Reply to Jan Cavan Boulas about WordPress Microsub feed reader

Replied to a tweet by Jan Cavan BoulasJan Cavan Boulas (Twitter)

Jan, as I had mentioned to you earlier this year at WordCamp Orange County, the work on the IndieWeb concept of Microsub with respect to feed readers is continuing apace. In the last few months Aaron Parecki has opened up beta versions of his Aperture microsub server as well as limited access to his Monocle reader interface in addition to the existing Indigenous and Together reader interfaces.

My friend Jack Jamieson is in the midst of building a WordPress-specific Microsub server implementation which he’s indicated still needs more work, but which he’s self-dogfooding on his own website as a feed reader currently.

If it’s of interest, you or your colleagues at Automattic might want to take a look at it in terms of potentially adding a related Microsub reader interface as the other half of his Microsub server. Given your prior work on the beautiful WordPress.com feed reader, this may be relatively easy work which you could very quickly leverage to provide the WordPress ecosystem with an incredibly powerful feed reader interface through which users can interact directly with other sites using the W3C’s Micropub and Webmention specifications for which there are already pre-existing plugins within the repository.[1][2]

For some reference I’ll include some helpful links below which might help you and others get a jump start if you wish:

While I understand most of the high level moving pieces, some of the technical specifics are beyond my coding abilities. Should you need help or assistance in cobbling together the front end, I’m positive that Jack, Aaron Parecki, David Shanske, and others in the IndieWeb chat (perhaps the #Dev or #WordPress channels–there are also bridges for using IRC, Slack, or Matrix if you prefer them) would be more than happy to lend a hand to get another implementation of a Microsub reader interface off the ground. I suspect your experience and design background could also help to shape the Microsub spec as well as potentially add things to it which others haven’t yet considered from a usability perspective.

In the erstwhile, I hope all is well with you. Warmest regards!

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👓 Indiepaper, an open alternative to Instapaper and Pocket | Cult of Mac

Read Indiepaper, an open alternative to Instapaper and Pocket (Cult of Mac)
Indiepaper is a read-later service built for the open web. Save your articles, and never again get locked out by a proprietary service like Instapaper.
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👓 #EDU 522 Daily Update: RSS and WordPress | Greg McVerry

Replied to #EDU 522 Daily Update: RSS and WordPress by Greg McVerryGreg McVerry (jgregorymcverry.com)
Hello in today’s first daily update I wanted to share about RSS if you wanted a little background here you go:

My feeds for the class would be:

I don’t have everyone in it yet, but I’ve started an OPML file for the class that one could use to subscribe to in Inoreader. Otherwise you can save the file (typically with the extension .xml) and upload it into the reader of your choice, however you’ll need to come back and get updates as I add new feeds. If you’d like me to add you to the list, drop your details into the comments as you’d like them to appear on my Following Page or send my original post a webmention from your site.

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👓 ds106: Will Work for Feed Syndication Framework | bavatuesdays

Read ds106: Will Work for Feed Syndication Framework by Jim Groom (bavatuesdays)
Note: I spent a bit of time this morning editing and cleaning up this post because upon re-reading it—which as usual was well after I published it—I thought there were a few things I co…

A tough problem in teaching. Perhaps an advanced version of a planet or using OPML subscription would help out? I also suspect that microsub may be a potential solution.

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👓 Yarns v. Microsub | Jack Jamieson

Read Yarns v. Microsub? (Thinking out loud) by Jack JamiesonJack Jamieson (jackjamieson.net)
I’ve been slowly making some improvements to my Yarns Indie Reader for WordPress, and also seeing very impressive development of other IndieWeb readers such as Together, Indigenous, and Monocle.  These three readers all rely on Microsub, which splits the work of building a reader into two parts: ...

Just the fact that someone is contemplating building a microsub server for WordPress warms the cockles of my heart. This is definitely going to be the year of some fantastic new technology on the feed reader scene!

Having just run into Jan Cavan Boulas at WordCamp Orange County and talking with her about her relatively recent redesign of WordPress.com’s reader, I’d be curious to see what she and others might be able to do for a WordPress reader built on top of a solid microsub server.

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👓 How Firefox is using Pocket to try to build a better news feed than Facebook | The Verge

Read How Firefox is using Pocket to try to build a better news feed than Facebook by Casey Newton (The Verge)
Pocket CEO Nate Weiner on how local data processing is the future of personalized recommendations.

Nice to see people and companies iterating on new feed reader functionality–particularly ethical ones.

