I just spent Saturday and half of Sunday at WordCamp Edinburgh 2017. This is only my third WordCamp, but I though it might be worth typing up a few impressions.

The camp was very nicely organised, ran to time, had good food, the venue was great. Minimal friction for attendees.

The vibe was quite like a TeachMeet although most of the presentations were an hour long and a bit more formal. I guess Wordcamp like TM has its roots in Bar Camp? Compared to a TeachMeet the sponsored were more visible and more part of the community. This felt fine as I guess most of the attendees were professional working alongside the sponsors. (I am not a fan of the over sponsorship of TeachMeets)

The talks were very varied, some technical, some business related. All the ones I went to were informative and enjoyable. There seemed to be a strong strand about using WordPress for the good, democracy and social change.

Social Good

Two of the keynotes were to do with this idea of social good. The opening one on day one was by Leah Lockhart, who talked about helping community groups and local politicians to communicate. I felt there were a lot in common with eduction. Schools have embraced online communication in the same sort of way, veering towards twitter ( probably less Facebook that community groups) as an easy way to get messages out. In the same way they lose control of their information and its organisation. Leah spoke of the way WordPress could give you a better long term result.

Leah also explained that it is hard for community groups to be able to design how their information gets out. I think we are at the point where WordPress is easy enough to use the difficulty comes in using it in a strategic way that maximises its potential. I’ve got a fair bit of experience in helping schools use WordPress in a practical sense and there is plenty of online help for that. There is a gap to be filled in the preparation and planning. If this is solved for community groups it might be easy to repurpose the information and processes for education.

Bridget Hamilton spoke of Using WordPress to create social change. Her story of her site Verbal Remedy was inspirational. A blog provide effective communication without much in the way of backing.

Technical

I went to a few of the more technical talks.

Mark Wilkinson spoke of ‘a deep understanding of actions and filters’. Since I mess around with code in WordPress at a very basic level this was a really useful talk for me. It was just pitched at the right level. I’ve used these with only a basic understanding. I think Mark got me to the point I could being to understand things a lot better the next time I dip in. Mark’s Slides

Tom Nowell spoke about the WordPress Rest API for beginners, he meant beginners with the API not generally. I held on by the skin of my teeth. Luckily I follow Tom Woodward and had played with the API in a much simpler way than either Tom documented. Yesterday I added a wee bit to my homepage to pull in the last status from my blog! Tom’s Slides

Twitter vs Blogs

Franz Vitulli talked about aspects of the pull between Social media and blogging it was good to hear another view of the area I’ve been reading and thinking about from an indieweb point of view.

Progressive Enhancement

Ben Usher Smith gave this talk, at first I thought it was a bit out of my wheelhouse, but it became apparent that the process of progressive enhancement can be applied to any sort of enterprise. I hope to be more aware of this when planning for my class next session. Ben’s post Progressive enhancement — More than just works without JavaScript on medium.

Even More…

I went to a few other talks all of which I enjoyed. Even the ones I though I was choosing almost at random had something interesting to them. Often it was in thinking about how the ideas or principles fitted into my world.

I took notes during the talks using Little Outliner 2, this meant I could publish as I went along: Notes from #wcedin. I am really liking using an outliner for this process, although I don’t think an iPad was as good as a laptop would have been. There are a few different links and thoughts there.

After I got back I feed the twitter hash tag into Tags, Martin Hawksey’s tool. This gives me TAGSExplorer: Interactive archive of twitter conversations from a Google Spreadsheet for #wcedin .

I probably missed a few opportunities to talk to folk, I found myself feeling a bit less social than I do in my TeachMeet comfort zone. But the atmosphere was very relaxed and inclusive. I’d recommend educators with an interest in blogging to join in if there is a Wordcamp near them.

I just updated my blog to the latest version of WordPress.

All seemed fine until I had a look at the site. Some of my menus had went a little weird.

Quite a few of the titles had changed to ellipses! I went into the dashboard and changed them back, my changes didn’t stick. I presumed that it must have been the upgrade. I had no idea where to start so shot off a quick tweet for help.

After dinner I calmed down a little and though about the changes to my blog I’d made recently for mico blogging. One of those was to give posts without a title titles on wp_insert_post_data. It uses ellipse! This was meant for posts arriving from the micro.blog app. They would get titles set when they arrived on my blog, to prevent ugliness in he dashboard.


function modify_post_title($data)
{
    if ($data[ 'post_title' ] == ''  ) {
        //wp_filter_nohtml_kses strips html and then I replace   
        $title = str_replace( " " , " " , substr( wp_filter_nohtml_kses( $data[ 'post_content' ] ) , 0, 60 ) ) . "..." ;
        $data['post_title'] =  $title ;
    }
    return $data; // Returns the modified data.
} 

so I’ve changed the if to:
if ($data[ 'post_title' ] == '' && $data[ 'post_type' ] == 'post' )

Which seems to have solved the problem and taught me a lesson.

I signed up for the kickstarter of micro.blog, it went live earlier this week.

Micro.blog is a new social network for independent microblogs.
Start a microblog today. Easy to publish, own your content, great cross-posting.

Micro.blog

The service is very new and so far has changed and developed every day.

The idea is, you publish short posts, these are mirrored on micro.blog/yourusername via RSS. The posts can be from any RSS feed. You can get a micro.blog hosted blog at yourusername.micro.blog or use your own hosting.

The micro.blog iOS app will post to your micro.blog blog or your own WordPress blog. Or you can use your own system. There is a microblog bot that will post your posts on to Twitter too.

The difference between the hosted blog and your micro.blog/username stream is a mite confusing at the moment. I wonder if a different domain name might have helped.

