WallPress – A WordPress Alternative to Facebook?

Andreea, my life partner, uses Facebook. It has played an undeniable role in her developing an outreach and real-life, professional social network here in Romania. It is used to support her WordPress powered website. Yet I continue to be disturbed by the fact this is happening on Facebook. Every word she types into their systems empowers them and dis-empowers her. The main application in her Facebook experience is the main page where information from all of her connections streams in. I’ve been watching her use this and I believe that it is possible to create an alternative for this experience using WordPress.

I believe this is important. I believe other attempts have failed. I believe WordPress has a responsibility to take on this challenge.

From this point on this post will be more technical.

Infrastructure

I believe that there are three key elements, already in existence, that need to come together to create a WallPress:

  • WordPress Posts are the most basic publishing element needed. It is adaptive for different types of content via post formats, it is time-stamped, it can be commented on and it (together with it’s comments) can be distributed via RSS.
  • rssCloud by Dave Winer is an enhancement of RSS that, at the end of the day, makes it faster – closer to real-time. To my understanding it should be technically possible to create a WordPress Plugin that will turn any WordPress installation into an rssCloud server (able to both broadcast and receive).
  • WordPress Themes are a highly versatile mechanism for creating a front-end. It has already been demonstrated (see “P2 Theme“) that it is possible to publish content from the front end blog view without needing to access the admin. I believe this capability is critical to the needed user experience

User Experience

I feel it is important to remember (especially amongst developers who I hope will come across this post) that this entire post is written with a “non-blogger” user in mind. The current WordPress administration is way too complicated for these users. They do not see themselves as content publishers – they simply want to say what’s on their mind to their social circles.

Note: I believe that, if a bridge is built, that many people who are currently “non-bloggers” may mature into bloggers. Many already have … but they are confined by the state-of-mind imposed by Facebook. Moving onto a WordPress driven platform will inevitably provoke them into blogging-consciousness.

If you strip off the user-experience from the Facebook wall – what you have is an RSS aggregator of posts and comments. However its the user experience that makes it attractive and accessible to many people who are not inclined to take on a more demanding technical learning curve. WordPress’ administration (content management) user interface is far off this mark.

This is what makes WordPress Themes a core element in creating a Facebook alternative. A Theme could be developed to offer an alternate, simple and clean route for publishing.

Integration

What follows is a description of the operation of a working account.

  • Users publish “aside” posts from a P2 like front end.
  • rssCloudServer distributes a post package that includes:
    • Post Type (aside, post, image, link, gallery, etc.).
    • Post Excerpt (automatically extracted/generated based on the post type).
    • Post Content.
    • Metadata on how to connect to the post’s comment thread.
    • Metadata on how to subscribe to the post’s comment thread.
    • Metadata on how to _POST a comment to the post’s comment thread.
    • Metadata on how to _POST a like to the post.
  • rssCloudServer listens for post related traffic (comments, likes, re-posts)
  • A push (rssCloudServer to theme) or polling (theme to rssCloudServer) mechanism is used to keep the theme updated in “real time”.

Enhancements

I believe that the Theme part of this project can and should evolve to supply other interactions – such as friends (and friend requests), photo galleries, a contact form, etc. Though all of these interactions are inherently possible in WordPress, they need to be designed an implemented so that streamlined functionality can be achieved from within the theme itself without having to access the admin.

Bootstrapping

It will be challenging to get this started – to get people off Facebook and onto WallPress. My thoughts on this are:

  • It needs to be initiated regardless of adoption challenges.
  • There will be early adopters – criticism of Facebook is abundant – action for an alternative is lacking or shortcoming.
  • There needs to be research into transitional features such as:
    • Getting started by scanning an existing Facebook accounts and migrating the information from it to a WallPress account.
    • Staying connected and syncing to a Facebook account to stay in touch with people who are still on Facebook.
    • Sending invitations to other Facebook users to migrate their accounts.
    • Harnessing the WordPress community to develop further features and capabilities that may compete with Facebook’s centralized feature development.

2 Comments

  1. Posted June 26, 2013 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    I love the idea. In fact just last night I wrote a blog posts about how my personal sites have been around for 10+ years now compared to jumping from service to service(like facebook) every four years. I feel better about my content being on my own site.

    That said one of the major advantages of a social network is the ability to mark posts so that only certain friends can see them. Currently on wordpress you only have the option to mark a post as public, private or password protected. There is no way to create groups of friends and then mark certain posts, pages, images, etc. as only viewable to certain groups. Google+ does this wonderfully with their circles feature. It’s this kind of privacy that people like about the social networks. Especially when they have a professional reputation to uphold.

    So the question then is, how do we get RSS feeds that send restricted information that only certain marked people can see. After thinking about this last night it occured to me that maybe the answer isn’t total encrypted privacy but more along the lines of “unlisted” privacy. Similar to how you can upload a video to youtube and mark it as unlisted. It won’t show up anywhere on youtube or in search results, but anyone with that specific URL can watch it.

    So maybe the solution is to create a personal specific RSS feed for each registered user of your site. Obviously that would have to be done automatically by your wordpress.

    Another issue is membership in order to even be able to create those friends groups. The problem with a bunch of independent wordpress sites is that people have to go and sign up to each and every one of them, versus facebook or google where they only have to sign up once and then just click a button to follow/friend someone.

    It would be nice if there was an RSS “profile” feed. A url that delivers real time information from a profile you create on your own website. It would deliver information like first and last name, gender, age, profile picture in a couple different sizes one of them being a 150×150 square and other being larger, plus a description, interests, email address, relationship status, location, sexual orientation, keywords, etc. This special profile feed url would be generated by your wordpress site, you would then take that url and submit it to other wordpress sites. On those sites it’s used to display your profile on all the comments you make as well as allow the admin of that site to group you for their own privacy controls. Whenver you update your profiel on your site it updates it on all the sites you submitted that profile feed to. Becaus eit’s and RSS feed or sorts.

    • iamronen
      Posted June 27, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      thank you for taking a look and commenting.

      I believe that many core capabilities already exist and there are a few that need to be added (some of which you touched upon).

      I think that a “context” can be added to the post publication meta-data to handle things such as public/friends/family …

      Login and identification is a constantly evolving art … I would want my WordPress website to my online ID server too … I believe everyone should have an online ID presence (preferably not owned by a commercial entity) that speaks standard protocols. That should be the direction to handle membership and association between people and context.

      Connectivity as an infrastructure between WordPress installations is a missing piece of the puzzle. I believe the core protocols are already in existence … they simply haven’t been integrated into WordPress in this way.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>