Using IFTTT to syndicate (PESOS) content from social services to WordPress using Micropub

Introduction

What follows may tend toward the jargon-y end of programming, but I’ll endeavor to explain it all and go step-by-step to allow those with little or no programming experience to follow along and use the tools I’m describing in a very powerful way.  I’ll do my best to link the jargon to definitions and examples for those who haven’t run across them before. Hopefully with a bit of explanation, the ability to cut and paste some code, or even make some basic modifications, you’ll be able to do what I and others have done, but without having to puzzle it all out from scratch.

Most readers are sure to be aware of the ubiquitous “share” buttons that appear all over the web. Some of the most common are “share to Facebook” or “share to Twitter”. In my examples that follow, I’m doing roughly the same thing, but I’m using technology called webhooks and micropub to be able to share not just a URL or web address, but a variety of other very specific data in a specific way to my website.

This “share”–while a little more complicated–gives me a lot more direct control over the data I’m sending and how it will be seen on my website. I would hope that one day more social websites will have built in share buttons that allow for direct micropub integration so that instead of only sharing to corporate sites like Facebook, Twitter, et al. they’ll let people share directly to their own personal websites where they can better control their online identity and data. What I’m describing below is hopefully a temporary band-aid that allows me to keep using common social services like Pocket, YouTube, Meetup, Goodreads, Letterboxd, Diigo, Huffduffer, Reading.am, Hypothes.is, and hundreds of others but to also post the content to my site so that I own and control more of my own online data.

An example using Pocket

Following in the footsteps of Charlotte Allen and Jan-Lukas Else, I’ve been tinkering around with improving some of my syndication workflows for a number of social silos including Pocket, a social silo that focuses on bookmarking material to read later.

I have long used IFTTT (aka If This, Then That), a free and relatively simple web service that allows one to create applets that tie a large number of web-based and social services together, to send data from my Pocket account to my WordPress-based website. I’d done this using my Pocket RSS feed to create WordPress draft posts that I could then modify if necessary and publish publicly if I desired. Since I regularly use a number of Micropub clients in conjunction with the WordPress Micropub plugin and IFTTT supports webhooks, I thought I’d try that out as a separate process to provide a bit less manual pain in mapping the data for posts to appear like I want them to on my website. 

Now I can use my Pocket account data and map most of it directly to the appropriate data fields on my website. Because Pocket has direct integration into IFTTT, I can actually get more data (particularly tags) out of it than I could before from the simple RSS feed.

Below, you’ll find what I’ve done with a quick walk through and some example code snippets. I’ll break some of it down into pieces as I go, and then provide a specific exemplar of some of the code properly strung together at the end. I’ll also note that this general procedure can be used with a variety of other silos (and either their integrated data or RSS feeds) within IFTTT to post data to your website. Those running platforms other than WordPress may be able to use the basic recipe presented here with some small modifications, to send similar data from their accounts to their sites that support Micropub as well. 

Directions for connecting IFTTT to publish to WordPress via Micropub

Preliminaries

Install and activate the Micropub plugin for WordPress. This will give your website a server endpoint that IFTTT will use to authenticate and send data to your website on your behalf.

If you don’t already have it, install the IndieAuth plugin for WordPress and activate it. This will allow you to generate an authorization token (think password) with the appropriate scopes (think permissions to do specific actions on your website) to allow IFTTT to securely post to your website. 

Within the WordPress administrative interface/dashboard go to Users >> Mange Tokens or go to the path /wp-admin/users.php?page=indieauth_user_token on your website. 

At the bottom of that page under the section “Add Token” add a convenient name for your new token. You’ll see in the following screencapture that I’ve used “IFTTT for Webhooks”. Next click the check boxes to add scopes for “create” and “media”. Finally click the “Add New Token” button.

Screencapture from the Add Token section of the User >> Manage Tokens page

On the resulting page, copy the entirety of the returned access token in a safe place. You’ll need this token later in the process and once you’ve navigated away from the page, there’s no way to retrieve the token again later. The same token can be used for multiple different recipes within IFTTT,  though one could create a different token for each different recipe if desired.

Sign up for an IFTTT account (if you don’t already have one). 

Register Pocket as a service you can use within IFTTT.

The IFTTT Applet

In your IFTTT.com account, create a new applet.

Screenshot of the "If This Then That" recipe start with "This" highlighted

For the “if” part of the applet, search for and choose the Pocket application.

Screenshot of a search for "Pocket"

Choose the trigger “Any new item” (other triggers could be chosen for different combinations of actions).

