New website for Podlove Subscribe Button

We have a set up a new informational and fancy looking website dedicated to the Podlove Subscribe Button. Have a look:

https://subscribe-button.podlove.org/

Apart from explaining what the button is about it also features a nifty new embed generator that makes adding the button to any website quick and easy.

In contrast to our more technical project page, that is addressing developers and other people interested in the tech behind, this new page is mainly aimed towards podcasters and is also a way to get the word out for podcast listeners who think our button is a good idea.

Please note that we have launched a similar website dedicated to the Podlove Publisher a few months ago that serves a similar purpose:

https://publisher.podlove.org

That site also highlights the primary benefits of the system and also highlights our support options. If you are benefitting from Podlove Publisher and please consider the support contract: it helps to pay for ongoing changes to the software and actively supports you when haunting for problems with your podcast.

Podlove Publisher 2.4

By: NY - http://nyphotographic.com/ CC BY-SA 3.0 NY

Podcast (By: NY – http://nyphotographic.com/) released under  CC BY-SA 3.0 NY

Good news everyone: Podlove Publisher 2.4 was released today.

Yeah, it’s been a while – but while development on Podlove Publisher was slow it was never coming to a halt. We have constantly improved little things, put some polish on existing features and added a bunch of stuff under the hood.

So we are happy to have 2.4 available to you now and want you to update as soon as possible. But please take a moment to read about the changes.

Background Jobs

There are significant changes to how the Publisher does things in the background. Most importantly, the whole subsystem on how background jobs are handled has been replaced with a new model that should be far more reliable for some environments and in particular for episode-rich podcasts. This is the basis for improvements done to the Publisher’s Analytics feature which was a focus for this new version.

New Analytics

Be aware that the new Analytics might bring some disappointments. We have used the time to review the system under half a year of real world use and have found that the Publisher was tricked into believing some traffic to be true download activity while it wasn’t. Turns out that those on the Dark Side™ are hitting all our servers with a lot of bots to find security holes. While we are not aware of any security breaches in our software, the Publisher did count many of these shady requests as legitimate download intents.

Well, no more. The downside is that after a quick recalculation (which will be kicked off automatically when upgrading), your statistics might look slightly more bleak than they did before. In our tests we experienced an up to 20% drop in the reported numbers. Sorry, not much we can do about that.

When releasing the Analytics feature we told you not to make too much out of these numbers as they need to pass the real world test. So here is the result of that. However, we are hopeful that you won’t see anything like this in future updates to the Publisher.

To compensate for this, we have improved that Analytics dashboard presenting the data in a much more meaningful way. Numbers are now presented in a cumulative way allowing for easy comparison of individual episodes. You can look at summaries on a daily basis for the first week, then weekly (for the first month), then monthly (for the first quarter), then quarterly (for the first year) and then yearly (up to three years). Not all of these columns will be visible immediately: just head up to the standard WordPress Screen Options on the top of the page to set your preferred viewing configuration.

podcast-clients-publisher-2-4The “Downloads per Day” chart on the top of the Dashboard should also be much clearer now, showing the top episodes downloaded in the recent two weeks. We have also updated the list of known Podcast Clients making the episode analytics more useful.

In addition to some global statistics being shown everything should also load MUCH faster than it did before as things are computed in the background now and cached for quick display.

Podlove Web Player 2.1

We have also included a fresh copy of the recently updated Podlove Web Player that received some technical and some visual updates to keep up with the fast pace of the Web. We have also added the Podigee Player to be used optionally if you prefer to do so.

New Tools menu

In order to make the Publishers UI more meaningful and easier to understand, we have created a new Tools page that contains helpful tasks that might be useful when things look stuck or confusing data is presented. We think these need to be invoked only every now and then or possibly never. But PHP web systems can get messy sometimes so we thought it’s better to have a toolbox ready to take action before having to rely on external support.

Logging

The logging section in the dashboard has always been confusing so we cleaned up the mess to make it more helpful. We moved it to the Support page (to make clear when you might want to use it at all) and added some filtering options when you want to look for past errors and warnings. More needs to be done in this area but hopefully these changes will be helpful already. We also dropped some messages that polluted the log file for no good reasons.

