Refining My POSSE Setup

Dave Slusher responded yesterday to one of my posts tracking my experiments with implementing a POSSE strategy on my web site. He clarified a couple of things. POSSE actually stands for Post Own Site, Syndicate Everywhere. POSSE as a concept is being advanced by the Indie Web folks. I have been following the Indie Web constellation of ideas, as well. They claim that strategies like POSSE are in some ways an improvement over federation, a concept which as much as I like it has gained little traction. Federation simple means you post wherever you want and your info flows to federated services seamlessly. Email is probably the most popular example of a federated system.

With federation, there still may be barriers that interfere with simple sharing of information. The examples Indie Web give run along the sentiment none of the existing services directly support federation so you have to adopt something new and try to cajole all your existing online connections to do the same. As the short history of the idea has demonstrated, that’s just too much inertia to overcome for all but the early adopter set.

By contrast, implementing a POSSE approach puts your content in front of your friends and followers wherever they happen to be. It concentrates on the ownership of the origins of that content (the Post Own Site part) so that if there is some issue with a particular aggregator on the other end, it limits the impact on your ability to generate and propagate the information and messages you want. Perhaps a fine nuance but one I have been pondering since Dave’s correction.

I am now onto the second day of an ad hoc weekend project to make my existing site (and one new one) drive a POSSE strategy by simply adding to tools I had already been using, primarily WordPress. I think I have things dialed in a bit better and have found some simple solutions to the few workflows I laid out in my last post.

For the link sharing workflow, I realized I was overlooking that I could extend my RSS aggregator, Tiny Tiny RSS. Doing so makes more sense to me since my aggregator is the canonical store of my curation efforts, not my web site. Tiny Tiny RSS supports plugins, as so many tools do, and I found plugins to share directly from it to Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. You can follow my curated links directly out of my aggregator or continue to follow along on Twitter. Up until now, I had only really been sharing links there but I think I will experiment with pushing those links to Facebook and Google+. I will keep an eye on the reaction of my connections on those services and adjust as seems appropriate. Regardless, this workflow should work much better using more of the right tool for the job.

For the workflow of sharing blog posts, I returned pretty much to the typical configuration of SNAP. I restored the templates it suggests for each target service which is pretty much an excerpt and a link. I set these up to auto post anything within the categories I use for blogging, on both my sites.

For the lifestream workflow (thanks Chris Miller for reminding me of this term) I re-thought my approach. I like the idea of posts to a specific category being handled a little differently but tweaked that to try to make it a little more intuitive. I still withhold life stream posts from my main page and my feed, as I figure these introduce a bit more noise so should require a little more intent and action beyond just visiting my site. If you navigate into my archives or view the life stream category itself, you can now see these intermingled with the rest of my posts and all on their own, respectively.

That left cracking the length constrained vs. free form content problem. I didn’t want to be editing sharing templates post by post, that is a retrograde action, introducing more work rather than simplifying. I had the idea of adding a second config for each of the social services I use. Each new setup would have a template more appropriate for direct posting, that is just the contents of the post on my site without any link back or other extra information. SNAP’s free edition doesn’t allow adding the same social service more than once, however they are running a sale on the pro edition right now. For just under fifty bucks a year you get both the pro upgrade and support for Google+. I went ahead and bought the upgrade, figuring it was cheap enough over the course of a year and if it worked, would be well worth the monetary cost.

So in my SNAP settings as an example I have two entries for Twitter. The first uses the blog post template, the second a template that just shares the text of a post on my site. The first autoposts anything I publish to the usual categories for my blog. The second only autoposts when I publish to one of three life stream categories.

The last piece of the puzzle, at least for now, is that I have gone from one life stream category for everything to three. I kept the existing category so that I can write a short post and simply have it go everywhere. I added one for long form content and added it in SNAP only to those services that don’t have length constraints, like Facebook and Google+. The third category is for short form posts for, you guessed it, Twitter which has its character cap. If I have a longer message I want to share everywhere, I can write it once, adding it to the long form category. Then I can chunk it up and post it as a series of length appropriate entries to the short form category. Tying this all to autoposting to remote services and sites means that if I only have my phone, everything will still work simply by using the right category in the WordPress mobile client. This is critical since up until now, a lot of what I post on the various social services I post from my phone.

The view of my life stream category on my own sites may at times appear a little repetitive. That original category contains the other two, but it is closer to what I think is ideal. Hopefully that makes sense. Or if it doesn’t, trust that it makes sense to me. Or just visit my web site and explore for a bit. At least I think this will all work for right now. It is good enough for a weekend of noodling around, anyway. I will continue to tinker, sharing updates as I come up with improvements or interesting possibilities.

Details on Current POSSE Setup

This post should only go to those places that support content of unlimited length. This will test some of my latest setup changes as well as share some insights into my current thinking in advance of a more fleshed out blog post. Basically, I popped for the pro upgrade for SNAP which lets me add more than one account per service. I add the same account a second time for each but configure each copy of the service a bit differently. One I configure to autopost anything in my usual blog categories with a template that includes an excerpt and a link. That mirrors a pretty typical setup of autoposting with a lot of common tools. The second copy of the service I configured to only autopost from specific categories I created for social sharing. The template I set on those pushes the full text of my post, without a link, so the result looks like I posted directly myself. I have auto-import configured for both copies of each service so all the social activity gets captured back to this my sites. For those special categories, I exclude them from my own feeds since they will be noisier, as well as my main page but they are visible in my site archives and if you view the respective categories directly. I set up three as follows: Life Stream to autopost everywhere which is useful for shorter updates, Short Form for when I want something to only got to Twitter like breaking up a longer update into multiple parts, and Long Form for when I want something to go out as is without worrying about length constraints (like this post.) I feel those latter two will let me write longer updates for appropriate syndication then re-write into multiple shorter updates if desired for the rest.