Click the “then” part of the applet, and search for and chose the Webhooks application.

Screenshot of the "That" portion with a search for Webhooks

Choose the “Make a web request” option (currently the only option on the page).

Next we’ll fill in the action fields.

Screencapture of the Complete Action Fields step

 

Fill in the four action fields with the following values, with the appropriate modifications as necessary:

URL: https://www.example.com/wp-json/micropub/1.0/endpoint

Be sure to change example.com to the appropriate URL for your website. If you’re using a platform that isn’t WordPress in combination with the Micropub plugin, you can quickly find your appropriate endpoint by looking at your homepage’s source for a <link> element with a rel="micropub" attribute.

Method: POST
Content Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded

More advanced users might experiment with other content types, but this will naturally require different data and formatting in the Body section.

Body: 

The Body portion is one of the most complicated portions of the operation, because this is where you can get creative in how you fill this out and the end results you end up with on your website. You can use the available variables in the recipe to custom create almost anything you like and some services will give you a tremendous amount of flexibility. I’ll walk through a handful of the most common options and then tie them all together at the end. Ultimately the Body will be a string of various commands that indicate the data you want to send to your website and all of those commands will be strung together with an ampersand character (“&“) between each of them.

There are some small differences you may want to experiment with in terms of what you put in the Body field based on whether or not you’re using the Post Kinds plugin to create your posts and reply contexts or if you’re not. 

Depending on which pieces you choose, I recommend doing a few test runs for your applets to make sure that they work the way you expect them to. (The Micropub plugin has a setting to mark incoming posts automatically as drafts, so you’re not spamming your readers while you’re testing options if you’re testing this on a live site.) Sometimes formatting issues (particularly with setting a publish time) may cause the post to fail. In these cases, experiment to find and excise the offending code and see if you can get things working with minimal examples before adding additional data/details.

For those who would like to get into more advanced territory with the programming and methods, I recommend looking at the W3C’s Webmention specification

The first thing you’ll want in the Body will be your access token. This is similar to a password that allows the webhook to publish from IFTTT to your website. You’ll want a line that reads as follows with the AccessTokenHere replaced with the access token from your token provider which you created earlier and saved. You’ll want to keep this secret because it acts like a password for allowing remote applications to post to your website.

access_token=AcessTokenHere

Next will come the content you want to be published to your site.

&content=<<<{{EntryTitle}}<br>{{EntryPublished}}>>>

I’ll mention that the content snippet can include almost anything you’d like using the variables provided by IFTTT as well as a reasonable variety of HTML. I’ve used it to add things like <blockquotes> for annotations and even <audio> tags for making listen posts or bookmarking audio with Huffduffer!

The following snippet tells your site what kind of content it’s receiving. Unless you’re doing something more exotic than bookmarks, likes, favorites, replies, or most post kinds (except maybe events), you’ll want to use the h-entry snippet as follows:

&h=entry

If you’d like your post to contain a formal title, then you’ll want to include the following code snippet. Generally with shorter content like notes/status updates, bookmarks, reads, likes, etc., I follow the practice of publishing titleless posts when they’re not required, so I personally skip this piece in most of my posts, but some may wish to include it.

&name=<<<{{Title}}>>>

To have your website create or use the correct category or tag taxonomies on your posts, you’ll want to have something similar to the following snippet. If you want to specify more than one category, just string them together with ampersands. If your category/tag has a blank space in it you can replace the spaces with %20. The Micropub server on your site should automatically check to see if you have categories or tags that match what is sent, otherwise it will create a new tag(s).

&category[]=Bookmark&category[]=Social%20Stream

I’ve found that in practice, some silos that allow for multiple tags will actually publish them via micropub using something along the lines of the following if the  appropriate variables on IFTTT exist. In these cases, I append this to the other categories and tags I want to specify.

&category[]=<<<{{Tags}}>>>

If you’re using your Pocket account to send your bookmarked articles to read later, you’ll want to create a bookmark with the following line:

&bookmark-of=<<<{{EntryUrl}}>>>

Alternatively, if you were using your Pocket account to archive your articles once you’ve actually read them, you could have IFTTT post these archived items as “reads” to your site by choosing the “New Item Archived” element in the Pocket portion of the IF set up process. Here you’d replace the above bookmark-of line with the following:

&read-of=<<<{{EntryUrl}}>>>

If you were creating different sorts of posts you might also use the appropriate alternate verbiage: like-of, watch-of, listen-of, rsvp, etc. (find details for the appropriate mark up on the IndieWeb wiki or the correct microformats v2 property within the code for the Post Kinds plugin). If you are using the Post Kinds plugin, this is the piece of data that it receives to specify the correct post kind and create the reply context for your post and will likely preclude you from needing to send any data in the content portion (above) unless the services applet will let you send additional commentary or notes that you want to appear in the body of your post.

