Posts tagged ‘connect’

Facebook recently made a breaking change to the developer process, which makes it impossible for new applications to get the correct API keys. Since this essentially broke all previous versions of SFC, I went ahead and pushed the beta version public. It’s still unfinished, but Facebook didn’t really give me a lot of choice.

So, this is a quick walkthrough of some of the new features of SFC 1.0.

Upgrade Process

The upgrade process is slightly more involved for this one. It is recommended that you deactivate the old SFC plugins before upgrading. Why? Well, if you don’t, you’ll get a bunch of errors when visiting the Plugins screen later, saying that all the old SFC plugins either don’t exist or have an invalid header. These errors are normal, because of the next feature:

One plugin only

No more sub-plugins

Simple Facebook Connect is now a single plugin, with modular features. If you examine the plugins screen, you’ll find only one entry: Simple Facebook Connect.

The many-plugins-in-one was a useful experiment, IMO, and I still think it’s a better way to do things. But many people find it confusing, and some have disagreed with the notion. A lack of useful core support for plugin dependencies and user feedback convinced me to switch it up. So now, SFC is one plugin. But it’s still modular!

Sub-module selections

As you can see in the image, you can still turn on and off pieces of the plugin. Why have a piece running and consuming valuable resources if you’re not using it? Turning a module off completely disables it in the code. And the core of SFC itself is still written modularly, for maximum performance (since integrating Facebook itself is such a drag on performance for a site to begin with).

Support for new Facebook code

Over a year ago, Facebook stopped supporting the original Facebook Connect libraries. This was a major problem for sites, however the old code still worked. So as time went on, and the old Connect libraries started to degrade and become less and less useful, SFC was rewritten from the ground up to use all the newer supported libraries. Facebook’s JS SDK is used. FB’s Graph API is used. The old Facebook REST Platform code is completely gone, as are the older incompatible Facebook Connect libraries. OpenGraph meta tags (including embed info for images and video) are inserted into the entire site, completely automatically, allowing Facebook to see the content of your site and act accordingly.

Many of the plugins themselves have been rewritten fairly extensively as well, but with this comes some removal of older code.

Faux Share button settings

The Share button is gone. It was previously implemented using the older Connect libraries, but with the newer libraries from Facebook, it’s been completely removed. There was just no good way to retain it, Facebook has simply dropped any and all support for it. So, in it’s place (because it was so handy) is a modified Like button, which can still look sorta like the old Share button. The SFC module is still named Share, for ease of transition. The Like button itself is still around too, so you can use both Like and Share to get two Like buttons on the same post, perhaps for different placement.

The Bookmark widget is gone. It simply isn’t supported anymore, and didn’t work anyway.

The Find on Facebook widget is gone. This didn’t do really anything special to begin with, other than place the Find Us image into a widget, with a link to the Facebook Page. The image it once used is still included in the plugin, for people that want to do this themselves via a text widget.

The Connect widget is gone, but may make a return in the next version, as soon as some bugs are sorted out.

The Upcoming Events widget is gone. It rarely worked properly to begin with, and the newer XFBML libraries doesn’t have support for it anymore. A alternate approach to this may make it back into the next version.

All the remaining widgets have been combined into a single module for use on the widgets screen. In addition, most of them still have a way to access them directly, such as from a function call in a theme.

Publisher settings

The Publisher has been simplified greatly. For one, auto-publishing now works even for Applications! The confusing permissions dialogs have been reduced to one. Colored indicators have been added, showing when the plugin has the necessary “tokens” from Facebook in order to be able to publish properly. The manual publishing functionality is still on the edit post screens too.¬†And for those people using the auto-publish, a new system for pulling Facebook comments on their published posts back into the blog has been implemented.

For those who wanted it, Custom Post Type support has been added to the publisher as well. Any CPT marked as “public” gets shared like everything else.

Register screen

The Register system has been completely rewritten to take advantage of Facebook’s new register plugin functionality. It can handle standalone registrations, or registrations using Facebook information. It even adds a Facebook created captcha to prevent spam registrations.

Login has been improved. One of the most common complaints was “What does ‘User not recognized’ mean?” This should be severely reduced now, since the Login module will auto-detect existing users and automatically connect their local WP accounts with their FB accounts, when they try to login. This follows Facebook’s own Registration Flow Models for connecting users to sites.

The Comment system has been improved. The share-after-comment system now happens in the background, no extra popups for users to have to click on. The whole system is now using the Graph API, so no more strange javascript errors causing weirdness. Although there is still some javascript to display the user their picture and info after logging in, so it still has that same look and feel.

There’s a lot more too. I’ll be updating this post with new stuff soon!

 

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Sorry for the several updates over the last day. Somebody pointed out that I hadn’t pushed a new version of SFC in several months, and that the fixes in trunk had gotten a ways ahead of those in the released version. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually go and test properly, so versions 0.22 and 0.23 had minor but critical bugs in them. Version 0.24 should push shortly with the fixes for those bugs as well as the enhancements over the last several months.

