A hashtag functionality hiding with the ActivityPub for WordPress Plugin

I #indienews" href="https://boffosocko.com/2019/02/16/indienews-plugin-use/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">discovered yesterday that when I added a # (or hash, pound sign, octothorpe, et al.) in front of any word on my site, it created a native version of something akin to Twitter’s functionality, but it was working on my own website. The primary difference was that the hashed word on the page was, upon publishing the post, automatically wrapped with a URL for that tag on my own website, and it was also automatically added to the list of tags for the post. (As an illustrative example, I’m doing the same thing with the word hashtag earlier in this paragraph.)

I had previously considered adding this type of functionality myself to make syndicating posts (via POSSE) from my own website to sites like Twitter or Mastodon easier. There are a small handful of plugins in the WordPress repository that will add that type of functionality already, but I had eschewed them generally, not wanting yet-another-plugin.

I spent some time trying to track down the plugin that was effecting this change. I couldn’t remember having installed something that would have done this sort of functionality, and I had noticed it only by complete happenstance. I eventually gave up my search halfway through only to later get a message from Matthias Pfefferle that his ActivityPub plugin was the likely culprit. I probably should have guessed as I had literally spent part of that very day looking at the code in his IndieWeb News plugin on GitHub which had code that essentially did the exact same thing, but for a narrower set of results.

The upside of the entire process is that the functionality is now built into a plugin which I’d be using otherwise. As of today’s update, there’s now also a setting for the plugin that will allow one to turn the functionality on or off–I, for one, am definitely keeping it. Of course if you’re looking for the functionality without the extra overhead of the ActivityPub code, I believe you can use Matthias’ WordPress hashtags plugin which does only this.

I’ve never quite liked that Twitter uses @names highlighted within posts. All the additional cruft in Twitter like the “@” and “#” prefixes, while adding useful functionality, have always dramatically decreased the readability and enjoyment of their interface for me. So why not just get rid of them?!

Of course I also remember myself railing against the addition of the symbols @ and # in general text not too long ago, so I’m also now brainstorming and contemplating how one might more quickly (and even in a DRY manner) do this sort of tagging using some other (probably easily accessed, but infrequently used) symbol which could be hidden visually, but which would allow one to add these sorts of tags and the appropriate microformats markup. I suspect there may be some sort of clever CSS I may be able to use too, though it would be better not so that it works easily via syndication and in feed readers with different styling. The goal should be that it would work as plain text from a Micropub client too. With any good luck someone may have thought of it already, otherwise I may be able to hack something simple together to do roughly what I want. The upside would be that simply by writing your post, you could simultaneously be tagging it as well and not need to bother going in and separately adding additional tags!

👓 Twitter fixes their timeline | Colin Devroe

Read Twitter fixes their timeline by Colin Devroe (cdevroe.com)
I saw this tweet last night and immediately turned this on. Now with this new setting I don’t need it. Please keep this Twitter. Please!

Now here’s some welcome news. Will need to play around with some of these new Twitter settings.

👓 MailChimp RSS to Email Newsletter – A Complete Guide | WPism

Read MailChimp RSS to Email Newsletter - A Complete Guide (WPism)
A Complete Guide to set up email Newsletter using MailChimp RSS to Email feature. Learn how to use MailChimp RSS Campaign to send an automated Newsletter.

Nothing stupendous here that I couldn’t figure out by just moving my way through Mail Chimp’s online workflow. Of course this probably speaks reasonably well of Mail Chimp’s user interface.

Hopefully tomorrow we’ll have a weekly newsletter up and running.

👓 Show authors more ❤️ with 👏’s | Medium

Read Introducing Claps, a new way to react on Medium by Katie Zhu (Medium)
Rolling out to Medium users over the coming week will be a new, more satisfying way for readers to give feedback to writers. We call it “Claps.” It’s no longer simply whether you like, or don’t like, something. Now you can give variable levels of applause to a story. Maybe clap once, or maybe 10 or 20 times. You’re in control and can clap to your heart’s desire.

Yet another way to “like” a post….

This reminds me a lot of Path’s pivot to stickers. We all know how relevant it has made them since.

And all this just after Netflix, the company that has probably done more research on ranking than any other, has gone from a multi-star intent to a thumbs up/thumbs down in the past month.

