Twitter Tools

[This was first published at AMPed.]

The one thing that I love about technology is the discovery of something awesome regardless if it is software, hardware or a mash-up application that enhances my overall experience. But what makes the tech even more cool is when the technology just works the way it does without any additional futzing by me.

Keeping that in mind, one of my favorite widgets for WordPress that does just this is Twitter Tools by Alex King. Twitter Tools is kind of a misnomer in that it sounds like contains a suite of options for Twitter<->WordPress functionality when it really boils down to two things:

  • Turn your posts into tweets.
  • Pulls existing tweets into a post.

Why is this widget important? With Twitter having grown over 1000% in the last year, everyone and everything is on Twitter from national news networks, companies and brands, to celebrities and politicos and definitely not lastly, right down to Joe and Jane Anybody. The one constant thing all of them are doing is harnessing the way Twitter works and pushing beyond its boundaries by incorporating Twitter into their other social networks and web presences and vice versa. For companies and brands, this also means that they are doing outreach to clients, potential clients, staff and more by utilizing the power of social networking and integrating it into their professional lives. Why send just a company newsletter to clients when you can also keep them abreast of new technologies, updates, interests as well as interact with them in this new social playground.

What exactly does this mean? Social networking takes a lot of time and work, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. Let’s say Jane Anybody is on Twitter, Facebook, and has a blog. Let’s say she wants to be able to push her blog onto Twitter automatically without having to login to Twitter every single time she writes a new entry. Let’s also say that Jane doesn’t want to have to futz with shrinking the URL, rewording her title if it is too long and then reminding herself to login and to post to Twitter after she is done writing her blog entry. She wants an application this will do all of this for her with one push of a button.

This is where Twitter Tools comes into play.

As mentioned, Twitter Tools is the all in one client that will automagically push new blog content to your Twitter account AND will pull content from your Twitter account, which you can then showcase your Twitter-fu in a neat sidebar widget that you can add (thanks, again, to Twitter Tools) or as a daily post, which will post automatically to your blog.

You can search for Twitter Tools directly at the WordPress Codex, download and upload to WP-Plugins/ folder on your WordPress install or even easier, you can search for Twitter Tools via the Plugins->Add New search tab on your WordPress dashboard. The second install option is even easier as WordPress will automatically download and install Twitter Tools (or any plugin available via the Codex) without having to use (or know) FTP. Just search, select and okay the download and WordPress does it all for you — which is also pretty cool.

Regardless of which way you choose to download Twitter Tools, once it’s installed, go to WordPress Dashboard->Settings->Twitter Tools. From here, once you authenticate your Twitter account and change the option on “Enable option to create a tweet when you post in your blog” to “Yes,” Twitter Tools can be pretty much left alone. From this point forward, every post created on your blog will automatically ship to Twitter, with shortened URL, when your post is published to the blog. Twitter Tools also works with post-date (in the future) and pre-date (in the past) feature via WordPress but also keep in mind that in choosing either of these options, the date stamp on your Tweet will match the date stamp on your blog entry and pre-date entries will be fed into your Twitter stream appropriately, therefore they will not show up as “new” tweets in your timeline to your followers.

Here are some other nifty things about Twitter Tools:

  • You can turn Twitter Tools on/off individually in each post, which will override the default. In this case, we have changed the default to “Yes” which means that each and every post will automagically post to Twitter when it posts to your blog.
  • Twitter Tools automatically installs widget functionality that you can drag into your sidebar by going to
    WordPress Dashboard->Appearance->Widgets without knowing how to code.
  • You can also enable the ability (via the Twitter Tools configuration page) to have your tweets for the day automatically pulled from Twitter, compiled into a single post and having that post posted not only to your blog but also tweeted back to your Twitter account (like your other normal blog posts). And no, King says, this apparent cyclic function will not cause a firey ball of doom.
  • For those of you who are more into doing things by hand, King also gives instructions on how to hack up and style Twitter Toolsrather than be dependent on the theme installed. This means if you would rather have X amount of tweets appear or if you would rather have them show up in a footer, or somewhere else on your blog, King provides how-to’s and explanation how these hooks will work.
  • Support: One of the nice things about WordPress is the community built around it for support if you get stuck on doing something and with Twitter Tools, there is no exception. You can use the support Codex and post a question there, you can alternately Google for an answer or if it is dire emergancy and you simply cannot wait for responses, there is the WP HelpCenter, which is a pay service.

