Feed WordPress 101: A Few More Tricks For Your Site

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by One Tree Hill Studios

This is part 5 of 5 in a series of posts for Building Connected Courses: Feed WordPress 101

  • Basic Concepts of Syndicationand what to think about even before you touch that WordPress thing
  • Installing and Setting up Feed WordPressMinimal settings, and planning the way content is sliced, diced, and recombined
  • Feeding the MachineHow to get RSS feeds into the aggregator without losing a finger
  • Some Feed MagicOptional ways to improve feeds from sites such as flickr, twitter, etc, creating a twitter archive, RSS Feed TLC
  • »» A Few More Tricks «« – leveraging categories, adding attribution, setting featured images

Feed WordPress is a plugin, but itself has it’s own suite of plugins to extend it’s functionality- a plugin with plugins? Yes. I will be reviewing a few of the ones I have used, and also discuss the other affordances you can find by using tags and categories after content is syndicated.

Wielding Your Tags and Categories

Earlier in the series we set up Feed WordPress to automatically assign categories to all feeds, as a way of creating subsets of the entire syndication flow.

Because they are categories, they all have links to their archives, which you can use to add to your WordPress menus.

You can use the built in Categories widget to put a listing in a sidebar/footer widget. If you want to list just the syndicated category structure, you will need to install a plugin that allows you to select a portion of all categories to display, such as AVH Extended Categories Widgets, Sub Categories Widget, or others.

If you want to do a tag cloud based upon the ones in the syndication stream, I find the built in WordPress widget a bit bland and limited. I prefer the Ultimate Tag Cloud Widget, used to generate the footer at the Thought Vectors site.

Another way you might consider using categories is to “curate” the flow of content and add categories to specific posts to build collections. On the Future of Learning Institute site, the site admins regular edit posts and add a “Spotlight” category, which are then promoted to the front page:


This include a mixture of tweets, photos, and blog posts. Many themes have built in sliders to display content from a specified category or tag, often you add a “Featured” category to a post to push content into the slider.

The ability to do organize content like this was a primary reason for choosing the Editor theme (Woo Themes) on Thought Vectors. It has three areas that display posts based on tags:


There are many ways we could have used these; the top were posts tagged by facilitators to promote important class links. The slider displayed posts based on a secret tag admins used to create the big banner sliders, but it could just as easily been tags added by admins to promoter student content. And the bottom row of 6 posts were based on participant’s use of the “nugget” tag.

So you can use tags/categories that are suggested to your participants, or you can add tags/categories to display on your site. The ways and approaches wil vary depending on the features of your theme.

Feed WordPress Add Ons

I have used a few extra plugins that can add functionality to the Feed WordPress plugin itself. Several are listed/described on the developer’s web site, yet I have found the links are mostly dead, but you can find the current version on his github site.

Adding Attribution to Syndicated Post Items

When you syndicate in the posts on your site, you will get a link and a excerpt from the blog (if you choose the option for permalinks to point to the original source), but there is nothing really to indicate that the post is from another site; it will look just look like any locally authored posts on your site.

The FWP Add Attribution Plugin takes care of that issue by creating a setting in Feed WordPress that allows you to define the way attribution strings are added.

For examples how this can appear, all participant posts from Project Community (example) bear an attribution to the source (highlighted with red box):

attribution proj comm

or at the Future of Learning site


when this plugin is activated, it adds an extra piece of settings to Feed WordPress, under the Posts and Links Section — look for Attribution Boilerplate

attribution boiler plate

You can choose to have the attribution appear before the post or after it. And you have a number of template variables to build an attribution that can list the source, link to the post, etc.

And because it is set as a global setting in Feed WordPress, you can override it per feed if you have some that you do not want to show the attribution text.

Filtering Feeds

The ADA Keyword Filter plugin (fear not the 2 year old warning, the plugin still works) gives you a means to restrict the posts that are published by keywords that you choose. This can be a way ti deal with people using blogs where they write posts not related to your project.

