Reply to Dave Keine about Podcast Discovery and Clean up

Replied to a tweet by Dave Keine (Twitter)

People often share their podcast recommendations, but why not share what they’re actually listening to the way that @reading does? #PodcastPareDown @HeyKeine

Maybe like this?

Podcasts of things I’ve listened to or want to listen to

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Blue sky sketch for Overcast

Replied to a tweet by Marco Arment on TwitterMarco Arment on Twitter (Twitter)

Marco, your post about supporting rel=”payment” for Overcast made me start thinking about other potential solve-able problems in the podcast space. Now that you’ve solved a piece of the support/payment problem, perhaps you can solve for a big part of the “who actually listened to my podcast” problem?

In a recent article on the topic of Webmention for A List Apart, I covered the topic of listen posts and sending webmentions for them. In addition to people being able to post on their own website that they’ve listened to a particular episode, the hosting podcast site can receive these mentions and display them as social proof that the episode was actually listened to. In addition to individual websites being able to do this, it would be awesome if podcast players/apps could send webmentions on behalf of their users (either with user specific data like Name, website, avatar, etc. if it’s stored, without it, or anonymized by the player itself) so that the canonical page for the podcast could collect (and potentially display) them.

As a proof of concept, here’s a page for a podcast episode that can receive webmentions. Someone listens to it, makes a “listen post” on their site, and sends a webmention of that fact. The original page can then collect it on the backend or display it if it chooses. Just imagine what this could do for the podcast world at scale for providing actual listening statistics?

In addition to aggregate numbers of downloads a podcast is receiving, they could also begin to have direct data about actual listens. Naturally the app/player would have to set (or allow a configuration) some percentage threshold of how much was played before sending such a notification to the receiving site. Perhaps the webmention spec for listens could also include the data for the percentage listened and send that number in the payload?

The toughest part may be collecting the rel=”canonical” URL for the podcast’s post (to send the webmention there) rather than the audio file’s URL, though I suspect that the feed for the podcast may have this depending on the feed’s source.

If you want to go a step further, you could add Micropub support to Overcast, so that when people are done listening to episodes, the app could send a micropub request to their registered website (perhaps via authentication using IndieAuth?). This would allow people to automatically make “listen posts” to their websites using Overcast and thereby help those following them to discover new and interesting podcasts. (Naturally, you might need a setting for sites that support both micropub and webmention, so that the app doesn’t send a webmention when it does a micropub post for a site that will then send a second webmention as well.)

One could also have podcast players with Micropub support that would allow text entry for commenting on particular portions of podcasts (perhaps using media fragments)? Suddenly we’re closer to commenting on individual portions of audio content in a way that’s not too dissimilar to SoundCloud’s commenting interface, but done in a more open web way.

As further example, I maintain a list of listen posts on my personal website. Because it includes links to the original audio files, it also becomes a “faux-cast” that friends and colleagues can subscribe to everything I’m listening to (or sub-categorizations thereof) via RSS. Perhaps this also works toward helping to fix some of the discovery problem as well?

Thanks, as always, for your dedication to building one of the best podcast tools out there!

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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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In addition to being dead simple to use to track my reading, I love that Reading.am is able to add things I’m currently listening to and watching. Even better, some sites like Huffduffer.com dovetail with it incredibly well and provide in-line audio files without needing to click through to the original. What a lovely win for UI!

Huffduffer post on Reading.am
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Podcasts of things I’ve listened to or want to listen to

I don’t really think of it as a “podcast” per se, but since I make “listen” posts of all the various podcasts and audio I listen to and the vast majority of those posts include direct links to the audio files, my own listen feed essentially becomes a self-published podcast of all the stuff I’m listening to that others could potentially consume. Maybe I should call it a faux-cast?

Here’s the link you can use to subscribe in your favorite podcatcher: http://boffosocko.com/kind/listen/feed/

Perhaps one day I’ll do more with feed validation and submit it to various distribution channels to make searching/subscribing easier, but since I’m not really “promoting” it as anything other than a means of discovery (or extreme stalker behavior) I won’t take the time now.

As I think about creating “want” posts in the near term, perhaps I’ll create a feed of want-to-listen-to items as another discovery channel option as well. In some sense, this is how I use my Huffduffer.com account. It has a subscribe-able list of audio items I want to listen to at some point in the future. Since I can add my Huffduffer feed (or those of others) to my podcatcher, it helps enable me to easily get the content to my phone or other devices to listen to a variety of new things. There’s no reason not to do all of this on my own site explicitly.

Now if only podcatchers could support micropub for more easily creating scrobbles or “listens”…

Image credit: Text imposed on original photo: Tilt_Shift_Wallpaper_24_by_leiyagami flickr photo by Ray Che shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license.

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