Both the hosted blog and the twitter bot are paid for options. The docs make it clear that you can host your own and point to IFTTT as an alternative to the bot.

The system follows the indieweb principle of controlling your own content and sending it on to other spaces.

Replies on micro.blog to your posts are sent as webmentions to your own blog and show up as comments if you have the webmention plugin installed. I had that already to get twitter replies as comments.

My setup

I’ve added a new category here, micro. I’ve edited the blog to not have posts with this category show on the home page, they show on micro instead.

I set the micro.blog app to create posts with the status format in the micro category.

I turned off the jetpack social posting to Twitter function. I’ll manually post normal posts. I’ve set up a micro.blog bot to post to Twitter.

The service is very much a work in progress, and I’ve not really read the docs but I’ve noticed a few interesting things.

titleless

On is that the posts on micro.blog consist of descriptions with no titles. When you post form the app, you get a post on your blog without a title. A post with a title on your blog is posted as a link to micro.blog. With a post without out a title the description becomes the content of the micro.blog post.

That means you get lots of posts listed in your dashboard as ‘no title’. Since I didn’t like this I tried to auto add titles to posts without titles with a little Google-fu and some WordPress coding.

This worked out fine, except the posts on micro.blog consist of a title and a link, the tweet posted by the twitter bot is the same.

I am now looking to create a custom RSS feed without title. More googling ahead.

Alternatively I could use the code from Tweaks for micro.blog that adds dates as titles, micro.blog ignore these.

Or just learn to live with ‘no title’ posts in the dashboard.

Me on Micro.blog

Preparing for the microblog is a lot more coherent than this post if you are looking for setup advice.

I’ll post the code I’ve mentioned above at some point, it is pretty simple stuff.

This is hopefully a useful tip for organising pupil created content on WordPress blogs like Glow Blogs.

Most of the content posed to blogs consists of posts or pages. Posts join the stream, pages are static generally accessed from menus.

This is another way to organise content that can be useful. Especially if several pupils are posting similar content at the same time. It helps organise that content and the early posters don’t get pushed away down the stream.

An Example Banton Birds

At school we are trying to pay attention to the local birdlife. We took part in the BIG BBC Bird watch with local Bird watchers, Mr & Mrs Carter. We started feeding the birds and trying to get some photos.

The pupils are doing a bit of research on the birds we saw (not too many it was a windy hour) and I hope they will continue over time adding other birds seen in the playground and around.

I want to organise these bits of research automatically collecting them together. To do this the pupils create, not posts or pages but a custom post type, project.

How it is done

This is just one way to do this but it is, at least on Glow Blogs, the most straightforward. It uses the JetPack Custom Content Types module and the unfortunately 1 named Portfolio Projects.

These projects are like pages in that they are out of the flow but like posts have Project Types (like categories) and Project Tags (like tags) that can be used to organise them. The also have a shortcode that can be used to create an index of the projects by type or tag2.

  1. Activate the Jetpack plugin.
  2. In Jetpack Settings Activate Custom Content Types.
  3. In Settings-> Writing Enable Portfolio Projects for this site
  4. Pupils create Projects for each item, add a project type (in this case Birds).

To create an index of these projects I add a page Banton Birds and add a shortcode to the page:

[portfolio include_type=birds display_types=false]

To make the index more visual the pupils make sure they have added a featured image to their posts. That automatically creates a thumbnail.

I’ve used this technique several times on blogs myself, including the Projects page on this blog. I’ve used it too to provide and organise photos and links on the Biggies blog for the pupils.

1. For Glow Blogs where we have a lot of pupil e-portfolios through a custom plugin.

2. You could do the same with pages using the hierarchy and the Display Posts Shortcode plugin, but not as easily.

A little blue sky thinking, or borrowing some ideas from @davewiner & @mrkrndvs

I wonder if a WordPress plugin could ape pngWriter and create images for twitter cards with the text from the excerpt on the image used by twitter.
Like this, but with less fireworks.

I’ve been thinking about twitter again.

I think I’d have preferred twitter to be just text rather than being expanded to include all the media and ‘twitter cards’. I’d rather the reading flow would be twitter for short stuff and link to more visual or longer material out on your blog. That would perhaps make reading a little deeper and avoid the problem of folk just seeing the main point of an article and reacting to that 1.

But that cat left the bag a while ago. Now when I look at my twitter stream it is full of images. I occasionally use OneShot to grab and crop out interesting bits of text to share and surmount the 140 char limitation too.

I am not sure if this is a great idea

Recently I’ve watched Dave Winer experimenting with pngWriter (see the about page: About pngWriter). This creates images of blocks of text and sends them out in a tweet. It also creates an RSS feed of the text (pngWriter is not open for use at the moment).

This reminded me of how Aaron uses featured images in his blog: Creative Commons Starts with Making – A Reflection on Creating and Sharing – Read Write Respond

So I am kicking round a couple of ideas.

  1. If you used pngWriter you could pull the rss into your blog. You could do it in WordPress with the FeedWordPress plugin.
  2. A plugin could be made that would do the same sort of thing in WordPress, take the except text from a post and make an image for twitter from that.

Here is how I imagine that working

  1. Using an html5 canvas to automatically create an image of the post’s excerpt.
  2. Auto upload that to WordPress media library.
  3. Make it the featured image of the post

Alternatively (better?) make it the content of the twitter:image metatag for the post, that means that the featured image on the post would not have the text, visitors could read the post.

Or make a copy of the posts featured image, add the text and make that the twitter card image (I can imagine that might be different to get the text readable.).

For a couple of minutes I imagined that my babysteps php & JavaScript could put something like this together. Then reality kicked in. So I though I’d post it out here maybe someone else would think it would be a good idea.