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👓 An IndieWeb reader: My new home on the internet | GoDaddy

Read An IndieWeb reader: My new home on the internet by Aaron PareckiAaron Parecki (The Garage: GoDaddy)
What if you could reply to a blog post in your feed reader, and your reply would show up as a comment on the original post automatically? Or if you had one place to go to follow all of your friends’ blogs and more? An IndieWeb reader might be the answer. Get insight from the cofounder of the IndieWeb movement.

/me salivates…

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An IndieWeb Podcast: Episode 2 “IndieAuth”

Episode 2: IndieAuth

Summary: At long last, after about three weeks worth of work, David Shanske (along with help from Aaron Parecki) has added the ability for the IndieAuth plugin for WordPress to provide an IndieAuth endpoint for self-hosted versions of WordPress, but it also has the ability to provision and revoke tokens.

This week, David Shanske and I discuss IndieAuth and the WordPress plugin’s new functionality as well as some related micropub work David has been doing. To some extent, I alternate between acting innocent and serving as devil’s advocate as we try to tease out some of the subtleties of what IndieAuth is and what it means to the average user. As usual, David does an excellent job of navigating what can be some complicated territory.

 
Huffduff this Episode

Show Notes

Related IndieWeb Wiki Pages

Micropub Apps Mentioned in the episode

Closing discussion on IndieWeb Readers and Microsub Pieces

More Resources

If you need more IndieWeb content, guidance, or even help, an embarrassment of riches can be found on the IndieWeb wiki, including the following resources:

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Exactly five years ago to the day I was excited about the possibilities of Digg Reader:

Now they’ve announced they’re shutting down. It seems to me that from a UI perspective, they only put in a bare minimal amount of effort to build out their reader and ceased iterating it on the day it it opened.

This is the second reader shut down recently, but I’m more excited about the idea of Microsub and what it may mean to the future of feed readers.

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🔖 Gentle Reader – Read Match Discover

Bookmarked Gentle Reader (gentlereader.com)
Gentle Reader gives you the freshest content in an easy-to-read format with no clutter and no ads. Add your favourite websites and Twitter accounts or discover new articles by exploring what other readers are bookmarking based on your interests. That way you can save time and hassle by efficiently combining RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, bookmarking and read-later services all in one app. What's more you have complete control over if, when, and how you discover new information with our unique matching function.

This is an interesting looking app. Sadly no Android version yet, so I’m taking a peek at it on the web. An interesting melange of features, but certainly not perfect for my needs yet. Has some interesting discovery type tools, but I’ll need to dig in further to test these out.

One of their default feeds, while solid, appears to only allow a synopsis sentence or two instead of the full feed, so it’s not the best example for the site to feature.

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Yarns Indie Reader

Bookmarked Yarns Indie Reader by Jack Jamieson (jackjamieson.net)
Over the past little while I’ve been chipping away at an Indie Reader plugin for WordPress. It’s still a bit rough at this point, but works well enough that I’m happy to announce it here. Yarns Indie Reader allows you to subscribe to websites that publish either rss or h-feed. As well as keeping up with your subscriptions, you can like and reply and it create posts on your blog automatically.

I’m hoping this is another great example of the types of feed readers we need in the world. ​​​​​​​

Feed reader revolution

It's time to embrace open & disrupt social media

The state-of-the-art in feed readers was frozen in place sometime around 2010, if not before. By that time most of the format wars between RSS and Atom had long since died down and were all generally supported. The only new features to be added were simple functionalities like sharing out links from readers to social services like Facebook and Twitter. For fancier readers they also added the ability to share out to services like Evernote, OneNote, Pocket, Instapaper and other social silos or silo related services.

So the real question facing companies with stand alone traditional feed reader products–like Feedly, Digg Reader, The Old Reader, Inoreader, Reeder, NewsBlur, Netvibes, Tiny Tiny RSS, WordPress reader–and the cadre of others is:

  • What features could/should we add?
  • How can we improve?
  • How can we gain new users?
  • How can we increase our market share?

In short the primary question is:

What should a modern RSS feed reader be capable of doing?