Most of the measurements social media and other companies are really trying to make are signal to noise ratios as well as creating some semblance of dynamic range. A simple thumbs up creates almost no dynamic range compared to thumbs up/nothing/thumbs-down. Major platforms drive enough traffic that the SNR all comes out in the wash. Without the negative intent (dis-like, thumbs down, etc.) we’re missing out on some important data. It’s almost reminiscent to the science community only publishing their positive results and not the negative results. As a result scientific research is losing a tremendous amount of value.

We need to be more careful what we’re doing and why…

Reply to Gutenberg: First Impressions | MattCromwell.com

Replied to Gutenberg: First Impressions by Matt Cromwell (MattCromwell.com)
Gutenberg is the future of content in WordPress. It will deliver the elegance of Medium but with far more power and flexibility of layouts and content types

I love how this looks and works and it’s certainly about time that WordPress had alternate means of publishing to its platform. (I miss the days when Twitter had thousands of different configurable apps to post to it, though these were far simpler.)

Not only does it remind me a bit of Medium.com’s interface, it is highly reminiscent of Aaron Parecki’s Quill editor which uses the open Micropub spec to publish to the Micropub endpoint on my blog. Though his isn’t as fully featured as the Gutenberg example, he could certainly add to it, but then it could be used to publish to any site that supports the spec.

A sample of the Quill interface for posting to WordPress via Micropub.

The nice part about Micropub (and the fact that there’s already a Micropub plugin for WordPress) is that developers can build multiple competing publishing interfaces to publish to any website out there. (Or developers could even build custom publishing interfaces for their clients.)

In fact, if they wanted to do a highly valuable pivot, Medium.com could add publishing via Micropub to their platform and really become the billionaire’s typewriter that some have suggested it to be.

👓 Signl.fm on making a social media interface for Podcasts. | Matter

Read Signl.fm on making a social media interface for Podcasts by Kim Hansen (Matter)
An overview of the history of Signl.fm and some of the experiments they've been doing in podcasting, audio, and social.

Stop Publishing Web Pages | Anil Dash

Read Stop Publishing Web Pages (anildash.com)
Most users on the web spend most of their time in apps. The most popular of those apps, like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Tumblr and others, are primarily focused on a single, simple stream that offers a river of news which users can easily scroll through, skim over, and click on to read in more depth. Most media companies on the web spend all of their effort putting content into content management systems which publish pages. These pages work essentially the same way that pages have worked since the beginning of the web, with a single article or post living at...

Continue reading “Stop Publishing Web Pages | Anil Dash”

Give your web presence a more personal identity

Photos on WordPress with Gravatar

Not a day goes by that I don’t run across a fantastic blog built or hosted on WordPress that looks gorgeous–they do an excellent job of making this pretty easy to accomplish.

but

Invariably the blog’s author has a generic avatar (blech!) instead of a nice, warm and humanizing photo of their lovely face.

Or, perhaps, as a user, you’ve always wondered how some people qualified to have their photo included with their comment while you were left as an anonymous looking “mystery person” or a randomized identicon, monster, or even an 8-bit pixelated blob? The secret the others know will be revealed momentarily.

Which would you prefer?

A face on the internet could love
Identicon: A face only the internet could love
Chris Aldrich
Chris:  a face only a mother could love
An example of a fantastic blog covering the publishing space, yet the author doesn't seem to know how to do his own avatar properly.
An example of a fantastic blog covering the publishing space, yet after 11,476 articles, the author can’t get his photo to show up.

Somehow, knowing how to replace that dreadful randomized block with an actual photo is too hard or too complicated. Why? In part, it’s because WordPress separated out this functionality as a decentralized service called Gravatar, which stands for Globally Recognized Avatar. In some sense this is an awesome idea because then people everywhere (and not just on WordPress) can use the Gravatar service to change their photo across thousands of websites at once. Unfortunately it’s not always clear that one needs to add their name, email address, and photo to Gravatar in order for the avatars to be populated properly on WordPress related sites.

(Suggestion for WordPress: Maybe the UI within the user account section could include a line about Gravatars?)

So instead of trying to write out the details for the third time this week, I thought I’d write it once here with a bit more detail and then point people to it for the future.

Another quick example

Can you guess which user is the blog's author? Can you guess which user is the blog’s author in the screencapture?

The correct answer is Anand Sarwate, the second commenter in the list. While Anand’s avatar seems almost custom made for a blog on randomness and information theory, it would be more inviting if he used a photo instead.

How to fix the default avatar problem

What is Gravatar?

