Jul 072012

I installed WordPress at work and have been trying to make a multisite installation work as an enterprise blogging platform. During one of the discussions around it, a colleague asked me if it was possible to integrate the blog comments system with Socialcast (the microblogging tool which is quite popular at work). I initially thought this would not be straightforward and would require development of a custom plugin from scratch.

However later, I did some searching and found that Socialcast already provides an infrastructure called Reach which can be used to integrate the comments, posts and trends with a variety of 3rd party sites. For an organization, this integration is extremely valuable as it introduces a common store for all the social interactions – be it Sharepoint, blogs, intranet pages or anything else. Since Reach is written in Javascript, it doesnt pose any restrictions on server side technology used for the sites.

So the primary goal was to make Reach work with WordPress. Initially I looked at options like HTML Javascript Adder which lets you add the reach code directly into a widget on the site. However, this posed too many issues given the lack of control one had on when the scripts were getting loaded and the difficulty to configure it. Since all Reach scripts look exactly the same except a token which is generated by Socialcast when the script is created in the admin panel, it is useless to keep replicating the same code everywhere.

Then I came across a plugin written by Monica Wilkinson of Socialcast. However this was last updated an year ago and both WordPress and Socialcast required some changes. So I forked the branch and made a few minor tweaks to suit my requirement. The plugin gives an option page to configure the tokens and the URL of your socialcast community. So I added the php file to my plugins directory and Network Activated it (This was a multisite installation). Once this is done you would get an options page on the dashboard

Now the options page has the tokens that need to be entered along with the url of your socialcast community.Remember to be careful while sharing the tokens as they have the options of allowing access to the community without the proper login credentials. I am not sure if Socialcast provides the option of revoking these tokens on a periodic basis and providing fresh ones, but this should be present to protect the company data.

There are four main kinds of reach extensions

  • Discussion – A comments system which would be shared with the Socialcast community
  • Stream – Any group or company stream
  • Trends – Trending topics, people etc.
  • Button – Like, Recommend, Share buttons. The exact verb can be configured on the admin screen.

All of these are rendered in the exact same way, by calling a script asynchronously (services/reach/extension.js) and then pushing the reach object with the javascript token. In the plugin there is a get_div function which generates the html tag

function get_div($id, $style, $token) {
	$socialcast_url = get_option('sc_host');
	if ($id != '' && $token != '') {
		return '<div id="' . $id . '" style="' . $style .
		'"></div><script type="text/javascript">_reach.push({container: "' . $id . '", domain: "https://'
		. $socialcast_url . '", token: "' . $token . '"});</script>';
	} else {
		return '';

There are two main ways of rendering the appropriate Reach control on your page

  • call the function in PHP code
  • Use the shortcode [reach]

Lets see the first option. The appropriate function that needs to be called in PHP code is given on the option screen. Let’s say I want to display the button just below the title. So I go to the theme’s postheader.php file and call the sc_add_button function in PHP code. Note: the call to sc_add_button function will only work if you have the button token configured in the plugin options. This step may differ from theme to theme.

<header class='post-header title-container fix'>
	<div class="title">
		<<?php echo $header_tag;?> class="posttitle"><?php echo suffusion_get_post_title_and_link(); ?></<?php echo $header_tag;?>>
	 echo sc_add_button('width:300px;height:30px'); 
 			if ($post_meta_position == 'corners') {
	<div class="postdata fix">

Or If you want the comments system to be replaced by the Socialcast discussion system, then go to the comment-template.php file in the wp_include directory and replace the comment markup with the call to sc_add_discussion(). Remember that you can pass the style to this method so it overrides the default styles in the plugin.

		<?php if ( comments_open( $post_id ) ) : ?>
			<?php do_action( 'comment_form_before' ); ?>
			<?php echo sc_add_discussion(''); ?>
			<?php do_action( 'comment_form_after' ); ?>
		<?php else : ?>
			<?php do_action( 'comment_form_comments_closed' ); ?>
		<?php endif; ?>

The resulting page looks like this

Now for the shortcode way. This plugin initially required the user to enter the token in the shortcode functions but I wasnt too happy with that way as revealing the tokens to non admin users seems risky. So I wrote a new function in the plugin which would allow the user to give a text on what should be displayed and the token would be read from the options. The previous way of specifying a token still exists as well.

function get_shortcode_div($id,$style,$token,$display){
 $tokenInOptions ='';
  if($display != '')
			case 'button':
			case 'discussion':
				$tokenInOptions= get_option('sc_discussion_token');
			case 'profile':
			    $tokenInOptions = get_option('sc_profile_token');
		if($tokenInOptions != '')
		   return get_div($id,$style,$tokenInOptions);
  return get_div($id,$style,$token);

This system makes it really easy for users to add the button to their blogs. Just insert a text based widget in the sidebar with the shortcode reach and it will render the widget when the page is run. Just make sure the theme calls the do_shortcode function on the widget_text parameter. If not a single line addition should do it.

Once the widget is saved, the reach extension is rendered on the page. The modified plugin can be downloaded here and the original version written by Monica can be downloaded here. I will make changes for the trends extension soon once I get the token to test it out.