Next, if your site supports syndication links with a plugin like Syndication Links for WordPress, you would use the following line of code so that those are set and saved properly. (This presumes that the URL specified is the permalink of the content on the social silo. I’ll note that Pocket doesn’t provide these (easily) as most of their links are canonical ones for the original content, so I don’t use this on my IFTTT recipe for my Pocket workflow, but I do use it for others like Huffduffer and Reading.am. It conveniently allows me to find copies of my content elsewhere on the web.)

&syndication=<<<{{EntryUrl}}>>>

If you’d like to have the timestamp on your post match the time when you actually bookmarked the item in Pocket, you’ll need to add the following line of code. Without this line, the publication time will match the time of the Webhook action, which for most IFTTT things can be a delay of a minute or two up to an hour or more afterwards. In practice, I’ve noticed that most content posts to my website within about 10-15 minutes of the original, and this is based on the polling lag within IFTTT checking your triggers. (Sadly, I’ll report that I’ve never gotten this code snippet to work for me in practice, and I suspect it may be because the time format from IFTTT doesn’t match what is expected by the Micropub server on my website. Perhaps David Shanske or Ryan Barrett may have a more specific idea about what’s causing this or suggest a fix? I’ll try to dig into it shortly if I can. As a result, I generally have left this snippet of code off of my triggers and they’ve worked fine as a result. Until this issue might be fixed, if you want to have the exact timestamp, you could alternately include the data, if provided, in the content section instead and then copy it over manually after-the-fact.)

&published=<<<{{EntryPublished}}>>>

If you’ve got syndication endpoints set up properly with something like the Syndication Links plugin, you can use the following sort of code snippet. I generally eschew this and prefer to save my posts as drafts for potential modification prior to publishing publicly, but others may have different needs, so I’m including the option for relative completeness so people can experiment with it if they like.

&mp-syndicate-to[]=twitter-bridgy

This concludes the list of things that might commonly be included in the Body portion of the IFTTT applet. Tying these all together for combination in the Post Kinds Plugin one would want something along the lines of :

Body: access_token=AccessTokenHere&content=<<<{{EntryTitle}}<br> {{EntryPublished}}>>>&h=entry&category[]=Bookmark&category[]=Social%20Stream&bookmark-of=<<<{{EntryUrl}}>>>

Here’s another example of the code I use in conjunction with a similar applet for Diigo, a bookmarking service. The “Description” portion allows me to add a note or comment on the bookmark when I make it and that note is transported over to the post on my website as well.

Body: access_token=AccessTokenHere&content=<<<{{Description}}>>>&h=entry&category[]=Bookmark&category[]=Social%20Stream&category[]=<<<{{Tags}}>>>&bookmark-of=<<<{{Url}}>>>

Note that when the string of commands is done, you do not need to have a trailing ampersand. Most of the examples I’ve used are from the Pocket set up within IFTTT, but keep in mind that other services on the platform may use alternate variable names (the portion in the braces {{}}). The differences may be subtle, but they are important so be careful not to use {{EntryTitle}} if your specific recipe expects {{Title}}.

To finish off making your new applet, click on the “Create Action” button. (If necessary, you can test the applet and come back to modify it later.)

Finally, give your applet an appropriate tile and click the “Finish” button. For my Pocket applet I’ve used the name “Pocket bookmark PESOS Micropub to WordPress”.

Screencapture of the Review and Finish page on IFTTT

Now that your applet is finished, give it a whirl and see if it works the way you expect! Don’t feel discouraged if you run into issues, but try experimenting a bit to see if you can get the results you’d like to see on your website. You can always go back to your applet recipe and modify it if necessary.

Conclusion

Hopefully everyone has as much fun as I’ve had using this workflow to post to their websites. It may take some patience and experimentation to get things the way you’d like to have them, but you’re likely to be able to post more easily in the future. This will also let you own your data as you create it while still interacting with your friends and colleagues online.

I know that it may be possible to use other services like Zapier, Integromat, Automate.io, or other similar services instead of IFTTT though some of these may require paid accounts. I’d love to see what sorts of things people come up with for using this method for owning their own data. Can you think of other services that provide webhooks for potential use in combination with Micropub? (Incidentally, if this is your first foray into the Micropub space, be sure to check out the wealth of free Micropub clients you can use to publish directly to your website without all of the set up and code I’ve outlined above!)

