Connecting Membic to Hootsuite

For the past year, I’ve been pretty happy sharing my membics via Twitter whenever I write them. I had my Twitter account set to share on Facebook, and that approach generally worked well to keep a variety of people informed. However I couldn’t help but notice that I was sharing every membic for my epnewtech theme, and that made me think some automation could be helpful.

Social Media Tools

Social media tools are primarily for marketing, but they address the problem of reaching people who prefer to use different social networks. If you have more than a few people interested in your membics, chances are you will find yourself in this situation. Rather than choosing a single social network and telling everyone to find you there, you can use a social media tool to reach your friends using whichever network they prefer.

There are quite a few social network tools out there, with varying features and pricing. I decided to go with Hootsuite because they have been doing this for quite a while, and they are kind enough to let you get started with some basic features for free.

RSS Feeds

One awesome feature of Hootsuite is the ability to read from an RSS feed (hourly, every few hours, or daily) and post to whichever social network you want. Setting this up is remarkably easy: I connected Hootsuite to my Twitter account, then chose “Publisher” from the main menu, then “RSS Feeds”, and then “+” to add a new feed. On membic, I copied the link location of the RSS feed icon on the epnewtech theme page and pasted that into the Hootsuite dialog URL field. I selected to check the feed every 6 hours, sending one post at a time, and including text from the post in my messages. Done.

Hootsuite requires a URL shortener for links. I went with the default “” option. Requiring a URL shortener bothered me at first because I’m one of those careful people who likes to read the address of what I’m clicking on. I decided it was ok because:

  1. Even though I’m moderately careful, I’ll tolerate the long and decorated URLs typically presented by popular social networks. I look at who the post is from, the description, and image to help determine if it’s ok to click, or if I need to go find it myself.

  2. A social media tool can’t do it’s job without tracking clicks, so a URL shortener is a requirement.

The actual impact of the shortened URLs ends up being minimally intrusive. More on that later.

First Tweet

After setting up, I posted a new membic and looked forward to seeing the automatic tweet. Then I waited some more. Nothing. Then I hit the docs and found out that Hootsuite won’t read a secure http (https) feed address. No problem, the membic RSS feeds can be accessed either way. So I rebuilt the RSS feed definition in Hootsuite using the plain http url. Hootsuite won’t retroactively post things from the feed, so I made another membic and waited.

This time the automatic tweet went through on schedule, but the tweet was pretty much just a plain text title. That’s when I realized the RSS feed needed some special care to serve Hootsuite well. Cutting to the chase, the solution is to tack &ts=sdvtvrk onto the end of the RSS feed URL. Looks cryptic, but it’s actually pretty simple if you know what the letters mean.

The “ts” parameter stands for title specification and it reads letter codes to choose which summary elements should appear in the title of each RSS feed entry. There is also a “ds” parameter (for description specification) which does the same thing for the body of each RSS feed entry. Because Hootsuite won’t read past the title if it is too long, I decided to just put everything into the title. Here’s what the letter codes are:

    s rating stars (as asterisks)
    d membic text description
    v vertical bar separator
    t title of the membic
    r type of membic (e.g. “book”, “activity”)
    k keywords

It’s likely some of the text won’t fit into the tweet, so I put the most important things first.

Working Automation

After tuning the RSS feed, the tweet from my article membic looked great! The text got cut off after 110 characters to fit the Twitter size limit, but with an ellipsis so it looks on purpose. The tweet included the article pic, the article title, the first couple of lines of text from the article summary, and the article source (e.g. “”).

The link for the tweet displayed as a shortened twitter url (“”) which opens in a new browser tab when clicked. All standard and looking good. So what happened with that Hootsuite “” URL shortener?

If you watch closely when you click through to the article (or check your browser history afterwards) you will see that the “” link opens the “” link which then opens the link to the article. The process is smooth and barely noticeable, allowing both Twitter and Hootsuite to note that the link was clicked. Adding one more click tracker doesn’t slow things down much.