Bottom line: Twitter Tools is an easy way to get Twitter integrated into your blog and to push blog posts to your Twitter account without knowing how to code, futz with extra settings or more plugins. It works right out of the box and can be installed and set-up within a few minutes. This is definitely a “Must Have” in your WordPress toolkit.

The Beginning of the Search of “What is ‘IT’?’”

[This was first published at AMPed.]

One of the first things I did when I found out I was accepted into library school was to Google for blogs, wikis and podcasts from others like me: new to be librarians and archivists who were in or had recently graduated from their respective programs.

I figured it was 2008, surely there would be loads of blogs, Facebook groups, listservs to name a few places for this sort of thing.

I was wrong – there wasn’t really squat. Let me rephrase that, I found lots of things from other people looking to apply TO library school but nothing really detailing what it was like being IN library school. And what I could find on being IN library school fell into two camps: One camp was the very vague, mainly one-liners on random blogs and other social media sites such as, “I really like collection development.” Or there would be the opposite end of the spectrum where students used social media sites for research results or gave detailed accounts of their projects but then wouldn’t include reference materials of any sort for their readers to do further independent reading.

And the thing is, I didn’t really think I was looking for something really that vague or obsolete or unusual: I’m a new library and archivist student. I’m looking to connect with others like me. Why was this so difficult?

This is not to say, completely, that these type of blogs/wikis and the like were not out there; I eventually did find one or two that lead me to a few others, which lead me to a few moreand so on. But in reality, I felt like I was missing some super secret handshake that all my fellow students seemingly were totally getting. And it’s also not that I didn’t ask – I did ask on mailing lists, blogs and to my professors: What is the best place to keep up to date on library and
archival information? And you could almost hear the pin drop, at least on the mailing lists. Many others also asked the question before me on several lists and not a single person answered, even when others would pipe up, “Me too!”

By the time the school year was nearing to an end, I had joined (it felt like) a dozen associations from the ALA to the SAA to all the subgroups and student committees. I was receiving so much email, that I had to create a new Gmail account to keep track of it all. The Twitter explosion had taken off and I was obtaining feeds from
librarians and archivists through it and other social networks. At a tech unConference that was held shortly after I finished my first year, I posed the same question to the ending panel and was given a minute list of websites that I was already following and reading.

And it still, shockingly enough, didn’t feel like I had the pulse on of what the heck was going on in my chosen career path.

For nearly a year, I was chasing this library and archival holy grail of sorts to make sure I was in “the know” of everything was going on in these professions. I couldn’t read, listen or write fast enough to keep up. If I was honest, half the time I felt like I was missing out on huge chunks of “need to know information” because I wasn’t paying close enough attention.

Recently, after nearly a year of this kind of OCD behavior, I was having a conversation with someone when I was lamenting my thought process on this topic with her. “But Lisa,” she said, “You ARE it. Do you have any idea how many people look to you as you have the pulse on what’s going on?”

Oh.
OH!

I used this overly long example to illustrate a point: “IT” is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. In my quest to know “IT” in library and archival sciences, I had become “IT” without knowing it. Once I got my friend’s point, suddenly the need to seek out so much information didn’t seem as important as it used to. Sure, I felt vaguely disappointed there was no secret handshake but the pressure to get all that information that I was supposedly missing, lifted from my shoulders and I felt like I could breathe again.

This concept is very Buddhist, but it’s also very true. When new technologies arrive, whether mechanical or digital, the media and the tech evangelists tend to blow up that particular technologies importance while deeply underscoring that if you’re not using X technology, clearly you must be an old fart or not hip enough to get the lingo or the technology itself.

This is all poppycock, of course. No one can possibly know everything – it is virtual impossible to be an expert on everything; especially in the digital world. But what you, the reader, can do is to know that even by searching out for “IT” on the subject of your choice, you probably have a greater understanding than those around you on the topic.
Even the media, at best, is a neophyte of sorts in this regard.

AMPed plans to take a look at “What is it?” by examining aspects of this ideology from variety of perspectives and experiences. As each one searches of “IT,” so then does the definition of “IT” change – we hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as we do.