I had an idea on December 19, 2013. I wanted an easier way to use icon-based fonts in Bootstrap & Font Awesome.
Today, Feb 6th 2014, I launched that idea into a little business. It’s called Bootstrap Cheat Sheets.
It took 49 days.
That’s why I love the internet.

These days, I run a site called Reckoner. When we write articles, I want them to be posted to the Reckoner Twitter account and Reckoner Facebook page.

Reckoner runs on Wordpress, so we need to do some scouting on social broadcasting plugins.

A tiny bit of background; we usually write 3 kinds of posts:

  • Features (long-form pieces, like this)
  • Linked list posts (shorter, commentary-style posts, like this)
  • Podcast episodes (our podcast! You’re a listener, right?)

So, you’d naturally grab a Wordpress plugin that auto-posts to Facebook and Twitter, specify a post format like [title]: [url], hook up the accounts and call it a day, right?

Naw. That is mad lazy, homeslice.

The Reckoner Twitter account functions more or less as an RSS-style feed, so most tweets simply show the headline. but there need to be a few customisations.

Take this tweet for example from the early days of the site:

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OK, this is probably not a podcast, but is it a feature, or a linked list post? There’s no way to tell.

This tweet needs a way to indicate if this is a linked list or feature. Lots of people check twitter on their phones, so it’s a good experience if they know they’ll be looking at a short quip, or an epic novel before tapping on a link.

So, linked list posts now look like this:

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…and features look like this:

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…so far, so good.

The third type of tweet is a podcast. This is tricky because not only do we want to prefix the title with ‘Podcast: ‘, we also want to be able to tag the guests who have been on the show with their twitter handles.

So, not only do we need the tweets to automatically switch based on what type they are, we also need a manual override where the author can write whatever they like; guest names, twitter handles or sponsor names. 

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(this isn’t completely correct either; it should be prefixed by ‘Podcast: ’ but you get the idea)

Facebook is a completely different beast altogether. Because it auto-adds the title, image & excerpt from the linked URL, repeating the title in the status post is a bad idea. It just looks like duplication.

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So with Facebook, you really need a manual override, so you can craft your own little unique post along with the shared URL. Something like this:

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So, what’s a social broadcasting tool that works with Wordpress, that can tee up these posts for you?

The short answer is none.

The closest thing I could find is Social, a Wordpress plugin by Mailchimp.

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Social is a plugin designed for two things:

  • broadcasting posts to Twitter & Facebook
  • pulling in comments from Facebook and Twitter in reply to your broadcasts that display on your site. It’s essentially an entire comment replacement system for Wordpress.

I have no interest in the second part (we use Disqus for comments), but I do think the first bit has potential. They’ve crafted a nice ‘broadcast’ sheet that appears when you pull the trigger on making a post live. It looks like this:

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From here, you can see all the networks and accounts you can post to, as well as checkboxes to switch each on or off, as well as the ability to edit.

So, what’s the downside? Well, there’s no real flexibility for altering a post title based on what kind of post it is. The Social settings page looks like this.

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Not very useful.

Of course, you’re thinking, you can just add the extra stuff you want in manually. No big deal, right?

Hell no. You think I’m going to go hunting for the damn forward arrow every damn post I make? That would suck. Also, I will forget the formatting rules, or other writers will forget…nah.

It needs to be automatic.

So, how do you customize the Social plugin to add the extra bits you want? Well, you’ve got to dive into editing the plugin directly.

Once you’ve installed Social, you can find the whole plugin at: 

[wordpress site]/wp-content/plugins/social

The bit you want to modify is this file: [wordpress site]/wp-content/plugins/social/lib/social/service.php.

Open that bad boy up.

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(yeah, I use Dreamweaver. Don’t judge me)

Once you’ve opened that file, find this function:

public function format_content($post, $format) {

That’s the part of Social that controls how posts are formatted. From here, you can add in your own if/then/else statements to control what’s prefixed to the title.

