By Mark Harris, July 3rd, 2010

So I’ve been waiting for WordPress 3 to come out before really diving into this, because in WP 3 they introduce easy use of custom content types. Up to this point, you were allowed to create either a post or a page. Now you can create any type you want. These types are still just posts really, but it allows for something I’ve been working on for some time.

Mobile apps for films and storytelling have been a hot topic for a while. There have been good ideas and bad ideas. But the one thing I think any mobile content app should have is the ability to update the content on the fly. This is where WordPress comes in. It’s a robust and widely used CMS option, which saves us the time and hassle of writing our own CMS. It has a large support base, active development and just about every feature you could ever ask for in a tool like this.

So I had been thinking for some time about how to use WordPress to power mobile app content. One problem was that I did not want the mobile content to show up on the site. So the custom content types came in exceptionally handy for just this. I was able to create a type called “mobilecontent” and thus guarantee that I could direct that content only to my mobile devices and not to the site itself.

What’s beautiful about this is now I have one place to manage my story-world, my BTS, my articles, my Transmedia data, etc. All in WordPress.

But how do you get it to the mobile apps? One way to do this would be for the app to read an rss feed off of the site. RSS is XML. The problem I had with this was that the standard RSS feeds did not give me as much data as I wanted about posts. So I first set out to write my own plugin to create the feeds I wanted. Then I got to thinking about it a little more and decided I liked JSON REST services better anyway. They are simpler to deal with and both Objective-C and Java have super-simple methods of consuming them and turning them into objects for use in your app. So as always, before I started in on my own JSON plugin, I searched existing WordPress plugins. And sure enough, some dude made one that suited my needs (nearly) perfectly. So I installed that and wrote a little Android code to consume it. But the one thing this plugin lacked was access to custom content types. He had written it before these were available. So I added this to the plugin myself. I will submit it back to him to see if he wants to keep my code in there.

But what this got me was exactly what I needed to serve up WordPress content to my mobile apps.

Of course, you could have the standard mobile app that looks like a mobile version of your website. Or you could launch a whole mobile story, fed through WordPress, and served up to mobile devices. Adding custom fields to WordPress posts for lat/long means you can now tag a post for geolocation. Then your app can respond accordingly. Now, WordPress can be used to create a scavenger hunt. Or a location based ARG delivered to mobile devices. All with this off the shelf, FREE CMS system.

There is still a lot of work to do on this and a lot more detail to add. But I thought I would kick it off with these initial thoughts to plant the seeds and see if anything catches for people. I am moving forward on this now, probably working out a framework in Android first, because it’s so much more fun to code than Obj-C. I will be using this on the LOST CHILDREN apps, and would be happy to have some more guinea pigs as well. If you have an app in the works, and looking for some way to update the content regularly, hit me up.

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Posted in Storytelling creative collaboration tools and services transmedia

Mark Harris is a filmmaker and technologist in New York City. In addition to producing several shorts Mark is currently working on his first feature film, THE LOST CHILDREN. Mark also runs Gowanus Software, a technology consulting firm in Brooklyn, NY focusing on enterprise and mobile solutions.

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  • They have to be easy to use. Now, I don't necessarily mean brain-dead easy. I mean, still, in this day and age, there still has to be some sort of blip on the evolutionary radar to even use a computer, let alone the ten coolest (and FREE) apps that will make your life SO much easier. So, easy to use means that an average user can use these utilities if they read the how-to's that come with them. OK, you've been warned! If you don't read the how-to's, and don't donate to the software authors, and your PC starts spewing smoke, don't come crying to me about the bad ju-ju. Good things come to those who do nice things for others (and who read the how-to's that come with the software).

  • Hi sir:

    i think you need it. please have a look!
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  • Hi sir:

    i think you need it. please have a look!
    iphone web template bundle – learn more here:
    http://iconnice.com/bundle....

  • Hi sir:

    i think you need it. please have a look!
    iphone web template bundle – learn more here:
    http://iconnice.com/bundle....

  • Mark

    So Dan Phiffer, who wrote the JSON API for WordPress, included my Custom Post Type customization in his 1.0.3 release:

    http://wordpress.org/extend...

    So now we're good to go for using this plugin out of the box for our mobile apps.

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