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.

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.

Introducing paid Podlove Publisher Support

Hi, I’m Eric.

I’m the guy who started developing the Podlove Publisher plugin more than three years ago with this commit. A year later, Podlove started to get significant support by donations and crowdfunding — from you. As I am the one who got the biggest chunk of it: Thank you!

Today, more than three years after the Podlove Publisher project started, I’m still here. And I’m just as excited to get us through the Roadmap as on day one. We have plenty ideas for how to improve the Podlove Publisher. The main constraint is time.

My aim is to make working on the Publisher, or other projects in the Podlove universe, a sustainable endeavor for me. Ideally full-time. Today I am taking the first step in that direction. Let me explain what I have worked on recently:

Professional Support for Podlove Publisher

According to WordPress we reached over 1000 active installs. Woohoo! While user numbers increased, so did the time we have to spend in our support channels. We have high standards to the quality of support we provide, but time spent answering questions is also time spent not working on the plugin.

Starting today, we offer private, professional support at publisher.podlove.org/support. I set up a ticket system where you can ask questions and get help in a confidential environment. All conversations will only be shared between you and our Support Agents (a fancy term for “me”). As of right now, every support request will be handled by me, the plugin developer, directly. So no matter if your questions are technical or not, I will be able to help. The support interface is english only, but please feel free to speak german.

There are three tiers for different requirements:

Basic — 5€ per month and podcast is the entry package for hobbyists. You get full access to the support system and your questions will be answered.

Business — 15€ per month and podcast is for professional podcasters who need quicker responses. This package includes “Backend Support”. If you like, you can let us login directly into your WordPress to find bugs and misconfigurations quickly.

Premium — 55€ per month and network is like the Business package, but for professional podcasters who are using WordPress Multisite for podcasts, no matter how many.

On a side note, this is a great way to regularly support Podlove Publisher development. Especially if you stayed away from traditional donations because you don’t get an invoice. With Podlove Publisher Support, you receive a proper invoice and can book it as an expense.

Get great support while helping to sustain continued development of the Podlove Publisher.

What does this mean for the existing channels?

GitHub Issues, our main support channel until now, will just be the bug tracker in the future. Free public support will always be available in our Podlove Community.

Oh, and before I forget, the Podlove Publisher has a cozy new home at publisher.podlove.org.

If you have any thoughts or feedback, please let us know in the comments or on Twitter (@ericteubert or @podlove_org).

Podlove Publisher 2.1 is here

We have finally released Podlove Publisher 2.1. Despite it’s “minor” release number, it’s a packed release with more than 200 changes to the core.

We have already hinted at some of the new features but let’s give you an overview of the major milestones version 2.1 represents:

WordPress Multisite Support

As some of you might know, WordPress can be installed in a way that you can actually run multiple blogs with the same code base on one server. This is handy for everyone who needs to run more than one blog – or more than one podcast.

You can activate Podlove Publisher now system-wide and not only get support in each blog but you also get a network-wide dashboard, the ability to create “lists of podcasts” that can be used for overviews and a network-wide installation of Podlove Templates.

We see this as a feature for advanced users and blog administrators but we tried to keep it as easy to use as possible. This area will most probably be enhanced and evolved over time.

Podlove Widgets

WordPress has a simple system to put information in sidebars, footers etc. called widgets. The Podlove Publisher now adds a few Podlove-specific widgets to make it easy to display your podcasts logo and description, license information or invoke a Podlove template.

More template power

For the experienced user, Podlove templates are a powerful tool to enhance your website and create a consistent presentation of your podcast information. Release 2.1 contains various new accessors, direct support for the Podlove Subscribe Button and Flattr buttons and much more minor enhancements.

Other changes

There are more changes that might be of interest to you. There is also a fancy new dashboard widget telling you more about gender distribution in your podcast team.

To get the full list, move over to our Podlove Community where we you can discuss the new features and ask us questions about it. We are happy to answer and give you tips on how to make use of the new stuff that’s in 2.1.

Podlove Analytics

With little fanfare we released Podlove Publisher 2 a few weeks ago. While major version numbers usually bring a lot to brag about we kept it quiet because we wanted to be ready to adjust bugs that could have stemmed from a huge new feature: Podlove Analytics.

