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

Extending a User Interface Idea for Social Reading Online

This morning I was reading an article online and I bookmarked it as “read” using the Reading.am browser extension which I use as part of my workflow of capturing all the things I’ve been reading on the internet. (You can find a feed of these posts here if you’d like to cyber-stalk most of my reading–I don’t post 100% of it publicly.)

I mention it because I was specifically intrigued by a small piece of excellent user interface and social graph data that Reading.am unearths for me. I’m including a quick screen capture to better illustrate the point. While the UI allows me to click yes/no (i.e. did I like it or not) or even share it to other networks, the thing I found most interesting was that it lists the other people using the service who have read the article as well. In this case it told me that my friend Jeremy Cherfas had read the article.1

Reading.am user interface indicating who else on the service has read an article.

In addition to having the immediate feedback that he’d read it, which is useful and thrilling in itself, it gives me the chance to search to see if he’s written any thoughts about it himself, and it also gives me the chance to tag him in a post about my own thoughts to start a direct conversation around a topic which I now know we’re both interested in at least reading about.2

The tougher follow up is: how could we create a decentralized method of doing this sort of workflow in a more IndieWeb way? It would be nice if my read posts on my site (and those of others) could be overlain on websites via a bookmarklet or other means as a social layer to create engaged discussion. Better would have been the ability to quickly surface his commentary, if any, on the piece as well–functionality which I think Reading.am also does, though I rarely ever see it. In some sense I would have come across Jeremy’s read post in his feed later this weekend, but it doesn’t provide the immediacy that this method did. I’ll also admit that I prefer having found out about his reading it only after I’d read it myself, but having his and others’ recommendations on a piece (by their explicit read posts) is a useful and worthwhile piece of data, particularly for pieces I might have otherwise passed over.

In some sense, some of this functionality isn’t too different from that provided by Hypothes.is, though that is hidden away within another browser extension layer and requires not only direct examination, but scanning for those whose identities I might recognize because Hypothes.is doesn’t have a specific following/follower social model to make my friends and colleagues a part of my social graph in that instance. The nice part of Hypothes.is’ browser extension is that it does add a small visual indicator to show that others have in fact read/annotated a particular site using the service.

A UI example of Hypothes.is functionality within the Chrome browser. The yellow highlighted browser extension bug indicates that others have annotated a document. Clicking the image will take one to the annotations in situ.

I’ve also previously documented on the IndieWeb wiki how WordPress.com (and WordPress.org with JetPack functionality) facepiles likes on content (typically underneath the content itself). This method doesn’t take things as far as the Reading.am case because it only shows a small fraction of the data, is much less useful, and is far less likely to unearth those in your social graph to make it useful to you, the reader.

WordPress.com facepiles likes on content which could surface some of this social reading data.

I seem to recall that Facebook has some similar functionality that is dependent upon how (and if) the publisher embeds Facebook into their site. I don’t think I’ve seen this sort of interface built into another service this way and certainly not front and center the way that Reading.am does it.

The closest thing I can think of to this type of functionality in the analog world was in my childhood when library card slips in books had the names of prior patrons on them when you signed your own name when checking out a book, though this also had the large world problem that WordPress likes have in that one typically wouldn’t have know many of the names of prior patrons necessarily. I suspect that the Robert Bork privacy incident along with the evolution of library databases and bar codes have caused this older system to disappear.

This general idea might make an interesting topic to explore at an upcoming IndieWebCamp if not before. The question is: how to add in the social graph aspect of reading to uncover this data? I’m also curious how it might or might not be worked into a feed reader or into microsub related technologies as well. Microsub clients or related browser extensions might make a great place to add this functionality as they would have the data about whom you’re already following (aka your social graph data) as well as access to their read/like/favorite posts. I know that some users have reported consuming feeds of friends’ reads, likes, favorites, and bookmarks as potential recommendations of things they might be interested in reading as well, so perhaps this would be an additional extension of that as well?


[1] I’ve certainly seen this functionality before, but most often the other readers are people I don’t know or know that well because the service isn’t huge and I’m not using it to follow a large number of other people.
[2] I knew he was generally interested already as I happen to be following this particular site at his prior recommendation, but the idea still illustrates the broader point.

Extending a User Interface Idea for Social Reading Online was originally published on Chris Aldrich

👓 My #2018Liberations | Ben Werdmuller – Medium

My #2018Liberations by Ben Werdmuller (Medium)

In lieu of resolutions this year, Cate Huston wrote a set of liberations, starting a movement. My friend Jean Hsu also wrote a liberating, personal list, which is where I discovered it, and Ellen K. Pao has a characteristically thoughtful entry.

I like the framing a lot: rather than creating a set of requirements for my new year, which is what a resolution does, I’m freeing myself from a set. So here’s my list of things I’m liberating myself from in 2018:

 

👓 My #2018Liberations | Ben Werdmuller – Medium was originally published on Chris Aldrich

👓 No one makes a living on Patreon | The Outline

No one makes a living on Patreon by Brent Knepper (The Outline)

Who is really benefiting from the crowdfunding site for artists?

This makes me want to find alternate and more direct means of donating money to people I want to support.

This could be a use case for people to have payment pages on their own websites to make the process more direct. This would also mean that they could post their update content on their own website and use either feeds and/or email to update their patrons.

I haven’t seen a “Patreon” concept on someone’s website in the wild yet, but I have seen examples like Tantek Çelik’s payment page, that do provide a start to the process. Many CMSs already have many of the other moving parts already built in for things like following/subscribing.

👓 No one makes a living on Patreon | The Outline was originally published on Chris Aldrich