Tips + Tricks

Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and now even Mastodon can be a great place to connect with experts and cousins. Now you can bring those conversations right into your private Ponga pictures.

8 Social Media Conversations Referenced in a Ponga Picture

Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and now even Mastodon can be a great place to connect with experts and cousins. Now you can bring those conversations right into your private Ponga pictures.

Why

Let's face it, sharing stories of our ancestors on social media is just plain fun. When connecting with fellow-travelers in the worlds of #genealogy and #familyhistory, telling your own story about a place, time, or occasion helps share interests and memories. It also is a way of keeping their memories alive and honoring the loved ones you may now have lost.

The thing is, telling a story on social media doesn't archive it, and the context is so easily lost even as you discover new connections in comments from strangers.

Well, Ponga's got a solution to that. When you add your family photos to Ponga, you are building a library where it's quick and easy to find photos by person. As you share stories in social media, add the shared stories as links right back into Ponga. This article will show you how. Plus, as a bonus there's detail on archiving those posts on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine so that the posts themselves will be protected.

How... Spoiler: Copy and Paste

At the risk of spoiling the secret technique, when you paste a link into a comment in Ponga, the software attempts to preview the content so that you can see as much information about the external link as possible directly in your Ponga picture. If the comment you're adding is the first in a selection, then that content will preview when your mouse hovers over the selection. So, to paste in a social media post, all you do is copy and paste.

Article preview that appears when a link to this NPS site is added to Ponga.

As we've described in this tip about 12 kinds of content that can be added to a Ponga picture, there's a little more to it. You can add a link to any site on the web, but the link has to be publicly accessible in order for content to preview. You can control how content previews by selectively including the "https" protocol designator. More on that here.

Website Example

In our cover image, you'll see an example of how that works here in the cover image to this post where an article about the Pony Express is pasted into a selection around the sign "Half Way House." Since the linked article included a map of the Pony Express Route as the cover image, Ponga is able to bring up that image as a content "preview" for the selection. If playable media is pasted in as a link, the preview isn't just a static link, it's playable as embedded media.

Sorta-technical background

The preview behavior of content is not unlike sharing content into social media. Paste a youtube video into Facebook or Twitter, for example, and it plays. Paste in an article about a map, and the map is visible.

When websites and platforms design their content for the exclusive use of their own subscribers, it's also not unusual to have all previews blocked entirely. You can paste Instagram links into Facebook and have the content preview, but it doesn't preview when pasted into other sites. Ponga is guided by protocols implemented on remote websites, so if it's blocked Ponga cannot display static or playable media. Ponga will still try to provide a preview, but the data returned from the external site is empty. Instead of a preview, you'll see "blank box."  We have some examples of that below.

Real-world experience

To make it easy for you, we put this list together for you based on our testing in the Winter of 2022 after the dramatic changes at Twitter that took the company private and the explosion of activity on Mastodon. We even included a few workarounds you might find useful. If your experience is different from what we've described here, just let us know in the Live Chat. You just might be the first to witness a change on another platform!

To make this fun, we explored each platform with a theme that seemed consistent with an image from one of our founders' family photo collection "Half Way House along the Pony Express." We looked on each platform for content related to either #PonyExpress or #UShistory. We selected content examples that appeared based on that search and added them to the Ponga picture to show you how it appears. Just to round out the table, we added one extra one based on a Google search for #ponyexpress. Here's what we found:

Twitter

Twitter pasted link
Text+Image link

Twitter links pasted directly: While Twitter links pasted directly  technically preview well, the included image is just a low-resolution version of the Twitter logo and the copy (see image at left).

A nifty workaround is to find the image associated with the original Twitter post, usually by clicking through from the Twitter post to the source article or other content. Then, just capture the link for that image, paste that first. You can then add the link to the original twitter right after it. Problem solved.

Here's why that works: Ponga looks for the web protocol designator "https" to determine whether to attempt to preview external content. For the first post in a selection, Ponga will attempt to preview any text prepended with "https://". If "https://" appears twice in a post, Ponga will only preview the content from the first one it sees. You can always just paste a link without that protocol designator, like this: twitter.com/geneabargains/status/1..... You'll find even more detail about the rules here.

Interesting Twist: Our new friends on Mastodon recently reminded us that you can add any specific social media post on The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, as a way to preserve the link. (A special hat-tip to @genealogyadventurestv for the tip!)

It turns out that works very well in Ponga. This approach should work for any social media link archived at the web.archive.org. Give it a try and leave a donation for their fine work while you're at it!

One of the most powerful elements of Twitter was the way in which it supported an ecosystem of other applications. Depending on your use case, it can be interesting to explore these as well. Take a look, for example at Threadreaderapp.com, a commonly used tool to view Twitter threads as a whole. See this example of open access library resources in every state in the US. Using threadreaderapp, you can not only an entire thread into Ponga by pasting a link, you can also take that thread and print it to PDF and post it to cloud storage you control such as Google Drive or Permanent.org. Then take the resulting link and paste it into Ponga.

Facebook

Facebook pasted link
Text+link no "https"

Facebook links pasted directly: Since the design of the platform was essentially as a "walled garden" where login is required, any public link pasted from Facebook will require a login. The preview information simply says "login or register to view." This ensures that Facebook can manage the visibility of posts in alignment with the poster's intentions — even as they change.

