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April 8, 2006

Integrating Movable Type with Del.icio.us, Technorati, Digg, Furl, and Reddit

I seriously believe that the rate of change on the internet is increasing exponentially. I spend as more time on a computer than most people that I know. And then, I start getting emails to this new website "Digg", and I have no clue what that is. I host my own blog with Movable Type, Apache, MySQL, PHP, and ActivePerl. And yet, somehow, the applications that are being developed on the "internet platform", if you will, are getting away from me. I see other sites have "blog rolls", and I'm hard coding mine into my MT templates. The pace of change is so fast, that it's all I can do to learn the names of the new applications, much less what they do and whether I need to be using them or not.

Having said that, I want to take advantage of some of these new applications to increase the mindshare of my blog. Right now, I'm occassionally hardcoding Technorati tags into my posts on an individual basis. But, I want to get a plugin working that will identify Keywords for the post, and create tags for some of these new-fangled post-tagging application thingamajiggies like Del.icio.us and Digg.

So, part of the goal of this exercise will be to identify and define some of these silly applications so that I'm no quite so intimidated when I receive them in emails. After all, guns don't work in cyberspace. I can lock my doors and intimidate the neighbors, but there's only so much you can do to your inbox. Your inbox doesn't care that you stockpile guns and military vehicles and feed your dog gunpowder at night. It just doesn't get it.

I found this web page helpful in putting some of the different buzzwords into perspective. But, with a post date of January 2005, you have to wonder if this is up to date. Adam Gerstein's post on adding Del.icio.us tags is much more current.

I googled for "mt del.icio.us plugin" and found this MT lookup search engine, which is sort of a blog-search-engine-aggregator, I guess, and something inside me just wants to let go. That the google search engine found another search engine which pointed me to a dynamically created list of current articles on MT plugins for MT del.icio.us plugins confounds me. I can't decide of it is ruthlessly efficient or some post-modern caricature of Rube Goldberg's nightmare.

According to Wikipedia's entry on Del.icio.us:

The website del.icio.us is a social bookmarking, social software web service for storing and sharing web bookmarks. The site came online in late 2003 and was developed by Joshua Schachter, co-maintainer of Memepool. Everything posted to del.icio.us can be made publicly viewable; it was not originally intended to be a tool for storing private bookmark collections. Many people use del.icio.us to publish "linkblogs" on their weblogs.

There are a number of innovations around social bookmarks beyond simple urls. ]Flickr bookmarks pictures, YouTube bookmarks videos, and Digg bookmarks news.

Aha, so now, I'm starting to get the picture. Sort of. Here's what the del.icio.us web site says of del.icio.us tags:

Yeah but I still don't get it. That's ok, you don't have to. It's pretty intuitive and takes a bit of practice to fully understand. Just try it and experiment a bit!

So, OK. I'll experiment. Joshua Schachter is the creative madman behind the del.icio.us social boomarking service. I found this help for publishers on the del.icio.us web site:

Movable Type
In your Main Index and Individual Archive templates, after </MTIfAllowComments>, add:

OK. So, I added this code to my main index template. And now, true to Joshua's word, I do have a little link to del.icio.us listed beneath each of my posts on the main index for my web site. Brilliant. Not sure what it buys me. I mean, in theory, people are supposed to come to my web site, be excited as h3ll about what they see, and then bookmark my website using this link into del.icio.us. But, it doesn't seem to do that for me, at least not yet. This link just takes me to the main delicio.us web page, which is a little overwhelming for my little brain. Looks a lot like the Technorati main page. Go figure.

Joshua describes how to add some code to MT to get his bookmark link to work, which is basically what I've already done. But, the comments are very enlightening. Basically, Joshua wants people to go to his del.icio.us web site, sign in, and then create a bookmark in del.icio.us and assign a tag to the bookmark.

So del.icio.us is a social bookmarking application. It allows users to bookmark web pages and tag them so that they are building an online database of webpages categorized by tags, if you will. So, it's an interesting concept. It sounds remarkably similar to what I use my blog for. I find stories I think are interesting, link to them, and post. Then, when I want to find something, I just search my blog for it, instead of having to search the entire web. Apparently, this del.icio.us application allows people that don't have blogs, to bookmark the internet, and categorize it as they see fit, essentially.

The rise of user-define "tags" to categorize and share information on the internet is known as "folksonomy".

OK. Here's a comment that I found useful:

A non-cookie holder is presented with a sign up/login page and they always have their "back" button.

So, probably that's what I'm seeing when I go there. Sigh. I'll create an account. Surprisingly, when I created an account, it prompted me to "Install Button" - which means to install a Firefox plugin for Del.icio.us with a little Del.icio.us icon and a "tag" icon. So, I installed the extension. Then, it told me to restart Firefox, and it would bring me back to "Step 3" in the registration process automagically. I'm thinking. Right. Dream on. But, it worked. I restarted Firefox, it brought me back to "Step 3". Step three basically says, you've got two icons. The "Tag" icon is used to tag pages, the "del.icio.us" one is used to view your tagged web pages. OK. Fair enough.

So, I went back and clicked on my "Delicious" link beneath the post, and, it does behave differently now. Now, it automagically signs me into Delicious and is prompting me for a URL. But then, when I hammer in the URL, now it wants a description, notes, and a tag. So, this seems fairly tedious to me. And, what I get in the end now seems less like a blog, and more like a glorified "Favorites" bookmark in my browser.