For example, in the 2013 Future of Institute site, we told bloggers that they would have to use one of two different keywords in their posts for them to be syndicated (the keyword can be part of the title or the post). The ADA keyword Filter adds yet another section to the Posts and Links Section:

keyword filters

Technically this worked flawlessly (we syndicated all posts that had either hgsepzfol or fol2013 in them, and the plugin is case insensitve), but we noted that a lot of people forgot to use the tags.

But you may find a use for this regardless.

Filtering for Images Localized

The Feed WordPress Advanced Filters plugin turns out to be a multi tool of features of which I have used but one; I urge you to explore the other capabilities it has to modify syndicated content.

The one filter I have used form it again and again is the images filter. What it does is look at all images references in an external post, and it makes local copies stored in your WordPress site.

Why would you do this? One reason we have found in ds106 is archiving. When students let their domains lapse, we can flip the setting to the links on the site point to a local copy (see the previous post on feed TLC). But all of their embedded images are gone. By using this filter, we preserve those on the course site.

But another reason is for modern graphic themes that use featured images- this are ones that create pretty front pages where posts include an image as a link. Because they are syndicated posts, there is no information to indicate a featured image like we can do when we author a post.

I have gotten around this on sites such as Thought Vectors by using the Auto Post Thumbnail plugin. This will automatically use the first image as a featured image. But there is a hitch. The image needs to be local on the server.

So we combine this with the Feed WordPress Advanced Filters – it makes the images local, and then the Auto Post Thumbnail makes it the featured image.

Once installed, the Feed WordPress Advanced Filters plugin adds yet another pane of settings to Feed WordPress, under the Posts and Links Section. In the FeedWordpress Advanced Filters area, I choose to create a new Image filter, using these settings:

filters fwp

And now, all images used in syndicated posts will be copied to the course site (this does mean you will store more data).

How well this works again will depend on the capabilities of your theme. Sadly, many people do not use images in their blog posts! The Theme we used on Thought Vectors did provide a way to designate a default featured image if none was provided.

Oy Vey, Duplicates!

Frustratingly, Feed WordPress seems sometimes to publish the same post twice, you end up with duplicate posts, e.g.


I have seen this in most of the sites I have worked on, and have yet to identify a pattern. Feed WordPress supposedly has a mechanism to detect if a feed item is new, but I have never found what exactly it is checking (the date? url? the content?).

I have tried the FeedWordPress Duplicate Post Filter plugin but recall it either (a) did not work or worse (b) messed something else up. It has been a while since I tried.

I pretty much shrug and say it’s easier to ignore a duplicate post than to risk missing a single one. If anyone has ideas or clues as to maybe what kinds of feeds this happens on, I’d like to know!

Who’s in the Syndication Hub?

On most of my projects I have custom coded widgets for sidebars that can do a list of blogs in each category; as of now I have not found a way to generalize it (sorry!). But you can use the Links Shortcode Plugin to create an index of all syndicated blogs.

See it in action on the Future of Learning Institute site on the page of syndicated blogs

blog list

We can use this since we know (correct) that Feed WordPress stores all of the sites syndicated in the WordPress Links structure, by default in the Contributors category. The page above generates this list simply by a WordPress Shortcode

[links category_name='Contributors' exclude='13,17,18']

The excluded ones the ids you can find in the links editor (ones for twitter, flickr, and instagram) since I just want to list the blogs syndicated. This same shortcode would work in a text widget as well.

It’s All Dessert Now

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by chotda

This is the end of this series of posts. I hope I have given you more than enough to not only get Feed WordPress set up, but also making it fit your course or project need. I am sure I missed (or messed up) something. Let me know in the comments!

One thing to always keep in mind is that syndicated content become just like local blog posts, and anything you can to them, you can do to syndicated content. This includes the way they interact with your theme and all of the 5 gazillion plugins out there.

Now it’s time for you to feed!

This is part 5 of 5 in a series of posts for Building Connected Courses: Feed WordPress 101

  • Basic Concepts of Syndicationand what to think about even before you touch that WordPress thing
  • Installing and Setting up Feed WordPressMinimal settings, and planning the way content is sliced, diced, and recombined
  • Feeding the MachineHow to get RSS feeds into the aggregator without losing a finger
  • Some Feed MagicOptional ways to improve feeds from sites such as flickr, twitter, etc, creating a twitter archive, RSS Feed TLC
  • »» A Few More Tricks «« – leveraging categories, adding attribution, setting featured images

I Don’t Like Beets or Facebook


It’s been a month since I drove a stake through the heart of my Facebook account. Life feels pretty much the same.

