Knowledge Base: Including Images in Group Posts and Comments

The “Groups” facility in Ratburger.org is based upon the Group feature of BuddyPress, which is a plug-in (or more precisely, bolt-on) to WordPress which was intended to turn what was originally blogging software into a crude kind of social network, with emphasis on “crude”.  BuddyPress can best be thought of as a kludge hanging in a bag crookedly nailed to the side of the hack which is WordPress.  Much of the work expended in software development since the launch of Ratburger has been in fixing outright flaws and limitations of BuddyPress.  Raw BuddyPress is something to behold: group posts and comments, once posted, cannot be edited or deleted, except by an administrator, and there is near complete opacity about what is going on, with notifications completely haphazard.

The whole Groups facility is a hack.  The way a discussion group add-on to WordPress should work is self-evident to anybody who gives it a few minutes’ thought: each group should be its own little site, with its own posts and comments, but with notifications confined to members.  Posts could be promoted from groups to public pages by administrators.  All of the composition, editing, and administration functions should be identical for the main site and groups.

What we have, of course, is nothing like that.  Groups don’t work remotely like the main site, and users are constantly frustrated trying to do simple things in groups which are easy on the main site.

For example, consider including an image in your post or comment.  On the main site, you just use the “Add Media” button, upload the image, and shazam, there it is!  But in a group, you’ll look in vain for an Add Media button—groups were basically intended by the developers of BuddyPress as glorified text-only bulletin boards, and if you want to do something as 1995-era edgy as including an image in your post, you have to jump through hoops.  Here are the details of the hoops, in case you remain undeterred.

First, upload your image to the Media Library.  There’s no “Add Media” button, but you can open up another tab or window, go to the Dashboard (via the little thing that looks like a speedometer in the bar at the top left of the page), then select Media/Add New.  This will display the familiar “Upload New Media” page, where you can select an image on your local computer and upload it to Ratburger.  This does not include the image in your group post; it simply adds it to your Media Library.

Next, display the Media Library.  In the sidebar, click Media/Library and you’ll see all images you’ve uploaded, with the most recent one at top left.  Click it and you’ll see the image full sized.  Make a note (copy and paste to an external text file) the following information about the image:

  • Dimensions
  • URL
  • Alt Text

For example, for an image I uploaded some time ago, I’d note:

  • Dimensions: 640 by 425 pixels
  • URL: https://www.ratburger.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/S146.jpg
  • Alt Text: HDR image: total solar eclipse 2010-07-11

Now go to the group post where you wish to include the image.  Starting on a line by itself, include an HTML img tag for the image like the following:

<img src="https://www.ratburger.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/S146.jpg"
  width="640" height="425" class="aligncenter"
  alt="Alt Text: HDR image: total solar eclipse 2010-07-11" />

Replace the various fields with the information you’ve recorded for your image. The “aligncenter” specification will centre the image (what you usually want); you can also use “alignleft” or “alignright” if you know what you’re doing.

If your image is larger than will fit on the screen (for example, images from digital cameras), you’ll need to recalculate the width and height to rescale it to fit. You typically don’t want an image to be wider than 640 pixels, and 600 pixels is a good choice. Let’s assume you have a monster image which is 6016×4016 pixels (as produced by a Nikon D600 digital camera) and you wish it show it as 600 pixels wide. You’d specify width=“600” in the img tag, but then you need to calculate the height in order to preserve the shape (“aspect ratio”) of the image. To do this, multiply the original height by the new width divided by the original width, in this case:

4016 × (600 / 6016) ≈ 401

(round to the nearest integer), and then specify height=“401”.

When you publish your post or comment in the group, the image should now appear.

Why should something so conceptually simple as including an image in a discussion group require such contortions?  Welcome to “the software that runs one third of the Web” (which is what they say, without adding the concluding phrase, “into the ground”).  As I mock their download page:

WordPress: Worthless, and also free

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Author: John Walker

Founder of Ratburger.org, Autodesk, Inc., and Marinchip Systems. Author of The Hacker's Diet. Creator of www.fourmilab.ch.