Your Gravatar is an image that follows you from site to site appearing beside your name when you do things like comment or post on a blog. Avatars help identify your posts on blogs and web forums, so why not on any site?

Gravatar.com

Need some additional motivation? Watch this short video:

Step 1: Get a Gravatar Account

If you’ve already got a WordPress.com account, this step is easy. Because the same corporate parent built both WordPress and Gravatar, if you have an account on one, you automattically have an account on the other which uses the same login information. You just need to log into Gravatar.com with your WordPress username and password.

If you don’t have a WordPress.com account or even a blog, but just want your photo to show up when you comment on WordPress and other Gravatar enabled blogs, then just sign up for an account at Gravatar.com. When you comment on a blog, it’ll ask for your email address and it will use that to pull in the photo to which it’s linked.

Step 2: Add an email address

Log into your Gravatar account. Choose an email address you want to modify: you’ll have at least the default you signed up with or you can add additional email addresses.

Step 3: Add a photo to go with that email address

Upload as many photos as you’d like into the account. Then for each of the email addresses you’ve got, associate each one with at least one of your photos.

Example: In the commenters’ avatars shown above, Anand was almost there. He already had a Gravatar account, he just hadn’t added any photos.

Step 4: Fill out the rest of your social profile

Optionally you can additional social details like a short bio, your other social media presences, and even one or more websites or blogs that you own.

Step 5: Repeat

You can add as many emails and photos as you’d like. By linking different photos to different email addresses, you’ll be able to change your photo identity based on the email “key” you plug into sites later.

If you get tired of one photo, just upload another and make it the default photo for the email addresses you want it to change for. All sites using Gravatar will update your avatar for use in the future.

Step 6: Use your email address on your WordPress account

Now, go back to the user profile section on your blog, which is usually located at http://www.YOURSITE.com/wp-admin/users.php.

WordPress screenshot of admin panel for user information.
WordPress screenshot of admin panel for user information.

In the field for the email, input (one of) the email(s) you used in Gravatar that’s linked to a photo.

Don’t worry, the system won’t show your email and it will remain private–WordPress and Gravatar simply use it as a common “key” to serve up the right photo and metadata from Gravatar to the WordPress site.

Once you’ve clicked save, your new avatar should show up in the list of users. More importantly it’ll now show up in all of the WordPress elements (like most author bio blocks and in comments) that appear on your site.

Administrator Caveats

WordPress themes need to be Gravatar enabled to be able to use this functionality, but in practice, most of them do, particularly for comments sections. If yours isn’t, then you can usually add it with some simple code.

In the WordPress admin interface one can go to Settings>>Discussion and enable View people's profiles when you mouse over their Gravatars under the heading “Gravatar Hovercards” to enable people to see more information about you and the commenters on your blog (presuming the comment section of your theme is Gravatar enabled.)

Some WordPress users often have several user accounts that they use to administer their site. One might have a secure administrator account they only use for updates and upgrades, another personal account (author/editor admin level account which uses their name) for authoring posts, and another (author/editor admin level) account for making admin notice posts or commenting as a generic moderator. In these cases, you need to make sure that each of these accounts has an email address with an an associated Gravatar account with the same email and the desired photo linked to it. (One Gravatar account with multiple emails/photos will usually suffice, though they could be different.)

Example: In Nate’s case above, we showed that his photo didn’t show in the author bio box, and it doesn’t show up in some comments, but it does show up in other comments on his blog. This is because he uses at least two different user accounts: one for authoring posts and another for commenting. The user account he uses for some commenting has a linked Gravatar account with email and photo and the other does not.

One account doesn't have a Gravatar with a linked email and photo.
One account doesn’t have a Gravatar with a linked email and photo.

 

comments-yes
Another account does have a linked Gravatar account with linked email and photo.

More tips?

Want more information on how you can better own and manage your online identity? Visit IndieWeb.org: “A people-focused alternative to the ‘corporate web’.

TL;DR

To help beautify your web presence a bit, if you notice that your photo doesn’t show up in the author block or comments in your theme, you can (create and) use your WordPress.com username/password in an account on their sister site Gravatar.com. Uploading your preferred photo on Gravatar and linking it to an email will help to automatically populate your photo in both your site and other WordPress sites (in comments) across the web. To make it work on your site, just go to your user profile in your WordPress install and use the same email address in your user profile as your Gravatar account and the decentralized system will port your picture across automatically. If necessary, you can use multiple photos and multiple linked email addresses in your Gravatar account to vary your photos.