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.
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
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.
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”.
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.
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.