At last I figured out how to publish my application key for Ping.fm, and this means I can release my latest mashup in a long series of gateways between Second Life and the outside world.
If you have followed my blog lately, you’ll remember my ranting about the tough task of keeping in touch with all those microblogging features, that have long left Twitter and Plurk, and completely dominate Facebook and pretty much everything these days. Status, updates, shouts, you name it, the idea is the same: your friends are eager to know about you, and each one will be connected to a different social webthingy and claim it’s “the best” — for them. Alas, online friendship requires an open mind and tolerance towards your fellow social Internetters, and this means catching up with all of them.
As said before, I cheat. It’s not humanly possible to keep in touch with 30 or 40 different social update thingies. You might prefer one or two, but still you’d like to keep the rest of your followers up to date. So what to do?
Enter Meta-microblogging. The idea is very simple: join one site, link to all others, post once, and let the system spread your words across all microblogging sites. Do it from within SL, and you won’t even need to leave your favourite application to jump to an external website and waste all that time logging in just to post a 140-character message! Time’s precious, so just attach a HUD, type away, and your duty of keeping in touch with the world is done!
On my previous article, I’ve thoroughly described HelloTxt, still in beta, and currently their owners are even deciding if they’ll change the name or not. I’ve also mentioned Ping.fm, which is slightly older, has left beta, and seems to have more functionality. Both share a similar API in fact (yes, very likely HelloTxt has copied Ping.fm), and I had long since developed a HUD to integrate with Ping.fm too — I was just waiting to get my application key approved!
Well, it is approved now, and the HUD is here, available on the usual locations:
Instructions for the GUUD Ping.fm Gateway HUD:
So, you’re eager to start updating all your social sites simultaneously from within SL, from a single HUD, without much fuss? Let’s get started!
First, you have to register to http://ping.fm — a nice utility that allows you to send a message to *all* your social websites, and all will get automatically updated.
Click on the register tab, enter a valid login and a password, and you’re set to go!
Now it’s time to interconnect all your social websites to ping.fm: go to http://ping.fm/networks/, and from the available list, pick the service you wish to add. Twitter, Plurk, and Facebook are obvious choices; however, these days, pretty much everything has a “status” setting (like MySpace, LinkedIn, or Plaxo, among several more), and you can pretty easily add these to the system. Just pick one by one, log in to the appropriate application (following the instructions on Ping.fm’s page) and make sure they show up on the Dashboard under “Social Networks” as “Posting”. Some of them are tricky to setup correctly: for instance, I’ve found out that Facebook works best if you’re logged out of it first, and force a new login from within Ping.fm.
Next comes testing time! Go back to the Dashboard of Ping.fm (under “Ping My: Default”) and start typing a message. It’ll be shown immediately under the text box. It’s time to verify that this message has correctly propagated to all your social websites. A few, like Twitter, will even say that the update came from Ping.fm. In most cases this will show the status just after a few seconds. Others might take a bit longer. If they don’t show up at all, make sure they’re listed as Posting under “Social Networks”.
Once you’re happy that this actually works for all your websites, it’s time to link Ping.fm to your in-world HUD. Here is how it works:
Go to http://ping.fm/key/. Ping.fm will generate an “application key” for you, so you can use it with the GUUD Ping.fm Gateway HUD without the need of using a login and password (it also means that your login information will be completely safe).
It’ll display a long string of characters and numbers under Desktop / Web Key.
This is *your personal key* that you should NEVER EVER give to anyone. Did I mention that you should NEVER give it to anyone, even if they beg you on your knees and promise you millions of L$ for them? Good! And no, never give them to me, either! Nor to your friends! Just tell them to register at Ping.fm and get their *own* key.
Ping.fm won’t “forget” your key, it’ll always be displayed on http://ping.fm/key/. Keep that page open for now, you’ll need that key to get the GUUD HelloTxt Gateway HUD working.
Now it’s finally time to log in back to SL, and wear the HUD. It should pop up on the lower left corner. Since this is the first time you’ll use it, it will ask you for your application key to be able to connect to Ping.fm’s website on your behalf.
You’ll start seeing two icons: one is the small “Ping.fm” logo, and an upturned arrow next to it. Ignore them for now. When the “Ping.fm” logo is green, it means it’s accepting information in chat. If it’s red, it means the HUD is broken: touching it should reset it and allow you to start from scratch.