Currently I’m using similar workflows to own my data from social services including Pocket, Diigo, Huffduffer, Reading.am, YouTube, Meetup/Google Calendar, and Hypothes.is. I’ve got several more planned shortly as well.

Thanks once again to Charlotte Allen and subsequently Jan-Lukas Else for the idea of using Micropub this way. Their initial documentation was invaluable to me and others are sure to find it useful. Charlotte has some examples for use with Facebook and Instagram and Jan-Lukas’ example may be especially helpful for those not using WordPress-specific solutions.

And as always, a big thank you to the entire IndieWeb community for continuing to hack away at making the web such a fun and vibrant space by making the small building blocks that make all of the above and so much more possible.

Liked a post by Jamie TannaJamie Tanna (jvt.me)
With the help of snarfed.org I've now got brid.gy running locally and syndicating RSVPs from my website to Meetup.com - hopefully it'll be live next week for the rest of the to enjoy https://github.com/snarfed/bridgy/issues/873
I can’t wait for this. It is awesome.
Bookmarked TunesToTube.com (TunesToTube.com)
The quick and easy way to upload your MP3 to YouTube
A useful tool for crossposting audio to YouTube. Perhaps for podcasters who might also like to take advantage of Youtube’s transcription service.

👓 How Facebook and Twitter Help Amplify Fringe Websites | Anti-Defamation League

Read How Facebook and Twitter Help Amplify Fringe Websites (Anti-Defamation League)
Extremists are leveraging Facebook and Twitter to ensure that the hateful philosophies that begin to germinate on message boards like Gab and 8chan find a new and much larger audience.
I’ll note here that I’ve noticed that sites like Gab have been working at transitioning into projects like Mastodon as a means of getting around roadblocks related to getting their mobile apps into marketplaces like the Apple and Google app stores.

We need far more tools to help individuals to control the crap that they see on the internet.

Replied to a tweet by Rachel CherryRachel Cherry (Twitter)

I’m definitely curious what you come up with! There are so many syndication options and I’m always on the look out for better/more standardized methods. (Of course, nothing beats the feed directly from the source…)

Once you have posting out done, are you going to work on backfeed to have the responses to your posts on Twitter come back to aggregate the conversation on the original site? Perhaps using Webmention and Brid.gy?

❤️ bamadesigner tweeted I finally got tired of not finding exactly what I want out of social media automation and started building my own system. So, basically that means the @wpcampusorg account will be excessively tweeting a tad bit over the next few days while I tweak the algorithm. :)

Liked a tweet by Rachel CherryRachel Cherry (Twitter)

👓 WordPress VIP Go sites are experience outages (yes, us included) | TechCrunch.tumblr.com

Read Wordpress VIP Go sites are experience outages (yes, us included) (TechCrunch)
You might have notice something funny if you visited TechCrunch dot com this morning (aside form the usual dryly hilarious tech commentary, that is). Our site, along with others, was hit by a major...
Fascinating to see TechCrunch is syndicating content to a Tumblr so they’re still “up” during a hosting outage.
It dawns on me that I haven’t used JetPack’s Publicize or social sharing functionalities in ages (particularly with the coming death of Google+), so I’ve gone in and finally turned them off. I’m still surprised they don’t return the URLs of where the content got shared for showing on the page with plugins like Syndication Links.

Update to the Syndication Links plugin for WordPress for Custom Endpoints

David Shanske has recently updated the Syndication Links plugin for WordPress that now allows users to add custom syndication endpoints to their websites so they can actually syndicate their content to external sites. 

In particular, this now includes syndication endpoints like IndieWeb News and indieweb.xyz subs. Configuring the plugin with a syndication name, UID, and the appropriate URL will create additional endpoint checkboxes in the “Syndicate To” metabox. (The UID is simply a unique identifier that the plugin uses in conjunction with Micropub clients, and the URL is the appropriate full URL to the appropriate syndication target.)

If one wishes to test syndication out, I might suggest using the test endpoint provided by indieweb.xyz. The appropriate entries in the custom provider section at /wp-admin/admin.php?page=syndication_links would be:

  • Name: xyz hottubs
  • UID: xyz-hottubs
  • URL:  https://indieweb.xyz/en/hottubs/
Settings for configuring custom syndication endpoints in the Syndication Links plugin

For convenience, the settings page also allows the user to disable (via checkbox) endpoints they don’t use or don’t want to appear in their administrative meta boxes.