Moving to HTTPS

Moving web sites to HTTPS should be a no brainer, but doing this for podcasts has a caveat: for reasons unknown to intelligent beings on this planet the iTunes Podcast Directory still has weird limitations when dealing with HTTPS-enabled podcast web sites. While claiming having full HTTPS support in their backend Apple is effectively limiting iTunes to TLS certificates that are given out by a short list of apparently hand-picked providers on the Internet.

This rules out using the by far most popular and most recommendable approach on the net these days: getting a free and automatically renewing certificate from the great folks of Let’s Encrypt (read about this in this support thread). But also other certificates are excluded.

We have no clue why this limitation exists but it effectively prohibits many podcast sites from moving to HTTPS. Once feeds are delivered via HTTPS and do not meet the limited requirements of the iTunes Podcast Directory, new episodes will not show up for existing podcasts and new podcasts can’t even be submitted to the store. Ouch.

But Podlove is here to help. You can now configure your web site to use HTTPS for all pages EXCLUDING your feeds (everything under /feed) and Podlove Publisher 2.4 has a new expert setting that allows you to define this.

You can choose from the following settings:

* Don’t assume anything about the configuration (default)
* Website is run via HTTP only
* Website is run via HTTPS only
* Website is run via HTTPS (excluding feeds which use http)

Select your setup and Podlove Publisher will then do the right thing. The last option will make sure the feed URLs will be consistently displayed, delivered and redirected properly to make sure that iTunes can still access your podcast.

The iTunes FAQ says that HTTPS will “eventually be required”. Let’s hope they fix their handling of certificates before that time comes.

Goodbye, Feed Validator

We have dropped the external feed validation check with Feed Validator. While we generally think an external feed checker is a good thing, Feed Validator just didn’t cut it for us.

Not only did it (mistakingly) complain about Podlove’s (and other) name spaces being used. It also has a severe and problematic issue with the above mentioned migration towards HTTPS by not allowing URLs to use the https protocol scheme (although the original RSS 2.0 spec does not explicitly prohibit HTTPS to be used). So all https URLs were considered buggy. The team always resisted changing this behaviour so we have to remove it.

We might make use of newer validators Cast Feed Validator or Podbase in the future but for now we recommend you to do your checks with them manually to see if things are okay. Just don’t use Feed Validator anymore, it’s bad for podcasts and probably won’t ever change.

Other changes

We have fixed a ton of tiny bugs and added some niceties here and there to make us all happy including more meaningful defaults for new users, using the post’s featured image as an episode image, fyyd.de podcast directory integration and best of all: Emojis in titles and descriptions are no longer swallowed ????!

Requirements

Podlove Publisher 2.4 does not change its system requirements and should just work when installed.

However, we strongly advise you to keep your WordPress and PHP version up to date all the time. Some features of the Podlove Publisher rely on WordPress being updated and you should always run the latest version just for security reasons alone.

Please note that PHP 5.4 and 5.5 (while still being supported by the Publisher) have RUN OF OUT OF SUPPORT. These versions no longer get any security updates potentially making your system easy to exploit by the bad guys. Please do take this seriously. The Podlove Publisher may also increase the minimum version of PHP at any time. An added benefit of this: the faster people move to current versions of PHP the easier it will to improve reliability and add new features as the latest versions bring a lot on the table developers really like (and need).

If security alone is not enough to convince you (although it should), pleas note that moving to PHP 5.6 will probably double the speed of your system and moving to PHP 7 WILL DOUBLE THAT once more. The result is a faster less resource-intensive web site which is always a good thing.

Podlove Web Player 2.1

Our Web Player has been a major breakthrough when it first surfaced in 2012 featuring a new approach to presenting podcasts on the web with the introduction of clickable chapter marks.

The initial work of Gerrit van Aaken was then quickly continued by Simon Waldherr in 2013 which brought the widget to a new level with a revamped UI adding more audio navigation and metadata features. Apart from some minor tweaks and fixes, Podlove Web Player 2 has been mostly unchanged ever since.

Behind the scenes we started thinking about and working on version 3 of the player trying to incorporate new ideas and a fresh UI. A beta version of this player sneaked in to release 2.3.4 of the Podlove Publisher but was never finalised. After some time, we found development is stuck in a dead end and so we have stopped development in favour of a new plan for a version 4 of the widget. This will take some time however.

In order to keep up with the ever evolving Web, we have decided to take care of the old code base for the time being and have updated the Podlove Web Player to version 2.1. Not much is changed however: we have updated the look on mobile devices to make better use of screen estate and have fixed some problems with outdated JavaScript libraries.