The first thing it asks you for is the application key. You should see a message like:
Please type your User Application Key (from http://ping.fm/key/) in chat with /7 applicationkey So if your application key is aAbBcCdDeEfFgGhH (note: it's quite longer than that!) you should type in chat: /7 aAbBcCdDeEfFgGhH
Notice that nobody else will see you typing this, and nobody else should!!
If you take too long in typing it, the chat will time out, the logo will go red, and you’ll get a message saying:
GUUD Ping.fm Gateway HUD is broken. Try touching it for a restart!
Don’t worry, touching it should get it back to green and allow you to type things again. The good thing is, of course, if you get it right *once*, the HUD will remember your keys and not ask them again.
If something goes wrong (like if you have mistyped one of your keys), the logo will turn red and give you a warning that it’s not operational. You can always click on it again and restart the configuration from scratch.
Once you have gotten the message
You're validated with Ping.fm! Happy microblogging!
You’re ready to go!
On a floating lines of text you’ll see, in blue, your latest updates. They should match what you have on Ping.fm’s “Recent Posts” page (http://ping.fm/recent/). If you now click the blue arrow, you can turn these on and off. Notice that the “on” is actually a “refresh” — so if in the mean time you got one new status message on Ping.fm, it should display it.
Let’s now add some NEW status message from SL! Click on the “Ping.fm” icon once more, and watch it turn green. A new message appears:
Please type your message with /7 message
So let’s try it out! Type in chat:
/7 This is my new status message
If you message gets accepted (meaning that everything went well), you should get in chat:
The list of messages will also update and show you the last messages you’ve got. You can now check that on Ping.fm’s website the same message you just typed has appeared there 🙂 Note that sometimes it takes a bit of time for that to appear (and in-world, you might have to click the arrow to do a refresh).
And, of course, all your social websites will now have a new status which will show up like this:
This is my new status message
Wonderful, isn’t it? 🙂 No need now to keep 20 or 30 applications or websites open while you update all your status — you can do it from within Second Life, quickly and easily, just a HUD attachment away 🙂
Problems and Disclaimer
Remember always that *things might go wrong*. I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to talk to Ping.fm and fix it for you: I have no affiliation with Ping.fm whatsoever and I’m just a happy customer of their services.
Sometimes, the HUD gets “confused” for some reason (for instance, it thinks it has validated you, but no messages appear, and no errors are shown). In that case, I suggest that you right-click on the HUD (thus entering Edit mode) and go to the menu option of Tools > Reset Scripts in Selection. The HUD should “forget” your keys and start your validation from scratch. Once you’re validated, the HUD thinks you’re validated forever, so re-validating only works with a reset. That’s important if at some point you register again with Ping.fm or ask for a new application key for some reason.
Sadly, due to limitations in how Linden Lab implements external Web calls, the HUD cannot call Ping.fm directly. What this means is that it calls one webserver of mine as a gateway. My webserver will call Ping.fm properly and return the results to Second Life. This means two things: one, that my webserver might fail or be slow in responding, and your messages might not get forwarded or be delayed. Unfortunately, I cannot do much about that, but it might bother you. The other thing, of course, it means that messages will not go directly from SL into Ping.fm but through my servers first. Although I don’t store *ever* anything on disk (neither names, or keys, or even messages), you’ll have to take my word for it. That’s why I’ll *accept a refund* if you’re worried about this and don’t wish to to continue to use the HUD. The HUD is transferrable, so just return it to me and send me an IM — I’ll refund you promptly as soon as I log back in. You can, of course, give it away to a friend that has no trouble with this issue.
I promise that as soon as Linden Lab changes the way their web calls are made — allowing direct calls to Ping.fm — I’ll release a new version that doesn’t work through my webserver as gateway. But LL has explained they won’t likely be doing this in the near future.
If you have looked carefully at Ping.fm’s documentation, you’ll probably be asking yourself if you can’t send images through the HUD — since Ping.fm also allows images to be posted on social websites, not just text. Well, the HUD doesn’t work like that, but I’m planning to introduce a feature that will allow you to take snapshots and send it to Ping.fm. Stay tuned to my blog (http://gwynethllewelyn.net) for a future announcement!