Continue reading “Feed reader revolution”

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PressForward as an IndieWeb WordPress-based RSS Feed Reader & Pocket/Instapaper Replacement

As many know, for the past 6 months or so, I’ve been slowly improving some of the IndieWeb tools and workflow I use to own what I’m reading both online and in physical print as well as status updates indicating those things. [1][2][3]

Since just before IndieWebCamp LA, I’ve been working on better ways to own the articles I’ve been reading and syndicate/share them out to other social platforms. The concept initially started out as a simple linkblog idea and has continually been growing, particularly with influence from my attendance of the Dodging the Memory Hole 2016: Saving Online News conference at UCLA in October. Around that same time, it was announced that Pinterest was purchasing Instapaper and they were shutting down some of Instapaper’s development and functionality. I’ve been primarily using Pocket for several years now and have desperately wanted to bring that functionality into my own site. I had also been looking at the self-hostable Wallabag alternative which is under heavy active development, but since most of my site is built on WordPress, I really preferred having a solution that integrated better into that as a workflow.

Enter PressForward

I’ve been looking closely at PressForward for the past week and change as a self-contained replacement for third party services like Pocket and Instapaper. I’ve been looking around for this type of self-hosted functionality for a while.

PressForward was originally intended for journalists and news organizations to aggregate new content, add it to their newsroom workflow, and then use it to publish new content. From what I can see it’s also got a nice following in academia as a tool for aggregating content for researchers focused on a particular area.

It only took a minute or two of looking at PressForward to realize that it had another off-label use case: as a spectacular replacement for read-later type apps!

In an IndieWeb fashion, this fantastic WordPress plugin allows me to easily own private bookmarks of things I’d like to read (PressForward calles these “Nominations” in keeping with its original use case). I can then later read them on my own website (with Mercury f.k.a Readability functionality built in), add commentary, and publish them as a read post. [Note: To my knowledge the creators of PressForward are unaware of the IndieWeb concept or philosophies.]

After some playing around for a bit and contemplating several variations, configurations, and options, I thought I’d share some thoughts about it for others considering using it in such an off-label manner. Hopefully these may also spur the developers to open up their initial concept to a broader audience as it seems very well designed and logically laid out.

Examples

The developers obviously know the value of dogfooding as at least two of them are using it in a Pocket-like fashion (as they many not have other direct use-cases).

Pros

PressForward includes a beautiful, full built-in RSS Feed Reader!

This feature alone is enough to recommend using it even without any other feature. I’ve tried Orbit Reader and WhisperFollow (among others) which are both interesting in their own rights but are somewhat limited and have relatively clunky interfaces. The best part of WhisperFollow’s premise is that it has webactions built in, but I suspect these could easily be added onto PressForward.

In fact, not just hours before I’d discovered PressFoward, I’d made this comment on the WordPress Reader Refresh post announcing the refresh of WordPress.com’s own (separate) reader:

Some nice visual changes in this iteration. Makes it one of the most visually pretty feed readers out there now while still maintaining a relatively light weight.

I still wish there were more functionality pieces built into it like the indie-reader Woodwind.xyz or even Feedly. While WordPress in some sense is more creator oriented than consumption oriented, I still think that not having a more closely integrated reader built into it is still a drawback to the overall WordPress platform.

Additionally,

  • It’s IndieWeb and POSSE friendly
  • It does automatic link forwarding in a flexible/responsible manner with canonical URLs
  • Allows for proper attributions for the original author and content source/news outlet
  • Keeps lots of metadata for analyzing reading behavior
  • Taggable and categorizable
  • Allows for comments/commenting
  • Could be used for creating a linkblog on steroids
  • Archives the original article on the day it was read.
  • Is searchable
  • Could be used for collaboration and curation
  • Has Mercury (formerly known as Readability) integrated for a cleaner reading interface
  • Has a pre-configured browser bookmarklet
  • Is open source and incredibly well documented
  • One can count clicks to ones’ own site as the referer while still pushing the reader to the original
  • Along with other plugins like JetPack’s Publicize or Social Networks Auto-Poster, one can automatically share their reads to Twitter, Facebook, or other social media silos. In this case, you own the link, but the original publisher also gets the traffic.

Cons

No clear path for nominating articles on mobile.

This can be a dealbreaker for some, so I’ve outlined a pretty quick and simple solution below.

No direct statistics

Statistics for gauging ones’ reading aren’t built in directly (yet?), but some scripts are available. [4][5][6]

No larger data aggregation

Services like Pocket are able to aggregate the data of thousands of users to recommend and reveal articles I might also like. Sadly this self-hosted concept makes it difficult (or impossible) do have this type of functionality. However, I usually have far too much good stuff to read anyway, so maybe this isn’t such a loss.

Suggested Improvements

Adding the ability to do webactions directly from the “Nominated” screen would be fantastic, particularly for the RSS reader portion.

