Testing out Posting to WordPress via email

A test looking back at some old school methods of posting to the web

I haven’t posted to my WordPress site via email in a long time, so I thought I’d give it another try to see what has changed. I’m also curious about how this might work best in an IndieWeb setting and how these pieces dovetail with things like Post Kinds, potential syndication methods, and other tidbits I’ve got set up on my website.

Let’s see how it goes?

Dividing and Conquering the IndieWeb Related Content on My Website

Both for my own benefit as well as for that of others who may be following along, I realize that I’ve been tagging a lot of material on my site with the broad category of “IndieWeb”. Some of it is definitely more significant and content rich than others, but in aggregate it may often seem like a firehose. If you’re following the community relatively closely already, you’ll probably be seeing a lot of redundant material.

As a result, and since it’s easy to do, I’m only going to categorize a much smaller segment of the richer material that I write or which is I deem to be extremely broadly appealing with the IndieWeb category. The remainder of smaller pieces by others, bookmarks, short replies, or other tangential related things (UX, UI, silos, silo quits, etc.) I’m going to use the alternate and separate IndieWeb tag.

Thus if you’re active in the IndieWeb community and only want my IndieWeb related materials then follow the category  and not the tag. If you’re not closely following the community and want everything then I recommend following the content from both the category and the tag. 

With the subtle change this may also help IndieWeb related planets like Aaron Parecki’s https://stream.indieweb.org/ or Malcolm Blaney’s https://unicyclic.com/indieweb/ pick up relevant data without needing to do heavy de-duplication for fear of spamming various channels.

In the coming days/weeks I’ll try to go back into my backlog of posts and re-categorize and re-tag things based on this general scheme.

My direct content:
Category Only | feed: https://boffosocko.com/category/indieweb/feed/

Miscellaneous bookmarks, replies, other content I collect for my commonplace book, etc: 
Tag Only | feed: https://boffosocko.com/tag/indieweb/feed/

The firehose of everything IndieWeb related from my site:
Category AND/OR Tag | feed: https://boffosocko.com/?s=indieweb&feed=rss2

And of course I still try to  aggregate and orient most of the important pieces in my IndieWeb Collection.

Spent a few minutes late this afternoon to update the CSS on my website to hide the automatic titles given to annotation and highlight posts. Also modified these slightly to give the highlighted/quoted portion of other sites a highlighter-yellow color.

An example of the yellow highlight color of highlighted/annotated posts on my website. Previously the quoted portions had been a muted grey like other posts.

Sketches of my Home and About page designs

Replied to a post by Greg McVerryGreg McVerry (INTERTEXTrEVOLUTION)

For today’s I want you to put the computer away, grab some paper and pencil and map out what you think your homepage and about me page should contain.

You don’t need to be an artist, boxes and stuick figures will do.

You don’t have to be writer. Copy can come later. Think layout.

If you already have an about me and a home page sketch it out for others to see what your “prototype” looks like.

I’ve actually been doing some small revamping of both my Home and my About pages on the site recently, so this is actually a nice little exercise that’s reminding me about some of the small changes I’d like to effect. It also reminds me of some of the changes I want to make with regard to some of my menu structures too.

Lately I’ve added a bunch of different ways to slice and dice the content on my site so that readers can hopefully more easily find or discover the content they may be most interested in reading.  I’ve also been trying to pare down on the amount of information and detail which I present.

So without additional ado, here they are:

Home and About Page layouts

Looks like I’ve finally got IndieAuth and my headers working with OwnYourSwarm properly and have checkin data being PESOSed from Swarm/FourSquare to my website now. Hooray!

I still have a few minor tweaks to get things working properly with Post Kinds to display everything correctly, but I feel like I’m almost there. Next we’ll have to delve back to May sometime when my system between IndieAuth and OwnYourCheckin fell apart.

Still have my fingers half-crossed that I don’t botch anything up…

Tonight I added an On This Day widget to the sidebar of my homepage. I also added an archive page at https://boffosocko.com/archives/otd/. They show old posts from the same day from prior years.

There may be one or two small display issues that I’ll come back and tweak, but functionally things are working reasonably well. I can already see that I may use it not only as a reminder, but a means of helping to clean up broken links and/or missing photos on posts.

Now if we could only get the Timehop app to add WordPress to it’s data stores…

I’ve had refbacks on the brain for the past couple of months after having read Why Refback Still Matters, so I figured since I’ve already got the pingbacks, trackbacks, and webmentions enabled, what’s one more way to communicate with my website from the outside? So as of this evening, just for fun, I’m now accepting refbacks too.