19 thoughts on “Knowledge Base: Including Images in Group Posts and Comments”

  1. As the Bard said, somewhere, I am amazed!   What a maze of jerry-rigs that is.

    Your writeup is very much appreciated; at the same time I do regret the query that resulted in this expense of time.

    I had got as far as using the Dashboard to see the two Media Library options: see it, and add to it.  Apparently some people use the Dashboard all the time.  Heretofore I have not used it at all.  Nevertheless, when I add some foolish photo to a post, a personal image library pops up that has all sorts of pics in it.  What does that tell us, other than that I have woeful limitations?  Do some people go to Dashboard first, or all the time? How many ways are there of approaching RB as a daily user?

    It’s kind of an interesting question.  A young relative of mine is kahuna of “growth marketing” for guess what internet app.  He directs a team that analyzes large sets of anonymized (!) click data to see when, where, at what point users give up on their early attempts to use a new feature.  They have this term for the status of us rubes:  pre-conversion, users are flailing about, often giving up – like me looking at the Dashboard here and saying Oh!  Huh!  Maybe tomorrow!  Then they use the term post-conversion for the status we rubes attain once we have stumbled on how to use their new “feature” and have made it a routine or a habit.

    Anyway, the worry now is this:  Suppose I try the image customization described:

    John Walker:
    include an HTML img tag for the image like the following: Alt Text: HDR image: total solar eclipse 2010-07-11 Replace the various fields with the information you’ve recorded for your image.

    WOW!  Hey, look at that.

    Anyway, if I do that part wrong; if I do the scary HTML field-replacement task wrong, will I break something?  That is the fear, since I’m not my kids: that I will break something.

    Gratias tibi ago.

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  2. So if you have an image that is worth sharing with the group, then it is worth sharing with everyone publicly on the main page.

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  3. Bryan G. Stephens:
    What fool decided to use this crap in the first place 🙂

    Careful.   I doubt if our programmer in chief understood the limitations of the WordPress+Buddypress platform when that choice was made.   It probably allowed much quicker implementation of Ratburger.org than inventing everything from scratch.   But in the end, the maintenance time required will probably exceed the time it would have taken to invent a social media platform from scratch.

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  4. I think the easiest work around to posting images in groups is not to.  One can make a post on the main part of the site and provide a link to it in the group. Pictures and formatting are such easier in regular posts so this cuts down on time and effort of making a “dog walk on its hind legs” in groups.

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  5. MJBubba:
    So if you have an image that is worth sharing with the group, then it is worth sharing with everyone publicly on the main page.

    If the group is private, the other option is sending things to individuals by e-mail or pointing to an off site image.

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  6. 10 Cents:
    I think the easiest work around to posting images in groups is not to.  One can make a post on the main part of the site and provide a link to it in the group.

    Very attractive option, except for one fear.  Suppose the photo is to illustrate some post of narrow interest only to the members of the group? It would be like showing off or something. I don’t want everybody mad at me.

    That brings up the other question: would several immortal, or near-immortal, perhaps renewable, threads be preferable to Groups?

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  7. jzdro:

    10 Cents:
    I think the easiest work around to posting images in groups is not to.  One can make a post on the main part of the site and provide a link to it in the group.

    Very attractive option, except for one fear.  Suppose the photo is to illustrate some post of narrow interest only to the members of the group? It would be like showing off or something. I don’t want everybody mad at me.

    That brings up the other question: would several immortal, or near-immortal, perhaps renewable, threads be preferable to Groups?

    They can see what you are doing now in the group, jzdro.

    A simple way is to have a monthly or weekly thread for the group. Or it can be by chapter of a book if it is a study group.

    Threads can be made private so only members of this site can see them.

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  8. jzdro:

    10 Cents:
    I think the easiest work around to posting images in groups is not to.  One can make a post on the main part of the site and provide a link to it in the group.

    Very attractive option, except for one fear.  Suppose the photo is to illustrate some post of narrow interest only to the members of the group? It would be like showing off or something. I don’t want everybody mad at me.

