Posting to WordPress from Onfolio

After spending years doing all of my blogging from Radio Userland, I have slowly migrated to more current tools. I’m really sad about this, as Radio Userland is a very powerful tool. It has taken me a while to recover, and I am still not able to do all things blogging that I was able to do with Radio.

One of the powerful features was the blog aggregator. I really like to read my feeds as a “newspaper” view, with all of the posts in a time ordered list down the page. What made this even better was that when I want to blog about something that I just read, I would then click a “post” button and Radio would take me to a page where I could author a post, and the contents of what I was just reading would already be included in the bod of the post. So with this combination, it made it very easy to read thousands of posts per day, and blog about the ones that I found interesting.

Moving to WordPress has been a great experience, however I wanted to find my solution for an aggregator … a new reader to allow me to efficiently read and blog like I had done with Radio. Craig Burton told me about Onfolio, and I went and grabbed a copy to check out. Onfolio is a nice plug-in to the Microsoft Windows Live Toolbar for IE. The more that I started to play with Onfolio (and I’m not even using a lot of it’s research tool features!) I really found that I like it’s aggregator and blog reading capabilities … even more than Radio. I’m now back in the mode of reading hundreds and thousands of post per day … easily. The one thing that was missing was the ability to blog about a post that I was reading. Now Onfolio has the feature … but when configuring it in the preferences dialog, there is no option to “Blog to WordPress” from Onfolio. I did see that they had an option labeled “Custom Command Line” however until last night I wasn’t sure how this might help me.

I now have a solution … and here is how to use Onfolio to post to your WordPress blog:

  1. In Onfolio, go to the Preferences dialog, Blogging options.
  2. Set the Blog Provider to be “Custom Command Line”
  3. In the field provided, for the file and path to your blogging client, enter the following “command line”:

    http://{your_blog_host_name}/wp-admin/post.php?text=$ITEM_HTML$ &popupurl=$ITEM_URL$&popuptitle=$ITEM_TITLE$&onfolio=1

  4. Replace the {your_blog_host_name} with the actual host name of your blog.
  5. Make sure this is all included on the one line with no spaces.
  6. That’s almost all there is to it!

Uh oh … now why do I say “almost”??

Well, there is one last thing that you have to do. It seems that Onfolio wants to post escaped HTML to the URL … so this command line will work, but the text that appears in WordPress, ready to blog about, is now escaped HTML text and looks pretty funny … and is useless. I tried a lot of different things, before I resorted to hacking the WordPress code slightly to fix this issue.

If you are using “hosted” WordPress, I’m not sure if you can do the following … but if you have access to the WordPress files on your server, you now need to go to your WordPress installation and do the following:

  1. Edit the file /{wordpress install directory}/wp-admin/edit-form-advanced.php
  2. Search for the following line:

    <?php echo user_can_richedit() ? wp_richedit_pre($post->post_content) : $post->post_content; ?>

  3. Change it to be:

    <?php echo user_can_richedit() && !isset($_GET[‘onfolio’]) ? wp_richedit_pre($post->post_content) : $post->post_content; ?>

  4. Save the file.

What this does is to tell WordPress that if the posted data has a variable set that is called “onfolio” then don’t use the escaping … but put the HTML into the body of the post. Done!

Now when you are reading a post in Onfolio, and want to blog about it, you simply click the “Blog this item” or use the Control-Shift-B hotkey … a browser will launch to your WordPress “Write Post” page, and the content of the Onfolio post that you were reading will be in the body of the post ready to be referenced.

With this latest addition, I’m almost back to where I was with Radio. I can now efficiently read all of my favorite feeds, and blog about the posts that I find interesting. I really do like the way that Onfolio allows me to read and sort the posts … easily getting through them all. Expect to see me now resume my habit of posting about posts that I read … I have a way to do it again!

Software Version Complexities

Today I had an experience that caught me off guard. I recently purchased a Cingular/AT&T Broadband adapter for my laptop. I do really love it … well … after I got it working.

One of the initial issues that I had was that the CD ROM that came with the Cingular package was *WAY* out of date. It dated back almost 12-18 months, from what the technical support person told me. When I bought the card and went to install, I never thought to check if the CD ROM contained current software … I just put it in and ran the installer.  That was is huge error on my part as the old drivers caused all sorts of problems with my laptop.  Three days later I was back up and running … with the new version of the software that I downloaded from the Internet.

