cisco Live Managmement

One of the ideas that I’m going to float out here six months early for Cisco Live is a poll/form for picking the best time to take the Twitter photo. Every year for the last four years we’ve taken a huge photo with all the social media crew at Cisco Live. In the past couple of years we’ve had some issues getting everyone in the picture due to scheduling. This year, Jeff Fry (@FryGuy_PA) and I want to make sure that no one is left out that wants to be in the big photo because of their schedule. I’m going to put up a poll in the next couple of months to pick the best possible time for the photo. And we’ll make sure to publish the results and work with the Cisco Live Social Media staff to get the photographer for that time.

I’m also looking at creating some other spreadsheets to keep track of other information during the event, so if you get a random email from me about it keep in mind that I’m trying to keep myself sane this year.


Tom’s Take

I’m excited for 2015. There’s going be a lot of technology to write about. Tech Field Day will be in Austin, Boston, and Silicon Valley. We’re going to be talking about wireless, networking, storage, and event Big Data! I’m also looking forward to reconnecting with my friends and peers this year and meeting new and exciting people. Through it all, I’m going to be writing away here as well to put my thoughts down about trends and ideas in the industry. There may be the occasional technical piece now and then, since explanation of complex tech subjects is something I think there needs to be more of.

To my readers, thanks for helping me realize how important blogging is the community. Keep posting comments and sharing my thoughts with the world. And in 2015 we’ll have more fun that we’ve had in a long while.