My process was not the most well thought out- I posted a status, and nuked the account an hour later, so who knows what replies I missed? My sister claims she saw a reply from Mark Zuckerburg; then again, she used to toss the Monopoly board in the air when I got ahead.

I happened to glance at my Google+ status and saw some comments from folks related to this. I think it was my comment to something else… just like Google+ I cannot find them again. But that’s another bowl of slimy vegetables.

Let me be clear. My reasons for leaving are mostly a gut sense of distrust for Facebook, and I am the first one to apply the hypocrite badge to myself for why should I trust Google, Twitter, Flickr, and more?

It’s not exactly distrust. It’s more that… I just don’t like Facebook.

Which you cannot do in a world were the only option is “Like”. Like… Candyland. Pleasantville.

Let me be clear, my not liking Facebook is all about me. Not you. Yet the typical reaction I see among “friends” is a rationalization.

“Everyone is there.”

“Sure it’s silly and frivolous.”

“It’s the only way to keep tabs on friends and family”

I almost expect to see “I can quit at any time”.

A lot of them seem to be like “I know it’s creepy/etc but…” To me, often it ends up sounding defensive.

And it is not the only way to stay in touch. Facebook has not subsumed the entire realm of ways we communicate.

Let me be clear. I do not criticize anyone for using Facebook. That is not my message. Why do you feel a need to defend your reason for using Facebook? That seems curious.

And hey, Remember? My decision is all about me.

Here is the thing. I don’t like beets. They are slimy and the thought of eating them makes me want to puke. That’s me.

You may love beets. Borscht.

Do you feel like you have to defend your love of beets to me?

I did not think so.

I can think of a few people, real friends, not one-button-click-friends. I saw constant statusing in Facebook whom I never hear from, who have ignored messages, emails from me. It sure seems like everyone is Bizy Backson


And it’s not like I going all Turkle on y’all. It’s not like I want only Serious Pontifications online (have you seen my tweets? really?). I embrace the frivolity, the silliness of online spaces. Yet I also crave the real personal communications that come from phone calls, personal texts, letters — that seem more rare every day. Someone in that G+ comment string was a friend I have not hear from in 2 years. Are status messages the only way I will every hear from you again?

I want both in my life.

There were things I enjoyed seeing and commenting on in Facebook. I got the glimpses into some distant family’s lives (not all were pretty). A visit last January with my cousin happened via Facebook messages.

What I saw mostly in Facebook was mostly the stream, now the torrent of micro-ness.

And it bored me. And saddened me. But yeah, I got bored by the sameness of it all. I tried several ways to shake up the Facebook status quo. For a while I tried Liking Everything. Then for 3 months, I refused to Like Anything, leaving genuine comments.

Now I know what it is.

Everyone (a.k.a “everyone Who is in Facebook”) seems to accept the Ultimate Inevitability of Facebook.

I do not.

My choice to kill the account is not about you and what you do, it is my own experiment. You do not have to defend your use of Facebook, much less than you need to defend your joy of slimy puke inducing vegetables.

creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by jumpinjimmyjava

I may be the Only Person Not on Facebook.

And that is Ok.

It has nothing to do with you.

And I still do not like beets.

My Tiara Arrived in the Mail. I am Retired from DS106

creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by stevendepolo

You do know the irony of #ds106 #4life? Right?

With a four month fellowship at TRU starting in late October through March and no plans to teach ds106 for a while, I shall be dialing back my role in keeping the lights on inside the web site.

The other thing about ds206 is that it rests on not one person. As previously aired on this blog, Mariana Funes and Giulia Forsythe have agreed to keep the Daily Create fresh. That one is really hard for me to stop doing, and I probably will not stop.

As for everything else, I had a video chat with Jim Groom Friday, and he has all the info to take over the keys to the main site and it’s ancillary parts. But more than that, he’s returning to teach a regular semester version of ds106 starting in late August, and he has some great plans to wire it up in the fashion that NOBODY does. Plus after her Summer teaching debut, it looks like Jen Polack will also be teaching a UMW section.

