Reply to Facepile for webmention does not link to source

Replied to Facepile for webmention does not link to source · Issue #208 · pfefferle/wordpress-semantic-linkbacks (GitHub)
For testing purposes I created a new post that links to another of my own posts. This creates a new comment, through webmention I guess. When I approve it, it only shows the / my icon in a facepile...

Here’s a good example: http://v.hierofalco.net/2018/08/23/weird-indieweb-idea-of-the-day-guestbooks/
There’s a mention from https://ramblinggit.com/ in the comments, but it’s incredibly difficult to find that mention or what it contains, because there isn’t a linked URL on the avatar that goes to ramblinggit.com’s (Brad Enslen’s) content. In this particular case, it’s probably the most important piece of content on the page because the post itself is about a theoretical idea or “blue sky”, while the mention itself actually puts the theoretical idea into actual use and provides a great example. Sadly as it stands this value is completely hidden because of the UI. In some sense hiding the mention is also potentially contributing to unnecessary context collapse within hierofalco’s post’s comments and lessens the value of the mention itself.

While I appreciate the UX/UI desire to limit the amount of data displayed in one’s comment section since it is rarely, if ever, used, there’s a lot of value in the bi-directionality of webmentions and how they’re displayed. I’ve suggested before that newspapers, magazines and journalism sites (not to mention academics, researchers, and government sites) might benefit from the verifiable/audit-able links from their material to the reads, likes, favorites, and even listens (in the case of podcasts). If the comments sections simply have an avatar and a homepage link to the original, some of this (admittedly) marginal value is then lost. What about when Webmention is more common? Sites could simply display avatars and homepage links without actually linking to the original location of the webmention. They might do this to imply an endorsement(s) when none exists and the viewer is left with the difficult task of attempting manual verification.

I do love the fact that one can facepile these reactions, but why not simply have the facepile of avatars with URLs that direct to the original reaction? To me these should ideally have a title attribute that is the sending account’s name wrapped with the URL of the original webmention URL itself. While these are seemingly “throwaways” for likes/favorites, I often personally post “reads” and “listens” that also have notes or commentary that I use for my own purpose and thus don’t send them as explicit replies. If the facepiles for reads & listens are avatars that link back to the original then the site’s admin as well as others can choose (or not) to click through to the original. Perhaps the site administrator prefers to display those as replies, then they have the option in the interface to change the semantic linkback type from the simple response to a more “featured” response. (I’ve documented an example of this before.)

The issue becomes even more apparent in the case of “mentions” which are currently simply avatars with a homepage. There’s a much higher likelihood that there’s some valuable content (compared to a like certainly) behind this mention (though it still isn’t a specific reply). Readers of comment sections are much more likely to be interested in them and the potential conversation hiding behind them. As things stand currently, it’s a difficult and very manual thing to attempt to track down. In these cases, one should ideally be able to individually toggle facepile/not facepile for each mention depending on the content. If shown as a comment, then, yes, having the ability to show the whole thing, or an excerpted version, could be useful/desirable. If the mention is facepiled, it should be done as the others with an avatar and a wrapped URL to the mentioning content and an appropriate title (either the Identity/name of the sending site, the article title, or both if available).

For facepiled posts (and especially mentions) I’d much rather see something along the lines of:
<a title="Brad Enslen" href="https://ramblinggit.com/2018/08/new-guestbook/"><img src="https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/0ce8b2c406e423f114e39fd4d128c31d?s=100&amp;r=pg&amp;d=mm" width="100" height="100"/></a>
(with the appropriate microformats markup, of course.)

As an example, what happens in the future when a New York Times article has webmentions that get hundreds or thousands of webmentions? Having everything be facepiled would be incredibly useful for quick display, but being able to individually go follow the conversations in situ would be wildly valuable as well. The newspaper could also then choose to show/hide specific replies or mentions in a much more moderated fashion to better encourage civil discourse. In the case where a bad actor/publisher attempts to “game” the system by simply showing thousands of likes/favorites/reads, what is to prevent them from cheating by showing as many as they like as “social proof” of their popularity when the only backtrack record is an avatar and a homepage without the actual verification of a thing on a site if someone chooses to audit the trail?

Perhaps even a step further in interesting UI for these semi-hidden mentions would be to do a full page preview (or hovercards) in a similar method for how WordPress handles hovercards for Gravatars or they way the hover functionality works for links at /wp-admin/edit-comments.php?

