Posting to WordPress by email

Overview

This is a quick post about posting to wordpress by email. WordPress has excellent instructions on posting by email ( via https://en.support.wordpress.com/post-by-email/ ). This post is more about limitations of the post-by-email feature and how to use TextExpander to be more efficient.

Why post by email?

My thinking is that I want to be able to post short snippets by email. I got the idea for this approach from Manton Reece. Like Manton I think that Twitter and Facebook are too ephemeral. So my goal is to post only short snippet-ish posts by email. I’d like to limit these posts to 200 characters if possible but I don’t have a good way of universally controlling the size of the post when posting by through my other devices (without putting my post in a separate editor).

There’s also the issue of post title – should such short posts have titles? Manton indicates that microblogs should not have a title. At this point I’m not too dogmatic about this so I’m fine with having a title where I distinguish it with a ‘Snip’ at the beginning.

To setup just follow the instructions

WordPress’s instructions are excellent

To setup just follow the instructions

When you post via email you get a response from WordPress.com

This was my test post (draft – never published) where I tested Markdown support. It’s a very nice response email telling me that WordPress received my post.

When you post via email you get a response from WordPress.com

Limitation – no Markdown via email 😦

It is somewhat strange but posting by email to WordPress does not interpret Markdown. WordPress’s instructions indicate that different email clients handle formatting differently which is why formatting is limited. Markdown is perfect for posting by email but it does not work with this approach (currently). I think that WordPress would need a new tag such as [markdown on] (with the default being off) and then interpret Markdown in the same way that the WordPress site editor interprets it.

I’ve sent WordPress support a question about this

I’ve sent WordPress support a question about wanting some Markdown love.

I've sent WordPress support a question about this

WordPress support response

WordPress support response

Using TextExpander

TextExpander is awesome and helps me reduce typing significantly both on the Mac and on iOS. Below is my current TextExpander snippet.

Some notes about the choices of the tagging:

  • I choose to explicitly put the title in the body of the email rather than through the subject line. My thinking is that this is close to the meta settings for static blog systems.
  • The [end] tag is very nice because I can put some optional tags or reminders in case I want to change things. I was initially thinking of using a pop-up menu for all the tags on my site but this seems like overkill. It was easier to just copy the tag cloud and put it in the optional section

Version 0.1 of my TextExpander snippet – the popup design choice

This was a first good try but TextExpander custom keyboard on iOS doesn’t work well with TextExpander snippet popups. In order to use popups I would need to use something like Drafts. Drafts is a great app but I don’t want to complicate my toolchain.

Version 0.1 of my TextExpander snippet - the popup design choice

Version 0.5 of my TextExpander snippet – the flat design choice

In my experiments I found out that normal publicize settings through the WordPress web editor (Twitter in my case) do not kick up without a tag push. I also added a ‘Snip’ in front of my title. I also went with a publish status that is offset by a 2 hour delay just in case I completely mess up a snippet. My original tags were also messed up because I used a gigantic phrase for one tag.

This non-popup design allows me to use the TextExpander snippet on my iPhone mail app, save it to draft and pick it up on my Mac’s mail app.

Version 0.5 of my TextExpander snippet - the flat design choice

Conclusion

It is extremely easy to set posting by email in WordPress for those that are using WordPress.com.

Pros:

  • Post from anywhere you have email access
  • Fairly good controls on post (status, date, etc..)
  • Use of TextExpander make posting consistent, reliable and easy

Cons:

  • No Markdown support (hopefully one day…come on Mattmake it so)
  • For microblogging – controlling the character count is not possible (it would be great to let WordPress.com provide feedback via a [count 200] type of tag)

One thing that I didn’t experiment with is using anchor tags to create links within my microblog post. WordPress’s docs indicate that their system will interpret HTML as follows:

As much formatting as possible will be retained, although the Post by Email system will strip unnecessary HTML tags so that your email is displayed correctly. Note that you will need to use an email client that supports rich text or HTML formatting in order to make use of this feature. Most website based clients (Hotmail, Gmail) do support this, as do most desktop clients (Outlook, Mail). You may need to switch your client into rich text or formatted mode.

