Pubwich, the Lifestreaming Sandwich
Compartmentalized Lifestreams are all the rage right now. As well they should be, it’s a great way to get all your activity to be displayed in an attractive manner without some great content getting pushed down by Twitter updates. (You know you do it!) I stumbled across a nice little open source project called Pubwich, that does just that.
I’ve been using Pubwich at my site for a little while now and like the way it’s run. It’s neither easy to setup nor pain-free to get your services displayed but with a little knowledge of PHP you’ll be ready to go. Currently Pubwich supports Delicious, Facebook, Flickr, Last.fm, Readernaut, Twitter, Vimeo, YouTube, and RSS. The latest release supports GitHub and Gowalla as well, although not yet listed on it’s main site.
Pubwich is very young, in that not many sites are running it and the developer community seems to consist of only the author: Rémi Prévost. But I feel it’s got massive potential in the lifestream market. Rémi has appeared to include many great features. For one, extendability, each service is a self contained file allowing additional services to be added very simply. Second, no need for a database. Third, caching capabilities. And finally, a structured configuration file.
As I said earlier the editing the information isn’t very straight forward. But opening the configuration file you’ll see some preloaded items and by following those items, you’ll have your lifestream setup in no time. Opening up the default template and you’ll get a small idea of how to structure your custom look.
Now for my experience with Pubwich. As I said, setup wasn’t crazy simple but it wasn’t difficult either. Pubwich is best to be looked at (at this point in time) as a lifestreaming script as opposed to a framework. You’ve got to root around in the config file and template files to get your lifestream working. As the development of the service proceeds, I’d love to see an install script and a configuration GUI that will allow for easier editing of the services and various options as opposed to running through the config file. Once I got the script setup, I looked at the design and messed with the CSS to get it styled the way I wish. But I wasn’t quite happy.
The built-in system for Last.fm was limited. It only allowed for top albums and top tracks. I didn’t care for this. I want to show people my latest Loved Tracks. So I dug into the Last.fm service file. I found out how to grab a different stream through Last.fm’s API and how to get an image for that track as well. After that, I had a nice stream from Last.fm, but I couldn’t get it to run through the cache system. Not a big problem, but one I’m waiting on a little support to solve. After that I messed with the Vimeo stream as well to get it working as I wanted. Same result. Not complete change, but I’m happy with the results.
Lastly, Rémi has released a new version with added features and more. But the latest release broke many of my custom usage issues (services still work, but the way I have it integrated into my site has failed). So I’ve had to roll back to a previous version so that I can run it the way I want. I’ll see if I can get the new version up and running soon.
My experience with Pubwich has been pretty good, and it does what I want it to. I’d love to see some work on an interface to make adding/moving/changing services simpler for the average user. I’d also love to see the option of integrating Pubwich into a database or even a flat-file that backups the items in which Pubwich streams in. I hope to see more developers jump on the code to spruce it up. I’m a horrible PHP coder, but I may just do what I can to improve the code.
Reasons to use Pubwich:
- Open Source
- Compartmentalized Lifestream
- No Database
- Help Improve your PHP Knowledge
Reasons to avoid Pubwich:
- You want something easy to setup and use
- You want your lifestream to backup your data
- You want many pre-built services
- You want a mature product