Save Blipfoto: how to automatically generate PDF files of your journal entries

This blog entry was originally posted on Tuesday 17th March 2015. It has since been edited to take into account the posting of the program that it describes to GitHub, and to provide links to short tutorial information on YouTube for non-programmers on how to run the program.

Yesterday many members of the Blipfoto community – myself included – were deeply unsettled by news that the company has gone into liquidation. Blipfoto has been integral to my everyday life for over three years. The thought that my daily routine is at risk is very upsetting. Finding a photographic subject, capturing a shot, uploading it, writing a little about my day, waiting for greetings from my fellow blippers, and catching up with the journals of others has become part of what I am.

There is, of course, another (professional) dimension to my interest in Blipfoto. My main research interests lie in information sharing in online communities. You could say that while I enact my personal blipping routines, I am also engaged in a little action research and participant observation. Indeed I spoke about Blipfoto in my inaugural professorial lecture in 2012, with Blipfoto founders Joe Tree and Graham Graham Maclachlan in the audience. Last year I conducted a small scale research project on Blipfoto members’ practice with my colleague Dr Eve Forrest, and we have further work planned.

It is a relief that this afternoon (17th March 2015) some encouraging news has been posted by Joe Tree to the journal of BlipCentral. I am feeling a lot happier than I was this time yesterday.

A concern expressed by a number of fellow blippers in a period of uncertainty, however, is that their Blipfoto entries could disappear altogether. While most Blippers have backups of the photographs that they have shared on the site, the accompanying text is another matter. This has left members wondering how they can solve this problem. Suddenly we are all faced with a crisis in personal digital archiving. (Oooh, look a case study!)

One way of accomplishing this would be to write an application, or app, that uses the published Blipfoto API. Unfortunately, this requires some computer programming expertise, and the time and will to learn the API itself. Furthermore, unless considerable programming effort is made, the output is likely to consist of blocks of unformatted text, and a set of images.

One of the great things that Blipfoto used to offer was the Blip365 book: blippers could select 365 days of entries to be published as a hardback book. Not only was this a fantastic artefact of a year of blipping, it was also the perfect form of backup for the text of journal postings. Sadly, at the time of writing, the Blip 365 book is no longer available.

blipfoto 365 book

A Blipfoto 365 book

Driven by the desire to provide a mechanism to backup both the text and images of the Blip entries, and with aim of creating something akin to a Blip365 book, on 17th March 2015 my husband (known to fellow Blippers as Mr hazelh) created a Linux shell script, which was subsequently posted to GitHub by fellow blipper Doug Aitken. The latest version of this program (Sunday 22nd March 2015) saves comments as well as images and text.

The program relies on only two non-core Linux/Unix programs – wget and wkhtmltopdf. The shell script was written and tested on Ubuntu Linux 14.10, so it should also work on other Linux variants, as well as Apple Macs. (It does not, however, run on Windows.) Mr hazelh has created a series of video tutorials to give those who are not programmers step-by-step instructions on how to run the program. These are:

  1. Saving your Blipfoto entries to PDF (tutorial 1 of 5): How to open a terminal window
  2. Saving your Blipfoto entries to PDF (tutorial 2 of 5): Check if wget & wkhtmltopdf are installed
  3. Saving your Blipfoto entries to PDF (tutorial 3 of 5): Installing latest version of wkhtmltopdf
  4. Saving your Blipfoto entries to PDF (tutorial 4 of 5): Downloading the script
  5. Saving your Blipfoto entries to PDF (tutorial 5 of 5): How to run the program

hazelh main Blipfoto page screen shot

4 thoughts on “Save Blipfoto: how to automatically generate PDF files of your journal entries

  1. Great to have this tool!
    I didn’t think so at first as frustration mounted, and nothing worked. But then I decided to learn a little about downloading stuff from github and about Terminal on a Mac, starting from my then level of zero.
    After three rather long sittings, about 12 hours in total, I watched the video one more time, clicking along with Tim (Mr HazelH) and…. Wow! I had my first month of Blip downloaded and a lot more knowledge (and notes) on how Terminal works.
    Thanks for both the program and the inspiration to learn a new tool.

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