Although, to be fair, the app did suggest that I use the ghey little buttons in my Firefox browser. So, I'll try it again using my ghey little Firefox extension delicious plugin icon doohickeys. So, if you use the browser buttons, it's much better in that, at least it defai;ts in the URL and the description for you. So, all you need to hammer in are notes and tags, which are apparently optional.

So, at this point then, I'm wondering why I needed to add the code for the delicious link into my templates. Basically, this is just marketing for Delicious, at this point. As, existing users would surely use their browser buttons to tag entries, and would bypass my ghey little link for "Delicious" or "Save Page". I'm not 100% sure what it buys me, but, I suppose in theory that people could bookmark my posts in Delicious, which would, in theory, be seen my other people browsing tags in Delicious, similar to what occurs in Technorati. So, in theory, it could increase mindshare of my website. But, I'm not 100% sold on it, but then again, it doesn't cost me a whole lot to support either, which is what they're counting on, I guess.

I went to the delicious search page, and they suggested I install another Firefox "search plugin", which I promptly did. H3ll, I'm a sucker for installing plugins. Why not?

The website kept warning me that "A verification email has been sent. It contains a link you must click in order to verify your email address. If it does not arrive shortly, you can request another one from your settings page." So, sure enough, I looked in my Junk Email folder, and there was an account verification email in there. So, I clicked on it. Hey, I mean, I'm a lot of things, but I'm not a liar, right? I want to be validated, by God.

Now that I'm validated, I can go to the delicious website and search for articles or for tags, and I do see my articles popping up in there. You can go here and see a "tag cloud", where the tag size reflects popularity. So, this piece of it is remarkably similar to Technorati, IMHO.

OK. Now, I'm starting to get it. I don't really want to collect a bunch of URL's under my account at delicious. So, let's get that out in the open. But, if I take each of my blog entries, and start spamming technorati and delicious with as many tags as possible, in theory, it will generate more traffic to my site. And, it occurs to me that people are probably setting up ghost accounts and bookmarking their own website to move their posts up in the ratings, but lets leave that aside for now.

I'm going back now to this post by Adam Gerstein. I want to make my web page look like his. With the fancy tags for Technorati and Delicious. So, there's a couple of tricks to this. 1) you need to somehow identyf keywords unique to the posts and 2) you need to automagically generate the html to create the links. Adam started out with the Technorati plugin, so I'll try to master that piece first.

Adam points us to this Tehcnorati plugin by George Hotelling.

OK, apparently, we want to customize the "New Entry" form in MT to allow us to hammer in some keywords.

You may also want to customize your New Entry form to display the keyword field. Choose New Entry then at the bottom of the form click the link Customize the display of this page. On the form that pops up choose Custom and then check all the fields you want to display, including Keywords. Click the Save button.

OK. So, I did this. Now, I can hammer in some keywords with each new post. Nice. Then, I downloaded and extracted the plugin and put it in the appropriate location (I hope). Now, it says I need to add this tag <$MTTechnoratiTags$> to my template, so I'll put it in my main index template, for now. So, I tested it, and it appears tto be working. It's taking the words I hammer into the keyword section of the New Entry template and building the technorati links automagically. Now, to get it to work with the little ghey technorati icon, and to add the delicious tags as well.

So, I went back to Adam's post, and I downloaded and installed his delicious plugin for MT. It seems to be working as well. Though, I still don't have those cool little icons. So, I changed the code in the template to include the icons and links to technorati and delicious, but I'm still trying to get it to pass the URL and the title to delicious. No luck so far.

Then, I updated the code a little more, and finally got mine to work like Adams. He's running a script called cm.php when he calls Technorati, and I'm not 100% clear what that does for him, but I got mine working like I wanted to.

In the end, I got rid of the template changes shown above, and just made the following changes to my MT Main and Invidual Entry templates:

It's working like a charm, now. :)

The only thing that still puzzles me is this - I'm not clear how Delicious knows that I have made new posts. Do I need to ping them? Do they have spiders? Do I just hold my breath and pray someone bookmarks my site? What's...uh...the deal?

I found some tips on this web site on how to set up links to more "social network" tag aggregator sites.

I managed to get the link working for Digg. Digg is another social network, but the wrinkle here is that you submit a web site, but have to choose from a fixed set of categories. Then, as more people "Digg" a link, it moves up in the ratings, if you will. So, there are no editors that determine what rises up on Digg. The people are essentially all voting on the sites they Digg, and popularity makes the invidual topics rise to the top. It's an interesting concept.

Digg doesn't really need a plugin. It's much simpler than that. All you need is a link in your template that basically passes your URL to their site. The code I added to my MT template looks like this:

Then, I signed up for Furl. Furl makes you check a box that says "I am 13 years old or older." Like...what happens at age 13? I'm not clear. Let's move on. Furl wants me to install the Furl Firefox Toolbar. Why not. Furl lets you store and rate web sites or posts. You can choose from predefined topics, add new topics, assign keywords, comments, etc. Then, you can share your bookmarks with others. My link appears to be working with Furl. It passes the URL and the Title successfully. Code looks like this:

Then, of course, there's Reddit. Huh? OK. Fine. Reddit. Here goes. Reddit was actually the easiest to register. I didn't have to verify an email address. Whew.

Then, I found this web site. It has more social bookmarks than any web page I've ever seen. So, basically, I copied his html and modified it to suit my needs and put it into my individual entry archive template.

Posted by Peenie Wallie on April 8, 2006 at 10:33 AM


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