DS106 it goes on.

And I am not done with by by any means, just shifting my involvement.

What are you doing just reading this? Go make art.

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Michael Branson Smith

Lonely Is The Search for OER Reuse Stories

Creative Commons Licensed Wikimedia Commons image by Pöllö

Creative Commons Licensed Wikimedia Commons image by Pöllö

Having failed to find a story of OER Reuse in the forest I took my search to the mysterious waters of Loch OER. My luck was a tad better having surfaced a written story of Latin Tattoos by Laura Gibbs and a not boring OER video by Brendan Murphy.

That’s not many stories in my collection, and I am committed to presenting such stories a week from Friday for an online presentation to Ontario educators.

With all the OERs out there, and all the ways people are creating and teaching with online materials, how can there so few stories of reuse? Is reuse a myth? a comforting story we tell ourselves as we push content online?

My belief is getting shakier.

Perhaps people are stuck on what an “official OER” is. I don;t care about the thing, or whether it is or is not an OER, have you incorporated something someone else made and shared into your teaching? I am invested in the reuse, not the status or quality of the thing.

Maybe everyone creates original content.

Nothing is a remix.

Other possibilities I have heard. “People are shy.”

Really? Teachers who get up in front of classes, in person or online are shy? They perform all the time! I’m shy.

I want to hear people tell their own stories. If you do not like your face on camera (my hand raised), do a screen cast. Put a stuffed animal on the camera. It’s the story, the story.

So, out there on the lonely ice, without any flicker of a sign of an OER reuse story, I pull into my lonely tent and do what desperate story seekers do. I did my own.

Rule of Thirds is sort of a two in one. It’s about my reuse of a web browser tool (which ahem no longer works) to help people see the Photography Rule of Thirds in web photos.

I used this in ds106 when we did Visual Storytelling and did a section on becoming better photographers. But I also re-used another colleagues strategy for having the students create a class resource of photo techniques.

But I do not want to use my stories, I want to use yours.

Are there really so few stories of OER reuse? It is that lonely out there?

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by Martin Gommel

Bueller? Bueller?

Bring me some stories please, I am ready to give up.

Project SSD Complete!


It took a new laptop, 3 or 4 trips of cracking open the case, and almost a year– but I finally have my old (2009 Mid Year) Mac Book Pro running from a Solid State Drive (SSD). And like I was told, the speed difference in that machine is remarkable. Startup time was about 4 minutes, now about 45 seconds. It no longer beachballs on everything.

The trip started maybe in April 2013; after a visit to Hong Kong, my colleague Ross Parker suggested via twitter a suggestion to give my machine a boost- get a new SSD drive and mount it inside the machine in the optical drive bay using an MCE Technologies Opti-Bay. The idea is you remove the optical drive and out it inside a USB case, making it an external, and putting a new drive inside a caddy that took it’s place.

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

I got all the parts last September, but it never seemed the right time to possible put my one working machine up on the racks.

I got around to it in November, and felt confident I had followed all the steps, and was amazed I was able to get those tiny screws back in that hold the optical bay caddy:

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

But alas, when I booted up the computer (from its old Hard drive still in there), it never recognized the new drive.

Some research suggested that replacing the ribbon cable might be the answer. I ordered one. And it sat on my desk a long while.

A former colleague (I hired Derek as a student programmer at Maricopa) who is a Mac guru had told me that if the new drive was a 6 Gb/S speed drive, that the optical drive connector could not read it, and I was better off putting it in the primary drive slot.

It made sense… but also seemed like a lot of potential for me ending up with a blinking question mark for a system.

So I put it off.

And saw a lot of beachballs.

A lot.

In April, I finally decided, after reading the specs on the newer machine, that maybe it was better of me to invest in a computer made in 2014, rather than relying on a 5 year old one.

These decisions feel much different from when your work pays for your computers. This was a big chunk of my change. But it’s also my primary means of making money. And tax deductible.