Going even farther from a reader’s perspective, I could also see a case that while the site admin wants to slim down on the UI of all the different types of interactions for easy readability, perhaps the reader of a comments section might want to see all the raw mentions and details for each one and scroll through them? Perhaps it would be nice to add that option in the future? As things stand if a site facepiles even dozens of mentions, it’s incredibly painful and undesirable to track their associated commentary down. What if there was UI for the reader to unpack all these (especially per reaction category as it’s more likely one would want to do it for mentions, but not likes)?

Reads, Listens, Watches, and Editable Webmention Types and Avatars in the IndieWeb WordPress Suite

I’ve been meaning to write regular updates to highlight some of the useful changes in the functionality of the IndieWeb suite of WordPress plugins, but never gotten around to it. There’s been a few really interesting ones lately, so I thought I’d start. Observant watchers who read through either the code or even the scant change logs before they update their code may catch some of these features, but sometimes interesting tidbits can slip by the most vigilant. Here are some interesting recent ones:

Display of Reads, Listens, and Watches in comments sections

David Shanske’s excellent Post Kinds Plugin allows one to post what they’re reading, listening to, or watching in simple IndieWeb fashion. (Examples of these on my site: read posts, listen posts, watch posts.) These posts types automatically include the appropriate microformats classes so the user doesn’t need to bother doing them manually. For a long time when replying to another’s site, bookmarking it, or even mentioning it when also using the Webmentions plugin would send the site a Webmention that would generally cause it to show up as a native comment, bookmark or mention. With an update late last year, from within the Discussion settings in WordPress, one could set toggles so that many of these webmentions could be displayed as facepiles. Other broadly unsupported post types would typically default to a simple mention.

Recently David Shanske and I started a podcast, and he thought it would be useful if his site could accept listen posts and show them visually within his comments section just like these replies, bookmarks, and mentions. Thus over the past month he’s added code to the Semantic Linkbacks Plugin to add the functionality for these types of posts to properly render showing facepiles for listens, reads, and watches.

This is what webmentions of listen posts  look like on his site in his comments section:

User Interface example of how listen posts on David Shanske’s podcast appear on his site

What’s happening

Listen (or scrobble) posts can send webmentions (or notifications) to the original content potentially with the experimental listen-of microformat. In the case of scrobbles of podcasts, these webmentions could be displayed as “Listens” which would provide the canonical copy of the podcast some indicator of its popularity and actual audience. It is tremendously difficult to obtain data on the actual number of listens within most of the podcast community and typically a fraction of the number of downloads must be used as an indicator of the actual reach. Being able to display listens could potentially be a boon to the podcasting market, particularly with respect to advertising as this type of open social web functionality spreads.

Similarly read posts with the read-of microformat and watches with watch-of will be accepted and show up within the comments section. Like the previous types, they can be set to display as facepiles within the user interface.

From the Discussion options settings page (typically at: /wp-admin/options-discussion.php#semantic_linkbacks) one can choose the mention types one wants to have appear as facepiles within their comments section.

Knowing that this read functionality would be available, this week I helped ColoradoBoulevard.net set up their site to be able to accept and display reads of their articles. Here’s an example from their site:

The display of a read post on ColoradoBoulevard.net

I haven’t yet seen one for watches in the wild yet, but maybe you’ll be either the first  to send or receive one?

The microformats on these posts is generally considered to be experimental, but with the ~500+ users of this suite of tools as well as others who are already using them on other sites, they’ve now taken a dramatic step into the open internet and more widespread use and potential official adoption.

Editable Webmention Types and Avatars

Webmention Types

Just yesterday, I spent a few minutes in the IndieWeb chat helping someone to laboriously delve into their mySQL databaset and find a particular snippet of data so they could manually change a received webmention from being a simple mention to being a reply so that it would display as a native comment on their website. I’ve often done this to take what sometimes seem like simple mentions and change them to replies to reveal the richer content they often contain for the broader conversation. Sadly the process is boring, laborious, and fraught with potential ways to mess things up.

As of this weekend, this process is no longer necessary. One can now go to the admin interface for their comments and webmentions (found at the path /wp-admin/edit-comments.php), click on edit for the particular comment they’re changing and then scroll down to reveal a droplist interface to be able to manually change the webmention type.

Samantic Linkbacks Data metabox within the comment editing interface on WordPress. One can use the dropbox to change the webmention type as well as manually update the commenter’s avatar.

As another example of a use for this functionality, perhaps you’ve received a listen mention on one of your podcast episodes that has a lot of useful notes or commentary germane to your episode? Instead of hiding it as a simple listen, why not change the type to reply to allow a richer conversation around your content? After all, with a reasonable reply it will be implicit that the commenter actually listened to the episode, right?

