We don’t live on a single site or write on a single blogging platform any more. Instead, more and more of us are opting to use a range of social networks and services. We post photos to Flickr, blog in WordPress, update our status on Twitter and Facebook, bookmark with del.icio.us, share items in Google Reader, checkin with Gowalla, and more.
It can be a pain to update them all consistently, and even more frustrating to pull all of your online data together. In an effort to remedy this problem, many people spend their time putting together a site and embedding various widgets from each site, but that can take considerable amounts of time and can even be expensive depending on how you do it.
Pubwich is an open-source web application that does that job for you, bring together multiple services into one self-hosted webpage, much like the scenario I previously explained. Just a head’s up though – before we get into the review – that this is not a web application per se because it will require you to find a hosting solution yourself. Once you do, though, you’ll be up and running in no time.
As I said before, Pubwich is not a regular web application. Instead, you’ll need to upload it to your own web host or server and set it up manually, and you’ll have to dive into a bit of light PHP editing in order to set up.
You’re obviously going to need to grab yourself a copy of Pubwich, decompress it and upload it to your own web host that has an Apache server and PHP 5 (all good ones will have this, so you don’t need to worry). Once you’ve uploaded all the files and sub-folders, you’re going to need to edit the file named “config.sample.php” in the /cfg/ folder. It may look daunting, but in fact this is really simple.
Firstly, you’re going to need to look for the following line and replace “America/Montreal” with your time zone. Make sure you leave your replacement in apostrophes though.
date_default_timezone_set( 'America/Montreal' );
The next three lines are also very straightforward to setup, replacing the URL with the address of your Pubwich-powered site. You’ll likely also want to change the title to your desired heading, also keeping the surrounding apostrophes in tact.
define('PUBWICH_URL', 'http://macintude.net/pubwich/'); define('PUBWICH_THEME', 'default'); define('PUBWICH_TITLE', 'My Pubwich-powered site');
Finally, for each of the services Pubwich supports, you’re going to want to put in your own details, whether that is a unique key or just your username. This is fairly straightforward, where you simply put your information into the PHP array, like in the example below for YouTube where my addition is in bold. Other options, like the number of videos/tweets/updates shown are edited in the same way, and are fairly self-explanatory with in-line comments offering some support.
array( 'Youtube', 'youtube', array( 'method' => 'YoutubeVideos', 'username' => 'connorturnbull', 'total' => 4, 'size' => 120, 'title' => 'Youtube', 'description' => 'latest videos' ) ),
Once you repeat this process for each of the services, you’ll be all set and your Pubwich site will be up and running. You can opt to just leave it there, with no further customisation, and Pubwich will offer a great location you can send contacts to view all of your activity across all of the services you use. However, we can also opt to theme Pubwich instead.
Customising a Pubwich site is not as simple as merely setting up one, and you’re going to need some prior HTML and CSS knowledge in order to manipulate it to your liking. Themes are held in the /themes/ directory, and selected by placing the name of the sub-directory of the active theme in between the apostrophes of this line in your configuration file.
My advice is to simply duplicate the default theme folder and rename that copy to anything you want (and perform the aforementioned step). From there, you can simply manipulate the stylesheet to customise your Pubwich style, throwing in the odd edit the index file should you want to.
However, should you want to create a theme from scratch, it’s incredibly easy. Simply code up a new site, making sure you copy in the “functions.php” file and /lib/ directory into your new theme. Then, in order to pull in the Pubwich content, simply make use of these self-explanatory functions.
<?php echo PUBWICH_TITLE?>
<?php echo Pubwich::getLoop()?>
The next one should be placed in your <head> tag and the one below that just above your closing <body> tag.
<?php echo Pubwich::getHeader() ?>
<?php echo Pubwich::getFooter() ?>
Pubwich is a really useful script if you want to launch a site that aggregates all your social networks, and produces working results that would otherwise take a lot more effort to create yourself. It’s not ideal, though, because for some of the most basic users, having to manually edit the configuration file might be a task when rival “portfolio”-style sites will do this through a much simpler interface.
Additionally, Pubwich isn’t much to look at before any customization, and the process of styling requires prior knowledge of web design, not just dragging and dropping, or picking out colours. Nonetheless, you can create some pretty nice results with Pubwich.
If you’re used to designing your own sites and familiar with some very basic PHP and CSS, you should be okay and Pubwich offers a great service to use for/with your site. However, you also may want to check out Chi.mp, which is not self-hosted and offers some similar functionality, without the need to dive into code.
Have you tried our Pubwich? Do you like it, or do you prefer hosted alternatives? Shares your thoughts and experiences in the comments!
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