Besides earlier this week I joined my first webring in over a decade as well. It can’t be any more embarrassing to support old web tech can it? #everythingoldisnewagain

 

The Story of My Domain

Alan Levine recently put out a request for stories about domains as a part of the Ontario Extend project. While I have traditionally identified more with the IndieWeb movement, a lot of how I use my website dovetails with the Domain of One's Own philosophy.

Here are my answers to Alan’s list of questions about my domain:

What is your domain name and what is the story, meaning behind your choice of that as a name?

I use the domain name BoffoSocko as my online identity.

I’ve spent 20+ years working in the entertainment industry in one way or another and was enamored of it long before that. Boffo and socko are slanguage from the trade magazine Variety essentially meaning “fantastically, stupendously outstanding; beyond awesome”, and used together are redundant. I was shocked that the domain name was available so I bought it on a whim expecting I’d do something useful with it in the future. Ultimately who wouldn’t want to be Boffo, Socko, or even both?

In my youth I think I watched Muppets Take Manhattan about 1,000 times and apparently always thought Kermit was cool when he said “Boffo Lenny! Socko Lenny!”

What was your understanding, experience with domains before you got one? Where were you publishing online before having one of your own?

Over the ages I’d had several websites of one stripe or another going back to the early/mid-90’s when I was in college and everyone was learning about and using the web together. Many of my domains had  a ~ in them which was common at the time. I primarily used them to promote work I was doing in school or with various groups. Later I remember spending a lot of time setting up WordPress and Drupal sites, often for friends, but didn’t actually do much with my own. For me it was an entry point into working with coding and simply playing with new technology.

I didn’t actually begin putting a lot of material online until the social media revolution began in 2006/2007. In 2008, I purchased a handful of domain names, many of which I’m still maintaining now. Ultimately I began posting more of my own material, photos, and observations online in a now defunct Posterous account in early 2010. Before it got shut down I had moved back to WordPress which gave me a lot more freedom and flexibility.

What was a compelling feature, reason, motivation for you to get and use a domain? When you started what did you think you would put there?

When I bought my first handful of domains, it was primarily to begin to own and brand my own identity online. I wasn’t sure what exactly I was going to do with them, but I was posting so much content to Facebook and Twitter I thought I ought to be posting it all (especially the longer form, and in my mind, more valuable content) to a site I owned and controlled and then syndicating the content to those other sites instead. Initially microblogging, bookmarking, posting checkins, and sharing photos made it easier to being writing and producing other things.

What kinds of sites have you set up on your domain since then? How are you using them? Please share URLs!

Most of my domains are personal and personal education related, though I do have a few for separate business/work purposes.

https://www.boffosocko.com is my primary, personal, catch-all domain run with WordPress. I can do almost anything and everything I want with it at this point.

I use it to (privately or publicly):

  • collect bookmarks of interesting things I see online or want to read in the future;
  • post about what I’m reading, watching, or listening to;
  • post what I’m eating, drinking, or places I’ve checked into, photos of things around me;
  • post podcasts and microcasts from time to time;
  • draft and synthesize big pieces of the above to write reviews or longer pieces (from articles to books) and publish them for others to read.

Generally I do everything others would do on any one of hundreds of other social media websites (and I’ve got all those too, though I use them far less), but I’m doing it in a centralized place that I own and control and don’t have to worry about it or certain pieces of functionality disappearing in the future.

In large part, I use my website like a modern day commonplace book. It’s where I post most of what I’m thinking and writing on a regular basis and it’s easily searchable as an off-board memory. I’m thrilled to have been able to inspire others to do much the same, often to the extent that many have copied my Brief Philosophy word-for-word to their “About” pages.

Almost everything I do online starts on my own domain now, and, when appropriate, I syndicate content to other places to make it easier for friends, family, colleagues, and others to read that content in other channels and communicate with me.

https://chrisaldrich.withknown.com — This is a WithKnown-based website that I used when I initially got started in the IndieWeb movement. It was built with IndieWeb and POSSE functionality in mind and was dead simple to use with a nice interface.

http://stream.boffosocko.com — Eventually I realized it wasn’t difficult to set up and maintain my own WithKnown site, and it gave me additional control. I made it a subdomain of my primary website. I’ve slowly been using it less and less as I’ve been able to do more and more with my WordPress website. Now I primarily use it for experiments as well as for quick mobile replies to sites like Twitter.

What helped you or would have helped you more when you started using your domain? What do you still struggle with?

Having more examples of things that are possible with a domain and having potential mentors to support me in what I was attempting to do. I wish I had come across the IndieWeb movement and their supportive community far earlier. I wish some of the functionality and web standards that exist now had been around earlier.