IMG 9968

Version 2.1 is available now in the standalone Podlove Web Player plugin for WordPress and will be included in the upcoming 2.4 release of the Podlove Publisher. Developers using the button in their code base might want to update via GitHub.

Depending on how the new project comes along we might or might not add additional tweaks to Web Player 2 but don’t hold your breath for major enhancements as the dog is too old to teach it new tricks.

WordPress Plugin for Podlove Subscribe Button updated

We have recently updated the Podlove Subscribe Button WordPress Plugin to version 1.3. It now supports more customization for selecting cover images and button language and should make life easier for podcasters who are not using the Podlove Publisher but want easy integration with our Subscribe Button.

Don’t be confused: this plugin is not the Subscribe Button itself. It is a helper plugin to properly and easily embed the Subscribe Button into any WordPress blog even if it is not publishing any podcasts.

Future versions of this plugin might add integration with other common podcast plugins so that meta data needs not to be entered manually. Stay tuned.

Thanks to Alex who mainly contributed to this update.

German Public Radio adopts Podlove Subscribe Button

1600x300 Deutschlandradio_HeaderbannerOur Podlove Subscribe Button has been adopted by Germany’s public radio Deutschlandradio which operates four national networks and is the undisputed leader in high quality radio programming in the German speaking world.

Podcast pages at Deutschlandfunk and Deutschlandradio Kultur are already featuring the button covering more than 100 public podcasts with more to come.

dlr-buttonsIn a blog post by Deutschlandradio Lab project leader Boris Bittner details the reasons for adopting the button including the PSB being open source, easy to use and easy to integrate and touting the hope that more public radio stations and private podcasters will follow its example sooner than later.

We have been supporting Deutschlandradio in this process and welcome anybody who wants to follow suit. Contact us if you have questions and/or suggestions and we are happy to help.

While Podlove was started with supporting the global independent podcast landscape in general we see great benefits for the public radio and free radio projects too. We want to keep the podcast market open and free from platform constraints and invite everybody to collaborate and team up with us to achieve this goal together.

About the Podlove Subscribe Button

The Podlove Subscribe Button (PSB) is Podlove’s approach to easily integrate podcasts with the web allowing listeners to quickly subscribe to podcast from the publishers’ own websites using their preferred podcast application or podcast cloud service. With just a few easy taps or clicks anybody can subscribe to the content they cherish and love without hassle or hindrance.

The PSB works with all popular operating systems and platforms and welcomes developers to jump onboard with just a few tiny and standard-conforming enhancements to their apps. Podcasters or podcast directory

Podlove will continue to enhance and evolve the button to cover all available apps and services, to improve the user experience even more and is planning to bring new features and updates to the button soon that will make it even more useful in the near future.

Software updates for using the Podlove Subscribe Button

We have recently told you about the new design of the Podlove Subscribe Button and we are happy to have collected mostly positive feedback since then. However, people also asked how to leverage the new features. Let’s talk bit more about that.

We have recently updated both the Podlove Publisher (2.3.12) and the dedicated Podlove Subscribe Button (1.2) WordPress plugins to show an expected set of controls to make use of the new button.

Both plugins provide a dedicated WordPress widget to easily include a button in the design of your choice in one of your sidebars. It also supports the new WordPress Customises enabling a live preview while changing the button’s properties:

Psb widget editor

If you are using the Podlove Publisher, the builtin widget is made for showing a subscribe button for your own podcast. As all the information about this is already known, you just have to take care of the shiny details of how the button should look like on your page.

The dedicated Podlove Subscribe Button plugin allows easy integration of the button for any podcast you have the necessary information for so you can show a button for other podcasts (or your own if you are not yet using the publisher).

I hope these updates serve you well and please don’t stop to provide feedback about the button. Use Twitter (@podlove_org) or our Podlove Community for questions and suggestions.

Podlove Subscribe Button: The Redesign

Since having launched the Podlove Subscribe Button (PSB) at the end of 2014, our one-stop solution for easily subscribing to Podcasts is already being used by more than 2000 podcasts on the web. And we have also got a lot of positive feedback by users and podcasters alike. So it seems subscribing to podcasts has become much easier for many podcast listeners out there – which is great!