Well, my problem today was that every now and then the broadband card would lock up.  It would just stop working.  I couldn’t “disconnect” or “reset” the AT&T software either.  I found that if I ejected the card, and then re-inserted it things would again work … for a while.  After going through several days with this routine, I started to wonder about the firmware in the PCMCIA card.  I did a little searching on the Internet, and sure enough found a Sierra Wireless 875 firmware update program.  I followed the instructions and ran the program … which proceeded to update my firmware from v1.0.0 to v1.7.8!

What really amazes me about this whole situation is the poor software installation design and coding, along with the pitiful state of AT&T automated support systems.  As a software architect, and also a business owner, I am always looking for ways to improve customer experiences, decrease support costs, and automate everything that I can.  In this day and age I can’t believe that AT&T isn’t looking to do the same things!

Anyone who runs Windows has experienced Windows Update.  Now I know that lots of people will bitch and moan and whine about Microsoft, however I will argue that Windows Update – which has been evolving for almost a decade – is a marvel of automated software updating.  If you stop and think that Microsoft can drop a patch out to their servers and update millions of computers across the globe in a matter of hours or days is pretty incredible.  And for those people who want to complain about it, the key here is that any software developer could add a comparable or better solution to their software at any time!

In my mind, the AT&T installation CD ROM could have asked me if I wanted to have it check the Internet for newer versions.  But it didn’t.  It also could have – upon installation – checked the firmware on my card, and let me know that there was a suggested update for the card.  But it didn’t.  Every time that I put the card in and run the AT&T Connection Manager software, it could see if it had checked for updates in the last day or week, and automatically check in with their servers and let me know there are new versions available.

In this day and age, most computer users are getting very familiar with the automated update programs … even Dell has instituted a very impressive one that I now have on my new laptop.  In the last couple of weeks it even told me about a new version of the BIOS for my laptop … and handled the download and installation.  A while ago I launched iTunes … and it told me there was a new version … and handled the update.  And yes … Windows told me about some new patches and automatically downloaded and installed them.

I’m always shocked when I see a company that employs talented product management and software developers who seem to have no clue about how to integrate this automatic update functionality.  AT&T?  Sierra Wireless?  You have to be kidding me … I even had clicked the little menu item about checking for updates … but couldn’t decode the landing page I was taken to.  No … I do not want to read a web page about updates … I want you – the software developer – to simply implement some code that checks with my machine, and then your servers, and lets me know there are updates to apply.  I then want your software to nicely handle the update … and yes, even tell me to reboot if I really have to.

As for their business?  They would probably see less technical support calls (two from me … one lasting almost an hour!), more customer satisfaction (I’m still a little pissed off about what I had to go through!), and even get a bunch of analytics about their user base, what versions are out there, when they are using the software, etc.

I believe that as we continue to embrace technology, and software continues to evolve, the winners are going to be companies that create products that are easier to maintain and that provide an improved customer experience.  If you are a software developer, you might consider how you can reduce the software version complexities … or make them go away completely!  It’s all very possible.

My thoughts on Twitter … or ‘Opt-in Stalking’

I do love communications technologies. Communications is the foundation of effective organizations … communities. There are so many ways that we are able to virtually extend the various communities in our lives. If you reflect back on society 200 years ago, you can see how communities of people were limited to physical locality. There was no effective means of staying in contact – in anything close to real-time – with anyone more than a few miles away. With this communications infrastructure, there was simply no way for global distributed communities to exist.

Now … flash forward to 2007. Twitter appears on the scene. We already have the Internet and cell phones. E-mail and Instant Messaging have been around for over a decade and are now completely entrenched in society. Instant Messaging has even bridged to cell phones where many of the phones in use can also login to the various Instant Messaging networks. Oh, and blogs of course are everywhere. I am now able to communicate and keep in touch with all of my global virtual communities. People who I have not seen in years … who are not physically close … are still “close friends” as we have stayed in touch via IM or now Skype. Of course we also read each others blogs.

I was very skeptical of Twitter as first … not sure if I liked the idea of it. But just like any other new communications technology, I quickly began to see a pattern that I liked. When Twitter is used with friends, we can begin to gain insights into their lives.  Phil Windley and I have talked about this, and we both seemed to notice a similar pattern … we are gaining new perspectives of friends and co-workers who are using Twitter to post short updates about their daily lives.  I learned that Phil Windley takes bike rides, and also works on his yard.  I found out that Phil Burns is into hiking up the mountains in the area, and also ran his first 5k.

When I began to look at Twitter in this new light … as a way to allows others to know what you are up to on a daily basis, this began to expand a new dimension in my relationship to my global virtual communities.  The messages that I am getting on Twitter are significantly different from the e-mails, IMs, and blog posts that I am reading … these twits are crude updates about what these people are doing at various moments during their day.  When I began to see this, I realized that what Twitter has created is a globally distributed “opt-in stalking” system!