    That brings up the other question: would several immortal, or near-immortal, perhaps renewable, threads be preferable to Groups?

    Write it in Latin.

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  9. John said: BuddyPress can best be thought of as a kludge hanging in bag crookedly nailed to the side of the hack which is WordPress.

    Nailed how? With a stone or the butt of a dull axe? I’m happy he didn’t say “screwed”. Then for sure we would all be screwed.

    Now as to the bag, is it canvas, paper, leather or even a handbag?

    Crookedly nailed“? Was the nail bent or driven in crooked?

     

    But seriously John, big thanks for your efforts!

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  10. jzdro:
    Anyway, if I do that part wrong; if I do the scary HTML field-replacement task wrong, will I break something?  That is the fear, since I’m not my kids: that I will break something.

    It is unlikely you will break something.  Generally, when WordPress doesn’t like something, it just silently discards it, giving you no feedback as to what you (or, more often, it) did wrong.  This can be infuriating when you’re trying to do something simple and it simply ignores everything you try, but rarely does it do any damage to how the page displays.

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  11. G.D.:
    Nailed how? With a stone or the butt of a dull axe?

    Here is a little-known fact about BuddyPress, which it’s almost impossible to discern by reading either the BuddyPress or WordPress sites in detail.  Those sites give you the impression that BuddyPress is an independent open source project which is an arm’s length plug-in project just like the thousands of other WordPress plug-ins.  In fact, in 2008, Automattic, Inc., the parent company of WordPress, acquired BuddyPress from its developers for undisclosed compensation and became its sole owner.  In September 2010, Automattic transferred the WordPress trademark and BuddyPress (along with bbPress) to the WordPress Foundation, which was founded by Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic.  Thus, although it is delivered as a plug-in, it is as much a part of the WordPress organisation as the core code itself.

    I can only conclude that this public distancing is to provide “plausible deniability” to WordPress for the shoddy quality of BuddyPress although, in my experience, there’s little to distinguish BuddyPress from WordPress when it comes to design integrity, quality of implementation, or responsiveness in fixing long-standing flaws.

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  12. Bryan G. Stephens:
    What fool decided to use this crap in the first place .

    I decided to use WordPress and BuddyPress when bringing up the site in December 2017.

    There were a number of factors contributing to the decision, with expedience and ease of transition being among the most important.  First of all, among the major content management systems (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla!, etc.) WordPress has the largest installed base and, more importantly, the largest universe of plug-ins, many of them free.  This means that when you need to add functionality, there’s a greater probability you’ll be able to find something that does what you want or can serve as the basis to adapt into a solution with WordPress; with the others, there’s a greater probability you’ll have to develop something from scratch.

    Second, the legacy podcast site was built on WordPress and BuddyPress.  Since I expected our initial user community to consist, in large part, of people who had been kicked off that site or walked away due to disgust or lack of interest, that meant that those users, arriving here, would find a familiar environment where post and comment composition and editing, insertion of media in posts, account management, groups, direct messages, and notifications were pretty much the same as what they were used to.  This would dramatically reduce the learning curve for users and, consequently, the support burden on the two volunteer, part-time administrators who are the only resources available to help users get up and running on the new site.

    Finally, I took into account that between 80–90% of all new ventures fail, usually by just not going anywhere.  Since that rule certainly applied to this site, I had to consider the amount of development which had to be done on speculation before we’d know if the site was a success.  Using WordPress, BuddyPress, and a motley collection of rough-edged plug-ins, it was up and running with non-administrator user accounts registered in less than 72 hours after launch of the project.  Adapting another content management system to provide comparable functionality would probably be a project measured in months, and custom development was out of the question: my custom-built Hacker’s Diet Online Web platform took almost two years to develop, and it is far less complicated than Ratburger.org was at its public launch.

    If I were bringing up the site from scratch today, I would make the same choice of platform.  I wish there were something better, and particularly, more competently implemented, but there isn’t.

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