Initial Impressions of a POSSE Setup

I’ve only been playing with SNAP, a WordPress plugin, a few hours, but have some initial thoughts.

NAND Cat Has a Posse, used under CC-BY thanks to Flickr user Paul Downer

NAND Cat Has a Posse, used under CC-BY thanks to Flickr user Paul Downey

I started down this path thanks to Dave Slusher who wrote about POSSE which stands for Post to Own Site, Share Everywhere. I like this concept a great deal. Investing the typical time more and more folks do in communications and information only to have that effort evaporate at the whim or circumstance of the platform, tool or channel of the moment seems very foolish to me. I had been experimenting with Bridgy but still manually sharing all of my posts and posting shorter thoughts directly to all these sharing outlets like Twitter and Facebook.

I stood up a second site for another set of interests of mine. Doubling my existing workflow was not appealing in the slightest. I decided to take the plunge with the WordPress plugin, SNAP, that Dave mentions. For the most part, I really like it. With a little fine tuning, content showing up on sharing networks looks native but cleanly and clearly originates from my site. I will warn that this is a power tool, which affects the effort to set up and how smoothly it supports more than one workflow.

In terms of the installation, just getting it into WordPress is easy enough. Connecting it to other services may require a good deal more effort. I have only connected Twitter and Facebook so far as Google+ requires some additional bits. For both Twitter and Facebook, I had to sign up as a developer and essentially create new applications with each of those for each of my sites. The SNAP documentation for this is superb but this may be outside a lot of people’s comfort zone.

For the primary workflow of simply sharing regular blog posts, SNAP is great. You can configure templates for messages to each with some pretty clear replacement parameters (although finding the list from the plugin is pretty much impossible, I bookmarked their documentation page.) Unlike other tools I had tried previously, messages can be tailored so they look native to the sites on which they appear. This is a huge plus as the current crop of popular sharing sites increasingly penalize anything coming in that doesn’t smoothly fit into their design, flow and expectations. Mismatched updates often get down ranked, defeating the point of sharing everywhere.

I have two other workflows I am still working on. The first is simply using my site, as Dave discusses, as the source for my usual social updates. I have a couple of plugins I use, as he suggests, to have a hidden category for purely social content on my site. Posting to those then only shows on the intended target and if someone follows a link back I provide. Unfortunately, the differences in content size limits makes this a bit clunky. WordPress supports one or two ways to break up content and SNAP can take advantage of those. But if I want a long update on services that support that chunked into three or more shorter updates, there is no good support for that. I am contemplating going back to what I was doing, but doing it via my own site–writing one long post then just simply copying that out into several shorter messages, massaged to work better on services with tighter limits.

If SNAP would add a character count to WordPress, for starters, then introduce a way to add markers that are invisible on my site but SNAP uses to break up posts into smaller pieces, as needed, that would be splendid. I haven’t looked to see if their Pro version does this or it is on their roadmap. I also haven’t looked to see if they have a robust way to suggest features. I have, after all, been using it less than a day. I will give them the benefit, continuing to investigate and push even if I have to fall back on some manual labor in the meantime.

The other workflow I use is Twitter specific, for sharing links out of my RSS aggregator. Usually I simply compose a tweet with the title of an article, its link, a via if warranted and then in any space left a comment. Predicting how SNAP will mangle such a post if composed in WordPress is proving difficult as it isn’t leveraging Twitter’s own URL shortener or offering its own. Again, the lack of character counting on posts is frustrating, I feel like using WordPress/SNAP for this is a bit like aiming blind. I am less concerned for this workflow since my aggregator is my canonical source for link curation and has its own way to share a feed of what I have shared, with my comments attached.

I have only just started using SNAP’s own comment import. Dave recommended Bridgy over this feature but that service doesn’t appear to support more than one site per sharing service, a use case I now inhabit. Also, it has always bugged me that it was a service rather than a tool I could host and run myself. I did like that Bridgy used an emerging, open standard, web mentions, so I may look for a third option that has the best of both. I’ll share more thoughts as I have more experience with the import feature.


More About VMWare’s CloudFoundry

Andy Oram at O’Reilly Radar does a much better job of explaining not only what the announcement of CloudFoundry is about, but fills in some critical background. I clearly have been thinking that infrastructure as a service is interchangeable with platform as a service. OpenStack, which I mentioned, falls into the infrastructure space providing

an emulation of bare metal where you run an appliance (which you may need to build up yourself) combining an operating system, application, and related services such as DNS, firewall, and a database.