Avatars

Because there is currently no functionality in WordPress for saving or caching the avatars of commenters via webmention, when users change their profile images on siloed services like Facebook, Twitter, et al. the link to their old avatars quits working and they were displaying blank spaces. This is an unfortunate form of linkrot, but one that can become more visually apparent over time.

Likes and Reposts concatenated on my site now after converting them into facepiles. They still give the social “proof” and indicate the interaction, but don’t interfere in the conversation now–especially when there are hundreds of them.

As one can see in the image for the commenting edit box above, the field for the Avatar is now editable. This means one can update out-of-date or blank avatars. One now also has the ability to moderate/edit or easily remove/switch avatars if users are sending inappropriate photos for one’s site’s audience.​​​​​​​​​

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I really love that I can post an event on my website and people can use their own websites to RSVP to it. It’s so simple, but it feels so magical.

Even better, the Webmention plugin and the Semantic Linkbacks plugin allows for a beautiful display of the responses.
#IndieWeb FTW!

Facepiled RSVPs for vHWC

Thanks David Shanske, Matthias Pfefferle, Ryan Barrett, and everyone else in the IndieWeb community who has either helped to create and/or  supports the web standards that allow for the internet to work the way one expects it should.

Want to try it out? Visit the event post for instructions. You can also RSVP on the copy I syndicated to Facebook and your response will show up on the list on my site as well.

 

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Using Facepiles in Comments for WordPress with Webmentions and Semantic Linkbacks

An update to an IndieWeb WordPress plugin now facilitates more streamlined conversations and interactions online

Today, through the brilliant and diligent work of David Shanske and Matthias Pfefferle (as well as Ashton McAllan and many other opensource contributors), I’ve enabled facepiling for likes, reposts, and mentions within my website’s comment section using the Semantic Linkbacks plugin for WordPress (in conjunction with the Webmention plugin.)

What does this mean? My personal website both sends and accepts Webmentions, a platform independent “at mention” or @mention, including those from the fantastic, free service brid.gy which sends replies/comments, likes, reposts, and mentions to my site from silo services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and even Flickr.

As I’ve long known, and as someone noted at least once on my site, some of these likes, replies, and mentions, which provide some interesting social interaction and social proof of a post’s interest, don’t always contribute to the actual value of the conversation. Now with this wonderful facepiling UI-feature, I’m able to concatenate these types of interactions into a smaller and more concentrated section at the bottom of a post’s comments section, so they’re still logged and available, but now they just aren’t as distracting to the rest of the conversation.

Compare the before and after:

Before

A mention, a Facebook like, another mention and a repost on Twitter. Anil’s comment is pretty useful, but the others don’t add as much to the ideas in the post.
Richard MacManus “liked” the post and subsequently wrote about it on AltPlatform (relatively useful) along with some tangential mentions, which don’t add as much to the conversation. The raw URL of Gisele’s Twitter post likely looked better natively on Twitter (as a Twitter Card), but translated onto my site as a mention like this, just isn’t as useful.

After

Likes and Reposts concatenated on my site now after converting them into facepiles. They still give the social “proof” and indicate the interaction, but don’t interfere in the conversation now–especially when there are hundreds of them.

 

A Prime Example

In particular, this functionality can best bee seen on my article The Facebook Algorithm Mom Problem, which has over 400 such interactions which spanned pages and pages worth of likes, reposts, and mentions. Many of my posts only get a handful of these types of interactions, but this particular post back in July was overwhelmed with them when it floated to the top of Hacker News and nearly crippled my website. Without the facepile functionality, the comments section of this post was untenably unreadable and unusable. Now, with facepiles enabled, the comments are more quickly read and more useful to those who are interested in reading them while still keeping the intent.

Implementing

For those who have already begun Indiewebifying their WordPress sites with plugins like Webmention and Semantic Linkbacks, the most recent 3.5.0 update to Semantic Linkbacks has the functionality enabled by default. (Otherwise you can go to your administrative dashboard and click on the checkbox next to “Automatically embed facepile” located under Settings » Discussion).

Settings interface for enabling or disabling facepiles in your comments section with Semantic Linkbacks (and Webmentions)

As a caveat, there’s a known bug for those who are using JetPack to “Let readers use WordPress.com, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ accounts to comment”. If the facepiles don’t show up on your site, just go to your JetPack settings (at yoursite.com/wp-admin/admin.php?page=jetpack#/discussion) and disable this feature. Hopefully, the JetPack team will have it fixed shortly.

If you haven’t begun using IndieWeb principles on your WordPress website, you might consider starting with my article An Introduction to the IndieWeb, which includes some motivation as well as some great resources for getting started.

