Using Inoreader as an IndieWeb feed reader

It may still be a while before I can make the leap I’d love to make to using Microsub related technology to replace my daily feed reader habits. I know that several people are working diligently on a Microsub server for WordPress and there are already a handful of reader interfaces available. I’m particularly interested in the fact that I can use a reader interface integrated with Micropub so that my reactions in the reader (likes, bookmarks, replies, etc.) are posted back to my own personal website which will then send notifications (via Webmention) to the mentioned websites. Of course it’s going to take some time before I’m using it and even more time after that for the set up to become common and easy to use for others. So until then, I and others will need some tools to use right now.

Toward this end I thought I’d double down on my use of Inoreader in my daily web consumption workflows. I wanted to make it easier to use my feed reader to post all these types of posts to my website which will still handle the notifications. In some sense, instead of relying on a feed reader supporting Micropub, I’ll use other (older) methods for making the relevant posts. As I see it, there are two potential possibilities using Inoreader:
(1) using a service like IFTTT (free) or Zapier (paid) to take the post intents and send them to my WordPress site, or
(2) using the custom posting interface in Inoreader in conjunction with post editor URL schemes with the Post Kinds plugin to create the posts. Using WordPress’ built-in Post This bookmarklet schemes could also be used to make these posts, but Post Kinds plugin offers a lot more metadata and flexibility.

If This Then That (IFTTT)

Below is a brief outline of some of the IFTTT recipes I’ve used to take data from posts I interact with in Inoreader and post them to my own website.

The trigger interface in IFTTT for creating new applets using Inoreader functionality.

Likes

IFTTT has an explicit like functionality with a one click like button. There is an IFTTT recipe which allows taking this datum and adding it directly as a WordPress post with lots of rich data. The  “then that” portion of IFTTT using WordPress allows some reasonable functionality for porting over data.

Favorites

IFTTT also has explicit favorite functionality using a one click starred article button. There is an IFTTT recipe which allows adding this directly as a WordPress post.

Since the “starred” article isn’t defined specifically in Inoreader as a “favorite”, one could alternately use it to create “read” or “bookmark” posts on their WordPress websites. I’m tempted to try this for read posts as I probably wouldn’t often use it to create favorite posts on my own website. Ultimately one at least wants an easy-to-remember 1 to 1 mapping of pieces of functionality in Inoreader to their own website, so whatever I decide I’ll likely stick to it.

Bookmarks

While there is no specific functionality for creating bookmarks in Inoreader (though starred articles could be used this way as previously mentioned), there is a “saved webpage” functionality that could be used here in addition to an IFTTT recipe to port over the data to WordPress.

Reads

While Inoreader has a common feed reader read/unread functionality, it is often not used tacitly and this is a means of reducing friction within the application. Not really wanting to muddle the meaning of the “starred” article to do it, I’ve opted to adding an explicit “read” tag on posts I’ve read.

IFTTT does have a “New tagged article” recipe that will allow me to take articles in Inoreader with my “read” tag and post them to my website. It’s pretty simple and easy.

Replies

For dealing with replies, there is an odd quirk within Inoreader. Confoundingly the feed reader has two similar, yet still very different commenting functionalities. One is explicitly named “comment”, but sadly there isn’t a related IFTTT trigger nor an RSS feed to take advantage of the data one puts into the comment functionality. Fortunately there is a separate “broadcast” functionality. There is an IFTTT recipe for “new broadcasted article” that will allow one to take the reply/comment and post it to one’s WordPress website.

Follows

Like many of the above there is a specific IFTTT recipe that will allow one to add subscriptions directly to WordPress as posts, so that any new subscriptions (or follows) within the Inoreader interface can create follow posts! I doubt many people may use this recipe, but it’s awesome that it exists.  Currently anything added to my blogrolls (aka Following Page) gets ported over to Inoreader via OPML subscription, so I’m curious if them being added that way will create these follow posts? And if so, is there a good date/time stamp for these? I still have to do some experimenting to see exactly how this is going to work.

RSS feed-based functionality

In addition to the IFTTT recipe functionality described above, one could also use IFTTT RSS functionality to pipe RSS feeds which Inoreader provides (especially via tags) into a WordPress website. I don’t personally use this sort of set up, but thought I’d at least mention it in passing so that anyone who might like to create other post types to their website could.

Custom posting in Inoreader with Post Kinds Plugin

If using a third-party service like IFTTT isn’t your cup of tea, Inoreader also allows custom sharing options.  (There are also many pre-built ones for Facebook, Twitter, etc. and they’re also re-orderable as well.) I thus used WordPress’ post editor URL schemes to send the data I’d like to have from the original post to my own website. Inoreader actually has suggestions in their UI for how to effectuate this generically on WordPress. While this is nice, I’m a major user of the Post Kinds Plugin which allows me a lot more flexibility to post likes, bookmarks, favorites, reads, replies, etc. with the appropriate microformats and much richer metadata. Post Kinds has some additional URL structures which I’ve used in addition to the standard WordPress ones to take advantage of this. This has allowed me to create custom buttons for reads, bookmarks, replies, likes, and listens. With social sharing functionality in Inoreader enabled, each article in Inoreader has a sharing functionality in the bottom right corner that has a configuration option which brings up the following interface:

Custom sharing functionality in Inoreader. I’ve added set up to post reads, bookmarks, likes, replies and listens to my personal website.