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

So I ordered this new 13″ MacbookPro… and I just love this machine and the choice I made. It’s like going from a tricycle to a racing motorcycle.

But the old machine still had some possible use, and I did have the 256 Gb SSD drive. My own idea was to slim the machine down- I pulled off all the data files (a lot was form ds106), all of the video and audio, and a whole raft of apps I would not need on it. I got the whole thing down to about 119 Gb which could all live on the SSD.

Just in case the HDD did not show up, I made a copy of the main drive using Carbon Copy Cloner and stored it on the 3 TB drive I use for backups. I became a big fan of that program.

Then I cracked the machine open again, pulled out the SSD from the Opti-Bay, and swapped it for the HDD. I felt like perhaps I did not have the drive firmly seated in the Optibay drive. I got everything switched, screwed back in. But on startup, using the option key when starting (usually to select a startup disk, if the HDD was there I could boot from that), and all I got was grey.

See, I knew this would happen.

Another idea. Reboot the old machine in Target disk mode (hold down the T when starting up) so it’s drive acts like just an external drive. I connected it via Firewire (and Yet Another Apple Dongle) to the new machine.

That was good news- it saw a new unformatted drive (the new SSD), and I was able to reformat it using Disk Utility. Then, from the new machine, I could plug in the external drive, and run Carbon Copy Cloner to clone the system from the backup drive to the new SSD.

It took more than an hour… but it worked. And wow, did the old machine boot up fast.

My goal is to use it more for audio apps- broadcasting to ds106 radio and digitizing my vinyl records (the new MBP lacks a line in input, and last time I tried I got a lot of interference using an iMic). I copied my iTunes music back on to the SSD. I’m not quite sure how I will use the new old computer. But at least it functions reasonable.

I feel now the Opti-Bay enclosure is a problem; I’ve come across claims elsewhere. And the machine still has a 320 Gb HDD inside of it doing nothing.

But that will do for now. I’m glad I did this as I have a better understanding what’s under the keyboard.

Cross this project off the list!

As a bit of insight, I was able to track my own story, and get most of the dates of events because I have flickr photos of various steps in the process. My friend Derek even asked me about the speed of the HDD I had moved… but I had no idea how to get it’s specs since its’s sealed inside the computer. But I did find a photo when I had put that drive in the old computer, and was able to get the model number from my photo.

A photo history of myself comes in handy all the time.

21 Years Beyond Dominoe

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Here we are in 1987, me a 24 year old mullet head know-not-much and my side kick, Dominoe. In May of that year we did a practice camping trip in western Maryland’ it might very well have been the Catoctin Mountain area where the previous October I lost/found her. That story… has just about fueled a career, it seems.

I look at this photo of me looking out, I am seeing a future? Looking for it? Hoping for it?

Who knows. I was there, and I can only guess what I was thinking.

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

What I knew of camping, yeah. I had been maybe 5 times in my life before, and I bet I was eating beans from a can. There is the green Eureka tent bought from LL Bean, oh the stories that tent heard.

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Today marks the day in 1993 my first dog companion left this world. At that time, looking back to 1987, I would think how far I have come. More looking back now dwarfs that gap in units I cannot even measure.

It’s all a trajectory.

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Oh how simple it was then. I have no longing to go back to that, but I see myself looking like a kid. Heck I was.

But I had the best companion I could ever hope for. That dog, Dominoe, it feels like she gave, without expectance of a return, much more than I gave back.

I am still learning from her.

Twenty one years and counting.

Feed WordPress 101: Some Feed Magic

creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by pasukaru76

This is part 4 of 5 in a series of posts for Building Connected Courses: Feed WordPress 101

  • Basic Concepts of Syndicationand what to think about even before you touch that WordPress thing
  • Installing and Setting up Feed WordPressMinimal settings, and planning the way content is sliced, diced, and recombined
  • Feeding the MachineHow to get RSS feeds into the aggregator without losing a finger
  • »» Some Feed Magic «« Optional ways to improve feeds from sites such as flickr, twitter, etc, creating a twitter archive, RSS Feed TLC
  • A Few More Tricksleveraging categories, adding attribution, setting featured images

The previous posts in this series covered setting up Feed WordPress and getting mostly blog feeds into a syndication site. But you are certainly not limited to blogs, you can add anything to Feed WordPress for which you can find an RSS feed.

