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

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.

This post was originally published on Chris Aldrich

Domains, power, the commons, credit, SEO, and some code implications

How to provide better credit on the web using the standard rel=“canonical” by looking at an example from the Open Learner Patchbook

A couple of weeks back, I noticed and began following Cassie Nooyen when I became aware of her at the Domains 2019 conference which I followed fairly closely online.

She was a presenter and wrote a couple of nice follow up pieces about her experiences on her website. I bookmarked one of them to read later, and then two days later I came across this tweet by Terry Green, who had also apparently noticed her post:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

But I was surprised to see the link in the tweet points to a different post in the Open Learner Patchbook, which is an interesting site in and of itself.

This means that there are now at least two full copies of Cassie’s post online:

While I didn’t see a Creative Commons notice on Cassie’s original or any mention of permissions or even a link to the source of the original on the copy on the Open Patchbook, I don’t doubt that Terry asked Cassie for permission to post a copy of her work on his site. I’ll also suspect that it may have been the case that Cassie might not have wanted any attention drawn to herself or her post on her site and may have eschewed a link to it. I will note that the Open Patchbook did have a link to her Twitter presence as a means of credit. (I’ll still maintain that people should be preferring links to their own domain over Twitter for credits like these–take back your power!)

Even with these crediting caveats aside, there’s a subtle technical piece hiding here relating to search engines and search engine optimization that many in the Domain of One’s Own space may not realize exists, or if they do they may not be sure how to fix. This technical subtlety is that search engines attempt to assign proper credit too. As a result there’s a very high chance that Open Patchbook could rank higher in search for Cassie’s own post than Cassie’s original. As researchers and educators we’d obviously vastly prefer the original to get the credit. So what’s going on here?

Search engines use a web standard known as rel=“canonical”, a microformat which is most often found in the HTML <header> of a web page. If we view the current source of the copy on the Open Learner Patchbook, we’ll see the following:

<link rel="canonical" href="http://openlearnerpatchbook.org/technology/patch-twenty-five-my-domain-my-place-to-grow/" />

According to the Microformats wiki:

By adding rel=“canonical” to a hyperlink, a page indicates that the destination of that hyperlink should be considered the preferred or definitive version of the current page. This helps search engines avoid duplicate content, and is useful for deciding how to link to a page when citing it.

In the case of our example of Cassie’s post, search engines will treat the two pages as completely separate, but will suspect that one is a duplicate of the other. This could have dramatic consequences for one or the other sites in which search engines will choose one to prefer over the other, and, in some cases, search engines may penalize one site for having duplicate content and not stating that fact (in their metadata). Typically this would have more drastic and averse consequences for Cassie’s original in comparison with an institutional site. 

How do we fix the injustice of this metadata? 

There are a variety of ways, but I’ll focus on several in the WordPress space. 

WordPress core has built-in functionality that should set the permalink for a particular page as the canonical one. This is why the Open Patchbook page displays the incorrect canonical link. Since most people are likely to already have an SEO related plugin installed on their site and almost all of them have this capability, this is likely the quickest and easiest method for being able to change canonical links for pages and posts. Two popular choices for this are Yoast and All in One SEO which have simple settings for inputting and saving alternate canonical URLs. Yoast documents the steps pretty well, so I’ll provide an example using All in One SEO:

  • If not done already, click the checkbox for canonical URLs in the “General Settings” section for the plugin generally found at /wp-admin/admin.php?page=all-in-one-seo-pack%2Faioseop_class.php.
  • For the post (or page) in question, within the All in One SEO metabox in the admin interface (pictured) put the full URL of the original posts’ location.
  • (Re-)publish the post.

Screenshot of the AIOSEO metabox with the field for the Canonical URL outlined in red

If you’re using another SEO plugin, it likely handles canonical URLs similarly, so check their documentation.

For aggregation websites, like the Open Learner Patchbook, there’s also another solid option for not only setting the canonical URL, but for more quickly copying the original post as well. In these cases I love PressForward, a WordPress plugin from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media which was designed with the education space in mind. The plugin allows one to quickly gather, organize, and republish content from other places on the web. It does so in a smart and ethical way and provides ample opportunity for providing appropriate citations as well as, for our purposes, setting the original URL as the canonical one. Because PressForward is such a powerful and diverse tool (as well as a built-in feed reader for your WordPress website), I’ll refer users to their excellent documentations.

