Reply to Ryan Boren et al on the WordPress Link Manager, Calypso, and Indie Blogging

Replied to a tweet by Ryan BorenRyan Boren (Twitter)

Oh there’s just so much to say about the start of this thread, and it gives me so much hope for the open web as well as potential growth for WordPress.

Link Manager Update

The Link Manager still seems relatively solid and much of the infrastructure still works well, despite the warnings and lack of updates over the past several years. It would be nice to see it make a comeback and I can personally see many ways it could come back as a means of allowing people to better own their personal social graph as well as dovetail with readers. (This could also be the cornerstone of helping to make WordPress it’s own decentralized social network so that those who want to leave Facebook, Twitter, et al. could more easily do so and maintain their own data and infrastructure.)

If it were being updated, here are a few things that I might suggest as being imminently useful:

  • Update to the latest version of OPML; While the old version still works, there are some new toys that folks like Dave Winer have been iterating on including OPML subscription1,2 as well as some discovery tools.
  • Add in additional microformats support, particularly for display. Things like h-card, u-url, u-photo, etc. could make displaying these more useful for the growing number of microformats parsers. I also suspect that having OPML subscription support could be a major boon to the feed reader resurgence that is happening with the split of the server side/display side split occurring with the improving Microsub spec which now has one server implementation with several more coming and at least three front end implementations. I know of one person building a Microsub server for WordPress already.
  • It’s non-obvious where one’s OPML file lives within the plugin or that one can have or target OPML files by category. Making this more apparent from a UI perspective would be both useful and help adoption.
  • Provide a bookmarklet or browser extension to make it easier to scrape data off of someone’s homepage (or any page for that matter) and put it into the Links Manager data fields. This would allow people to do a one (or two click) solution for quickly and immediately following someone, saving their data into their site, and then via OPML subscription, they’ll automatically be following that feed in their reader of choice.
    • For doing the parsing portion of this, I might recommend the parsing algorithm being used by the Post Kinds Plugin, which parses a web page and searches for microformats, open graph protocol, and one or two other standards to return all or most all of the data that would be needed to fill out the data Links Manager can take. As I recall, this parser was being discussed by Kraft for potential inclusion into the Press This bookmarklet functionality to expand on what it had already provided.
    • From a UI perspective this would allow people to follow friends or others via a WordPress workflow almost as easily as any of the social media silos.
    • Another UI approach for comparison can be found by looking at the SubToMe universal follow button which was developed by Julien Genestoux (also of PubSub/WebSub fame). This version also uses some of the standard feed discovery mechanisms which a bookmarklet would want to be able to do as well.
  • As I’d written, following/subscribing has become more central to the social space, so upgrading the humble blogroll from a widget to a full page would certainly be in order. Having the infrastructure (short link perhaps?) to easily create a WordPress page out of the data would be quite helpful.

As Ryan indicates, the planet-like features that OPML subscriptions provide are immensely valuable in general, but also solves a tough problem that some of the best minds in the educational tech space have found perennially problematic.3

As for the title-less post types that are proliferating by the independent microblogging community (including the recent micro.blog as well as post types in the vein of likes, favorites, reads, replies, etc. which mimic functionality within the broader social space), the so-called (no title) problem can be  somewhat difficult since so many things are built to expect a title. Many feed readers don’t know how to react to them as a result. The Post Kinds Plugin faced a similar issue and recently pushed an update so that within the admin UI at /wp-admin/edit.php the title field would still indicate (no title) but it would also include a 28 character synopsis from the_body or the_excerpt to provide at least some indication of what the post was about. This also seems to be a potential issue in other areas of WordPress including widgets like “Recent Posts” which want to display a title where none exists. As the aside post format can attest, not all themes deal with this well, though there are other alternate methods for displaying some useful data.

 

References

1.
OPML subscriptions. Inoreader blog. https://blog.inoreader.com/2014/05/opml-subscriptions.html. Published May 26, 2014. Accessed July 18, 2018.
2.
RSS Reader InoReader to Support Dynamic OPML Subscriptions. CleverClogs. http://cleverclogs.org/category/opml-subscriptions. Published May 26, 2014. Accessed July 18, 2018.
3.
Groom J. Will Work for Feed Syndication Framework. bavatuesdays. https://bavatuesdays.com/ds106-will-work-for-feed-syndication-framework/. Published August 5, 2013. Accessed July 18, 2018.
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