From a lot of social media sites, you can find RSS feeds for individual users, less and less it seems you can feeds for across different user accounts. YouTube has squashed most RSS beyond a feed for an individual’s uploaded videos.

In this installment I will pull some rabbits out of the feed bag to show some tricks I use for RSS feeds that need a little boost. And as well, I show you how to provide some care to errant feeds in your site.

Flickr RSS Feeds: Hard To Find and Full of Tiny Images

There are a few ways to get feeds of photos from flickr. For your own photos, you can customize what gets included into an “activity” feed– at the bottom of that page is a link for an RSS feed to provide that information.

What is more useful is getting an RSS image on a search, like if your course has a common flickr tag. If you run a search on flickr, if that feed link is at the bottom of the page you might never know, since it is designed as in infinite scrolling page. I tried a search and never got to the bottom.

But with some know how and info on what you can get from flickr feeds, we find the format of a flickr RSS feed for a tag looks like:


Great. You can put that into your Feed WordPress and go. That is for all flickr photo tagged magic

Ahhhh, but one hitch. This is the size of the images flickr provides us via RSS

Jardin Flambeau


That may work for you, or maybe you can wave some CSS magic, but that’s a tiny little image, only 320 pixels wide.

Here is an extra tool I use to alter the flickr RSS feed to trick it into displaying larger sized images. It does rely on Yahoo pipes a service many of us wonder how it can still be alive, but I have used this pipe for a few years.

Go to Name Your Size for Flickr Feeds, In the form you can enter the tag you want to search for and the name of the image size you want in your feeds. Click Run Pipe.

magic pipe

MAGIC! The preview will show the images it found in flickr (but not in the size you chose). Copy the URL on the link Get As RSS (here it is for photos tagged magic).

This is the URL you can use in Feed WordPress, and your site will get decent sized images. If you want to know what it is doing, look under the hood — it is finding the pattern for the imge file URLs and re-writing them for the URLs of the larger sizes).

Instagram Photo Feeds: Simple and Plain

The format of Feeds from tags on Instagram is easy to assemble:


And works directly in Feed WordPress.

What you will get is really simple- a post with the photo title as the title and just an image. But that’s all you need, right?

Feeds are Pinteresting

I’ve actually not done any syndication from pinterest, but you can get an RSS feed from anyone’s account like mine which I may have used 3 times (username=cogdog)


You can also generate a feed from a single pinterest board – for my single measly board at http://www.pinterest.com/cogdog/oh-emre5807/ the feed URL is


There does not seem to be a way to get a feed of tags across pinterest users.

Social Bookmark Feeds from diigo

Many projects use diigo for organizing and sharing web links. delicious.com had/has perhaps the most robust and flexible feed structure but sure seems unreliable in the last few years.

Feeds from diigo will bring along the description and other tags used as well.

You can get a diigo feed for a single person’s bookmarking- the link is in the bottom right of your “My Library” page. Mine looks like


And likewise you can get an RSS feed for a ingle user’s tagged sites, like my diigo bookmarks tagged photography, the feed is


But the rub is you cannot get an RSS feed for the photography tag across other users. The only way to get this effect is to create a diigo group, which provides an RSS feed for its activity.

You Can Tweet if You Want To, Getting a Feed Takes Some Effort

Until early 2014 you could get RSS feeds directly from twitter; then for whatever reasons they removed this capability (all interaction you can do is through it’s API which most mortals cannot do).

That does not mean it cannot be done. The same information is published in a different format (JSON for you curious nerds). I have done this for all of my syndication sites using the approach spelled out at Digital Inspiration that uses a Google Script to convert the data to RSS.

So you can syndicate in individual tweets.

The problem is they look kind of… silly. The text of the tweet comes in as the title of a post, and the same text is in the body. So it looks redundant.

For example a tweet I made for thoughtvectors would look like on the site

double tweet

In my work on these sites, I end up doing custom coding, where I can use the URL for the tweet and WordPress capability to automatically embed so we can make more native like views like:

tv tweets

But this goes beyond the bounds of this series of posts. If you really crave it, read my technical writeups on sites for thoughtvectors, for rmooc, and for the Future of Learning sites.

