If you run a Facebook page or group for a local community, you might like to add a FixMyStreet feed. This will publish recent reports, made within the geographic area that you define, as posts on your Facebook page, like this:
Adding a FixMyStreet feed to your Facebook page is not difficult, but you do need to be an administrator for the page you want it on.
Also, it is a multi-step procedure. In other words, you might like to fetch yourself a cup of tea before following along with the instructions below.
Here’s what to do:
1. Visit FixMyStreet.com and locate the area you want a feed for
Does your Facebook page deal with a particular city or town, or an area within that town?
You’ll probably want to publish the FixMyStreet reports that are made within that area. The wider the area you choose, the more reports you will be publishing, so think carefully about what your followers will actually want to see on your Facebook stream.
Once you’ve decided, locate that area on FixMyStreet by putting a postcode or place name into the box on the homepage. It doesn’t need to be precise; you just need to locate any spot within the area that you want to cover.
You’ll be taken to a page showing all recent reports for the surrounding area.
Don’t worry if this isn’t the exact area that you want your feed to cover, so long as you’re at a point within that area – we’re going to refine that in the next step.
You can click and drag the map or zoom in and out if you’re not quite within the area that you want to be.
2. Create your feed
At the very foot of the FixMyStreet page, below the list of reports on the left, you’ll see a little icon marked “get updates”. Click on this.
You now have the choice of several options. You can get a feed for:
– All problems reported within 2km, 5km, 10km or 20km, or within a population of roughly 200,000 people
– All problems reported to your local council
– All problems reported within the ward of your council
Choose which option most closely matches the area that your Facebook page deals with, and click the green button marked ‘Give me an RSS feed’.
3. Grab the URL
Your feed page will look something like this:
It’s basically just the data from FixMyStreet, with none of the site’s styling or functionality around it. This is what we need Facebook to grab and publish on your page.
You will need the URL (web address) of this page in a short while – just keep it open while you go through the next steps.
4. Log into Facebook
You don’t need to be logged in as the page that you want the feed on; it’s fine just to be logged in as yourself, the administrator of that page.
5. Connect an RSS action to your Facebook page In order to publish FixMyStreet reports, you’ll be using what’s called an RSS feed – a stream of data that can be picked up and published anywhere else. In this case, the data stream is found on what you saw in step 3: the ‘bare bones’ FixMyStreet page; and the target for publication is your Facebook page.
Facebook itself does not provide a way to publish RSS feeds, so we’re going to use a service called IFTTT.
IFTTT stands for ‘If This, Then That”, and it’s a really nifty, free service that basically allows you to say: “Every time [something] happens, do [something else].
We are going to use it to say “Every time a new post appears in the RSS feed that I specify, publish it to my Facebook page”.
Here’s what to do.
a) Sign up for an IFTTT account, if you don’t already have one.
b) Click on ‘my recipes’ and then ‘create a recipe’:
c) Click the word ‘this’:
d) Search for the word ‘feed’ and then select the orange RSS symbol:
e) Click ‘new feed item’:
f) Input the URL of your FixMyStreet feed (the one we kept open earlier, in step 3) and click ‘create trigger’:
g) We’ve set up the first half of our ‘recipe’—the ‘IF THIS’. You can see it as the orange RSS feed sign in the sentence now.
So next we’re going to tell the recipe what to do when that feed updates.
Click the word ‘that’:
h) Search for Facebook and select ‘Facebook pages’:
IFTTT will take you through the steps of linking with Facebook and choosing which page to publish to. Just make sure you say ‘yes’ to everything.
i) Choose how you would like updates to display – I think a link post looks most suitable
This format allows you to add a message to every item it publishes: probably a good idea, because it helps give context to these posts that are going to appear in your Facebook stream.
FixMyStreet reports are often written in the first person, so if they appear without a title or explanation, they may look as if they are posts from you yourself – take a look at the example at the top of this post and you’ll see what I mean.
j) Input some text if required, eg “Here’s a new report from x area”:
k) Click ‘create action’ and you’re done. Note that your feed will not start publishing out until the next report is made on FixMyStreet.
Do let us know in the comments below if you go ahead and install this functionality – plus any tips you might have.
By the way, you can use this method to publish any RSS feed to your Facebook page, so you could also publish anything from blog posts to YouTube videos, so long as you can find the RSS source, which is usually signaled by that little orange icon:
A user, Alan, has kindly been in touch with this message:I connected to Facebook Pages, and assigned a Facebook Page I manage (a trial site). Then, later, I couldn’t figure out how to change to another Facebook Page I manage. After much delving, I found that people can change the Facebook Page to where the feed should go on this page.Also of note: I have also had a dabble with zapier.com which seems pretty good at doing the same thing. It offers a range of subscription plans ranging from free.
Just a quick post to keep those of of you interested in mySociety in the loop with our activities at the moment.
New Things You Can Use Now
1. Email or RSS alerts when people report problems in your ward or your council via FixMyStreet. Ideal for councillors, people on resident’s associations, or anyone just concerned about what’s breaking and being fixed in the area right near their home.
Have a go – it’s ace when the mail comes dropping in from just down your road.
2. The Queen on TheyWorkForYou
Is this the first monarch with her own RSS feed? Would anyone really care if she was?
New Projects Coming Up
We have three major projects under way at the moment, and unusually
only two of them involve us building websites.
1. The Freedom of Information Filer and Archive website is under construction. Aiming to make it easier to make freedom of information requests, and easier for people to find what other people have found out, this is being build mainly by Francis. We’re having lots of discussions about design and features right now, and if you have anything to contribute please either get in touch or leave your ideas on the wiki page.
2. Local Email Groups Near You – an attempt to record the location of hyper local email groups and local forums and websites and to share that information on lots of other sites. Why go blindly hunting for advice on a plumber if there’s already an email list that covers your street? This is going to be a rare international project for us, so if you’re outside the UK and interested in community Internet usage, please get in touch.
3. The 90 Day Project – mySociety’s first lobbying exercise, trying to encourage parliament to take some steps to improve the way it publishes information, and to improve the tools that MPs have to handle mail from their constituents.
There’s lots and lots more too, but we can’t blow all our surprises in one go, can we?