But it all worked so we should talk about it. Podlove Analytics brings you statistics about your podcast you always wanted. There is still work to be done so we have just started with what everybody was desperately looking for in the first place: download statistics.

Actually, we have brought tracking of download to Podlove Publisher a while ago. It silently sneaked in your Expert Settings and those who found it and enabled it have already started to collect information. With Podlove Publisher 2 you can now visualise the data in your blog.

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How to activate Analytics

In your admin interface, go to “Podlove -> Expert Settings -> Tracking” and enable the “Tracking URL Parameters & Analytics” setting. The day you switch that on, Podlove will start collecting information about downloads.

When tracking is enabled, you get a new menu called “Podlove -> Analytics”. After a day or so, you will get the first results and can start exploring how your podcast is downloaded.

Download Intents

What we actually track is something we call “Download Intents”. Podlove Publisher does not manage media file delivery so we do not have access to actual download log files. But when tracking is enabled, download links are routed via a redirect mechanism that starts counting when a client wants to access the file. This mechanism seems to work much better than we expected.

So while the user interface simply calls it “downloads”, it’s actually “download intents”. But our tests show that this seems to be in line with reality.

Interactive Visualizer

Right now, you can dive into download statistics for each episode. You look at the total downloads over time but you can also break it down by operating system, client used, download source (download via feed, web player or direct download), download context (which feed, which page etc.) or episode asset.

Please play around with the options and let us know what you find useful and interesting an in what way you want this to evolve.

Future Development

In the future, we will add geo information (which already gets collected) and we will further enhance the way you can break down numbers, compare averages, detect exceptions and how clients will be detected.

In addition to download statistics we will also tackle feed subscription statistics. This still needs some work as we need to research realities with feed proxys and statistics services (like FeedBurner or FeedPress) but it’s definitely on our list.

The Podlove Community and support

At Podlove, we use GitHub issue pages for bug reports and in the last years there have been a lot of helpful feedback. We have also received a lot of support questions which was fine.

But in order to get to a more sustainable model for support we have recently opened the Podlove Community web site. This is the place where you can not only get in touch with developers but with all the other Podlove users too. So it should be your first address for posting questions, finding answers, sharing solutions, workflows and templates too.

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There are categories for all major Podlove projects and we are also posting information about major releases there too so you can discuss and ask questions about it right there.

We hope you all join the Podlove Community and make it an ever better place to share your experiences. We closely follow the discussions and use the feedback to further improve our software and standards.

Get ready for Podlove Publisher 2.1

After having spent many releases in the 1.x version branch we are changing the way we release features since version 2 of the Podlove Publisher.

In the future, we will release in a more focused way, adding new features only in 2.x releases and let 2.x.x versions provide bug fixes only. It should have been like this all the time but that’s just how life works, right?

So now version 2.1 is around the corner and one of the big news is that it’s coming with extensive support for WordPress Networks (also called multisite installations). We add some new stuff but we are also going to move some existing features to the network level making them more useful in the future.

Necessary incompatible changes for templates

The first and most obvious candidate for networks are Podlove Templates: Publisher 2.1 allows you to install site-wide templates and use them in every single podcast within the same WordPress Network. This should make it much easier to maintain a general feature set and/or look.

But be prepared: we needed to make a backward incompatible change to how Podlove Templates integrate with WordPress’ shortcode system.

If you call templates via [podlove-template template="my-template" arg1="foo" arg2="bar"] then the system passed the arguments as twig variables arg1 and arg2 to the called template.

However, with Publisher 2.1 these variables will be renamed to option.arg1 and option.arg2 respectively so you will need to change your own templates as they might stop working properly once updated to the new version of the Publisher.

All internal templates are of course automatically adjusted so you need to be aware only if you have created your own templates with parameters. If you don’t yet use these, nothing will haunt your sleep. If you do, please make sure to apply proper changes right after having updated.

Template name changes

In order to be compatible and side-effect free when you also install the new Podlove Subscribe Button plugin, we have renamed the shortcodes for displaying the Subscribe Button within Podlove Publisher.

What used to be called [podlove-subscribe-button] is now [podlove-podcast-subscribe-button] for consistency. The dashboard will tell you that but we thought it might be worth noting up front.

We apologise for the inconveniences. We hope the new release will otherwise entertain you and make you happy.