A short list of the changes/fixes:

  • Thanks to Burak Tuyan, the whole plugin is now more i18n capable, for people who want to translate it.
  • Added an sfc_img_exclude filter, to let others add their own image classes to exclude from the automatic image finder for share and publish and such.
  • The sfc_like_button() functions now supports a url parameter to add a like button to a specific URL.
  • A couple of patches by Jamie Zawinski: Publish now sends up to 1000 chars from the post to Facebook.
  • Also thanks to jwz, publish now gets images correctly in more cases.
  • If you enable login avatars (by uncommenting that code), it will show them for comments now too.
  • Eliminated deprecated calls to Facebook functions (xid and register users calls)
  • Custom Post Type support for automatic publishing (any CPT with public=>true will get auto-published).
  • Custom Post Type support for manual publishing (any CPT with public=>true will show the meta box in its edit screen).
  • Contextual help added to SFC Settings page.
  • Improved error messages
  • Numerous other minor optimizations and bugfixes

Version 1.0, which will ditch the old Connect code entirely, isn’t quite ready yet. The new registration stuff will be in there though, eventually. It will probably be after I get back from the core developers meeting though. Sorry for the excessive delay on that. I know lots of people want it, I never seem to have the time. I’ll try to find the time and finish it up soon. Really.

Note to users: If you got the “Breaking change: API deprecations” email from Facebook today, then you are probably using the SFC-Login plugin, or have at some point. Version 0.24 removes the code they are deprecating from the SFC-Login plugin. So upgrade and you’ll be fine. However, note that SFC is no longer compatible with WordPress versions prior to 3.0. Upgrade WordPress to 3.0 or later before upgrading SFC.

Note to international users: And with all that, there’s still a bug. If you’re seeing weird characters in your FB Published posts, edit the sfc-publish.php file. On line 179 you’ll find return utf8_encode($text);. Change it to return $text; to fix the problem with the double encoded characters. The next version will have this fix as well, but I didn’t think it was major enough to push a whole new version right away.

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I’m about half done with this, and just wanted to give an update to those people I know who are awaiting it.

I’m ditching the multiple-plugin thing. Too many complaints and too much confusion. Also, the plugin directory and updaters don’t support it well. So 1.0 will have a checkbox area where you can select the pieces you want instead.

It’s using the new Javascript SDK. All this stuff is currently working great.

Login works. Register needs some more work.

Automatic publishing now works for both Fan Pages and Applications! I just worked out how to make Application posts through the Graph API properly. Manual publishing isn’t quite there yet.

Widgets are largely unchanged, but will all be rolled into one sub-module.

Fan box got replaced by the Like box, which is the same thing with a different name. So I’m going to keep calling it the Fan Box in the interface.

The bookmark widget is going away, because it doesn’t work properly anymore anyway.

New widgets for the Facebook Social Plugins are working.

Like and Share will remain unchanged, although the Like now uses the XFBML to do its thing. Doesn’t really make a whole heck of a lot of difference, though.

Comments pull-back from Facebook is possible. I know how to do it. I’m debating whether or not to turn them into “full-fledged” comments or just display them separately.

Comments push *to* Facebook is also possible. Meaning that if somebody leaves a comment using FB and clicks the share checkbox, it will send it to Facebook (no popup) and also include the text of their comment (or an excerpt, at least). This is not done yet, but it’s actually quite easy to add now.

All dependence on the FB-Connect library will be gone. Ditto for their PHP library. I’m writing this with pure calls to the Graph API and XFBML. PHP 5 is still required, and there’s still an activation check for that.

One last thing: Upgrading from old versions to the new one will be a hassle. Things will just stop working properly when you upgrade. Can’t be helped. So I recommend deactivating SFC and all sub-plugins entirely before upgrading, then reactivating it afterwards. There will be a note to this effect on the WP plugins screen.

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Update: Since writing this, Facebook has altered the look of the Application Settings page. Now there’s only two major settings that you need to set, and they’re both on the Web Site tab: The Site URL and the Site Domain. Set those correctly and your App will work with SFC. Set them incorrectly, and it will not. So, much simpler, really. :)

The majority of the email I get from users of the Simple Facebook Connect plugin is questions regarding how to setup their Facebook Application. It’s really not that hard to do, but the plethora of options can seem somewhat intimidating. So here’s the basics of what you need to do.

After creating your application, you’ll need to visit the Apps section in the Facebook Developer Home area. Here you’ll find your application, and the all critical “Edit Settings” link.

Main Application Screen

Firstly, never give out your Application Secret. If you give this out by accident, then use the Reset Secret Key link to get a new one.

Anyway, from here, you want to go into the settings. The settings area is divided into six main sections, but most of the settings are irrelevant. See, you’re building a “Connect” application, not a “Canvas” one. So most of these are meaningless for you. The following ones are what you actually care about:

Application name

Obviously, you want the name of your Application to make sense. I suggest using the same name as your website. You can even use your domain name here if you like. Just be aware that this name is what the Fans of your site will see in their Applications area.

