Crowdsource Your Blog With Formstack and TypePad

Written by Formstack on June 26, 2013

Posted in Case Studies, Form Hacks

This guest post is by customer Anne Lloyd. Anne is a project manager who has used the Formstack online form builder for years to transform communication and administrative processes, and promote project participant happiness. Beyond work, Anne is using Formstack to build a catalog of documents and objects in the beginning step of a collaborative family history project. If you have any questions for Anne, let us know in the comments below and we will connect you with her. 

This is the story of an unexpected idea that takes a Formstack integration in a new direction. A recent assignment called for a collaborative online project site with some specific criteria. After researching a few smaller online services to use for this single two-week project, I decided to create a custom project site using a private TypePad blog. After some experimentation, I found that using Formstack as the front end and “secret sauce” made it even better.

Although used for a defined project with an invited team of 25, I believe that the integration method described below can provide an easy and very cost-effective way for organizations and small businesses to add guest authors or crowdsource content on a private or open TypePad blog. The Formstack online form builder makes the integration so easy to set up and hassle-free to manage. Thanks to TypePad’s design tools, the blog is easy to customize and looks great.

  • Whether you have ten contributors or a few hundred, any person with the access information you provide will find it easy to use the form to submit original posts with words, images, and documents in the structured format you build. When the user taps the “submit” button on your form, the post automatically appears on the blog in just a few seconds.
  • There is no need to set up and support Guest/Junior Author privileges in TypePad. This simple method does not depend on any API key, plug-in, or third party service.
  • As the project Administrator, you decide which fields to display as content in the blog post, but every detail is captured in the Formstack Submissions table, spreadsheet and Analytics tools.

The key factors in making the integration work so well are Formstack’s Confirmation Email rule, hidden fields and labels in the form builder, and TypePad’s Post by Email secret address.

Step 1: Build the Formstack Form:

  • Be sure to include a Short Answer Field for the title of the post, and a long answer field for the content.
  • Make a hidden field for the TypePad Post by Email secret email address, which you will add later as the default value.
  • Contributors may run out of time before they complete a post. You can give them the option to save the form and resume later by adding a blank, multi-page section at the bottom of the form and checking Show Save & Resume Link under Form Extras.

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Step 2: Create the Confirmation Email Rule:
Normally, you would set up a confirmation email rule to send a customized email message to each submitter. For the integration with a TypePad blog, you will need to set up a new Post to TypePad Confirmation Email rule (Settings tab>Emails and Redirects>Confirmation Emails) to select the fields you want to automatically forward to TypePad for each new post.

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Your choice of which fields to display in the guest posts on TypePad may be different from the example, but there are three “must have” fields to include in this email rule:

  • Send to: TypePad Secret Address (drop-down list)
  • Subject: {$xxxxxxx Title of your post}. Adding this information takes a little workaround. You need to click on the Title of your post field in the Insert Fields section. Once the code appears in the body of the message, select the full code, then cut and paste it into the Subject line.
  • Be sure to include the Content field.
  • Select other fields (such as submitter name and time) a line at a time, in the order in which you want them to appear in the blog post. Include only the fields you want to publish on the blog. (Other fields, for background information only, will be saved in the Formstack database for your form.)
  • Be sure to save the new Confirmation Email Rule!

You may want to use a Submit Action rule (Settings tab>Emails and Redirects>After the Form is Submitted) with a custom message displayed on the screen to acknowledge the form submission and provide the link to a new form for another post, and/or take the contributor to a page on the blog.

Step 3: Set Up the TypePad Side of the Integration:
It may provide a better user experience if you embed the full-sized Formstack form on a page within the blog, rather than in a sidebar (via Formstack’s TypePad Widget) or as an external element with an additional URL.

The final step in this integration is to add the TypePad secret email address to your Formstack form.

  • In TypePad, open the Settings tab
  • Click on the Post by Email link (second from the bottom in the blue list at left).
  • Select Posting Email address. Copy the secret email address.
  • Finally, open Formstack once more. Open the Build tab for your form. Paste the secret email address in the “hidden” email field labeled TypePad Secret Address.
  • Save changes.

Now, give it a try! As a longtime user of Formstack, I was excited to discover that Formstack and TypePad work so well together to create a relatively inexpensive and customizable crowdsourced blog – with an automatic archive, to boot! If this integration is something you think might work for your blog, organization, or business, I encourage you to go for it, and take it even further. Both companies offer free trials and affordable monthly pricing.