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Exploring the Symfony Universe

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Illustration of storage room of a spaceship representative of a writing stack for technical newsletters and blogs.

We’re sure you will notice this piece is different from our usual content. It does not concern Symfony or PHP directly. However, it’s still related. We want to be your best source for news on the two topics. But, for that to happen, people other than us need to produce items worthy of coverage.

Giving Back

Our mission is not only to cover Symfony and PHP. We also serve their respective developer communities. One way to do that is to help more developers write about Symfony and PHP.

If you are reading this article, you are interested in technical topics. You might even publish a newsletter and/or articles covering them. If so, we created this resource for you. If you don’t, we hope you will start soon. It is a way to give back to the community that helped make you successful.

Our site and this article are ways we give back. Our recommendations could apply to any technically-oriented newsletter or blog. But, we’ll focus on our experience with Symfony Station’s efforts. Over the past year, we’ve experimented with a variety of tools. And more importantly, we’ve developed a stack that works.

Dedication

Consistency is paramount for publishing. Quality writing takes hard work in addition to talent. So, you have to be committed.

It would help if you published weekly or monthly but not randomly. If you aren’t sure about your dedication or have limited time, begin with the monthly route. See if it works for you in the long run. Are you ambitious and passionate about your topic? Is your financial situation secure? Do you have free time? If so, then go for it each week.

Efficient Solutions

The solutions you select for your stack should have desktop and mobile apps. You’ll want to be able to work when inspiration strikes. And to do so from anywhere.

For example, I improved upon the title for this article while at a music festival. And then again when walking my dogter. 🐕

The format we’ll use for the following solutions is:

  • The recommended one(s)
  • Why you should use it/them
  • Other quality options

Curate ideas and items to write about with:

Newsletters

The highest quality of source materials comes from niche newsletters. It makes sense because their publishers are committed and take pride in their efforts. They are more likely to be professionally written and factual as well.

By the way, you can join ours at the bottom of any page on our site.

Screenshot of Medium's homepage.
Medium is the message

Medium

We’ve found that Medium is a fantastic source. And it’s perfect for tutorials. Investing in a membership is recommended as you can access everything you want to read. It’s worth the expense to boost your career. Non-members can access a limited number of articles per month.

And as you will see below, it has other advantages.

Invest in a membership here!

Our compensation from your joining via this link helps cover our expenses for producing the articles you enjoy on Medium.

Dev.to

Dev.to is another solid source that concentrates on programming. Like Medium, it too has other uses.

Twitter

Birdsite is more of a scattershot source. While it’s mainly a cage full of bird shit, you can find quality sources if you try hard enough.

Reddit

Depending on the /r Reddit can be more civil than Twitter, or much worse. At least it is usually discussions. In our experience, there is not as much article sharing. And that’s what we need for curation.

Mastodon

We joined Mastodon recently and find it more civil and enjoyable. It’s not quite as useful as Twitter for curation. Yet.

It’s also more general-purpose and personal.

If you aren’t familiar with it, you should check it out. It’s a federated platform and has multiple instances. We recommend the PHPC instance. It’s an opportunity to create social media based on your values.

Flipboard

One of the best curation sources for us is Flipboard. The magazine-based platform provides content on a wide range of topics. It’s helpful for more than just curation, as you will see below.

Learn more about Flipboard.

Websites

Using sites you admire is a no-brainer. However, it is easier to curate from their newsletters and social media content.

A great one is Symfony Station. 😎

Google Alerts

You should set up Google Alerts for the main keywords of the topics you cover.

Learn how to set up Google Alerts.

Apple, Microsoft, Android News

Every once in a while, you can find valuable items on your devices’ news apps.

Additional

Slack

Slack may be helpful, depending on your topic. It doesn’t offer much for Symfony curation.

LinkedIn Groups

Ditto the Slack sentence.

Save to:

While curating for your upcoming issues or articles, you need a place to store source material.

Screen shot of Flipboard homepage
Curate with Flipboard

Flipboard

We use Flipboard for several reasons.

  1. Since it’s also a great source, you can kill two fascists with one bullet by creating a magazine and sharing the sources there. You can pull all your items from this central location when you are ready to write.
  2. You have the added advantage of using Flipboard for your branding.
  3. It’s fantastic for the distribution of your final products as well.
  4. You gain followers that can join your newsletter.

Learn more about creating Flipboard Magazines.

Pocket

You can use Pocket similar to the way you would Flipboard.

Learn more about Pocket.

Additional

While the following tools aren’t as efficient, but if you already use them, have at it.

Since it’s part of Google Workplace, Google Sheets is suitable for a low-cost collaboration solution.

You can save items as cards in Trello.

If you are a team or a power user, try Notion. There is more on it below.

Are.na is another option we’ve explored. Although, it’s a better option for writing books.

Write with:

Screenshot of Notion homepage
Write with Notion

Notion

Notion is booming and gets excellent reviews. It is a solid solution if you work in a team. It’s a bit of overkill for us, but we use it for several reasons. It even has a template for blogging.