I still struggle with writing the code I’d like to have to create particular pieces of functionality. I wish I was a better UX/UI/design person to create some of the look and feel pieces I wish I had. Since I don’t (yet), I’m trying to help others maintain and promote pieces of their projects, which I use regularly.

I still wish I had a better/more robust feed reader more tightly integrated into my website. I wish there was better/easier micropub support for various applications so that I could more easily capture and publish content on my website.

What kind of future plans to you have for your domain?

I’d like to continue evolving the ability to manage and triage my reading workflows on my own site.

I’d like to be able to use it to more easily and prettily collect things I’m highlighting and annotating on the web in a way that allows me to unconditionally own all the relevant data without relying on third parties.

Eventually I’d like to be able to use it to publish books or produce and distribute video directly.

I’m also continuing to document my experiments with my domain so that others can see what I’ve done, borrow it, modify it, or more easily change it to suit their needs. I also do this so that my future (forgetful) self will be able to remember what I did and why and either add to or change it more easily.

Tomorrow I’m positive I’ll see someone using their own website to do something cool or awesome that I wish I had thought to do. Then I hope I won’t have to work too hard to make it happen for myself. These itches never seem to stop because, on your own domain, nearly anything is possible.

What would you say to other educators about the value, reason why to have a domain of your own? What will it take them to get going with their own domain?

Collecting, learning, analyzing, and creating have been central to academic purposes since the beginning of time. Every day I’m able to do these things more quickly and easily in conjunction with using my own domain. With new tools and standards I’m also able to much more easily carry on two-way dialogues with a broader community on the internet.

I hope that one day we’re able to all self-publish and improve our own content to the point that we won’t need to rely on others as much for many of the moving parts. Until then things continue to gradually improve, so why not join in so that the improvement accelerates? Who knows? Perhaps that thing you would do with your domain becomes the tipping point for millions of others to do so as well?

To get going it only takes some desire. There are hundreds of free or nearly free services you can utilize to get things rolling. If you need help or a mentor, I’m happy to serve as that to get you going. If you’d like a community and even more help, come join the IndieWeb chat room. You can also look for a local (or virtual) Homebrew Website Club; a WordPress Meetup or Camp, or Drupal Meetup or Camp; or any one of dozens of other groups or communities that can help you get moving.

Welcome to the revolution!

So, apparently some time in October and unbeknownst to me, my website got (was given?) an SSL certificate so that it would resolve via https. I accidentally discovered this today and spent a few minutes setting up the appropriate redirects so that everyone is forced to use https links to access my site. I may still have a few administrative redirects and some bookmarklets to tweak along the way, but the whole process was far simpler than I would have expected.

A nice side benefit is that now the Simple Location data I’d like to use will now self-populate when I make posts relating to location!

Listening to a podcast the other day and thinking about subscriptions lately, I was reminded that I ought to enable a JSON feed for a few experiments with my site.

Want to use it? Here you go: http://boffosocko.com/feed/json

Thanks Manton and Daniel.

RSS Feeds on BoffoSocko.com

A Follow up on My IndieWeb Commitment 2017

Over the past two years I’ve been owning more and more of the data that I used to sharecrop into various social media silos. Instead of posting it to those sites which I don’t own, don’t control, and can’t rely on them staying up forever, I’m posting on my own site first and when it seems worthwhile, I’m syndicating my content back out to them to take advantage of their network effects.

A Crowded Stream

As a result of owning all this data, my blog/site has become MUCH more active than it had been before. (It’s also been interesting to see just how much data I’d been giving to social media sites.) This extra activity has caused a few to tip me off that they’re seeing a lot of email notifications and additional material in their RSS feeds that they’re not used to seeing (and may not necessarily care about). So rather than risk them unsubscribing from everything and allow them to receive what they’re used to seeing, I’ve spent some time in the last couple of days to work on my IndieWeb Commitment 2017 which was to:

Fix my site’s subscription/mail functionality so that I can better control what current subscribers get and allow for more options for future subscribers.

Because a lot of the recent additions to my site have been things like owning all my Instagram posts, my bookmarks, what I’m watching, updates about books I’m reading, and links to everything I’ve been reading online, I’ve been using a category on the site called “Social Stream” with each of these posts as sub-categories. In most cases, social stream could be synonymous with microblog to some extent though it covers a broader range of content than just simply Twitter-like status updates.

Filtering Social Stream Posts out of My Email Subscriptions

I added a filter in my functions.php file for the JetPack-based plugin that prevents my site from emailing those who have used the JetPack subscription service from receiving emails for each and every post in those categories.

