Last weekend I finally got around to doing something with my short-form blog, Slipstream. In its last incarnation, Slipstream was running on Kirby, which is a very fine and flexible CMS driven by the filesystem rather than a database. It works well (and there’s a newer version 2 which has some great features), but I was struggling to make it do what I wanted it to do.
My intention with Slipstream has always been to have a place where I can both pull together things I’ve posted in other locations (photos, reviews of books and films, snippets of text that I have posted to App.net, and so on). Longer form writing definitely belongs on this blog and always will. However, there are other things scattered around the internet that I’d like to pull together somewhere under my own control, and to post occasionally fleeting thoughts or ideas that aren’t sufficiently fully formed for this blog.
Now, I could probably (with a great deal of effort, trial and error) build something from scratch that was essentially a REST API that would pull in stuff from other sites, RSS feeds and so on. I might even have been able to modify Kirby to do what I wanted, but my knowledge of PHP is very sketchy, so that would have taken a lot of work as well. In the end, I didn’t wasn’t really motivated enough to spend hours trying to build something. If I’ve got spare time these days, I’d rather be sewing.
It gradually dawned on me that I could hack something together using WordPress as a base. Yes, WordPress. It’s like deja-vu: I used WordPress as one of the many (many…) backends to this blog several years ago. I’m certainly much happier running this site with Pelican, backed by plain text files and no database, but WordPress is handy (and quite adaptable) for the kind of Tumblr-like blog that I wanted to create for Slipstream. It also has the advantage that it is widely used, so it integrates well with other services, particularly IFTTT. If you haven’t come across IFTTT before, it is a wonderful thing. The idea is that you link together various online services (or ‘channels’), and pipe stuff from one thing to another thing, based on rules. You make ‘recipes’, which might take all photos on Flickr tagged with ‘blog’ and post them on your WordPress blog, or on Twitter. So IFTTT can act as the glue that pulls in all my activity from other places, and semi-automates posting to Slipstream, while still allowing me to post things manually there if I want.
So that’s what I’ve done. I can tag photos on Flickr to post them here, and any public bookmarks I save on Pinboard also get posted here. Reviews at Letterboxd and GoodReads are automatically posted: the former via an RSS feed and IFTTT recipe, and the latter through an in-built feature of GoodReads1. I can also post things here first, and then push them to App.net (and Twitter if I wished, but I tend to be much less active there now). This happens via IFTTT again, triggered when a post includes a ‘status’ tag.
I’m mostly working with a fairly stock version of WordPress — most of the magic happens with the various IFTTT recipes. However, the IFTTT Post Formats and Post Types plugin helps a great deal, because it allows you to set the WordPress post format type from IFTTT, which in turn assists with the styling of the pages. I also use the IFTTT Do Note and Do Camera apps, which are very handy for quickly posting something, and you can preset them to include the tags and settings you need. I haven’t yet done anything with the default theme, but I will eventually get around to making it a bit more distinctive.
In all, I’m quite pleased with the way it all works, and I’m hopeful that it will see a bit more activity on my part than the last Slipstream incarnation, since quite a lot of activity happens automatically as I post things elsewhere.