Native apps are (mostly) a waste of time.

So you think you need an app for your phone and you were considering shelling out some cash to a developer to build you a native app. Before you waste your money (and time) paying a developer to deliver a native app the first thing you need to consider the advantages an app has over a traditional website.

The big three are:

  1. It is installable, ie it appears on the phone home screen, this gives it a massive advantage over a traditional website in ensuring ongoing user interaction.
  2. An app is fast, ie it is faster to load and interact with than a traditional website.
  3. It can send notifications, again this increases user interaction substantially.

Obviously these are not the only reasons but they are the major ones.

Now here is the kicker, you can get all the above features on a website on the majority of phones right now! Goodbye native apps and welcome to the world of progressive web apps.

What is a progressive web app (PWA), you may ask? Well at it is heart it is just a website with some additional features. Those features enable all three of the advantages I outlined above on the majority of smart phones worldwide, right now!! But being a website a PWA also has some massive advantages. They include:

  1. They are linkable, ie you can access them by opening a URL.
  2. They are much easier to build, after all they are just a website with some substantial enhancements.
  3. They are updatable, ie any changes can occur as soon as the PWA is accessed (as opposed to waiting for a user to download a new version of a native app).
  4. Being on the web they are cross platform.

Lets look at the state of play on different phones:

On android phones which now constitute the majority of smart phones worldwide all of the above advantages are currently already available to progressive web apps. ie visitors will be prompted to instal your website on the phone (provided it meets the PWA criteria) right now and that website if properly designed will be fast and be able to send notifications

For apple  the situation is not quite so good. Yes you can install a web app but the installation experience not obvious and there is no ability to send notifications. The good news is that but in the upcoming IOS version (IOS 12.2) there will be significant improvement. Once installed on your phone a well built progressive web app will behave like its native counterpart, with the only issue that it will not be able to send notifications. But that functionality is coming.

Update: since March 2023 IOS supports push notification for those running PWAs on IOS 16.4 or later.

So in conclusion is that unless you need certain hardware apis that are not supported by PWA´s yet or you desperately need notifications on Apple phones then you should find a web developer who can enhance your existing website to become a PWA. The future is PWA´s and the future (to a large extent) is already here.

Introducing LH Archived Post Status

LH Archived Post status is a WordPress extension that creates an additional posts status available for content that may no longer be relevant to most visitors but should be available publicly (perhaps for historical purposes).

I built this plugin as UI needed this flexibility whilst using WordPress as a CMS. The plugin adds a new post status that enables posts and pages (and custom post types) to be archived. Archiving in this context means that the content is still publicly available but is not published on the front page of the site or the feed. I was not satisfied with other archiving solutions which hid the content for all non logged in visitors and was not configurable.

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WordPress development is apathetic

I think the area where Worpress has dropped the ball is that sensible projects that could make its so much better are not being tackled, instead deveopment seems to be based on UI improvements and quick wins.

There has been a lot of discussion that WordPress is becoming less user friendly and indeed it has got some traction as the recent WordPress 3.8 is certainly aimed (amongst other things) around making the dashboard more user friendly. Given this I don’t think wordpress is becoming less user friendly, however it’s never been friendly to newbies.

Instead I think the area where Worpress has dropped the ball is that sensible projects that could make its so much better are not being tackled, instead development seems to be based on UI improvements and quick wins. These are great but a better WordPress platform would make these sort of improvements easier. Indeed a better platform would enable people to build their own UI. Thus rendering the rolling MP6 (and similar initiatives) into the core moot (because developers would be rolling their own version of the dashboard through plugins).

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Some clarification to the webmentions discussion

In reply to this analysis by Barnaby Walters of my original article.

Barnaby you wrote:

The evidence is against you here, as almost all known usage of webmention has been for short replies which don’t make sense without context.

Actually we aren’t disagreeing, maybe I didn’t express myself well when I wrote “At the moment of the method is built around a POSSE architecture. This works well for long form articles which can stand alone but address issues or ideas that are posted on an external website”.

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Thoughts on extending webmentions

My thoughts on extending the webmentions functionality

I recently installed Matthias Pfefferle’s web mention plugin. It is a great plugin and hopefully when he has polished it up further he will push it out to the plugin repository so it can enjoy a wider audience. I actually think the Jetpack team should look at including an extended set of this functionality in its plugins as the potential for distributed sharing that the indieweb provides could be a major distinguishing feature for WordPress, and certainly a better bet than trying to roll their own social networking ecosystem.

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LH RDF not just xml anymore

LH Rdf is back!!

Yes development has started again and the first stop is to add additional formats to the output. Previously Lh Rdf only supported RDF-xml and has been designed almost exclusively around that. Therefore to add other formats I have bundled the Easyrdf library into the plugin. When the query string lhrdf is added to the feed URL the Easyrdf parser is invoked to parse the rdf xml output string and the output is then available in various triple formats.

See code extract:

$graph = new EasyRdf_Graph();
$data = $graph->serialise($_GET[‘lhrdf’]);

The format chosen by value of the lhrdf variable E.G.

As well as simply being cool, having an option to output JSON is the main benefit as the triples are now no longer imprisoned by the same domain policy.

Visualising RDF with Incontext

Surfing around the internet I recently discovered SURF‘s InContext Visualiser, which I think is a neat way to visualise of RDF relationships, especially OAI-ORE aggregated publications

I also discovered that people have already created a set of WordPress plugins (see: ) to visualise books and other similar publications. However blogs do not fit into a book/chapter model.

However given there is already a schema for publishing blog data and my lh-rdf plugin already exposes most publicly available WordPress blog data as RDF using that format. It was an obvious next step to get the visualiser working with the LH RDF output. I have done so and hopefully you think the output is cool.

Introducing LH Tools

A RDF Store and SPARQL Endpoint for WP.

Intoducing LH Tools.

LH Tools is a WordPress extension that adds an (ARC-based) RDF Store and SPARQL Endpoint to the WordPress blogging system. The store is kept separate from the WP tables (i.e. it’s not a wrapper), but you can use WP’s nice admin screens to configure it, it and embed it using the large number of developer-friendly hooks that WP offers. It is based on the original work by Ben Nowack.

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LH Relationships wordpress plugin

Intoducing LH Relationships.

LH Relationships is a WordPress plugin that enables the creation of true post to post relationships. More information for the rationale driving this is available here. It was built as a core part of the LocalHero project.

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LH RDF wordpress plugin

Adds a SIOC compliant RDF feed to a WP site.

I have finally released the first WordPress plugin I have written as part of the LocaHero project. The plugin itself once installed adds a SIOC compliant RDF feed to a WordPress site.

The current RDF feed is deficient as it basically just rehashes the existing RSS feed as RDF XML. LH-RDF is an improvement as it exposes the internal post, author, and category objects as dereferencable URI thus publishing them in the semantic web.

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