Back in 2011, I made an RSS powered email list using rss2email. The last new version was released that year, and while the last two years have worked perfectly well, there’s one small problem. The developer appears to be done with it. This happens, and the beauty of open source is that people can pick up the code, fork it, and carry on. The annoyance is that sometimes the new coders do things that break it all for you. In this case, the running fork of rss2email uses Python 3.2 or higher.
If you’re using Python 3.2+, grab rss2email the new version and off you go! But if, like me, you’re on a server that doesn’t come with that version of Python, you can start swearing. This is not something you can just upgrade, either as Daniel Eriksson explains how to do this on CentOS 6 (my flavor). Many different flavors of Linux use the old 2.x branch of Python, and there are no plans I’ve seen to upgrade any time soon.
Now I’m faced with a dilema. Do I mess around and upgrade on my own, or do I find another answer. You know I went with option B, right?
I sat and thought really hard about what I, personally, needed this to do. This is a key component to any code you’re going to write. Make sure you know what you need. Let’s break things down:
- Email to be sent to a specific address automatically when there’s a new post.
- No email sent on pages or CPTs
- Post ‘excerpt’ is message content
- Change ‘to’ email on the fly.
- Select full post or post excerpt in email
- Customize ‘from’ email address
- Ability to say “no, not this post”
- Customize email message
- Allow options for different post types to get emailed
That’s pretty simple, isn’t it? It’s clear cut what I need, what I want, and what I’d like to have if I have time. Not every project is this simple, but today it is.
I actually knew how to do my ‘needs’ already, but as soon as I tested it I found I had to expand on what I meant by ‘when there’s a new post.’ If I hooked into the
publish_post action, the email got sent every time a post was updated too. This lead me down to Notifly, which emails a list of people for every post and comment, but not post updates. That gave me the magic of
transition_post_status, which solved that first problem.
At this point, the question became “Why not just use Notifly?” The first problem I had was that it sent out emails for comments too, with no easy way to turn that off. I could have forked, and I started looking into that when I ran into problem two, which was I couldn’t change the ‘from’ email. This was something that became a bigger issue later, when I realized I needed to be able to change the from email to work better with restrictions on certain hosts and with certain mailing lists. I could still edit the plugin, but I looked at what that plugin did and what I needed and wanted. Editing Notifly to do what I wanted would mean overcomplicating it and adding a lot more options. I could fork it, but I’d be stripping everything out and rewriting if I did that, so I decided to carry forward with my own thing. I would say the plugins are similar, cousins, but approach the goal in different ways. Semantics, I know.
Once I mastered only emailing on post publish, I had to tell it not to email on non-posts. No emails being sent on CPTs and pages was easy and I could have used
is_post_type() and checked for posts, but I decided to use
get_page(), because that let me expand on some other features later. This was new to me, but since I wanted to use the post excerpt, this was going to be, bar none, the fastest way to pull that in.
While I love being able to read whole posts in my RSS reader, I lose a lot with it, in regards to formatting. For the site I desired to run this on, the layout is a huge thing. On top of that, thanks to some idiots, I had to turn on hotlink protection, lest they crash my server again. Also I use a lot of embedded media (HTML5 video, twitter, etc). That means the ‘whole’ post generally looks like crap. So for every single post, I custom craft an excerpt. And this is why
get_page() was awesome, because I could use that to pull the excerpt.
The default WordPress emails are sent from ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ with the name ‘WordPress’ and while that’s great, I wanted mine to be sent from ‘Blogname’ (the email address was fine, I’ll just add it to the email list as a moderator). That changed my ‘want’ of being able to customize the from info into a ‘need’ but it was also pretty easy to do.
If I was only going to use this code on one site forever and ever, I’d probably leave it at this. But … I know I’ll want to use this around other places. I started by looking at my ‘wants’ and put those in as well.
So what did I end up with?
This is a simple WordPress plugin that lets you set a to email, a from email, and a from ‘name’. It uses the RSS settings to determine if your email body is the full text or the excerpt. It only emails on posts, not pages or CPTs, and not for private posts. You can only set one email because of reasons, first being I only need to send to one address, but second is that I really hate when people send me emails I don’t want or need. Limiting the number of emails you can send to will help that. It also helps you not piss off your webhost by spamming people. Seriously. You use my plugin to spam people, I will hurt you.
What about my dream features? Handling the different post types means using get_post_types(), which isn’t horrible. In theory it’s just a check ‘If the option for that post type isn’t checked, fail out.’ It’s not something I need, and I really don’t feel like auto-emails for everything is a good idea (pages and CPTs are not posts!), so I’m going to wait and see if this is a need for people.
Flagging per post I have no idea how to do, since I don’t yet know how to put a custom post option like that per-post and check it on publish. Yet. Since public posts are public, I think that it’s fine having it email on all public posts. Opting out like that is not for me, but if enough folks come up with it, I’ll consider it because it’s a good excuse to learn something new.
Customizing the message is easy and when I went back in to fiddle with internationalization and proper content serialization, I added it in. I also went and used
wp_parse_args to remove setting the defaults in the database, and make it easier for me to add more options in later.