I had previously been preventing some of these emails from firing on a manual basis, but with their increased frequency, it was becoming unsustainable.

For those interested, the code and some useful tips can be found at the JetPack site. A copy of the specific code I’m currently using in my functions.php file appears below:

add_filter( 'jetpack_subscriptions_exclude_these_categories', 'exclude_these' );
function exclude_these( $categories ) {
$categories = array( 'social-stream');
return $categories;
}

More Flexible RSS Feeds and Discovery

For future subscribers, I wanted to allow some easier subscription options, particularly when it comes to RSS. Fortunately WordPress does a pretty good job of not only providing RSS feeds but makes them relatively configurable and customizeable with good documentation. [1] [2]

Custom URLs for RSS Syndication and .htcacess Modifications

I wanted to create a few human-readable RSS feed names and feeds including:

With somewhat canonical feed URLs, I can always change where they point to in the future. To do this and have them map over into the actual feeds for these things, I did a bit of remapping in my .htaccess file based on some thoughts I’d run across recently.  The code I used appears below:

# BEGIN rss
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^rss\.xml$ "/feed?cat=-484"[L,R]
RewriteRule ^microblog\.xml$ "/feed?cat=484"[L,R]
RewriteRule ^articles\.xml$ "/feed?kind=article"[L,R]
RewriteRule ^instagram\.xml$ "/feed?cat=936"[L,R]
RewriteRule ^linkblog\.xml$ "/feed?cat=964,945"[L,R]
RewriteRule ^read\.xml$ "/feed?cat=945"[L,R]
RewriteRule ^math\.xml$ "/feed?cat=10"[L,R]
RewriteRule ^informationtheory\.xml$ "/feed?cat=687"[L,R]
RewriteCond %{Query_STRING} ^$
RewriteRule ^feed$ "/rss.xml" [L,R]
</IfModule>
# END rss

Each of the cat=### are the numbers for the particular category numbers I’m mapping within WordPress for the associated category names.

RSS Feed Pattern for IndieWeb Post Kinds Plugin

I also spent a few minutes to figure out the RSS feed patterns to allow for the additional feeds provided by the Post Kinds plugin to work. While Post Kinds is similar to the native WordPress post formats, it’s designed particularly with IndieWeb posts in mind and uses a custom taxonomy which also wraps particular post kinds in the appropriate microformats automatically. The general form for these RSS feeds would be:

Other feeds could be constructed similarly by replacing “article” with the other kinds including:  bookmark, favorite, jam, like, listen, note, photo, read, recipe, reply, repost, watch, and wish. I suspect that most will only want the articles while those who are really interested in the others can either “build” them themselves for subscribing, or given the sporadic nature of some, they would more likely be interested in the “social stream” feed noted above.

Discoverability

Finally there’s the most important question of what feed readers like Feedly or Woodwind can actually discover when someone searches for an RSS feed on my domain. It’s one thing to have customized feeds, but if feed readers can’t easily find them, the subscriber is never likely to see them or know they exist to want to consume them. Most advanced feed readers will parse the headers of my site for discover-able feeds and present them to the user for possible subscription.

Out of the box WordPress provides two RSS feeds as standard: one for posts (essentially everything) and one for comments.  I added several additional ones (like those mentioned above), which I thought might be most requested/useful, into my page header to provide a slightly broader range of subscription options. I even included a few feeds for alternate sites I run, like my WithKnown-based site. I suppose if I wanted I could advertise feeds for my favorite sites anywhere.

To add these additional feeds, I added several additional lines into my page header similar to the following example which makes my posts categorized or tagged as mathematics discoverable:

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="Chris Aldrich » Mathematics Feed" href="http://boffosocko.com/math.xml" />

Wrap up

Hopefully with these few simple changes, those who wish to subscribe to my blog by email won’t be inundated with a lot of the social details. Those who want all or even smaller portions of my feed can consume them more easily, and there’s a way to be able to consume almost anything you’d like by category, tag, or post format/post kind.

Now on to my stretch goal:

Finish my monthly email newsletter

Comments/Questions?

Is there a particular type of content I’m creating here that you’d like to subscribe to? Let me know in the comments below if there’s a feed of a post format/kind, category, or tag you’d like to have that isn’t mentioned above.

References

[1]
“WordPress Feeds « WordPress Codex,” WordPress.org. [Online]. Available: https://codex.wordpress.org/WordPress_Feeds. [Accessed: 18-Dec-2016]
[2]
“Customizing Feeds « WordPress Codex,” WordPress.org. [Online]. Available: https://codex.wordpress.org/Customizing_Feeds. [Accessed: 18-Dec-2016]