Default to an unread view of the current “All Content” page. I find that I have to filter the view every time I visit the page to make it usable. I suspect this would be a better default for most newsrooms too.

It would be nice to have a pre-configured archive template page in a simple linkblog format that filters posts that were nominated/drafted/published via the Plugin. This will prevent users from needing to create one that’s compatible with their current theme. Something with a date read, Title linked to the original, Author, and Source attribution could be useful for many users.

A PressForward Nomination “Bookmarklet” for Mobile

One of the big issues I came up against immediately with PressForward is ease of use on mobile. A lot of the content I read is on mobile, so being able to bookmark (nominate) articles via mobile or apps like Nuzzel or Twitter is very important. I suspect this may also be the case for many of their current user base.

Earlier this year I came across a great little Android mobile app called URL Forwarder which can be used to share things with the ubiquitous mobile sharing icons. Essentially one can use it to share the URL of the mobile page one is on to a mobile Nomination form within PressForward.

I’d suspect that there’s also a similar app for iOS, but I haven’t checked. If not available, URL Forwarder is open source on Github and could potentially be ported. There’s also a similar Android app called Bookmarklet Free which could be used instead of URL Forwarder.

PressForward’s built in bookmarklet kindly has a pre-configured URL for creating nominations, so it’s a simple case of configuring it. These details follow below for those interested.

Configuring URL Forwarder for PressForward

  1. Open URL Forwarder
  2. Click the “+” icon to create a filter.
  3. Give the filter a name, “Nominate This” is a reasonable suggestion. (See photo below.)
  4. Use the following entry for the “Filter URL” replacing example.com with your site’s domain name: http://example.com/wp-content/plugins/pressforward/includes/nomthis/nominate-this.php?u=@url
  5. Leave the “Replaceable text” as “@url”
  6. Finish by clicking on the checkmark in the top right corner.

Simple right?

Nominating a post via mobile

With the configuration above set up, do the following:

  1. On the mobile page one wants to nominate, click the ubiquitous “share this” mobile icon (or share via a pull down menu, depending on your mobile browser or other app.)
  2. Choose to share through URL Forwarder
  3. Click on the “Nominate” option just created above.
  4. Change/modify any data within your website administrative interface and either nominate or post as a draft. (This part is the same as one would experience using the desktop bookmarklet.)

What’s next?

Given the data intensity of both the feed reader and what portends to be years of article data, I’m left with the question of hosting it within my primary site or putting it on a subdomain?

I desperately want to keep it on the main site, but perhaps hosting it on a subdomain, similar to how both Aram Zucker-Scharff and James Digioia do it may be better advised?

I’ve also run across an issue with the automatic redirect which needs some troubleshooting as well. Hopefully this will be cleared up quickly and we’ll be off to the races.

References

[1]
C. Aldrich, “A New Reading Post-type for Bookmarking and Reading Workflow,” BoffoSocko | Musings of a Modern Day Cyberneticist, 22-Aug-2016. [Online]. Available: http://boffosocko.com/2016/08/22/a-new-reading-post-type-for-bookmarking-and-reading-workflow/. [Accessed: 31-Dec-2016]
[2]
C. Aldrich, “Owning my Online Reading Status Updates,” BoffoSocko | Musings of a Modern Day Cyberneticist, 20-Nov-2016. [Online]. Available: http://boffosocko.com/2016/11/20/owning-my-online-reading-status-updates/. [Accessed: 31-Dec-2016]
[3]
C. Aldrich, “Notes, Highlights, and Marginalia from E-books to Online,” BoffoSocko | Musings of a Modern Day Cyberneticist, 24-Oct-2016. [Online]. Available: http://boffosocko.com/2016/10/24/notes-highlights-and-marginalia/. [Accessed: 31-Dec-2016]
[4]
A. Zucker-Scharff, “Personal Statistics from 3 Months of Internet Reading,” Medium, 05-Sep-2015. [Online]. Available: https://medium.com/@aramzs/3-month-internet-reading-stats-f41fa15d63f0#.dez80up7y. [Accessed: 31-Dec-2016]
[5]
A. Zucker-Scharff, “Test functions based on PF stats for collecting data,” Gist. [Online]. Available: https://gist.github.com/AramZS/d10fe64dc33fc9ffc2d8. [Accessed: 31-Dec-2016]
[6]
A. Zucker-Scharff, “PressForward/pf_stats,” GitHub. [Online]. Available: https://github.com/PressForward/pf_stats. [Accessed: 31-Dec-2016]
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