HTML and email clients are still a big mess in 2015 😦 .

One last last thing – auto-posting to Twitter and Facebook. At some point I’d like to auto post the actual microblog post to Twitter and Facebook rather than a link to it via WordPress’s publicize settings. There’s probably a neat Node.js or Go solution. It’s another task on my never-ending Omnifocus list.

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Adobe Voice – is it worth it?

If you’re an instructor – is Adobe Voice worth using?

The short answer: no.

Overview

My co-worker (Matt) showed me Adobe Voice and suggested that it might be a useful tool for creating instructional presentations. In this post, I review Adobe voice from the point of view of an instructor. Some questions that I’ve kept in mind while doing this:

  • Does it allow me to create compelling presentations?
  • How difficult is it to use?
  • Can I preserve my source materials? (to clarify – consider that regardless of your like/dislike of PowerPoint all PowerPoint presentations since 1.0 can still be used and modified with the latest version of PowerPoint)
  • Is this product going to be around in a year?

In the summary section I describe what I see as the pros/cons of Adobe Voice. While in the detail section I cover my test presentation and usage of Adobe Voice.

You can find the sample presentation that I created on Adobe Voice at: https://voice.adobe.com/a/VNo0k/

Summary aka ;TLDR

Ironically, Adobe seems to own your voice when you use Adobe Voice. Consequently, from an instructor point of view I don’t think it is worthwhile. It has great value as a potential form of self expression that also advertises for Adobe. It is great for throwaway projects and has potential as a brainstorming tool assuming that you don’t care about your brainstorming’s artifacts.

Stepping for a moment away from the instructional point of view, Adobe Voice is a great showcase app that can provide other app makers with a great user centric approach to accessing and using Creative Commons assets.

Right now (as of 10/21/15) Adobe Voice is only available on the iPad.

The good about Adobe Voice:

  • The most amazing part of Adobe Voice is the ease of import of Creative Commons materials in terms of icons and images. There’s a certain sort of odd irony that the open nature of Creative Commons is the core feature of an extremely proprietary tool. More interoperable competitors such as Explain Everything should immediately implement this very feature in their product. If nothing else Adobe Voice is a great prototype of the things that you can do with Creative Commons.
  • Kudos to the UI designers and the programming team of Adobe Voice for making it both powerful and easy to use.
  • The frame-by-frame voice recording is great in combination with the background music and choosable theme.

The bad about Adobe Voice:

  • Only portrait orientation is allowed. This may seem like a minor point but it becomes really annoying really fast.
  • The video that Adobe Voice generates is only available on Adobe’s site. Adobe Voice is another way for Adobe to bring users into their Creative Cloud. The only in-app purchase within the app is for space on Creative Cloud. I understand that Adobe is a business and they need to make money. However, in a business context Adobe Voice is nothing more than a pretty advertisement brochure for Adobe. There is no way to export the project to any format but the proprietary one that is stored on Creative Cloud. So ironically your voice as represented by your Adobe Voice project is locked away on Adobe’s servers. There is no way to export the project into any neutral format (like Markdown). This is the biggest problem with Adobe Voice and I cannot recommend it to anyone because of this. Adobe may discontinue the project at any time and the only thing that users may be left with is yet another corporate email apology.

Detail

In this section I walk through my small video creation that you can find here: https://voice.adobe.com/a/VNo0k/ . As a technical point – I used an Audio Technica lavalier microphone – the ATR3350iS. I heard a little bit of background noise when recording and choose the ukulele background music to mask it. This brings up one issue with using the iPad with Adobe Voice – audio capture is tricky. The iPad’s microphone is really not great and you would be better served with a shotgun type of microphone. However, if you use Adobe Voice for just throwaway projects then the sound quality may not matter as much.

Starting Adobe Voice

Few log-in options and some pimping to educational organization.