Nota bene: I know many in the WordPress community are using the excellent theme Independent Publisher, which already separates out likes, mentions, etc. (though without the actual “facepiles”), so I’m not sure if/how this functionality may work in conjunction with it. If you know, please drop me a note.

Hopefully most WordPress themes will support it natively without any modifications, but users are encouraged to file issues on the plugin if they run across problems.

Using another platform?

I’m not immediately aware of many other CMSes or services that have this enabled easily out of the box, but I do know that Drew McLellan enabled it (along with Webmentions) in the Perch CMS back in July. Others who I’ve seen enabling this type of functionality are documented on the IndieWeb wiki in addition to Marty McGuire and Jeremy Keith, who has a modified version, somewhat like Independent Publisher’s, on his website.

There are certainly many in the IndieWeb community who can help you with this idea (and many others) in the IndieWeb’s online chat.

Give it a spin

Now that it’s enabled, if you’re reading it on my website, you can click on any of the syndicated copies listed below and like, retweet/repost, or mention this article in those social media platforms and your mention will get sent back to my post to be displayed almost as it would be on many of those platforms. Naturally comments or questions are encouraged to further the ongoing conversation, which should now also be much easier to read and interact with.

Thanks again to everyone in the IndieWeb community who are continually hacking away to allow more people to more easily own and control their content while still easily interacting with people on the internet.

UPDATE

Turning mentions into comments for native display

Following Aaron Davis’ comment, I thought I’d add a few more thoughts for those who have begun facepiling their likes, mentions, bookmarks, etc. As he indicates, it’s sometimes useful to call out a particular mention, a special like, or you might want to highlight one among the thousands for a particular reason. This is a feature that many are likely to want occasionally and code for it may be added in the future, but until then, one is left in the lurch a bit. Fortunately, as with all things IndieWeb, part of the point is having more control over your site to be able to do anything you’d like to it. So for those without the ability to write the requisite code to create a pull request against the Webmention or Semantic Linkbacks plugins (they’re more than welcome), here are a few quick cheats for converting that occasional (facepiled or not) webmention into a full comment within your WordPress site’s comment section.

Pro tip: This also works (even if you’re not using facepiles) to convert a basic mention into something that looks more like a native comment. It’s also useful when you’ve received a mention that you’d prefer to treat as a reply, but which wasn’t marked up as a reply by the sending site.

I’ll use an example from the Facebook Algorithm Mom Problem post referenced above. On that post, I’d received a webmention via Twitter from Anil Dash, a blogger and advocate for more humane, inclusive and ethical technology, with some commentary about usability. Here is his original tweet:

That webmention is now hidden behind an avatar and not as likely to be seen by more casual readers. I’d like to change it from being hidden behind his avatar in that long mention list and highlight it a bit to make it appear as a comment in the full comments section.

On a post with a large number of mentions, you’re very unlikely to find some of the valuable nectar hiding in them. Do you see Anil Dash’s lovely mug hiding among all these avatars? (Hint, it’s not a “blank” avatar caused by someone having changed their Twitter, Facebook, etc. avatar.)

Steps to convert a mention to a comment

Caution: I recommend reading through all the steps before attempting this. You’ll be modifying your WordPress database manually, so please be careful so you don’t accidentally destroy your site. When doing things like this, it’s always a good idea to make a back up of your database just in case.

  1. Search for the particular comment you want to change in the WordPress Admin UI.
  2. Hover over the date in the “Submitted On” column to find the comment ID number in the URL, in this case it’s http://boffosocko.com/2017/07/11/the-facebook-algorithm-mom-problem/#comment-35281. Make a note of the comment ID: 35281.
  3. Open up the mySQL database for your WordPress install (I’m using phpMyAdmin) to view the data for your site.
  4. Go to the wp_comments table in the database. (Yours may be slightly different depending on how your site was set up, but it should contain the word “comments”.)
  5. Use the search functionality for your table and input your comment ID number into the field for comment_ID.
  6. We’ve identified the specific comment we want to modify in phpMyAdmin.
  7. Now delete the word “webmention” from the comment_type field for the particular comment. This field should now be empty.
  8. You should now be able to view your post (be sure to clear your cache if necessary) and see the mention you received displayed as a native comment instead of a mention. It should automatically include the text of the particular mention you needed.
Here’s what the modified mention from Anil Dash looks like in my comments section now. It appears as if it were a native comment.

If you need to convert a large number of mentions into comments, you may be better off searching for the particular post’s post_ID in the comments table and changing multiple comment_type fields at once. Be careful doing this in bulk–you may wish to do a database back up before making any changes to be on the safe side.
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