Basic Information

The Basic Information section is important as well, fill it in as you see fit. I also recommend uploading good icons and/or logos for your site. Gives it that finished look.

Contact Information

Contact Information is obviously important as well, but don’t worry about all those extra URLs. They really apply more to Canvas apps. Of course, if you want to make special pages on your site for them and provide the URLs here, feel free.

Authentication Settings

The Authentication Settings page is surprisingly important. Those top two boxes need to be unchecked for a Facebook Connect application. Why? Because when they are unchecked, your Application becomes an “External Website” as far as Facebook is concerned. If you have either them checked, then your app’s Canvas section becomes active and you might have users trying to add it to their profiles and such, resulting in broken pages and a general bad user experience.

Connect Settings

The Connect Settings page is probably the most important one. These settings must be filled in and they must be absolutely accurate. Specifically, the URLs must be the URLs that are actually used by your site. Capitalization matters. The leading “www” or lack of one matters. Whatever the URL your site is in the browser is what you MUST put into these fields. Anything less and your site will not work.

Advanced Settings

The Advanced Settings screen contains these three fields which you need to set in the same way I did. The email domain no longer exists, however. They removed that in favor of a different approach, so you can ignore that field.

Application Profile

Finally, after you have saved those settings, take the time to go back to the main application screen and click the “Edit Application Profile” link. You’ll be taken here, where you can set up the “look” of your application page on Facebook. This includes what tabs are visible, the stuff in the Info section, etc. You can add extra Applications tabs to this page and generally customize all sorts of stuff. None of that affects your site, but it does affect how the App Page looks in Facebook. The more polished it is, the more likely people will “Fan” your Application. And Fans get updates from when you publish posts to the Wall. Great way to drive traffic to your content.

Hope this helps! Mainly, I hope this reduces the number of questions I get about this process. Enjoy SFC!

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For those of you helping me with testing out SFC trunk, there’s a new one in there for you.

[fb-activity]

The activity feed widget is one of Facebook’s recent addition to their social widgets. Basically, it shows who’s liked and shared your posts recently. The idea is to encourage liking, I suppose.

The latest plugin adds this to WordPress as a sidebar widget, as a shortcode (fb-activity), and enables it for direct theme usage with the sfc_activity_feed() function.

As always, this is trunk beta code here, so if you do use it, don’t expect it to be 100% yet. Still, it works well enough. :)

Get it here: http://plugins.svn.wordpress.org/simple-facebook-connect/trunk/.

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I sort of snuck this into Simple Facebook Connect 0.18 for you all.

If you go to http://facebook.com/insights, then one of the new things they have is “Insights for your Domain”. Basically, this lets you hook the Facebook Insights system up to your own domain.

They give you meta info to add to your site so as to define who has control over that site. This lets them know who should be able to see the insights and such.

Well, if you use SFC, that information is already there for you. Just go over to the insights page, put in your domain, then “Link With” your SFC Application. No need to add anything else to your site, the base SFC plugin is adding that fb:app-id meta tag for you automatically (once you’ve configured SFC itself, of course).

Note that you may have to link it a few times before it actually takes. Facebook has to retrieve your webpage to verify the connection, and it seems to time out rather easily. Took me several tries and I kept getting messages like “Bad Domain” and such. But it finally worked.

Since I just added it, I don’t have any data yet to show you, but basically it will keep track of the “Shares” from your site, so those Share buttons will now give you some useful information and feedback on the Insights page.

Enjoy.

Additional: Note that since I wrote this post, Insights never actually updated or worked at all. Facebook basically dropped the ball and never actually finished this code or turned it on or something. I seriously wonder exactly WTF they are doing over there sometimes. Anyway, here’s the bug if you want to track it: http://bugs.developers.facebook.com/show_bug.cgi?id=10174

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Over on my Simple Facebook Connect page, there’s lots of comments from users with problems. Having answered these for a while now, via there and via email, I’ve come to the conclusion that people don’t search for answers to their problems.

The “How to fix the Email Domain” problem is answered on that one page no less than 6 times, for example. Almost all the rest of the problems given come from the “wrong connect URL setup” issue.

So if you don’t want to do support all the time, I think you have to make your plugin smarter. Take the most common issues you see and make the plugin auto-detect the problems. That’s what I’ve done with SFC version 0.16, for example.

Error Messages

Error messages now show up when the user configured something wrong on Facebook.

The plugin now can detect these two major causes of problems and will display an error message. It also provides a link to the right place on Facebook to go and correct these problems. It can’t actually fix the problems directly (though that is possible… small steps), but I hope this will eliminate the need for me to continually have to answer the same questions over and over again.

So my tip for the day for plugin programmers: For robustness, make your plugin check for commonplace issues. And the issues that you think will be commonplace may not be the ones you expect, so figure on having to add more and more checks every time.

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