Cascading Posts

If you have your Twitter account set up to post through to Facebook, that still works when Hootsuite automatically tweets for you, but the Facebook post shows the Hootsuite “” URL as the source. To clean that up, I stopped the automatic post-through via Twitter, and set up a second automatic RSS feed publisher in Hootsuite. I used the same RSS feed URL as I did when setting up publishing to Twitter, but connected the feed to my Facebook account. When publishing to Facebook, there’s an option to choose your post visibility. The default setting is public, but I chose friends because that’s how I use Facebook.

In the Facebook post, the full membic text shows up because there is no size limit, and the post looks like you would expect with an article pic and source. Facebook indicates that the post was via Hootsuite, so any of my friends can see that I’m using automation. That’s worth being aware of if that matters to you or your followers, but for me it was previously showing my posts via Twitter, so it seems about the same.

As with all social networks, it’s probably a good idea to interact personally when you have time, but automation can still be a big help. For me it was especially useful since the time I spend recording something memorable frequently doesn’t coincide with the time I spend on social networks, even if membics might be part of my outbound social communications. In all, Hootsuite is a pretty cool tool to be aware of, and using it makes working with themes in membic even easier.

To see the results of Hootsuite automation, compare my twitter feed against the epnewtech theme.


Connecting Membic to Hootsuite

How to build a public link archive, and why

There are many reasons for creating a link archive. Maybe you’re involved in a research project, or perhaps just tracking a hobby interest. Maybe your starting a learning process or fact gathering investigation. Building an archive starts when you dig deeper and start making notes on more memorable references.

At first, the notes aren’t really an archive. Even if you return for a second day to add more. But by the time you’ve come back to it a third day, you might be wondering if some structure would be useful.


Resist the impulse to divide your notes into sections. After the number of references you’ve noted starts heading into the double digits you have some organizational concepts, but filing or outlining is probably going to get in your way. Instead, write down your top 5 (plus or minus 2) sub-areas of interest, cross-cutting concerns or framing topics.

It’s perfectly ok for a reference to fit into more than one topic. The point here is that the topics you are are creating represent how you want to access things. You’ve collected enough links that have an idea what things you want to look out for when you look through more, so build the topics that represent how you want to access the links in your archive.

Now make keywords for each of your topics.

Yes, keywords. Possibly the most poorly utilized access mechanism ever. That field that is all too often skipped or filled in with whatever springs to mind is actually quite powerful. Use it to access your links by topic. You’ve just created highly useful structure that enables you to find things even if you can’t remember the title, author or exact details. You’ve also just built a way to get yourself back up to speed fast if you put the archive on hold and come back in a month. Keywords are your friends because they enable access by topic, and that is powerful.

With keywords for topics, you’re about halfway to a kick ass archive.

Speed note

Why did I note this link?

Nothing is more obvious right now, and nothing is harder to remember later. Especially if it was an important detail. Write it down! Do you really want to read the whole thing again when you come back? The return on investment for 100 characters of text to jog your memory will save you a lot of time. Repeatedly. Don’t believe it? Try it.

While you’re at it, consider distinguishing between a completely awesome informational resource, and a relatively slow link with a few useful points you want for reference. That’ll help also.

The case for open

Congratulations! Nice link archive you’ve built. Is it just for you?

Seriously, is this just going to sit on your computer? Other people could learn from it. And you’re pointing out some good information sources that would probably appreciate a link back.

Not convinced? I wasn’t either at first but then I remembered what it was like transitioning to open source software development. Why should I show the world my code? Who wants it? What if it’s not good enough? Ultimately I went open source because it was easier to work with and I could get it hosted for free with no hassle.

Then I noticed a change in how I worked. Even though I wasn’t popular enough that people would follow everything I was writing, there was still an accountability and responsibility working in the open that elevated the quality of what I created. Not only are the things I’ve built in the open more useful over time, I can access them from anywhere and show them to anyone.

Since you know how to lay a foundation for an archive using keywords, description and an overall quality rating, there’s lots of software you can use to build a working link archive. Even a spreadsheet will work. Want to try open? Read on.

Building archives with

For shorthand, call that archive element link+description+rating thing a “membic”. is free site where you can make membics and store them in your profile.

On, a link archive is called a “theme”. Once you have created a profile, create a new theme from the tab on your profile page. Define your keywords in the theme settings.

Themes have numerous great features, including being able to collaborate with others. As always, feedback welcome either here or on the site. Thanks for digging into things.