The workaround is essentially the same as with Twitter: simply paste the link without the "https" so it won't attempt to preview, like this: www.facebook.com/scottsbluffnps/posts/pf...

Instagram

Instagram pasted link
Image+link no "https"

Instagram links pasted directly: Like their parent company Facebook, Instagram is designed to be viewed and engaged with in a controlled environment. Links can be embedded, by only by licensed partners. When Instagram post and Reel links are posted directly into Ponga, we see this "blank box" behavior described earlier. Here's an example for a post.

While the same workaround as for Facebook works, we might recommend a more image-forward solution where you simply paste the link in without the "https" and add a screenshot of the original image(s). You can include as many attached screenshots and other images to a Ponga selection as you'd like. More than four can get awkward. If you need to include more than two, we'd recommend simply adding more comments. As described in the rules for previews, when images are added with text or recordings, the images will preview.

Pinterest

Pinterest pasted link
Image link from source

Pinterest links pasted directly: Because the Pinterest team want you to remain in their platform, the direct links from the platform do not preview in Ponga.

The workaround is usually to click through to the original site from the Pinterest post and instead paste that link into Ponga like this. Since many posts in Pinterest are designed to sell objects or promote blog posts, the content in the target site generally is designed perfectly for embedding. In this example a charming Pony Express poster was for sale at Art.com as framed artwork. If you'd like to be consistent about referencing your source, you can include the Pinterest link but remove the "https" designator so that Ponga doesn't attempt to preview the content.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn link pasted directly into Ponga

LinkedIn links pasted directly will consistently work because the platform is designed for sharing external to the site. In this case, a museum post in modern Greek about American Pony Express previews perfectly including not only the original image, but also copy in Greek.

This actually introduces another tip about how previews work and how languages are expressed in Ponga.

Ordinarily, if you use a Google Translate extension in the Chrome browser to translate the copy of a Ponga picture to your preferred language, all language on the page is translated. A very nifty tip. Try it yourself on this blog post and this copy in modern Greek: 

"Στις 24.10.1861, ολοκληρώθηκε από την εταιρεία Western Union η τηλεγραφική σύνδεση της ανατολικής με τη δυτική όχθη των Η.Π.Α. και οι ταχυδρόμοι με τα άλογα «έχασαν» τη δουλειά τους."

It works the same way on a Ponga picture. See this article. It's simply translating the whole page. Ponga pictures are viewed as a web page in your browser. If you have copy from a remote site that's in another language, Google Translate won't translate it because coming directly from the LinkedIn site. To translate it, go directly to the LinkedIn page.

YouTube

YouTube link pasted directly into Ponga

YouTube links pasted directly preview and embed consistently because they're designed to be embedded on web pages. Just paste the link and the video is playable in Ponga. Take this example that is reportedly a recording of a Pony Express rider

There are a few interesting details to note here.

1) When you paste a YouTube link, the video plays directly — without the ads, which can be pretty nice.

2) When you hit the share button in YouTube to copy out the link, you see a check box at the bottom with the time stamp, that can make it very convenient to skip to the part that matters and just copy that link. Notice that the link now includes "t=15." Here this indicates 15 seconds from the start of the video.

3) If you don't actually want the video to embed, you can still paste the link without the "https," like this: youtu.be/BfJfmAwqDSY?t=15

TikTok

TikTok link pasted directly into Ponga

TikTok links pasted directly can embed as videos perfectly, however it's also an interesting case. The category is currently very dynamic. All posts are video, though some are generated by the app itself, but sometimes on other platforms. How previews behave could depend on how the content was created and uploaded.

In this particular example, a post by @themeparkettes, the video previews and plays when its the first link that appears in a selection.

When you tap the selection, the sidebar opens and a still image from the video appears. This is unusual, but fully functional and an anomaly specific to TikTok.

Mastodon

Mastodon links pasted directly preview the content perfectly. Because the platform is open source and a federation of instances around the globe, there may be differences in what kinds of content are allowed on each instance.

Many instances frown on the posting of video because it consumes a comparatively large amount of storage space. For this reason videos are typically added as links from sites such as YouTube or the open source PeerTube. As with YouTube, and for the same reason, these links preview and embed perfectly.

Our example here was of posts using the hashtag #PongaExpress. Unfortunately there were 0 such posts on the instance of the Ponga account, toot.community, however, we found this relevant example under #USHistory highlighting the role of Teddy Roosevelt and his "Rough Riders" during the Spanish American War. You can find Ponga on Mastodon at toot.community/@ponga

Want to learn more?

The picture we used to capture all of these examples is real. We'd be happy to invite you to explore the picture or talk any specific challenge you have. Join one of our events, or reach out for some 1:1 time. These kinds of conversations keep us fresh and help us continue to tune the product to your needs.

Citations, social media & Ponga

A note of caution: Social media platforms are highly dynamic — that's part of the fun, but it also means volatility. Just like the internet itself, posts that were here yesterday may not be here tomorrow. With some exceptions for institutional sites, we generally do not recommend using social media as a source for permanent citations in published family history research. Learn more about Ponga and Citations here.

See our posts about this story here, and here.

reminder bell

Get updates with Ponga's best content

Terrific! Watch for a confirmation email!
🤔 Let's try that again.