Creating a link blog with WordPress in 2019 (Part 1)

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This post is the first one in a series of posts in which I will outline how I will build a link blog based on WordPress (Summer project).

In part 1 I will share my requirements and possible solutions I am thinking about. I don’t know what the solution will be, so it could turn into a series of five posts or just one more post about this.

Why start a link blog?

I am reading a lot of articles and blogs, listen to podcasts and music, watch movies and documentaries, etc. I want to create a central place where I will keep an archive of what “content” and stories I have consumed by sharing links. Both to share it with the world, but also to have an archive for myself.

In the past this has all been spread out, some links shared on Twitter and Facebook, and all bookmarks stored on Pinboard, other tools come and go (Pocket, Instapaper, …)

Workflow for my link blog

The minimum effort is necessary to keep the link blog alive. If I have to log in to WordPress, click create a post and add some links, that will not work. It needs to be way easier than this, otherwise, the link blog will fail at the start.

Ten years ago people were using the bookmarking del.icio.us for that. Users of the bookmarking service were able to set a time of the day when new entries will be published as a blog post.

Handling of posts with links

I do not want every link shared to be a separate WordPress post, and I do not want to have a scheduled job to post daily. Instead, only if I have a least 5 links ready to be shared a post should be created. Five links worthwhile to share per week s a realistic frequency for my link blog.

How links in a WordPress post should look like

I want every link shared to have a preview of the article. WordPress does support embeds for a lot of platforms. If I add a link to an NYTimes article it looks like this:

A link with working preview in WordPress

The problem is that for a lot of links this does not work. If I share a link to a blog post I have published here on freshvanroot.com, WordPress tells me “this content could not be embedded”.

Screenshot of a link added in WordPress (Gutenberg) editor, that WordPress cannot embed.

There are a lot of support requests about this because if a link is pasted WordPress per default tries to embed the link (with a nice preview), but in most cases then triggers the error message. WordPress relies on oEmbed, and it seems not many sites are using those properties for links shared. The strange thing is that WordPress does favor oEmbed, but does not allow me to set the oEmbed properties when writing a post. Something that could be solved with a plugin it seems.

Many sites provide the necessary tags for a proper link preview for Facebook, but WordPress does not scan a page in the same way Facebook does. That is a problem to be solved for my link blog.

Design of the link blog

That is easy, I will use one of the freely available default/minimal WordPress one-column themes, or Independent Publisher, which I have used in the past.

So I will sum up the requirements:

  1. Easy integration in my current workflow (avoid new tools)
  2. WordPress as CMS for my link blog
  3. A post with links is created every time I have 5 links ready, not time-based.
  4. Added links should have a preview. Comments and tags are optional
  5. After the post is published, it should be shared with my Twitter profile (easy)
  6. If possible, get this all working without writing code (aka I can do it on my own :))

Possible solutions to get there

I will share both personal and work related links, the links won’t fit here. So I will set up a new WordPress site under a new domain.

Second, I will continue to use Pinboard as a service for saving all my bookmarks. So Pinboard could be one of the tools involved in running my link blog.

Slack is also a tool I am using daily. Another solution could be to share links to a specific Slack channel, called “slack2press”, and those links are later posted as a WordPress post via IFTT or Zapier.

Another solution is to check out tools that are specifically made for both saving and sharing links, let’s say services similar to Pinboard, but with more features. Diigo seems to be one of those tools.

Tumblr, a service that would be perfect for hosting a microblog, is no longer recommended with an unsure future ahead for the blogging platform.

Challenges

Both Pinboard and Slack can easily be connected to WordPress, but there is no easy way to configure Zapier or IFTT to only create a WordPress post if at least five new links have been added to pinboard (with a specific tag) or the Slack channel.

Pinboard would offer the advantage of tags and comments that can easily be mapped to WordPress tags, the link description would be my comment on why the article should be read.

Saving a bookmark to Pinboard with via Chrome extension

Slack has it’s own mobile app, is actively developed, and in use all day already, but does not allow adding tags to links shared.


Next Steps

Setting up WordPress and installing the theme (easy). Most likely I will use Amazon Lightsail.

Then I will play around with Pinboard/Slack in conjunction with IFTT/Zapier to check out how close I can get to the solution without writing code.

If that does not work out I will research alternative solutions.

Results will be shared in my next post about this topic.

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Rolf Mistelbacher

Rolf Mistelbacher

Hi, I am the CEO & Founder of Fresh van Root, a boutique digital agency in Vienna, Europe. I got first online in '96 and since then I am hooked on the web. Here I blog about social media, WordPress and blogging, productivity, apps and tools for digital marketers, and all things related to running a digital agency. Before starting Fresh van Root I was working at Microsoft for quite some time. Get in touch with me on LinkedIn or Twitter!

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