Podcast directories and podcast hosting sites have also embraced the button as its integration in web pages of any kind is pretty easy to do. More and more podcast client developers have added the necessary hooks to their products so we have continously increased the number of apps supported by the PSB. If you are a podcast client developer and want to see your program listed in the PSB, please follow the guidelines on how to integrate and how to submit your app for inclusion to our team.

Customising the button

The Podlove Subscribe Button has always provided options for customisations. The button can present the podcast image along with it, comes in three sizes and can optionally adapt to the page size too. Of course, these features continues to exist.

However, some podcasters have complained about the particular design we chose for the button. Some disliked its 3D-style. Others wanted to customise the color or simply wanted more options to better adapt the look of the button to their web design. While we have always allowed for custom links to invoke the button for web developers, we have listened and now provide a completely revamped new look of the button with more options.

Let’s walk through the new options that make customising the visual appearance easy for everyone.

Flat Design

First and foremost we have moved from the traditional 3D-inspired look to a “flat” appearance that much better integrates into current web design trends. This change is immediate and applies to all buttons currently in use – as long as they use our recommended way of using the button by simply including our hosted solution.

(If you are using the button by hosting your own copy of the button, please make sure you are always using the latest version of the master branch on GitHub).

Subscribe button green

Color

Apart from asking for a flat design, the number 1 on podcasters’ customisation wish list was color. The PSB by default comes in a distinct style of green that we considered friendly and welcoming.

But many wanted to appear the button in a primary color that define the overall style of their web page. So now we allow to just that: you choose a primary color and the button uses that and automatically calculates highlight tones for button states to match this color.

Subscribe button blue

Subscribe button red

Subscribe button yellow

Note how the button text color automatically adapts to the primary color and enables both dark and light colors to be chosen without creating conflicts.

Styles

Apart from distinct color schemes, some websites also have different styles of “lightness” where the standard “filled” button appearance seems to “heavy” when compared to other elements. So we have added to new styles to account for that.

The “outline” style removes the filling and provides a simple boxed version of the button. The “frameless” style removes the box completely and creates an even lighter look.

Subscribe buttons filled outline frameless

Square Button

We have provided both a “rectangle” and “cover” appearance from the start. New to the family is a “square” format that strips the description from the button and simply presents the generic podcast logo in the button. This should cover most design choices of web site and should allow inclusion of the button on every possible place.

Subscribe buttons square

Future enhancements

We will continue to enhance and evolve the Podlove Subscribe Button. Future developments might include manually selecting formats and provide local usage statistics. The exact list of features depends on the feedback of podcasters and users to please let us know what you think how everything should look and feel.

Feel free to drop feature requests, ideas or bug reports at the Podlove Community.

Thanks to Michaela and Ben for their contribution to make the redesign reality.

Publisher Weekly

Getting started with open source software can be a problem sometimes due to a lot of options and differing realities when setting up things. And sometimes you just can’t wrap your head around what you actually want and what your options really are.

So using Podlove Publisher is no exception in this game. The suite has accumulated many features over time and it might not always be easy to see what it can do for you.

So today we start a new service that you might enjoy if you are using Podlove Publisher: Publisher Weekly is – as you might have guessed – a weekly newsletter about Podlove Publisher by core developer Eric Teubert.

Every week you will get new tips and tricks delivered to your inbox that should help clear up confusion and show new ways how to publish your podcast effectively and with joy.

So do not hesitate and subscribe to the newsletter right away to participate in the new information transfer.

Podlove Publisher 2.3: Improved Foundation

When making decisions on what to work on next is one of the big challenges especially when thinking about the upcoming versions of the Podlove Publisher. There are so many places where we could extend and enhance the system so we need to carefully choose our battles.

With Podlove Publisher 2.3 which was released a couple of days ago, we decided to focus on stability, compatibility and integrity of our foundation. We addressed a couple of things that look minor in the release notes but are important fixes to make sure our features are built on stable ground and behave properly in the wild Internet.

Foundational work

For instance, we are now making sure we are following internal WordPress settings regarding the composition of feed URLs regarding a trailing “/”. This slash will either be removed or enforced now (depending on your settings) and the other version will reliably redirect to the configured URL with a HTTP Permanent Redirect (code 301). While this does not look like a big deal we are making sure that podcast directories can reliably identify your feed and prevent and remove duplicate entries.