Anyone can now create a simple way to be stalked … by almost any anonymous individual with access to the Internet.  Twitter allows the stalked a variety of simple ways to update the world with where they are … or where they aren’t!  Twitter also provides the new generation of stalker to monitor the goings on in any Twitterers life.  People twit that they are out at a club, or home watching TV.  They will twit about going on bike rides, and when they are at school.  Stalkers now know when people are not at their home … hmmm, time for a burglery?  They also know when they are out at some other public place … hmmm, time for a confrontational visit?

Don’t get me wrong … I’m actually a growing fan of Twitter … however I have started to see a lot of things that I like and don’t like about the service.  It’s great as it is … and there is a lot of room for improvement.  I’m actually working on an alternative system with some friends … we’re pushing to get a beta out the door by June 4th.  It will provide some similar functionality, but also some new enhancements that can provide some privacy and control over who hears what.

In any case … I am a big fan of this new form of communications … of having a new way to learn more about people who are virtually in my life.  I have long proposed Lemon’s Law of Effective Organizations:

The effectiveness of an organization is directly proportional to the quantity and quality of the communications within it.

Twitter is yet another form of communications that can contribute to the breadth of possible communications.  If you haven’t tried it yet, you ought to!

Radio to WordPress Migration … finally!

After using Radio Userland for the last 6+ years of blogging, I have finally completed my migration to WordPress.  Well … mostly.  I’m still working out the kinks, and I’m still working on my new WordPress2Blogger bridge which will mirror my posts – based on categories – to my blogs.

Overall, it was a real pain.  I’m not looking forward to having to do this again.  I had some time to work on it over the last couple of weeks, and had actually done most of the ground work.  I am thinking that I’ll outline some of the steps and issues that I ent through to accomplish this.

  1. Export the Radio database to a RSS.XML file.  To do this I first located a tool for Radio called the backLogAllRSS tool written by Steve Hooker.  After installing it, I found that I actually had to hack the code … it turns out that any post that did not include *any* category would not be exported to the RSS.XML file.  (If you really want my hacked tool, contact me … I’ll post it someplace!)  Once I figured that out, and had hacked the code, I then exported all of my categories, and made sure that the Auto paragraphs options was *not* checked.
  2. Edit the exported RSS.XML.  When I got all of my posts exported, I then had to do a global search and replace on one thing … the apostrophes.  Radio had escaped them all to be “'” and for some reason the WordPress import did not return them to being an apostrophe.
  3. Import into WordPress.  I ought to mention now that I only learned about the code hacking and global search and replace after numerous failed imports.  Well … they worked, but what I got what not formatted properly, or has the escaped characters.  Or … lots of posts were missing because they were not in a category.  By about the 8th or 10 import I was finally getting close.  I was using the RSS Import capability, under the Import menu in WordPress.  I actually thought I was done.  Until I noticed that the dates and times on all of the imported posts were wrong!  It turns out that although the Radio tool exports all of the posts with the proper data and time adjusted to GMT … and labeled as such … the WordPress RSS Import seems to ignore the “GMT” designation and just assumes that you are importing from your time zone.  So now I had to hack the WordPress RSS Import code to add the proper offset of seconds to each post being imported.  Again … if someone really wants my WordPress RSS Import hack,, let me know and I’ll send it to you.

In the end, it was an interesting exercise.  I’m actually going to do it again, since my father is still using Radio and I’m now going to migrate him over to WordPress.  I’ll see if there is anything that I left out in the steps.

One thing that I have to admit is that I truly enjoy the breadth of plug-ins for WordPress!  I’ve already found useful ones like the “delete post database” plug-in … this one is very helpful when you import 6+ years of posts and the formatting is all screwed up!  I also found a great Tag plug-in, and then a good basis for my upcoming plug-in which worked with their old API.

I’m sure that I’ll learn more … I’m just glad to have it done!  Now, I just have to learn how to get Onfolio to post to WordPress … I like the aggregator, and want to use it to post!

Google wants MORE of your identity!

Ok … this is one place where I like even more than Google Maps … again!  I was long a user of Google Maps, however they didn’t allow me to mark-up the maps and add my own annotations.  Yes … I could hack code, but c’mon … has had the ability for a long time.

Well FINALLY, Google adds the ability to annotate and more through their new My Maps features … BUT … I MUST create an account and be tracked by Google in order to use the features!!  What the heck?  I can’t just hack out a quick annotated map for a friend or family without providing information to Google about who I am and having them permanently note my interest in some specific point on earth?