How to build a public link archive, and why

Tracking Links Publicly

If your ongoing interest fits somewhere in the range between amateur curiosity and professional research, you need a way to track things of interest that you discover. Assuming you are not averse to helping others and building your reputation along the way, tracking links publicly is a great way to go… with some important considerations:


Noting a link to something has to be easy. If it takes too long to do, it doesn’t happen. We’re all busy.

It’s reasonable to expect noting a link should be much easier than writing a blog entry. Some links merit significant description, but in most cases a sentence is enough. But you should expect to write something; links without any of your thoughts don’t really help anybody much.

To make noting a link easier, look for things like automatic link source parsing, autocomplete for book titles, simple keyword entry, duplicate entry detection, quick importance rating, and share buttons connecting to where you commonly post.


It would be great if all discussions were thoughtful and respectful, but you should probably skip supporting general comments. If someone has something to say about a link they can note the link themselves. Rely on your existing social networks, then get simple structured feedback through buttons to mark something as helpful, or to remember something for later.

The amount of personal information you divulge should always be clear and under your control. It should be clear what you are presenting, and more than that shouldn’t be available for anyone.

Providing helpful information to the public is of benefit to the community, and technology platforms have a responsibility to support constructive processes against common destructive patterns. If you decide you don’t want to hear from someone, it should be easy to filter them out.


It should be possible to set up keywords specific to your ongoing interest so you can easily peruse the links you have noted. That’s in addition to standard text based search.

The links you post should be accessible how you want: as a standalone site, embedded in your own site, or via a news reader. And they should look good.

Best way to do that? Set up a theme at

Tracking Links Publicly

How to Make Resource Links Part of Your Online Presence

Part of what you do is educate and inform. You do this mostly through your own publications, but also by steering people to additional resources for context and detail.

You could probably point out quite a few helpful resources right now just off the top of your head. You have this knowledge because you continually read books and articles. You watch videos. You check out installations online and in the physical world. You have found, and continue to find, a wealth of information helpful to other people and informative of what you do in the context of the world at large.

Here’s how to make that part of your online presence.

Approachable Information

Other than events and similar things best kept on a calendar, there are three primary ways to access resources:

  1. Recently discovered
  2. Most highly recommended
  3. Search

You might also have a taxonomy, syllabus, or other value added organizational structure. Unfortunately maintaining that can’t be done automatically, but you can automate primary access which can help.

To automatically support primary access, you need to build from a standardized representation. At base, that requires some kind of reference to the resource itself. So you need a URL, a physical address, or a unique description (e.g. title, author, year for a book). This is referred to as a link.

To the link, you add a reason why you think it is memorable, an overall rating (quality, relevance, importance, usefulness), and any keywords you think could be helpful for search. Done. That’s all it takes to build, maintain, display and easily access all your external resource references on an ongoing basis.

The key is why you think a link is important. That’s not hard to write; a single sentence as a note to yourself is typically sufficient. And the impact is huge. Your reason why a link is important provides immensely valuable context for others, and it is just as valuable for your own reference later. Why references are important transforms a static and easily ignored list of links into an expert guided introductory overview of the contextual sphere you operate in.

Working Collaboratively

When an organization or group wants to provide reference links, contributors need to be empowered at different levels:

  1. Followers are interested in seeing updated references, but don’t contribute.
  2. Members contribute. They can also edit or remove their own references.
  3. Moderators have all membership privileges, plus they can remove bad references from others and approve new member applications.
  4. Founders can do anything, including remove or invite people.

Managing membership works by promotion or demotion, and an action log shows who has done what and when.

Collectively, the membership management, primary access to resource references, and framing descriptive information is referred to as a theme. A tightly focused group will likely have a single theme. A larger, more disparate organization could have several themes.

Extending Your Online Presence

Resource references from your theme can be displayed directly in an appropriate section of your website by adding a few lines of script. Once embedded, your website will continuously display updated reference links without further changes.

Each theme has an RSS feed that lets people keep up to date using a news reader. The feed can also be used in other ways, for example a blog sidebar with recent reference links to decorate your blog.

The permalink for a theme is a microsite, which can optionally be placed inside of your own custom domain.