Once made, these custom button icons appear at the bottom of every post in Inoreader, so, for example, if I want to reply to a post I’ve just read, I can click on the reply button which will open a new browser window for a new post on my website. The Post Kinds plugin on my site automatically pulls in the URL of the original post, parses that page and–where available–pulls in the title, synopsis, post date/time, the author, author URL, author photo, and a featured photo as well as automatically setting the specific post kind and post format. A lot of this data helps to create a useful reply context on my website. I can then type in my reply to the post and add any other categories, tags, or data I’d like in my admin interface. Finally I publish the post which sends notifications to the original post I read (via Webmention).

Screencapture of Inoreader’s interface highlighting some of their social features as well as the custom sharing interface I’ve added. The article shown here is one lamenting the lost infrastructure of feed readers and hopes for future infrastructure from Jon Udell entitled Where’s my Net dashboard?

Conclusion and future

With either of the above set ups, there are a few quick and easy clicks to create my posts and I’m done. Could it be simpler? Yes, but it likely won’t be much more until I’ve got a fully functional Microsub server and reader up and working.

Of course, I also love Inoreader and its huge variety of features and great usability. While I’m patiently awaiting having my own WordPress Microsub server, I certainly wouldn’t mind it if Inoreader decided to add some IndieWeb functionality itself. Then perhaps I wouldn’t need to make the switch in the near future.

What would this look like? It could include the ability to allow me to log into Inoreader using my own website using IndieAuth protocol. It could also add Micropub functionality to allow me to post all these things directly and explicitly to my website in an easier manner. And finally, if they really wanted to go even further, they could make themselves a Microsub server that enables me to use any one of several Microsub clients to read content and post to my own website. And of course the benefit to Inoreader is that if they support these open internet specifications, then their application not only works with WordPress sites with the few appropriate plugins, but Inoreader will also work with a huge variety of other content management systems that support these specs as well.

Whether or not Inoreader supports these protocols, there is a coming wave of new social feed readers that will begin to close many of these functional gaps that made RSS difficult. I know things will slowly, but eventually get better, simpler, and easier to use. Soon posting to one’s website and doing two way communication on the internet via truly social readers will be a reality, and one that’s likely to make it far easier to eschew the toxicity and problems of social sites like Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

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12 responses on “Using Inoreader as an IndieWeb feed reader”

  1. Whether or not Inoreader supports these protocols, there is a coming wave of new social feed readers that will begin to close many of these functional gaps that made RSS difficult.

    Which others are notable?

    1. Jon, There is an actively growing group of about a dozen or so folks looking at these problems with particular respect to the fledgling Microsub specification. Microsub has two parts: a server and a reading client/interface and is built to abstract away the harder(?) problems and infrastructure of the plumbing of building a feed reader from the design/interface of the reader itself. There are about 6 reading interfaces or clients already built (some of them publicly available, including Android and iOS interfaces), and 3 servers (one publicly available) in existence with at least 4 others in development. All of these are being built within the IndieWeb community which has a pretty strong track record for iterating on and proliferating these types of open tools and specs for a variety of platforms and languages (see Micropub, Webmention, IndieAuth, etc.) I’m hoping that some of these ideas ultimately leak across borders to apply to other older and more traditional readers. I’ve seen at least some evidence to indicate that Feedly and Inoreader are watching this space for future growth.

      One of the best descriptions for how some of this is set up can be found in Aaron Parecki’s post Building an IndieWeb Reader, which is related to Parecki’s other post that Aaron Davis mentioned on your blog. If you’re interested in delving further beyond the ideas and attempting to implement some of it, I’m sure many of the Microsub developers would be more than willing to help you attempt to set up some of it. I believe all of them can be found in the IndieWeb chat.

      The best prior example of a reader actually implementing some of this functionality (pre-Microsub) is the Woodwind reader, which is open source on Github. (There was previously a nice hosted version, which has since been shut down.) I laid out some of the generic problem facing feed readers and social and included some examples of related functionality spread across several readers in Feed reader revolution in June of last year.

      Another interesting possible candidate that is actively being developed and I’m following, but haven’t tried, is NetNewsWire 5.0 (fka Evergreen) by Brent Simmons, a decades long feed reader veteran. He recently reacquired the NetNewsWire name, app, etc. from Black Pixel. I know he is aware of some IndieWeb related philosophies though I’m unsure of how much he’s implementing in his rebuild presently.

      I’ve also used PressForward as a built-in feed reader within my WordPress site, but it requires a little bit of additional manual work to get things working for the reactions the way I’d like to have them implemented. However, just the work of building an integrated feed reader into a WordPress site is more than half of the battle.

    1. Ton, I haven’t looked into it directly myself, but based on this article from 2015, it would seem that it was being done via xmlrpc at that time. If I recall correctly, individual platforms are responsible for building an maintaining their integrations on IFTTT now, so it may be done via WordPress API now, particularly since the API is much more mature now compared to 2015. Possibly worth digging into or asking IFTTT or WordPress directly.

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