Once again … the average person has NO idea they are now going to have even more records kept of every place they have marked or annotated, and when they did it.  Google continues to gather even more information about you … who you are … what you do … where you do.  Amazing.  I’ll stick with

Google makes mashups easy, even for me. The search giant’s new My Maps feature lets anyone create customizable maps with photos and video, regardless of technical know-how.
Photos: Google maps out mashups [CNET]

Measuring the accuracy of computer models

It really impresses me as we continue to make advances in the reproduction of human senses or capabilities in silicon and software.  What really caught my eye about this article was thinking about the fact that the accuracy of the model can be measured not only by it’s success at mirroring human-like abilities … but that it also makes errors in a way that is similar to humans.

Once the models are solid enough, then they will be able to learn from the errors in humans … and potentially due to shear quantity, scale, or speed exceed our human abilities.  Closer and closer to the Singularity we move each day …

Computer Model Behaves Like Humans On Visual Categorization Task. In a new MIT study, a computer model designed to mimic the way the brain itself processes visual information performs as well as humans do on rapid categorization tasks.

The model even tends to make similar errors as humans, possibly because it s… [ Accelerating Intelligence News] … a nice search engine!

After reading this post, I went out and played with ZoomInfo … it’s got some very interesting features.  You are able to search using various keywords, names, etc. and it seems to come up with some pretty impressive results.  Looking for a business in a particular market?  Looking for people in a particular role in a market?  Give it a try … there are some really interesting results.

First Semantic Search Engine?. Business search company ZoomInfo announced today the launch of what it’s calling the first-ever semantic search engine.

The site works by applying tags to information that distinguish between key concepts, such as a person, an industry, or a compa… [ Accelerating Intelligence News]

New …

Ok … after another few weeks of work, we just threw out a new version of our NuMe website!  Go and check it out … what is fun is that it is actually gaining some real momentum.  Our videoWrapplet is now finding itself onto webpages all over the planet … it’s fun to see many of the places it’s showing up!

Our biggest hit is the Smashing Pumpkins MySpace page, where they are using it to show off their latest videos.  We’re now on numerous other MySpace pages (like this one from the UK … I love the video he posted called “Spiders on Drugs”), also blogs, and even more sites in South America and Europe.  It’s fun to see the Google Analytics, and to also see some of the uses of the videoWrapplet … a conspiracy web site, a Japanese tech/audio site, Argentinian TV sites and cooking videos and Tech sites, a German Club site, and too many others to link to.  Well … you can always check them out on the NuMe site.  We now have a videoWrapplet detail page that shows all of the top playlists, and the recently updated playlists.

One facinating thing that I caught yesterday, was that we had a user Jim from Mexico grab our videoWrapplet and load it up with videos.  The first videos are Smashing Pumpkins videos, leading me to believe that he found it through their site.  He then added several other videos from other artists.  The best part is that he then went to YouTube and signed up so that he could upload his own home-made videos and put them into the playlist!  So our videoWrapplet actually caused someone to create a YouTube account … just so that they could use our videoWrapplet.  Many people would argue that proves we ought to be hosting the videos … but what I like to see is that the value they perceive in our videoWrapplet caused them to leap the hurdle and create a YouTube account!

Anyhow … I’m having fun with this, and am about to release a new version … with some small tweaks.  But I also have a fully skinnable version in testing, and it also supports transparent backgrounds.  We’re also adding a full set of preferences.  I’m also thinking that it will be easy to open up the skinning to anyone with some pretty basic skills …  🙂

Stay tuned … the video experiments continue …

Touch Interface of the Future

You have to watch the video to really see how impressive this is.  I’ve added the video to my Inevitable videoWrapplet playlist … it’s the presentation that Jeff Han gave at the TED conference of his ‘multi-touch interface’.  This is the stuff of Minority Report … but being demonstrated as reality.  Read the article … check out the video … this is an impressive product.

I keep thinking that I want this on my laptop, or Tablet PC!

TED: Jeff Han, A Year Later. Catapulted to geek stardom literally overnight at this high tech confab in 2006, inventor of mind-blowing touchscreen technology gives Wired News a glimpse into life as an entrepreneur and his new company, Perceptive Pixel. Kim Zetter reports from Monterey. [Wired News: Top Stories]

Dog or Cat Captcha …

My favorite project talked about this article is one where the blurred letters and numbers – called captcha images – are replaced by the image of a dog or cat … with you having to properly identify which it is.  It turns out that this is a hard problem to solve … today … for machines.

Microsoft’s research labs offer freebies. Many projects at TechFest are simply research concepts that will never come to market, but some are being made publicly available.
Images: From pets to panoramas at TechFest [CNET]

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