Are We Crazy to Continue Updating Our WordPress Autoblog Plugin?

Although the wordpress.org directory doesn’t like our Autoblog plugin (they won’t let it in), we sure do. That’s why we continue to work on it.

We’ll get into the deal with the wordpress.org directory at the end; for now, however, we’ve got some good news for those of you who do appreciate what a powerful, easy-to-use tool it is.

In addition to some tuning up, Autoblog recently received several new add-ons. (Add-ons are like plugins for a plugin. You can activate them or not, depending on what you need.)

Automatic is a good thing -- like the Autoblog plugin.
Automatic is a good thing — like the Autoblog plugin.

Append Text to Post Add-on

Maybe the update that most will take note of is the addition of the “Append text to post” add-on.

This add-on lets you set up text in advance to go at the bottom of each post. You do this by individual feed, and so different feeds can have different pre-written text.

It also comes with a number of “variable placeholders.” A variable placeholder is something like %ORIGINALPOSTURL% which will automatically insert the—you guessed it—original post URL.

post-footer-section

Feed Validator

Another nice new addition is a feed validator. You will see it as the last link in the row after you set up your feeds.

validate-feed

Clicking the link above takes you to the W3.org’s feed validator. The main thing to check, of course, is if the feed is valid or not. Apart from that, it may give you a lot of suggestions for improving the feed – none of which you will have any control over if you’re using someone else’s feed.

feed-validation


Replace Author Information Add-on      

This replaces the author details shown on a post with the imported sites’ authors.

Canonical Link Header Add-on

Adds a rel=’canonical’ link in a posts header to point to the original post.

Other Improvements

There were other improvements as well. These were more of the under-the-hood variety.

  • Checks for existing user / author by email address if a match isn’t found by username
  • Updated admin menu display rules
  • Added collation to table creation to enforce utf8 where appropriate
  • Fixed any warnings from WP3.6 RC
  • Rewrote use external permalink add-on
  • Changed to use a multi-byte parse_url call for UTF8 post content
  • Added Validate Feed link to enable quick check of feed validity
  • Updated Image import add-ons to attempt to enforce correct (mapped) domain on image import
  • Updated language file with latest strings

What Is Autoblog and How to Use It

Autoblog lets you automatically post content from RSS feeds to your WordPress site. (Works with Multisite too!) The first thing that might jump into some people’s minds when they hear that is SPLOG! (splog = spam blog)

But splogs, while still out there, are not what they used to be. Google and other search engines have a done a pretty good job of not ranking splog content, and so splogging these days is pretty much a waste of time.

Set up a curated news site with Autoblog as  outlined here.
Set up a curated news site with Autoblog as outlined here.

So why do we not only keep up our Autoblog plugin, but also keep adding to it? Are we crazy?

Simple answer: No.

We’re not crazy.

We didn’t build Autoblog for splogs. YOU would have to be crazy if you thought we built a splog tool. If you don’t already know, we’re the same people behind Edublogs.org – the second largest open WordPress run blogging site on the web (over 1.8 million blogs at this point). We FIGHT splogs … every single day. (And we do a good job killing them, by the way.)

Autoblog can be used be used for all sorts of situations. Not long ago, in fact, we did a post on how you use it as the basis of a curated news aggregation site. You might use it as an internal company tool to keep employees updated on information from various corporate sites. You might also pull in external feeds for news in your sector. You might set up a personal feed reader for yourself. Or you might have an idea that flies completely out of the box and fits none of these obvious uses.

If there are RSS feeds to access, then Autoblog may be just what you’re looking for.

A Bone to Pick with WordPress.org

WordPress.org Directory
WordPress.org Directory

And all that brings us to our final point – a little bone to pick with wordpress.org. We would like to add a free version of this plugin to wordpress.org, but the powers that be won’t let the plugin into the directory.

Why?

Well, they say it’s a tool for spammers. I have to say that’s true. It is a tool that spammers might use.

Know what else is a tool for spammers? … WORDPRESS!!!

Wanna hear another tool for spammers? … The INTERNET!!!

Wanna hear another? … OK, you get the idea. Autoblog doesn’t spam. Spammers spam.

As mentioned, we deal with sploggers all day long. We get that spam is bad. But we’re not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater. To us, that just seems silly.

What do you say? Should wordpress.org be eliminating valuable tools from the directory because a spammer might use them? Does this make any sense to you? Let us know in the comments.

Photo credit: Kodak retina automatic 1, Billingham

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Comments (19)

  1. Agreed! Spammers Spam.
    The Autoblog Plugin is solid and a great tool that I use on several sites.
    It replaced my Google Alerts which made me manually do what is now done automatically.
    Autoblog just saves me time.
    I still have to write my posts and everything imported is set to pending so there is no spam.

  2. Its a bit like the argument for gun control.

    The anti-gun lobby says… ” guns kill people. Some people can’t be trusted with guns. Ban guns!”. Which is true, and you can see their logic, even if you don’t agree. But then the same argument is also true of cars, aeroplanes, alcohol, tobacco ~ plus a whole bunch of other stuff you can imagine. On the other side, the pro-gun lobby says… ” its not guns that kill people; its people that kill people, using guns. And if people didn’t have guns, they’d just find another way to do what the set out to do”. Which is also true.

    I guess the only question for WPMUDEV to answer is ~ when I hear staff members complaining about the workload of 130 odd plugins to keep updated ~ do they really want to be making guns?

    I’d much rather they took that time and created a decent, working, good looking and functional Pro-Sites registration and sign-up process, without telling everyone who tries to figure out the labyrinthine mess it is now and has been for years, apparently ~ ” you’re going to have to go do some custom programming”.

    Terence.

  3. It’s a great plugin. I use it to move some common content around a few sites. I don’t the content of others. The alternatives our there are not that good. I find feed wordpress to be too sloppy setting up feeds and alternatives on how to handle different feeds. Plus, I have found at times in the past it caused so many versions of a single post (revisions and newly published as if new) that is was absurd. WPOmatic I have not seen in a year. I thought it was outdated then. I never looked at it again.

  4. I know for a fact that there are other syndication plugins in the WordPress plugin repo — I’ve used them. Couldn’t you point to those as an example? Say something like “Look, if these guys are legit, we’re legit.”

    Just an idea. The other syndication plugins have many shortcomings and I know you guys would provide a real robust solution. Hope this can happen soon.

  5. I literally renewed signed up for WPMU because of this plug-in. Awesome for syndicated content as already mentioned.

    Now my interns can spend more time on other things.

    Live live WPMU! *raises flag*

  6. I’m actually going to use it on a customers new site right now.

    This customer is an organization working to promote human rights and democracy by culture and arts. They are actually several smaller organizations who have joined forces, they already have websites for several of their projects, but they want news/updates on these sites to be visible on the main site.

    So how do we do that? Force them to write everything twice, or use RSS with the autoblog-plugin? I think the last option sounds better.

  7. This plugin (or one like it) is being used to associate our company with other organisations with a bad reputation.

    I’m part of a team running a news site on WordPress. Some strangers outside our company setup another WordPress website feeding news from our site as well as other sources we do not want to be associated with.

    This “news portal” ripped our graphics from facebook and created a banner with our company’s name. This banner is published in the header of the archive labeled with our company’s name alongside the not-so-objective news sites. Our journalists’ articles are being published as-is without any credit to them or link to our website.

    Just an example of how things can go wrong.

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