Building Public Slack Communities – Slackvite Launch

I had the urge to build and ship something since I gave Hey Kramer to the world.

Bot Slack RTM API

Something … useful.

Since I was already elbows deep in the Slack API, I decided to build a thing that lets you “launch and manage public Slack communities in 30 seconds”. I say “manage” liberally because at this point it does none of that (the ideas list is already getting long).

But, you can launch a fancy pants landing page that pulls beautiful background photos from Unsplash to gather invites for your public Slack community. So, that’s a start I suppose.

Public Slack Community Invite

Is this a new idea? No.

There are a couple excellent solutions for building a public Slack community platform. For instance if you are reading this you’ve probably already stumbled on Slackin. It’s a great solution, however I built Slackvite for those of you that get scared away by landing on a Github page. If seeing ‘.travis.yml’ and ‘app.json’ files frightens you then you might like this.

There’s also the also very capable and popular Typeform hack for creating a Slack community. But again – if code scares you it’s not for you.

With Slackvite you just 1) register 2) connect with Slack 3) select your team 4) launch your public invite landing page to the world. Here’s a demo for an Iowa State Cyclones Slack community.

Slackvite Public Slack Community Invite Landing Page

WordPress .gitignore

Updated May 2016. I wrote the original version of this in 2014 and have since change how I work, thus the update. Unfortunately there is no *right* answer.

Wondering how git fits into your WordPress dev workflow? Here’s a great little file to help you get started – WordPress gitignore. Don’t know what a gitignore file is for? Read up on the gitignore file on the git manual.

The contents of your .gitignore file will vary depending on your style of versioning your work. Some devs keep their entire WordPress sites under version control… including WordPress core and plugins/themes from the .org repo. Others only store custom plugins and themes while ignoring any code that’s not custom. I currently manage code/workflow in all these ways as it varies by project and requirements.

Basic WordPress .gitignore

However in any case, you should ALWAYS ignore the wp-config.php file and the file uploads. You shouldn’t store wp-config.php in git because it is generally unique to the environment it is in (dev, test prod) and it potentially exposes your database username and password. The file uploads (wp-content/uploads) directory should be ignore because it should be handle like content in a database. You don’t wan to store file uploads in version control for the same reason you don’t want to keep your database rows in version control. File uploads should be treated the same way and synchronized with a tool for different environments.

wp-config.php
wp-content/uploads

Other WordPress .gitignore Considerations

There are many other types of files you don’t want to clutter up your nice clean repo. There are many type of files found in the wp-content folder that you want to ignore. In most cases it’s easier to tell git what to look for (ie themes and plugins) than it is to list all the things to explicitly ignore. For instance, one will often find backups and cache stored in wp-content. These things can easily be generated and are often environment specific. These are others to often ignore…

wp-content/advanced-cache.php
wp-content/backup-db/
wp-content/backups/
wp-content/cache/
wp-content/upgrade/
wp-content/wp-cache-config.php

 

Building A Slack Bot With Node.js And WordPress REST API

Some of my first experiments in the world of building a slack bot was to develop a basic Slash command using the WordPress REST API as a backend. If you or your team are the only users that intend to use it, you can just set it up as a simple integration. However if you wish to distribute it for others to use you can package it into a Slack bot.

An advantage of building a Slack bot versus a slash command is the additional features of the Slack API you can leverage – in this example, the RTM (Real Time Messaging) API. That allows you to listen and respond to messages in real-time. I started out building this layer as a WordPress plugin so anyone could install the plugin and build a WP powered bot. Not only was that out of scope for a fun side project, Node is really the right tool for the job – asynchronous, great packages for the Slack API, easy to deploy and scale (because who doesn’t wan’t a Kramer bot).

Bot Slack RTM API
Kramer Bot using Slack RTM API

Continue reading Building A Slack Bot With Node.js And WordPress REST API

Slack Slash Command With WordPress REST API Backend

I’ve spent the last several weeks building Slack bots and other custom integrations. One of the simplest types of Slack integration to build is the Slash Command – which can be a way for a user to interact with a bot or to provide functionality to a team or channel. Slack provides built in commands (like /topic and /remind) or you can develop custom commands either through a Slack app or just a one off implementation.

Setting up a slash command is pretty easy, because all you need to provide is a RESTful endpoint that returns data to post to a channel.

Slack Slash Command
Hey Kramer bot slash command integration

Slack will do a POST or GET to your endpoint with either JSON or query string parameters giving you information about the command that was given.

Slash Command POST Data
Slash Command POST Data

And your endpoint can simply return a string to send back to the user who initiated the slash command. Or you can send back a formatted message which is essentially a JSON package with the message to send back and some options along with it.

Kramer Slack Bot

This is where WordPress and its REST API come in. This is also where WordPress starts to become a platform. I’m not designing a theme or even building a website with WordPress. I’m creating a RESTful API with a nice simple way for users to enter data. In less than 5 minutes you can have a fully functional API outputting JSON via RESTful URLs backed by an easy to use and extend CMS.

Out of the box you have access to all data in your WP backend with a simple URL schema…. ie ‘/posts’ get a paged list of posts, ‘/posts/{id}’ to get a specific post. Here is an example from the Seinfeld API I am developing for the Kramer bot. Notice the URL structure: https://heykramer.com/wp-json/wp/v2/posts

WordPress REST API JSON Output
WordPress REST API JSON Output

Great! But not so fast … Slack is expecting something specific back. Well thankfully the REST API is easily extendible. Below is an example plugin I created to show how easy it is to extend the WP REST API to provide Slack what it needs back. (here it is on Github

To extend WP REST API, I register a custom endpoint and define a callback function to execute when that URL is requested. In this instance we are expecting a GET request with query string parameters from Slack. It expects one of two commands: gif or image. Based on the command, it will query different categories of content on WP backend and return one random result to be posted in the Slack channel where the slash command was initiated.

Kramer Bot Responds To Slash Command

Next up – building out a full Slack bot on NodeJS with a WordPress backend…

WordPress Single Page Template For Categories

If you are familiar with building WordPress themes you’ve likely caught onto the naming convention used for page templates. These conventions are things like ‘page-{slug}.php’, ‘single-{slug}.php’, and ‘category-{slug}.php’.

The conventions are very handy and I wanted something similar for posts in a category. This method is much cleaner than having conditional logic all over your ‘single.php’ file to do have different design elements or functionality for posts in different categories.

A simple one-liner to drop into your theme’s functions file does the trick…

Now, you can create ‘single-news.php’ for a post in the News category and ‘single-blog.php’ for a post in the Blog category and have completely different designs and layouts.