Houtje-touwtje, literally ‘small stick-short rope’, or cord loops fasteners in English, is the more down to earth and old Dutch phrase for putting stuff together with duct tape (known as MacGyver tape to many here, after the 80’s tv series). After messing around in the FreshRSS back-end last weekend, yesterday I made a houtje-touwtje working version to let me post more easily about the things I find in my feed reader.

In my previous post I mentioned I want to support three different reactions:

  • favourites, something I liked, or want to let the author know I appreciated
  • bookmarks, something I (want to) read, and keep reference to for my notes
  • replies, something where I comment on or reply to a posting and its author directly

Four labeled posts in my feed reader

The way I mark postings in my feed reader is attaching a label to them (favourite, bookmark, reply)
Then with the SQL statement from the last posting I pull out those labeled postings (label, url, title, author, and content).

Yesterday evening I attempted to bring it a step or two further, but ended up with something that works.
I created a php html page that shows me, using the SQL query, every labeled posting and for each posting shows a webform. That webform is needed because I want to be able to add two things to every labeled posting (though they’re not mandatory)

  • My motivation for favouriting, or bookmarking, or my reply
  • A quote of the bit in the original posting I am picking up on

The form for me to add motivation and selected quote

Next to that the form is needed to forward the other information (link, title, URL) to the next stage, along with my response and quote. This simultaneously allows me to clean up URLs, shorten the title or provide the actual author name if the post only contains a shortened username e.g.

The webform also contains a field for the total number of labeled items (hidden), and a field for the label itself. Again needed to forward them to the next stage of the process.

The second stage is that submitting the form, calls the same php page again, but this time to process the submitted form information (no longer the database query)

Based on the label (fav, bookmark or reply) it selects a template for how I want to show those in my blog (each have their own svg-icon and first sentence), uses the right microformat, and adds in the url, author, title and my reaction and selected quote in the right spots. The microformat is relevant for when my posting sends a webmention to the website I’m reacting to, and lets that site know if it’s a reply (to show underneath in their comments), or a bookmark or favourite. Assuming that the other website can receive webmentions that is.

Resulting HTML

The result of that is then shown to me in HTML. I paste that HTML into my blog editor, add things like posting categories and tags, and hit publish. In essence I’ve replaced what the Post Kinds plugin, that I stopped using, in my WordPress blog did before: automating fetching some info, and adding it into my posting. It is akin to what I had previously, where I weekly posted links to my blog from my Evernote bookmarks using e-mail.

The posting on the blog

This ‘houtje-touwtje‘ set-up doesn’t do the fancy things yet, like posting itself automatically to my blog through micropub (UPDATE January 2022 it now does!), or providing me this functionality within my FreshRSS reader’s interface. Also, after posting things, I need to manually delete the labels, so they don’t resurface the next time I run the php script.

Another path to explore is using the same or similar workflow to put labeled posts into my personal notes.

This morning I tested out the workflow, and I was pleased with the result. I loaded up the feed reader, and did my usual reading. I marked things for follow up. I ran the script, added my motivation and selected quotes. Pasted the resulting HTML into my blog, added categories and hit publish. This definitely feels smoother and less time consuming. It’s been a while I posted more than 1 thing based on my feedreading that day, let alone four (1, 2, 3, 4) within minutes of reading it. The ‘normal’ routine was ending up with a bunch of open tabs in my browser, and at the end of the day giving up and hitting close-all for those I didn’t get around to during the day.

[Update: the php script is available in my GitHub account]

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