VMWare’s existing offers already fit into this space as does AWS. As he points out, the platform space is far less standardized, so CloudFoundry could help catalyze better portability between providers who offer support for different frameworks, like some of the ones mentioned in the announcement (e.g. Spring, Node.js).

CloudFoundry is not directly comparable to the minimal emulation offerings from the likes of OpenStack and Amazon but rather is more comparable to Google App Engine though apparently more committed to offering frameworks as is rather than versions tweaked to work with unusual or non-standard components, like Google’s Big Table. The promise in supporting existing components as is lies in fostering the same sort of portability that has been improving in the infrastructure space.

Oram’s piece doesn’t clarify where and how CloudFoundry will be open beyond offering support on day one for any number of open source platform pieces. All the same, if you’ve been struggling to make sense of the not entirely clear terminology, his post is well worth a read.

What VMware’s Cloud Foundry announcement is about, O’Reilly Radar

Google’s Open Manifesto

Jonathan Rosenberg, SVP of Product Management at Google, shared an email that he sent around at the search giant the purpose of which he explains is to clarify goals around open technology and open data.

This actually reads like a white paper with some pretty credible citations. Not surprising if it is indeed meant to be a clear and consistent resource for guiding internal teams on decisions around this espoused core value of openness.

I generally think Rosenberg is more right than not on the open technology front. His rhetoric resonates with a lot I have been seeing from other thinkers on the subject of open or unencumbered systems. I certainly agree with the potential for creating markets and spurring innovation. I don’t entirely concede that embracing all things open forces Google to be far more innovative than its competitors. I think many cases can be made where Google projects and products have succumbed to their own inertia and only seen the incremental improvements Rosenberg wants to lay exclusively at the feet of closed systems.

However, I’ll grant that my view probably has more to do with Google’s nature more as a loosely joined confederation of products, projects and services. I am willing to concede that there may be a correlation between a specific groups adoption of the value of open and its rate of innovation. As such, that part of Rosenberg’s reasoning may have more to do with desired outcome than any sort of uniform reality across the search giant.

Also note that he leaves the company an out where it chooses not to open up products or services. It’s a neat inverse of the economic argument for open source, namely that where the marginal cost of production for competitors and/or the switching cost for the consumer is already low, then a closed system is just fine. I am concerned that may be a bit of a rhetorical trap that Google could trot out and snap shut as needed where its experiments in openness yield lack luster results. That could just be the voice of my inner cynic.

Credit should be given to Rosenberg for admitting that on the question of open data, Google hasn’t made as much progress as it has on technology. His response to that gap, explaining three guiding values–value, transparency, and control–is tantalizing. The examples he cites about historical changes in commercial exchanges are telling, especially his mention of bullae, or seals, as an enabler for long distance commerce. His discussion of user control would seem to dovetail with that but I think it is just as telling that he chose to lead off with the discussion of value. I take it as a reminder that Google is always going to seek our personal data.

They may offer interesting and even valuable services for it, but at the end of the day this is always going to be a source of tension in their efforts to increase their own transparency and to provide better control to users. If Google really can balance user control well in the equation, especially against that time and space warping pull of valuable personal data, then I’d give them fair odds of living up to the vision Rosenberg is clearly trying to sell.

I would give them better odds if they invested some of that open technology love in tools and standards that allowed users to keep their personal data on a third party service and more closely audit Google’s usage after data has been exchanged. I would love to see even a small fraction of the computer science brain trust there invested in open identity and open trust systems. It seems like a long time since we’ve seen any promising developments. I think if anyone could crack the nut of some sort of transactional privacy, it would be one of the staggeringly intelligent academics Google has sequestered.

As manifestos go, this one is well written and well argued. As ever with Google, though, the proof is in how they act. If they live up to these grand principles better than they have in the past, then we do indeed stand to benefit. The problem is that there is very little risk in Rosenberg sharing this vision. Especially on the privacy front, Google is already taking a bit of a drubbing in public opinion. If they fail to improve, who is going to be surprised? So why not share this message?

I’ll give the benefit of the doubt, here, but with the understanding that Rosenberg has also given us a fair yardstick against which we can now measure Google’s future actions. Hopefully enough folks will do so that perhaps if Google continues to struggle, user push back will finally start to be felt and even make a difference. Stranger things have happened (like Mozilla endorsing Microsoft’s Bing for its relatively better privacy policy).