  1. Blocks

Notion uses blocks, which we like because component-based design is better design.

Thus, it’s easy to copy/paste into other apps that use blocks. For us, that’s Mailchimp and Drupal with Gutenberg. Or it could be WordPress.

2. Export to Markdown

However, we mainly use Notion because it exports to Markdown. We need this format to publish to Dev.to.

Additional

A reasonable fallback that lets you collaborate easily with others is Google Docs.

Tools

The following two tools will help make your writing professional.

Grammar

To be taken seriously, your content must be grammatically correct. We recommend using Grammarly. Check it out. The tool is handy if you are writing in a second language.

Plus, it is Ukrainian in origin. If you didn’t know, we support Ukraine.

Readability

To make your content readable, use the Hemingway App. Ernest was one of the first writers to recognize that writing simply is writing beautifully. And it’s much more effective.

While you should use these tools, note that it’s essential that you do not follow 100 percent of their recommendations. You still want your writing to reflect your unique voice and personality.

And everything else

The following link isn’t a tool, but it’s valuable writing advice for articles and newsletters.

Publish to:

Screenshot of Drupal homepage
Give Drupal a try

Drupal

Unless you only want a newsletter, you need a home for your content and promoting your email list.

And it should be one you own. Preferably, you’ll choose an open-source one. So fuck Facebook, WIX, and their ilk.

If you are more of a developer, consider Drupal. It’s based on Symfony now, scalable, and fully customizable. You can use blocks, especially with the Gutenberg module.

<aside>Although, it is an incredible pain in the ass to update. 😕</aside>

For hosting, we recommend Platform.sh, Pantheon, or Acquia.

Here’s why we chose it.

WordPress

If you are more of a content creator or designer, use WordPress. Its block-based approach is ten times easier to use.

Many people don’t know there are two options for the CMS.

  1. WordPress.org is for those who want to self-host.

And that means paying for hosting from solutions such as Siteground, WPEngine, or Kinsta. It means more admin work but gives you the freedom to do what you want.

2. WordPress.com is for non-technical users who want automated administration after setup. It can even be free.

Medium

Medium can function as home to your site if you don’t mind renting and having few customization options. And once you build a large enough audience, you can monetize it.

Again, you can invest in a membership here!

Distribute to:

Newsletter

This is half the topic of this article.

We prefer Mailchimp. It has a great UI and UX. And you own it. It’s also block-based on the design front. You can use the free version or upgrade for more functionality.

Substack is an option if you want to rent rather than own and want fewer administration headaches. It’s also easier to monetize your newsletter if you build a large audience.

Medium

If you don’t use Medium for your site, you should cross-post to it. This will increase your reach and drive users to your site and email list. It has a largely technical audience. And blocks paste well into its editor.

Dev.to screenshot
Explore Dev.to

Dev.to

Ditto for the even more technically oriented users of Dev.to. Again, it uses markdown, so it’s not as user-friendly.

Blogcast

For articles and interviews, audio is a solid option. We recommend Blogcast for creating audio articles and podcasts.

Check out Blogcast.

LinkedIn Articles

We did not get much traction publishing articles on LinkedIn, but it might work for your niche.

Share to:

It would help if you also shared on social. Again, it’s a way to increase your reach and drive traffic to your site. And the same applies to adding subscribers to your list. Plus, sharing is caring, according to some. I guess it depends on where and how you share. And whether you care or are an asshat.

Flipboard

As mentioned above, it’s an excellent place for readers to find content on particular topics. Thus, it’s a great place to share.

Social Media

We have success with Twitter even though it's a crap platform.

Screenshot of Mastodon
You should try Mastodon

As we’ve just started with Mastodon, we’ll see how it goes. Plus, it’s not a dumpster fire.

We did not get much traction with LinkedIn Groups, but it might work for you.

Reddit has a largely technical audience. However, you have to be active on it a while before they let you share links. We were banished right off the bat.

For social sharing on mainstream platforms, you can use tools like Buffer and/or CoSchedule. The smaller platforms may require manual posting.

Additional

Slack was not a source of much engagement for us. But, if you use it for other purposes, it can’t hurt sharing on it as well.

Summing it up

Screenshot of WordPress homepage
Meet WordPress

By using the stack of tools we recommend you can increase the efficiency of your newsletter and article writing process. It can save you hours on your time-intensive labor of love. Plus, it allows you to concentrate on the important part, writing.

Some distribution and sharing platforms might be different based on your industry.

But:

  • Find items to cover in/on other newsletters, Flipboard, Medium, and social media
  • Save your items to a Flipboard magazine until you are ready to write
  • Write your content with Notion
  • Publish it to Drupal or WordPress
  • Distribute via your newsletter, Medium, Dev.to, and/or LinkedIn
  • Share to Flipboard, Slack, and/or social media
  • Repeat daily

So, check the tools out. We hope you will experiment with them and integrate them into your workflow. Doing so will breathe new life into your publishing efforts!

Thanks for reading, and happy writing Symfonistas!

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Author

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Reuben Walker

Founder
Symfony Station

 

 

 


 

 

 

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