An example of the meta box that appears in the administrative interface when creating new posts. To syndicate your content to the desired sites using Webmention, just click the appropriate boxes.

Use with Micropub Clients

The update to the Syndication Links plugin also means that Micropub clients with appropriate support (like Quill, for example) will know about which syndication endpoints your site supports and will be able to include them in its checkbox list for auto-syndicating via Micropub.

Example Quill micropub interface with syndication endpoints configured within Syndication Links plugin

Naturally, people using these methods should be very careful about how they’re using them so that they aren’t abusing or spamming these channels. Those abusing these channels will certainly find their sites blocked from posting. Keep in mind that some of the syndication endpoints shown here are examples and that other endpoints exist or can be created on sites like indieweb.xyz. 

Bridgy for WordPress

I’ll also note in passing that the syndication functionality to Twitter, Flickr, and GitHub that the Bridgy for WordPress Plugin provides is now also available within the Syndication Links plugin, so those who already have Brid.gy set up with their websites can easily and safely deactivate and uninstall that plugin. Doing this will prevent the duplication of meta boxes in one’s admin UI. Given the migration of some of its functionality, it is certainly possible in the future that this plugin may be deprecated or the Brid.gy set up portion of its functionality may be merged into another plugin like the IndieWeb plugin.


👤  Chris McLeodJoe Jennett, and Khürt Williams may appreciate this the most for use with indieweb.xyz. It may be a minute too late for Brad Enslen however.

Replied to Joe’s Syndicated Links Considered ‘Spam’ By Some Mastodon Instance by Kicks Condor (kickscondor.com)
I actually kind of understand this—only because I think Mastodon is at odds with the Indieweb.
I don’t think that what Joe is seeing is an anti-IndieWeb thing. It is something we’ve seen before from a handful of instances and will assuredly see again.

The other example of this behavior I’ve seen was when Greg McVerry, a college professor and member of the IndieWeb community, tried to join a Mastodon instance that was specific to researchers and professors in higher education. Sadly he found out, like Joe, that syndicating content from other locations was not acceptable there. As I recall, they also required an automatic content warning on almost everything posted to that particular instance which seemed an additional travesty to me. I think he ultimately joined mastodon.social and found he didn’t have any similar issues there and anyone who wanted to follow him from any other instances still could. I’m sure he can provide some additional details and may have posted about it sometime in the summer of 2018 when it happened.

The tough part is that each instance, though federated among many others, can have its own terms of service and set up. Some instances can be and certainly are run by their own tyrannical administrators, and I suppose that it’s their right since they’re paying for the server and the overhead. The solution is to do some research into some instances and find one that isn’t going to ban you for what would otherwise seem like average use to most. I’ve found mastodon.social to be relatively simple in its terms and its massive size also tends to cover up a lot of edge cases, so you’re unlikely to run into the same problems there. (It is also run by the creator of Mastodon, who has generally been IndieWeb friendly.)

The issue Joe has run into also points out a flaw of the overall Fediverse in that just like each real-world country can have its own laws and there is a broader general international law, the international laws aren’t as well codified or respected by each individual country. When you’re operating in someone else’s country, you’re bound to follow their local laws and even customs. Fortunately if you don’t like them there are lots of other places to live. And this is one of the bigger, mostly unseen, benefits of the IndieWeb: if you have your own website, you can create your own rules/laws and do as you please without necessarily relying as heavily on the rules of others.

I’ll note that some in the IndieWeb (Aaron Parecki, Ryan Barrett, Mathias Pfefferle, Jacky Alcine, et al.) have been playing around with or thinking about adding the ActivityPub protocols so that their own websites act as stand-alone members of the Fediverse. Since I know Joe has recently moved to WordPress, I’ll mention that there are two separate projects to help WordPress sites federate:
* ActivityPub plugin for WordPress from Mathias Pfefferle
* Bridgy Fed from Ryan Barrett

Naturally neither of these (yet) supports all of the protocols so some functionality one would find on Mastodon won’t necessarily work, but I suspect that over time that they eventually will. It’s been a while since I tried out BridgyFed, but I’ve had the ActivityPub plugin set up for a bit and have noticed a lot of recent work by Mathias Pfefferle to use it for himself. I still have to tweak around with some of my settings, but so far it provides some relatively useful results. The best part is that I don’t need to syndicate content to Mastodon, but users there can subscribe to me at @chrisaldrich@boffosocko.com, for example, instead of @chrisaldrich@mastodon.social. The results and functionality aren’t perfect yet, but with some work we’ll get there I think.

Good luck finding (or creating) an instance that works for you!