We have also integrated more closely with WordPress’ cache strategies, opened up the Publisher to non-admin accounts, added a small button to automatically generate the duration from existing media files (even if hosted on another server), improved analytics and fixed numerous other small issues.

For developers, we are now opening our internal system to theme developers. The API is exactly the same as our template system so if you want to recreate features made possible by Podlove Templates in your WordPress theme you can do so now. We can’t wait to see Podlove-optimized themes for podcast-optimized blogs.

In addition to that, we have unbundled support for the Flattr micropayment system in a separate module and removed our reliance on the Flattr WordPress plugin so that the Publisher can now support Flattr completely on its own. And if you do not want to use Flattr at all for some reasons you can now turn it off completely. However, we still think Flattr is a great addition for the podcasting ecosphere and strongly suggest you use it.

Metadata features

While most of the things above are mainly improving the system and offer new options for developers and blog administrators, we have also upped the support for podcast metadata by offering two new data types: seasons and related episodes.

Seasons are basically what it says on the tin: you can now specify time ranges that represent certain phases your podcast has had. Be it a genuinely seasonal structure (like a sports podcast focusing on each season) or a transitional period of change (like a change of the team, renaming your podcast or changing its structure) that you want to communicate to your audience: seasons let you do that. While you can specify seasons internally, you currently need to explore the power of Podlove templates to bring this to the website. We are waiting for your feedback and will introduce proper defaults for archive pages etc. later on.

Related episodes are a feature where you can let episodes point to each other expressing they are related. We have decided to keep this feature simple. There is no “relation type” and the relation is always bi-directional. If you say A is related to B, then B is automatically related to A. Good thing: when new episodes point to old episodes, old episodes automatically refer into the future. Use the [podlove-related-episodes] shortcode for easy inclusion of the feature in your posts.

Both metadata features might be extended in the future but we want to keep it simple for now.

So upgrade to Podlove Publisher 2.3 today and while you are at it make sure to upgrade your PHP to version 5.6 too. PHP 5.4 as reached end-of-life status recently and won’t get any security fixes any more. The more people move to modern PHP versions the earlier we developers can build on the new features and capabilities these versions bring. This makes developing complex tools like this much easier which is good for all of us.

Podlove Publisher 2.2: Say hello to image caching

Four rotations

Hello everyone: a new Podlove Publisher release is out and it’s again an incremental update that focuses mostly on a single area: this time it’s all about images.

Because we are making use of WordPress latest image subsystem we have also upped the requirements to WordPress version 3.5 (however, we recommend using the very latest version of WordPress which as of today is 4.2.2).

As usual, feel free to discuss the release with the Podlove Community.

Images: URLs, caches, sizes and retina

As you might know, we have decided to go with external URLs when it comes to things like images. Podcast and episode image as well as avatars are all configured by providing external URLs. Problem was that it was difficult to control image and file size which can lead to huge load times for episode and archive pages etc.

We have now added an internal and automatic image cache that not only caches images but also automatically resizes images depending on the usage context. This should reduce image load times significantly.

We have also added new Podlove Template accessors to easily include those images in your templates. Use expressions like podcast.image.html, podcast.image({fallback: true}).html or contributor.image.html({ width: 32 }) to get proper <img> tags for your HTML.

Not only are these accessors easier to use than the old ones (which are now deprecated), they also bring the added benefit that we automatically provide “retina” images (the same image linked in 2x and 3x versions) to make the picture look nice on higher-resolution displays. Social and donation service icons have also been refreshed and are provided in higher resolutions.

The whole cache is put in the ./wp-content/cache/podlove directory and is properly marked so it can be automatically excluded by your backup plugin.

What about the Media Library?

We know that some of you would like to see a tighter integration with the WordPress Media Library to lessen the dependencies on external URLs and we have been discussing that. We might tackle this in a future update but it needs a lot of second thoughts in many ways.

Right now, Podlove Publisher is aimed at advanced users but we’d like to bring it all to a level where the tool is nice and fancy for starters too. This would include making the setup much much easier, automate the selection of hosting providers, handle direct uploads and make the setup of assets and feeds simpler and mostly automatic. We’re getting there eventually.

But we know we have demanding users that also want to see advancements in many other areas that are currently our focus.

So on the plus side you can be assured we have neither a lack of ideas nor a lack of todo items on our lists. You can help us getting to all these places by making a donation (or even better, subscribe to our professional support) and promoting our projects to other podcasters and podcast app developers in particular.