Find the switch ($token) statement and follow it down. It’s the thing that’s generating the tokens listed above in the Social settings page. I want to change the title token, so find the case statement

case ‘{title}’:

You can use basically any Wordpress function reference to test against, but the one I wanted was in_category()

Here’s mine:

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case ‘{title}’:

//Reckoner-specific add-ons//

if ( in_category(‘Features’, $post) ) {

    $content = htmlspecialchars_decode(‘Feature: ‘.$post->post_title);

} elseif ( in_category(‘Podcast’, $post) ) {

$content = htmlspecialchars_decode(‘Podcast: ‘.$post->post_title);

} elseif ( in_category(‘Linked List’, $post) ) {

$content = htmlspecialchars_decode(‘→ ‘.$post->post_title);

} else {

//End Reckoner-specific add-ons//

$content = htmlspecialchars_decode($post->post_title);

}

break;

Once I did that, I saved it back to the server, and gave it a go. So if my post’s category in Wordpress looks like this:

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My broadcast sheet now looks like this:

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If I change the post to the feature category, it changes to this:

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Hooray!

The only downside I can see is that if a post has multiple categories, it will trip down that if/else statement and may end up with the wrong prefix. We don’t use multiple categories at Reckoner though, so I think we’ll be just fine.

If I had any advice to give? Don’t half-arse your social broadcasting. It’s lazy and it shows people you really don’t care.

Either do it completely manually with a real person crafting the posts (a totally legitimate option), or take the time to build a solution that gives you some formatting consistency, but also a place to add those personal touches.

Kanye West, interviewed by the New York Times:

Does it take you less time to get dressed now than it did five years ago?

Hell, yeah.

You look at your outfits from five or seven years ago, and it’s like 

Yeah, kill self. That’s all I have to say. Kill self.

It’s entirely likely this was just a superficial off-the-cuff remark by Kanye West, and it floats by in a sea of other crazy stuff he said in this interview.

But I can’t stop thinking about it.

The most interesting people I know are always kill-self mode. Building stuff up, tearing it down, starting again. Always moving, shifting, reshaping.

They might look back, maybe cringe a little at what they did in the past, but they keep going.

Kill self. As far as life mottos go, that’s not a bad one.

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“In five years I don’t think there’ll be a reason to have a tablet anymore.”

- Thorsten Heins, Blackberry CEO talking to Bloomberg (April 30, 2013)

Alicia Keys

"I love the fact that we can introduce different cultures, different stories and different music to a child’s world through this app."

- Alicia Keys, Blackberry Creative Director on releasing her iPhone/iPad app for kids (26 October, 2012)

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Game of Thrones Season 3 began airing two days ago. Since then, a variety of news sources have reported that Australia still punches far above its weight for piracy.

Many US tech journalists have explained this fact away by citing “long waiting times” as the culprit in Australia. While that was true in the past, this time is different.

In Australia, there is two ways to get to a legal copy of Game of Thrones: Foxtel & iTunes.

Foxtel aired the episode on Showcase a mere two hours after the US premiere at 4:20pm, and again at 8:35pm in TV primetime, for a total of 224,000 people over the 4 airings of the show (including the re-runs two hours later on the Showcase +2 channel). Granted, not everyone adds Showcase to their Foxtel subscription, but our US counterparts don’t all have HBO either.

iTunes has the show available 2 days later than the US airing (still far too late if you’re a hardcore fan, but improving) in a HD season pass download for $34.

So, I’d argue even though the iTunes download was a little late, it was not a significant wait, nor was it impossible to get to the show legally if you really wanted to. We may even have it slightly easier than the US, because they don’t have the iTunes option available.

Renai LeMay from Delimiter had this to say about the situation:

Australians have been arguing for most of the past decade that high rates of local piracy were due to the fact that we simply couldn’t get the same content as easily and quickly as US residents could. It’s fascinating to me that we continue to pirate Game of Thrones at a record rate, despite the fact that the content companies have clearly listened to these complaints and have tried to rectify them with legal alternatives. What does this say about ourselves? That we want Game of Thrones for free no matter how much it cost the creators of the show to make it? This bears a great deal of thought.

I have a theory about this. For years, people in Australia have been pirating shows. Good show coming out in the US? Better hit the torrents! We knew the US TV schedules better than we knew our own!

Content providers dragged their feet for too long, and ‘hit the torrents’ became the default viewing behaviour for people in Australia who want to watch quality television.

So now there are legal alternatives available. Well, who cares? A typical viewer will now just say “well, what I’ve done for the last few years still works, so I’ll just keep doing that.”

Default behaviours are hard to change. Really really hard. It takes time, effort & money.

The real question in my mind is; is Australia a lost cause for legal TV content? Will Aussie viewers ever come back to paid content?

Something related to leave you with: SBS2 just relaunched this week with content aimed at the thinking 30s market. It’s struggling. Where exactly do you think those people are getting their content?