Replied to WordPress of One's Own: Or, thinking through creating a not intimidating menu of options for domain installs by AlanaCallanAlanaCallan (Reclaim Hosting Community)

Hey there,

New and just wading in here :blush: I work at Fleming College in our Learning Design and Support team/department

Our medium sized college has always offered our students and faculty a choice in terms of the platform they choose to use: Wordpress, tumblr, weebly, medium, etc., mostly because we didn’t have anything else to offer them other than the LMS that was supported by the institution.

This past September our communication courses for first year have been using wordpress.com (mostly) as they were encouraged by the teaching faculty who were also using wordpress.com sites for their own writing. The redesigned communication courses have the students learning to write, give and receive feedback, and loop through this cycle several times for an authentic audience. First semester focuses on personal writing, the second focuses on professional writing.

(just wanted to provide some context for my reply - they had to go with wordpress.com as there was no plan or budget to do a local install or have it hosted for the college)

Feedback from the faculty teaching team after teaching for almost 8 weeks is how to template and simplify space for students to use, here is a direct quote: “could we create dedicated blog page for students that would be a pre-made, fool-proof template? When a student’s WordPress blog does not work and we can’t fix the problem, it is very frustrating to be helpless beside an exasperated student.”

I am inclined to suggest freeing up the expectation that the student’s use wordpress and that they instead use a platform that they may already be familiar with (like tumblr etc.,) and create a space AND use categories/titles that are consistent so that the faculty can go in and review, comment, provide feedback etc., easily.

Many students may choose to use wordpress either way but…

One thing that we do here that may help the conversation is that our library holds workshops to assist students in creating their online presence, creative commons, attribution etc.,

I’m interested in any thoughts or feedback on how to approach the our communication faculty request… am I heading in the right direction??

Thanks!!

Alana

There may be a bit of a path forward here that some might consider using that has some fantastic flexibility.

There is a WordPress plugin called Micropub (which needs to be used in conjunction with the IndieAuth plugin for authentication to their CMS account) that will allow students to log into various writing/posting applications.

These are usually slimmed down interfaces that don’t provide the panoply of editing options that the Gutenberg interface or Classic editor metabox interfaces do. Quill is a good example of this and has a Medium.com like interface. iA Writer is a solid markdown editor that has this functionality as well (though I think it only works on iOS presently).

Students can write and then post from these, but still have the option to revisit within the built in editors to add any additional bells and whistles they might like if they’re so inclined.

This system is a bit like SPLOTs, but has a broader surface area and flexibility. I’ll also mention that many of the Micropub clients are open source, so if one were inclined they could build their own custom posting interface specific to their exact needs. Even further, other CMSes like Known, Drupal, etc. either support this web specification out of the box or with plugins, so if you built a custom interface it could work just as well with other platforms that aren’t just WordPress. This means that in a class where different students have chosen a variety of ways to set up their Domains, they can be exposed to a broader variety of editing tools or if the teacher chooses, they could be given a single editing interface that is exactly the same for everyone despite using different platforms.

For those who’d like to delve further, I did a WordPress-focused crash course session on the idea a while back: Micropub and WordPress: Custom Posting Applications at WordCamp Santa Clarita 2019 (slides).

Liked a tweet by Serena Sonoma (Twitter)
Maybe the new ThreadReaderApp micropub functionality will help this?

Micropub for WordPress instead of yet another snowflake API

Replied to Should WordPress Provide an API for Third-Party Editors? by Justin TadlockJustin Tadlock (WordPress Tavern)
Imagine a future where you log into your website’s admin. You head over to the editor. This particular editor has all the tools and features in place that make you more efficient at producing…
This is certainly a great idea and one that has been contemplated and explored before.

As a bit of prior art, consider the (originally) open API that Twitter provided that created an efflorescence of Twitter clients one could use to post to Twitter. Obviously those were a bit simpler since they only involved 140 characters of text, URLs, and maybe photos or geo-coordinates. While Twitter eventually cut off the API, the concept was a strong one and the competition provided by the wealth of options, including paid options, made creating posting interfaces or editors an easy option for a variety of developers. Remember the thousands of WordPress plugins in the WordPress repository alone? (Sadly, Twitter turned off this API and all the lovely posting clients for Twitter either died or were bought up by Twitter and look where we are now.)

