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TidBITS Now on Facebook Thanks to dlvr.it

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After significant effort, we're pleased to announce the opening of the TidBITS Facebook page. It's nothing fancy, largely because there isn't much fancy that can be done on Facebook. Nonetheless, if you click the Like button at the top of the page, you'll see our headlines and article summaries interspersed with the rest of your news feed items. Click a headline link and you'll pop over to the full article on our site. It's simple, yet effective, and if you enjoy using Facebook to keep up on what's happening, I encourage you to connect with TidBITS via the Like button.


You can also leave comments on any post, click the Like link for a post if you liked it, and use the Share link to share it with your Facebook friends. We'd prefer if you left comments on our site using the TidBITS Commenting System, so they're linked with articles and so we can more easily reply, but we'll try to check in on the TidBITS page to respond to comments as appropriate.


Setup Tribulations -- If you're interested in what we went through to get this set up, the problems fell into two basic categories: accessing our RSS feed and creating reasonable graphics.

Although there are a lot of Facebook apps that promise to bring an RSS feed into Facebook, most of them didn't work with a fan page (now called a business page) when I started this project. The process of accessing a Facebook app, configuring it with appropriate RSS information and Facebook permissions, and then waiting for our RSS feed to update so I could see if it worked was slow, awkward, and incredibly frustrating.

Eventually I came across dlvr.it, a Web site and Facebook app designed to publish RSS feeds to social networking services, including Twitter and Facebook. I first switched the TidBITS Twitter account to use dlvr.it instead of the Twitterfeed service we had been using but which had suffered some growing pains. When that worked out well, I started trying to use dlvr.it to feed TidBITS headlines and summaries to my newly created TidBITS Facebook page.

That was more problematic, but dlvr.it's extremely responsive technical support helped with a few troublesome areas (most of which were Facebook's fault, or the result of Facebook's nearly impenetrable interface for setting up business pages), and eventually I got the feed importing properly.

Unfortunately, it was ugly as sin. Initially, dlvr.it grabbed a random graphic from our pages (usually the QR code; see "Tag, You're in 2D!," 1 October 2009) to use as the post's thumbnail, which appeared next to the profile thumbnail for each post. Luckily, a few weeks ago, an update to dlvr.it gave me additional control over thumbnails on Facebook, so I was able to eliminate per-post thumbnails, leaving just the profile thumbnail (click Older Posts at the bottom of the TidBITS Facebook page to see examples of this ugly thumbnail duplication).

But our problems weren't over yet. I had tried to use our standard TidBITS logo for the Facebook page's profile picture, but Facebook really wants a square image there, to the extent that it trims rectangular profile pictures into squares when displaying them as thumbnails (I could never find any specs on image sizes or aspect ratios). After many attempts, we finally gave up on our standard logo entirely and created a square logo that worked for both the large profile picture and the truncated thumbnails.

Regardless of this fuss, everything seems to be working well now, and dlvr.it even reports click-through stats for each social networking service and for each item (currently quite low for Facebook, since so few people know about it now). So if you're interested in setting up a Facebook business page and populating it at least in part from your RSS feed, I highly recommend dlvr.it.


 

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Comments about TidBITS Now on Facebook Thanks to dlvr.it
(Comments are closed.)

Looks good. I like the graphic, too.

Having your articles in the Facebook feed means I'll probably read more of them.
Jeff Prellwitz  2010-04-30 11:24
We're glad we could help you distribute your RSS content to Facebook LinkedIn and Twitter. We appreciated your patience while we resolved the Facebook issues. Please let us know how else we can improve Dlvr.it