When appropriate, you can easily share any new reference links (or an entire theme) on social media.

And it’s free.

For more details, click the info button at

How to Make Resource Links Part of Your Online Presence

Why Descriptions

Which is more important, the link or your description? Right now, for you, the link probably seems vastly more important. But the description you write is what provides context, which is important to your friends (and for you if you revisit the link later). That’s why social sites prompt you to write something when you post. Assuming you are going to bother to write something, what’s the best way to describe a link?

What to write

In short, write why you think the link is memorable. That may not be your first impulse, but it’s a great way to balance reaction and description. The reason you think a link is memorable provides “why” and “what” in a meaningful way without being wordy. It creates context that is appreciated by your friends, and it’s helpful if you come back to it later.

If why you think a link is memorable seems like a hard question to answer, try

  • Why is this link especially interesting?
  • What did I learn?
  • How does this relate to my view of the world?

Or make up your own alternative question. What makes something memorable for you? By answering why, you provide context for your friends, and for yourself if you revisit the link later.

Optional detail: Title and identifying fields

If there’s space, sending a title along with the link helps describe what the link is about. It can also help you find and fix things if the link changes or the content gets relocated.

Most times a title or name is all that is needed, but occasionally that’s not specific enough. When it could be ambiguous, consider including the author, artist, release year, address or other identification to help specify. Link content can change or become unavailable. Some titles may be available from more than one place, which could be different. Including identifying fields makes it clear what you are referencing.

When you have space in your description, include a title and identifying fields.

Optional detail: Rating

If you bother to share a link, it’s most likely above average quality or so bad it’s worth special mention. In either case, since you have enough perspective to know that not everything you share is The Awesomest Thing, consider including a rating.

The big advantage of a rating is it provides differentiation between something everybody absolutely must check out, and something that’s worth the time but can be skipped if things are really busy. The rating allows you to share more without overloading people because they can tell how important things are. A rating also helps find your best stuff later.

Including a rating respects people’s time and helps you organize. Stars are good because they don’t get confused with numbers or letters in the rest of the description.

Optional detail: Keywords

Keywords are a concise way to add another dimension to your description. For example if a video is appropriate for children, adding a “kid ok” keyword will go a long way towards letting parents know when a link is ok to click in the living room. It also helps everybody find content appropriate for sharing at all ages.

How effective a keyword is depends on what kind of a link you are sharing, but if you choose wisely and keep a list readily available, you can easily communicate a wealth of information with minimum text.

Consistent keywords add a whole other level to the description of the links you share.


Including a description when sharing a link creates context for your readers and for search. A well structured description will help your friends and yourself.

Looking for an app to handle link descriptions well? Try membic.

Why Descriptions

Why Types

Did you mean the book or the movie? You can’t always tell from just a title, so you need some type classifications. But taxonomies make things tedious and harder to use. How can you disambiguate without falling into the taxonomy trap? Can type classification be transformed from a chore to an advantage?

The right number

You don’t have to memorize every type to choose one, but you do have to load them all into your brain at once. Humans can usually handle two or three clumps of three or four items. The more you push it, the more people’s brain capacity you’ve exceeded. Traditionally, seven has been a good working maximum. Less is better, but if you are striving for coverage breadth you’ll probably hit the max. Don’t exceed it.

Nothing is going to work all the time for all things, so there will always be the “other” type. The goal isn’t to eliminate this catchall, but to minimize how often it gets used. If “other” gets a lot of use, then you might need to refactor your chosen types. Great type classifications may seem obvious in retrospect but they are refined over time.

Search advantages

Types may be necessary for disambiguation, but they also help with search. While it’s unusual to search by type, each type provides a context for secondary descriptive information that makes retrieval easy. Things like a physical address, or how creatives are associated with a work vary depending on the type. Useful associated keywords vary even more. The depth of information associated with each contextual type is what makes retrieval work well.

If a link dies or content is removed, descriptive information can help you reconstruct a reference through search. It can also help you decide if that’s worth the effort to do.

Good associations of descriptive fields and keywords make a richer and accessible search space. Types can also provide helpful filtering when there are a lot of search results.