Another useful reason I’ll mention for using rel-canonical mark up is that I’ve seen cases in which using it will allow other web standards-based tools like Hypothes.is to match pages for highlights and annotations. I suspect that if the Open Patchwork page did have the canonical link specified that any annotations made on it with Hypothes.is should mirror properly on the original as well (and vice-versa). 

I also suspect that there are some valuable uses of this sort of small metadata-based mark up within the Open Educational Resources (OER) space.

In short, when copying and reposting content from an original source online, it’s both courteous and useful to mark the copy as such by putting a tag onto the URL of the original to provide it with the full credit as the canonical source.

Domains, power, the commons, credit, SEO, and some code implications was originally published on Chris Aldrich

Idea for a spaced repetition user interface for Hypothes.is

While I’m thinking about younger students, I thought I’d sketch out a bit of an add-on product that I wish Hypothes.is had.

Background/Set up

I was looking at tools to pull annotations out of Kindle the other day and ran across Readwise again. Part of its functionality pulls highlights and annotations out of Kindle and then it has some UI that uses the idea of spaced repetition to have you regularly review what you’ve previously read and highlighted and presumably wanted to remember or use in the future.

Of course this is very similar to other spaced repetition/flash card applications like Mnemosyne, Anki, or language apps like Memrise and Duolingo among many others. I also seem to recall that Amazon once had some UI like this built into their Kindle Notebook, but I’m not finding it at the moment, but I know they’ve changed that UI sometime in the last two years–perhaps it’s gone?

The Pitch

Given the number of learners who are using Hypothes.is, wouldn’t it be a fantastic bit of functionality if Hypothes.is had a spaced repetition UI that would allow students to easily go back and review over their prior highlights and annotations?! Presumably this could be targeted for quizzes and tests, but honestly as a lifelong learner I very frequently love using tools like Timehop or even my website’s built-in “On this day” functionality to look back over bits and pieces of things I’ve done in the past, which also includes my annotations, since I’m keeping copies of them on my website as well.

Naturally such a UI should be able to search or sort by tag, date range, or even by source(s) so that a student could more easily wrangle a particular number of sources over which they wanted to review their material–particularly as over months, years, or decades one could build up a huge library of annotations. If, as a student, I was tagging my material by class course number subject area or something similar (like edu522, for example) I could then easily dump that into such a UI and be able to do spaced repetition studying for that subject area. Masters, Ph.D. students, and even the professoriate might appreciate it for occasional spaced repetition to be nudged or reminded of ideas they’d had in the past, but which may need rekindling to put into a thesis or potential future papers.

The more I think about this, the more I’d love to see it in Hypothes.is. If it’s not something the main team takes on, perhaps it could be an add-on for a group like Remi Kalir’s who have done some interesting work with the API to create Crowdlaaers

I’m planning to use import/export manually with tools like Anki to do some testing this coming weekend… I wonder what open sourced code may already exist that I could simply plug my Hypothes.is data into? Hmm…

Idea for a spaced repetition user interface for Hypothes.is was originally published on Chris Aldrich

I had almost forgotten that it was not so long ago that I’d outlined how I use Hypothesis to own my own highlights and annotations on my website. For the benefit of those in Dr. McVerry’s EDU522 course, I’ve included a link to it here.

For those who would like to see some examples you can find several below:
Specific stand-alone highlight posts
Specific stand-alone annotation posts
Other posts (typically reads) which I’ve highlighted and/or otherwise annotated things

I created the stand-alone posts using customized post kinds using some custom code for the Post Kinds Plugin.

I’ll begin tagging some of these pieces with the tag “backstage” for those in the EDU522 class that wish to follow along with how I’ve built or done certain things. You can subscribe to these future posts by adding /feed/ to the end of the URL for this tag archive.

To some extent my IndieWeb Collection/Research page has a lot of these “backstage” type posts for those who are interested. As part of the IndieWeb community, I’ve been documenting how and what I’ve been doing on my site for a while, hopefully these backstage posts will help other educators follow in my path without need to blaze as much of it anew for themselves.

Backstage posts are in actuality a very IndieWeb thing:

As we discover new ways to do things, we can document the crap out of them. —IndieWeb.org

 

was originally published on Chris Aldrich