Jeff
VP Publisher Relations, Dlvr.it
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-04-30 13:39
You're doing good work, Jeff, and thanks for continuing to enhance dlvr.it. Most impressive was your responsiveness to questions, given how confusing Facebook's interface can be.
Thanks for the article. I'm sending the link to my wife in case she can use dlvr.it for her non-profit the Stanislaus Wildlife Care Center.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-04-30 13:37
Great - I was hoping other people would be able to learn from our efforts to create Facebook presences.
Lisa Spangenberg  2010-04-30 15:57
I'm finding I can't get dlvr.it to talk to my Facebook page. And I'm sure it's Facebook issue.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-05-03 07:39
Configuring Facebook pages is one of the most frustrating technical experiences I've had in years. The dlvr.it tech support people were good at helping (when possible), so it's definitely worth asking them.
Lisa Spangenberg  2010-05-07 12:47
It was Facebook. I note, btw, that FB seems to be hijacking potentially popular Community pages, and propagating them with screen scrapings.
Charlie Meyerson  2010-05-03 21:10
Perfect timing for this article. Thanks for helping us beef up facebook.com/wgnradionews. Another reason I love TidBITS.
Doug Smith  2010-05-04 10:33
I've used the RSS Graffiti (http://www.rssgraffiti.com/) app for Facebook for this kind of thing with much success. I too tried several RSS apps and I like this one because it can handle multiple RSS feeds to multiple Facebook pages or profiles and has some good configuration options.

By the way, you can try using a link tag with rel="image_src" and a URL to tell Facebook which image to choose from your page. Details at http://wiki.developers.facebook.com/index.php/Facebook_Share/Specifying_Meta_Tags
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-05-04 10:44
The problem we had was that we didn't want any graphics to show - we don't have per-article graphics, so nearly any graphic that appears is guaranteed to be wrong in some way.
Doug Smith  2010-05-04 15:58
RSS Graffiti does have several styles available; one is compact with no images.
Nello Lucchesi  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2010-06-16 08:19
Okay, then how did you completely suppress images in each post? (I'm trying to do the same thing.)
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-06-16 09:51
In the Destination Editor for Facebook, in the Post Content tab, I chose Shared Link for the Post Style and No Thumbnail for the Thumbnail Style.
Charlie Kalech  2010-05-04 22:27
Thanks for sharing the process you went through. Facebook development can be frustrating, to put it mildly. It is great to share experiences and to learn from each other! Thanks!
xairbusdriver  2010-05-08 11:04
Sorry, I won't ever be using your "Like" button, even after all the trouble you went through to get everything working.

I can see the benefits for commercial sites who will probably make good use of the info on people who use that link. But I have no idea why that info would be of use to TIDbits. Probably more/better "hit" statistics?" I came, I read, I leave. I do all that because your site is useful. Period. + a great email newsletter! :-)

I recently deleted my account at FB after wasting way too much time resetting the Privacy settings on applications I'd never even used! Friends "helpfulness?" Or just plain behind the scenes manipulations? Either way, "security" and "Facebook" just don't work together.

The benefits of the soon to be ubiquitous "Like" button must be outstanding for web sites. Personally, I'm starting to use those sites with the constantly visible buttons less and less. When will we ever get a good javascript blocker similar to what's available for Firefox???!!!
Glenn Fleishman  2010-05-08 15:26
"I have no idea why that info would be of use to TIDbits": It's really to allow people who read news items on Facebook to get our articles to appear there. The "like" statistics are irrelevant. We want to get news to people who want it, wherever they want it.

That said, I also deleted my Facebook profile out of disgust over its ever-worse piracy policies.
Shay Telfer  2010-05-09 09:01
Arrr.... Or do you mean "privacy policies"?
Glenn Fleishman  2010-05-09 09:36
Yes. That was the best Freudian slip I've ever typed.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-05-09 12:53
As Glenn noted, the statistics are fun, but otherwise irrelevant. The only point in this Facebook page is to make it possible for people who use Facebook to see TidBITS articles in the same place as they see other news items.

Facebook's privacy issues are significant - my take on it is that you shouldn't post anything on Facebook (or say anything in email) that you wouldn't want to appear on the front page of the New York Times. Consider whatever you post there not just public, but published to the widest possible audience, and you'll be fine.