Several years ago the IndieWeb community took the openness of this model to heart and created the W3C recommended Micropub spec. It’s essentially an open API that dis-intermediates the CMS/publishing platform from the editor interface using a client/server model. It also has the benefit of allowing developers to create incredibly highly customized publishing interfaces. You can now use a full article editor like Quill which provides a Medium.com-like interface, but you can also use something supremely simple like Teacup (even from your watch!) to quickly post what your drinking/eating (along with a timestamp and optional location) to your website.

As a result of this development and the fact that there’s already a Micropub endpoint implemented for WordPress as a plugin, you can try several dozen editors and posting clients out today! And why not try them on other platforms like Drupal, Known, Craft, Jekyll, Kirby, Hugo, and Blot to name a few.

The added benefit is that designers and developers can create either very simple interfaces for posting custom things (maybe you want to post the book you’re reading with indiebookclub.biz to your website in a GoodReads or LibraryThing sort of way) or they can create interfaces for posting almost anything (our Quill example). Interface modalities can also be dramatically different. They could be stand-alone applications on PC/MacOS/Linux, web applications, mobile applications, or as simple as a browser extension (Omnibear for Chrome or Firefox is a great example of this).

For several months now, I’ve been using several social media sites to publish their data to my website using their RSS feeds via IFTTT/Zapier to Webhooks that post to my Micropub endpoint. There’s nothing better than owning all your data, right?

Maybe you want to go all in on the social media side of life? What’s to keep feed readers from building in these Micropub posting interfaces? Then you could read posts in something like the WordPress.com reader, type your reply or response directly into the reader and use Micropub to post it to your website and also cross-post it to social media? (Incidentally there are a handful of social readers that do this already!)

I hear UI complaints by people all the time at camps… If you’re a dev shop interested in paring down the editor interface for a non-tech-savvy client, then customize a Micropub client to post only the minimum requirements and let the WordPress CMS and theme take care of the rest for them! In fact, perhaps there’s a market for white-listed or even branded posting interfaces?

Now that we’ve fixed the root problem without tons of engineering time, all WordPress really needs to do is to create a Micropub client out of Gutenberg, and all those hours of work and engineering on that one posting interface could allow it to be a client to not only post to WordPress, but to Drupal sites, WithKnown sites, and any of the other dozens of platforms that already support the spec.

I mentioned it the other day, on my own website and on Twitter, if Iceberg were to implement their editor as a Micropub client, then their users could use it not only for WordPress, but other CMS platforms could use it as well.

What if a user got tired of using and maintaining their current CMS and wanted to move to another easier or faster one? They don’t have to dump the beautiful editor interface and workflow they’ve become accustomed to, they can just move to anything else that has a Micropub endpoint and take their editor with them. (Think about how you can take most text editors with you if you moved from PC, MacOS, or Linux. Why shouldn’t the same be true if you changed CMS? It’s all just data, right?!)

A great example of just this potential came out in the last week. The 9 year old iA Writer just added Micropub support. It’s a markdown writing app that supports publishing to WordPress, Medium, and Ghost. With Micropub support it can now be used to publish to dozens of additional CMSs and services like Micro.blog. While it’s available on Mac/iOS devices at the moment, I can’t wait for them to add the support for Windows and Android devices shortly as well.

Or what if Medium.com pivoted (maybe for the last time?) and made itself a Micropub client? Then it could be the billionaire’s typewriter that we’ve all been hoping for? And it would have the benefit of being able to post to multiple CMSs.

There are so many possibilities for such an open ecosystem. But, please, let’s not just build something that only works with WordPress API. Do we need another API that will make it harder for editor designers and developers to support each and every quirky, ever-changing snowflake API out there?

Want some more overview and some demos? I did a WordCamp session on the topic last year.

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