February 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Escaping Corporate Silos With WordPress

After my post on Friday about Giving Up on Web Ownership a couple people pinged me asking how they would go about publishing to Twitter, without publishing in Twitter. Dave Winer is working on the problem with his minimal blogging tool but I was thinking… why can’t we do this with WordPress? So today I’m going to walk you through the steps necessary to create your own WordPress based microblog that publishes to Twitter. #

This is going to be a higher level tutorial. I’m not going to walk you through installing WordPress or how to install a themes and plugins as there are plenty of places that describe this process. Many hosting companies like DreamHost have a one click install that make the process super simple. Ping me if you’re having trouble. #

Step 1: Install P2 Theme #

The first thing to do is make the site look and behave like a microblog. Do this by installing the P2 theme which is provided by Automattic, the same company that is behind WordPress. It’s also available on WordPress.com if you’re not interested in hosting your own blog. #

Step 2a: Install a Twitter Plugin #

There are many plugins that will allow you to publish your posts to twitter. I tested a bunch of them but only found two that worked. The one I’d recommend right now is Twitter Blog which was pretty easy to set up. #

To get Twitter Blog configured, you need to connect to your Twitter account using OAuth. This is as easy as clicking the “Sign In With Twitter” button in the settings page. It also seems to require a bit.ly account and API key. I already had an account, and getting the key was as straight forward as going into the bit.ly settings page and copying and pasting it into the Twitter Blog settings page. #

The only problem I’ve found with using a twitter plugin is that they all seem to tweet the title and url. Since we’re posting a status update without a title, WordPress automatically creates one that is the body truncated to 40 characters. Therefore your tweets are just the first 40 characters and a link back to your status update. Not ideal, but not the end of the world. #

Step 2b: Use TwitterFeed #

If you don’t want to use a Twitter plugin or can’t (like on WordPress.com) head over to TwitterFeed and register the RSS feed from your site. It can check your feed every 30 minutes and post for you a max of 5 tweets at a time. Obviously if you are going to post more then 5 tweets every 30 minutes, you’re going to have to go with a plugin. If you go this route, be sure to select “Description Only” for Post Content under Advanced Settings so you can get around the truncated post title issue. #

Summary #

At the end of the day, while this is certainly better then nothing, there is work to be done. I’ll do some more research and maybe write a plugin or two that makes this a seamless experience. It seems like we’re really close to a solution. #

Friday, February 18, 2011

Giving Up On Web Ownership?

Last year when I was helping organize BarCamp Madison 2011 I was busy getting the website set up. I set up a WordPress site and planned on getting modules installed to handle registrations and session tracking. Before I even got a chance to do anything other members of the group set up an eventbrite event for registrations, a google moderator site set up for session tracking, a google wave set up for organizer communication and there was already a google group for community communication. #

Instead of taking the time to build up value in our web property, they scattered our brand and functionality all over the internet. Have people given up on the concept of web ownership? #

It’s one thing if you’re technologically unsavvy and have no other way to piece together the functionality you need, but these were the Madison tech-elite! Why would they do such a thing? One person actually said something to the extent of “Do people actually have websites anymore?” #

Am I the only person left who thinks it’s a good thing to create a strong web presence? To stake out your own space and build it up? When we were promoting the event where should someone link to? Obviously it should be http://www.barcampmadison.org/ but if someone wanted to link to the registration page they would link to EventBrite and we would lose that link. #

When we have BarCamp this year I hope to be prepared with all the functionality on the BarCamp website. Otherwise will we be able to reuse the registration link from last year or is that tied to the old event? Will we be able to easily clear out the ideas on the old Google Moderator site? #

My girlfriend uses Facebook as her primary form of online communication. Is this any better? I own the domain andrewshell.org and I own my e-mail address at that domain. Right now it’s being hosted by Google, but if I wanted to get off that tomorrow I could set up my own e-mail server, point my e-mail address at the new server and nothing changes. If my girlfriend gets off of facebook what will happen? People will either continue to send her messages on facebook, or if she deletes her account they won’t know how to reach her. #

On the internet it’s important to own your content. Please don’t give away your freedom. Dave Winer has the right idea with his new minimal blogging tool. It’s OK to publish to twitter, it’s just not OK to publish in twitter. #

Related Posts: #

Escaping Corporate Silos With WordPress #

Friday, February 11, 2011

Are you suffering from News Poisoning?

I had an interesting conversation with my friend Monica last night. We talked about information overload and she brought up a term “News Poisoning” which means how you can poison your mind by watching the news. #

What do I mean by poisoning your mind? If you watch the news you may be afraid to leave your house because everything from hotel rooms to movie theaters are infested with bedbugs. My Mom (who watches the news nightly) is afraid that if I go to Mexico I’ll be kidnapped. I also believe that the Tea Party Movement is caused by News Poisoning. #

How much thought do you put into what you allow into your mind? How much are you influenced by what’s available in your community? Dave Winer on returning from Sundance commented on the awful state of news in Park City, UT. #

I’ve been a consumer of RSS feeds for a long time. However last year I declared RSS bankruptcy. I’ve also struggled for a long time knowing that I’m not particularly knowledgeable in world affairs. How do you choose what’s important and how do you make sure the information you’re getting is accurate? I currently get my news in two ways. First I still use Google Reader, to a much lesser extent than before. I only follow 5 blogs and can easily check my feeds once a day max. Secondly, I’ve replaced much of what I used to use Google Reader for with my own River of News. This suits me better because there isn’t an unlimited backlog of posts and there is no status for what has been read or not. I can just visit that page and see what’s new. If I’m busy, I don’t feel compelled to check it at all. I might only read that page once a week. #

I don’t know the answer to this. I realize that I’m not getting a balanced diet of information but I’m not sure I care anymore. It’s more important to me to consume less information because at least then I won’t feel overloaded. If something really important is going on, I’ll hear about it. #

What is your strategy for staying informed? Do you watch the evening news? #

Published by Andrew Shell on and last updated .