It might seem minor, but it can be annoying to check out something new on a friend’s recommendation only to find you’ve checked it out before. At the other end of the spectrum it can be fun to discover you and a friend have something in common you both really liked. Duplicate avoidance and commonality discovery both hinge on understanding if two things are the same.

It would be great if things had unique names or links, but they don’t. A video can be embedded. An article might be published in more than one place. Names vary. As humans we rely on secondary descriptive information to figure out if things are effectively the same. When making a purchase, specifics matter a lot. In a social situation where people are seeking common experiences, the simplest possible match is usually enough.

Minimal descriptive fields and simple matching keeps details unobtrusive and helpful. If a normally non-essential detail becomes important for a specific case, it can be mentioned in the title.

Occasionally two things turn out to be the same even when all the descriptive information is different. When that happens it’s good to give people a way to note that so they don’t bump into it again.


Done well, types are far from a necessary evil and can be distinct advantage in a variety of situations. For any situation dealing with a variety of different things, handling types well is a key design aspect.

Why Types

Search, Bookmarks, and Notes

How do you save a link? You’ve just found something memorable and want to save it for future reference. Now what?

Search, workflow, and social networks have transformed the world immeasurably since the early days of saving web pages. You no longer need to remember things that are easy to find, things that are task related are pretty much tracked automatically, and you can immediately broadcast anything interesting to everyone who is listening. So what’s missing?

In short, listening has gotten harder. There is so much being found that we can’t follow all the broadcasts. The conversation has been overwhelmed, yet we still discover things. Here are a few strategies on how to deal with remembering and sharing.

Memory and Search

The default strategy for keeping link references is your brain and a search engine. Always available, and usually reliable. Not collaborative, and limited to your own memory, but if you forget then it couldn’t have been that important. Right?

Usually right, but not always. A link may become more important over time but you stopped remembering it before that. A pattern of links might be important but not discernable from what is in your working memory now. You may want to revisit memorable links from a different perspective. Perhaps it’s simply been too long, or something else came along in the meantime so you lost it.

With memory alone, collaboration is limited to what happens to come up in social conversation. That’s a very small potential. Just remembering might be the default, but there are better options.


Bookmarks are NOT a better option. I’m mentioning them because it can be tempting to try use bookmarks as a place to save memorable things. Don’t do it.

It is possible that there are people who know what is saved in their bookmarks, can access their beautifully organized folders faster than searching, and always check their bookmarks first. I’ve never met anyone like that. However I have met several people with large and unwieldy folder hierarchies and a limited knowlege of what is actually in there or how to find it. Don’t use bookmarks for memorable links, bookmarks are for sites you access regularly.


Notes ARE a better option. Making a note can be as simple as writing a line in a loosely structured file, or as advanced as capturing site contents. A note can be related to something you are working on, part of a group workflow, or something else. Here are some aspects to consider when evaluating where to save a note:

Work or play? Even if you could use the same technology for a hobby as for your work, you probably shouldn’t. Keeping work separate from personal is kind of like keeping collaboration separate from social.

Known timeframe? If the notes you are making are related to a sequence of tasks or events, you may want to group them together on that basis or put things on a calendar. In the absence a known timeframe, notes accumulated over time should not degrade into a mess.

Your own reference or shareable? You make notes because they are helpful to you, but some of your notes could be helpful to others. If you want to collaborate, consider how you and your collaboration buddies will share. Think about what you would like to receive. Make sure you can send accordingly.

Considering these aspects will help provide some perspective when deciding if a technology is useful for your situation. If choosing a technology seems like too much to start, try just saving links in a simple text file for up to a year. Then you’ll have a better idea on how you want to use your notes and whether you want to collaborate.

General strategies

Regardless of what technology you are using, the most important thing you can do when noting a link is to include a line about why you think it is memorable. A one-liner about why a link is worth remembering will increase your chances of finding it, provide context for why you noted it, and facilitate sharing.

The second most important thing you can do is be selective. When you are working on a task, you might note a lot of links. For collaborative sharing, you want to be more selective. Curating is a skill that improves with practice, and it is worth some time to do. A well curated collection is a goldmine of useful information.

For collaborating on selected links, check out

Enjoy listening again.

Search, Bookmarks, and Notes