Starting Adobe Voice

I used my Adobe login

I happen to have a Creative Cloud account due to some meager attempts at learning Photoshop. For my use the cost of Creative Cloud is questionable.

I used my Adobe login

Choice of presentation structure

A very nice pallette of presentation structures to choose from. I went with “Teach a Lesson”.

Choice of presentation structure

The Heart of the Interface

This is the ‘dashboard’ through which you build your presentation on a frame-by-frame basis. In a sense it’s no different than working on a PowerPoint viewgraph – but with the iPad’s tactile interface and amazing Creative Commons usage. Lets do a quick walk through the interface:

1 – Home sweet home where you can create new projects or edit old ones. You never have access to the actual project file and its contents beyond the Adobe Voice app and Creative Cloud.

2 – Built-in: Layout allows frame-by-frame image/icon/text arrangment; Themes is presentation wide changes of theme; Music is presentation wide music backgrounds (all of these will be shown later)

3 – The “share” button which is more of an “upload then share via url to video” (you can only share a link to Adobe’s site where your assembled presentation is located).

4 – Per frame presentation elements: Icon scaled to fit, or Photo, or Text. For icon/photo you can use Creative Commons search or your own (shown later)

5 – This is the magical button that records your voice for this particular frame. As long as you hold it, then your voice is recorded. Once there’s either a visual element (via (4)) and/or audio, then you’ll have the ability to play just that frame. Note that I found some weird skips when doing an audio recording that was less than a second.

6 – This is a very PowerPoint like view of your current and future presentation frames. You also have a play button on the left side to play the presentation from this point forward (across all frames). The frame names that you see are due to the “teach a lesson” structure that I choose for this presentation.

The Heart of the Interface

Icon search for ‘voice’ – 1

Icon search for 'voice' - 1

Icon search for ‘voice’ – 2

Look at the amazing Creative Commons selections!

Icon search for 'voice' - 2

Photo search options

“Find Photos” is the Creative Commons search. Have I mentioned how awesome this is?

Photo search options

Replace layout on current frame – 1

Replace layout on current frame - 1

Replace layout on current frame – 2

Replace layout on current frame - 2

Theme Choices

Note that certain themes can cause distortions of photos due to theme type. For example, the Watercolor theme caused the picture in frame 2 to be distorted in a theme appropriate way. In my case, it cut off frame 2’s picture to the point that the word ‘unique’ was not visible so I went back to Simple theme. There are more themes than what’s shown in the image.

Theme Choices

(Background) Music Choices

A very nice touch is the ability to change the volume of the background music across the whole presentation.

(Background) Music Choices

Photo orientation gone bad

There’s no way to correct a photo that is mis-oriented…at least none that I could see.

Photo orientation gone bad

CC CYA – Creative Commons Information

When choosing the ‘i’ next to a Creative Commons image or icon – this is what you get.

CC CYA - Creative Commons Information

“Share” button – 1

I choose to “share” through email. And in case you’re wondering – yes, the double quotes are there for irony.

"Share" button - 1

“Share” button – 2

"Share" button - 2

“Share” button – 3

"Share" button - 3

“Share” button – 4

Boy do I have a story for you…and in case you didn’t know it ADOBE HELPED ME MAKE IT!

"Share" button - 4

“Share” button – 5

When you click the link in the email this is what you see in your browser.

"Share" button - 5

“Share” button – 6

When playing your presentation off Adobe’s site the last frame of your presentation is auto-generated. As you can see – in the case of my presentation it gives attribution to all the Creative Commons images and icons that I used. This is a very nice way to give credit where credit is due. Big thumbs up to Adobe Voice’s designers and developers.

"Share" button - 6

Conclusion

I’m not sure if there is more to say. Adobe Voice comes so close to being amazing but it falls short through its proprietary nature. And the amazing part is the most ironic part too – the integration of Creative Commons assets. It leaves me with this mixed feeling about Adobe Voice which is reflective of how I feel about the company that brought both amazing products like Photoshop and terrible ones like Flash.