Microblogging with Mastodon: Posting Automatically to My WordPress Site

When the Humanities Commons team started to spin up hcommons.social I started to wonder if this platform would be a way to conduct my microblogging activities in a space that might have a better distribution network, allowing my work to be more visible.  The more open, federated nature of the platforms like this that make use of ActivityPub might be the future of a robust digital scholarly presence, I started to think a little bit more about how making use of the platform could help to amplify my scholarship a bit more by increasing my reach and engaging a broader audience. The Hometown fork of Mastodon is what sealed the deal for me in thinking about how it could function as a microblogging platform in the ways I had been thinking. Specifically, the note on their GitHub site that “Hometown is microblogging for writing, but its goal is to accept many content types for reading” really resonated with me and I started wondering if it could feed these smaller posts from hcommons.social into my portfolio site on Humanities Commons.

My initial thinking was starting with how to do more of a back-end integration of my Mastodon posts into WordPress, not for any particular reason than I was assuming it would be necessary. As I searched for examples of others doing this, I could only find conversations about how great that would be and mostly many many posts from people about how to just feed their Mastodon posts onto a single page or a widget area of their WordPress site. Effectively making use of Mastodon as a Twitter replacement rather than what I was looking to do by making it into a microblogging platform.

After much thinking and searching, I reached out to Jim Groom, figuring that if anybody knew about a Mastodon to WordPress connection it would be him. Jim’s response was to think about using the RSS feed from my Mastodon and then one of the WordPress plugins that could use the RSS feed to create posts. A brilliant idea and much, much simpler than trying to code any number of new plugins or modifications to the Mastodon or WordPress infrastructure. 

How does it work?

There are two ways to connect my Mastodon RSS feed to WordPress – to an individual WordPress instance, and also to a site on Humanities Commons. I wanted to get both working as a way to understand the pros and cons of different setups, but also because my portfolio site resides on the Commons and if I couldn’t use it there I might need to think about other options. Both of them are using different plug-ins at the moment and they offer different options or opportunities or something like that.

Individual WordPress Connection

I found that there are several post plugins for WordPress that will translate RSS feed items into a post for you. Most of these are made to allow for sites that are content aggregators or bot-driven sites, but their functionality is what I needed.

The one that worked quickly and painlessly for me was WPeMatico. It allows me to both post directly and immediately when it tracks my feed, or I can have any of my posts on the feed become drafts where I can edit them some before they go up as a published post. The configuration was pretty straightforward, install the plugin on your WordPress site, provide your Mastodon RSS link and then configure it to either post immediately or to create a draft, etc. There are many more configurations that one could do, but in this case, I was more interested in moving on to see what I could do with my site on the Commons.

Humanities Commons Connection

On Humanities Commons we don’t currently have that plug-in available, but in looking through our available plugins I realized that PressForward would probably work in a very similar way. PressForward is an editorial tool for WordPress that “is designed for bloggers and editorial teams who wish to collect, discuss, and share content from a variety of sources on the open web.” In this case, it facilitates the collection and sharing of my individual feed, though one could easily imagine it being used to facilitate collecting and posting work from a broader community group or team of individuals. 

The biggest difference with PressForward is that there is an extra step, once it picks up the RSS feed you have to go into the admin area of the site and move it to a draft post and then publish it. The reason for this is that because PressForward is designed as a tool to support an editorial process, you need to have your own mini-process for editorial work in order to post it. 

To set it up go into your site on the Commons and enable the PressForward plugin. Once it’s enabled you can add your RSS link to the “add feeds” area in order to get it connected. If you go to the “subscribed feeds” area you can refresh the feed and then go back to the main plugin page and you should see some of the posts from your Mastodon account. From there you can use the “amplify” button (the little bullhorn) to send the post to a draft, then go to your posts and you should be able to work with it and publish when you are ready.

Some Further Notes

In writing up this post I realized that I quite quickly moved beyond the 1000 characters that hcommons.social allows me to write. The 1000 characters are quite nice for a longer post than the typical tweet style length, but still a short post. Realizing this shifted my thinking a bit for the times when I’m writing something that is longer-form (e.g. this post). In order to work through this I’m thinking one may need to start writing an abstract that functions as the initial mastodon post, but then when in draft mode in WordPress fill in the remaining text past the 1000-character limit. 

Groups/Teams all using Mastodon individually might want to look at using PressForward on the Commons as a way to populate their group websites. I could imagine a developer team or scholarly research group using PressForward as a way of pulling together all of their Mastodon posts into one spot where they can publish and archive them on the WordPress site for their group.

I’d love to continue the conversation with others interested in this, feel free to message me at @schopie1@hcommons.social

Original Mastodon Post

For years I’ve used a Known instance to microblog. I loved using it to record thoughts, get feedback, etc. before posting more broadly. Being a separate system that isn’t well tied into my portfolio site and broader network of distribution, it ended up being a collection of things that were largely undiscoverable and which could have easily just been a collection of unlinked writings across multiple platforms.

Hcommons.social offered an opportunity to switch up my work and use posts here as a way to do this work, with PressForward facilitating the connection. Connecting my Mastodon account and my Humanities Commons portfolio site gives me an integrated solution to support and amplify my scholarship. I can use this space to microblog and have it archive and store posts where I can expand them and/or just keep all of my scholarship in my portfolio.

Read more at http://ww.schopie1.com/

Source: Dec 05, 2022, 17:30