In blogging as in war, to overcome cowardice, automate audacity.
It has often occurred to me that, when I quote individuals in a post, all the more when I seek to engage their arguments in detail, best practice would clearly be to notify them, especially when they are relatively easily accessible via Twitter. The reasons for doing so seem obvious: To let them know that their work is being discussed; to give them the opportunity to respond or to notify other interested parties ranging from followers, to colleagues, to employers; more selfishly, to raise the odds that my own work will be more widely noticed and discussed.
The reasons for not doing so will be mostly dishonorable: Shyness and self-loathing, or even cowardice. For me, a depressive sense of low self-esteem strikes hardest in the time after I have published a post, and sinks in especially deeply when, in a few minutes, hours, or days, I happen to notice embarrassing errors in composition or thinking that, I tell myself, I really should have caught before publication.
I could say much more about my personal writing psychology, but all I really mean to do in this post is note how easy it is, at least in open source WordPress, to automate a better practice in the face of one’s habitual self-frustrations and overthinking. We should notify people when we write about them. It’s better for them, and better for us. That’s all there is to it. So make it easier.
Now, we could strive to build an auto-notifier or routine similar to Storify’s, but, since most posts – or at least most of my posts – don’t mention the Twitter handles of everyone mentioned who has one, it doesn’t seem worth the work. Fortunately, the free version of the popular plug-in WP to Twitter by Joseph Dolson comes with the features we need to get a good part of the way.
Even before I was active on Twitter at all, I had WP to Twitter set to tweet my posts upon publication using a simple template along the lines of
New: #title# #url#, the words enclosed in hashmarks being shortcodes for, respectively, the post title and a link to it. The auto-tweet for this post, for instance, would read something like “New: Getting Over Yourself with WordPress to Twitter
Though WP to Twitter’s 13 included shortcodes do not include one for “tweeps,” it’s easy to add a WP “custom field” that will work just like one, and that can be added to the automatic tweet or to custom tweets.
Under Settings/WP to Twitter
Pick the type of update you’re editing.
2. Wherever you want the Twitter handles to appear, add the custom-field name that you are going to use between double square brackets.
I’m going using the field “tweeps,” so I’ll write
[[tweeps]], and add it to my new template for new posts as follows:
New: #title# #url# [[tweeps]] #tags#
I’ve also added another shortcode “#tags#,” which will convert regular WP Post Tags into Twitter hashtags. Presuming I’ve completed the other step as well, and that everything else works correctly, when I am done saving this post, the shortcodes will be filled in with the title, the link, the names I’ve added under tweeps, and however many Post Tags there happens to be room for. (WP to Twitter includes a table for setting inclusion priority when you run out of characters in your auto tweet.)
The Other Step – Under Add or Edit Post (or Page)
1. Make sure under Screen Options (toggled at top of WP editing screen) that the “Show on Screen” box for “Custom Fields” is checked.
2. Under Custom Fields, Click “Enter New”
3. Under “Add Field” put a name for your new tag – we’ll call it “tweeps”
4. In the space for “Values” put the Twitter handles of everyone who should be notified that your post has been published.
I’m adding Joseph Dolson’s handle and my own. I’m expecting a tweet to be published that reads something like: “New: Getting Over Yourself with WordPress to Twitter
http://wp.me/p4h0Xw-dvh @joedolson @CK_MacLeod #wordpress.”
I think I have the settings right, but I’ve been getting some odd behavior with new posts being tweeted as though they are “edited” posts. ((6 August: The unexpected behavior was caused by a WordPress bug that has apparently existed since WordPress 2.7: in other words for years, though various members of WP core committees appears still to be working on it: In short, when you edit a draft post on the “Quick Edit” screen, the post publication status is changed from “Publish: Immediately” to “Publish on: [Timestamp]” – i.e., as though a scheduled post that was never published, or that was published and withdrawn. When the post is then actually published, it will appear as though published on that date, rather than at the current date/time. WP to Twitter “understands” the newly published post as an updated post.)) Also, I’ve been using the LinkIs system, which should shorten the Tweet somewhat differently than shown – i.e., by re-shortening the tweet while adding it’s own typical “li.ns” code to the new URL. Mentioning this slight difference may seem like utter nit-pickery, but, if this tweet comes up as “Edited” rather than “New,” or misfires in any other way, I think one of the first things I’ll check is bad interactions with LinkIs [not LinkIs: see note below].
Let’s see – about to hit Publish… horrible mistake and typos be damned… okay… now
(Update: worked fine! But I’ll set WP to Twitter not to tweet that this post has been updated.)
(Update 2: Lot of typos in this post, especially in the parts where I was describing my misery over embarrassing errors – how embarrassing… ;) – tho I think I’ve caught most of them by now.)