It is a question to you then- why would you syndicate in tweets? It is certainly easy enough to generate a twitter widget for your site. Is it to collect an archive?

What I do recommend for any project where tweets are happening, especially with a hash tag, is to always set up a Twitter Tags Archive in Google Docs as created my Martin Hawksey. His post provides instructions and a video to guide you.

What you end up with is a Google Spreadsheet that checks twitter once and hour and archives tweets to that spreadsheet. So for the Future of Learning Institute, we have all of the tweets as data:

twitter archive

But Martin has woven more magic into this tool. There is a worksheet with a summary, and I use the Google Docs Publish as HTML to Embed to create a page on the site for the Twitter Summary

twitter summary

I can embed other worksheets and embed to make an Activity Dashboard, a searchable archive for the tag, and probably the most exciting, an interactive tweet explorer — the FOL worksheet has just started, for a more developed one, see what 10 weeks of twitter activity for thoughtvectors looks like

thought vectors 3d

Dealing With Feeds Gone Bad

Syndicating feeds never goes perfectly like clockwork. Feed WordPress will indicate “problem” feeds in the list of syndicated sites by coloring a row yellow:

bad feed

In this case from ds106, the error message on the right suggests the site is no longer online:

WP HTTP Error: Couldn't resolve host 'dontgetittwisted.org'

but you may see other cryptic messages like:

This XML document is invalid, likely due to invalid characters. XML error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 14, column 70

Fixing these requires a bit of detective work. You can check out the site by hovering on it’s name- and following the “View” link


In this case, we get an error from your internet provider saying the domain does not exist. It’s gone. You can use the same hover technique and now click “Unsubscribe”.


Our options are:

  • Turn off the subscription for this syndicated link Choose this if there is a temporary reason to turn the feed off. You can revert it later by later viewing the “inactive” feeds, and reactivate it later.
  • Delete this syndicated link and all the posts that were syndicated from it This is the nuclear option, nuke it all.
  • Delete this syndicated link, but keep posts that were syndicated from it (as if they were authored locally). This is a better option. The original web site is gone, but because we have a copy of all the posts from this blog, we can make it so links point to a local copy, and not the dead site.

In other cases, we may realize that the address for the feed is wrong. Let’s say we entered the feed as http://tirpate.wordpress.com/feed/ and are seeing an error because the actual feed is http://xtirpate.wordpress.com/feed/ We can hover on the feed and see a nice option for “Switch Feed”.

switch feed

That seems like what we want. We get a new screen where we can enter a new feed, and be done, right?

new feed

This did work at one time, but you more likely get the enigmatic zen like question for which there is no way to respond:

are you sure

I can only guess but there is either a bug in Feed WordPress or a conflict with another plugin.

But we are not done yet.

If you recall from the second post in this series, Feed WordPress stores all of the data about Feeds in the WordPress Links area.

We can go there, look for the site we wish to change by searching the links. When you find the link name, click the edit, and scroll down to Advanced Settings. You can change the Feed URL by entering the value of RSS Address:

change feed

Once you save, this new RSS feed address will be used the next time Feed WordPress checks the site. With luck, you have fixed the feed.

You can also completely delete a feed by deleting it’s link. I said that with caution. There is no undo.

And That’s Some Feed Magic

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by -RobW-

This section does not cover every and any possible feed type to deal with, just the commons ones I have worked with on the sites I have done since 2012. What Feed WordPress does is almost magical, it is complex, and you should know that there can be a lot of differences in what one RSS feed provides compared to the next.

This is part 4 of 5 in a series of posts for Building Connected Courses: Feed WordPress 101

  • Basic Concepts of Syndicationand what to think about even before you touch that WordPress thing
  • Installing and Setting up Feed WordPressMinimal settings, and planning the way content is sliced, diced, and recombined
  • Feeding the MachineHow to get RSS feeds into the aggregator without losing a finger
  • »» Some Feed Magic «« Optional ways to improve feeds from sites such as flickr, twitter, etc, creating a twitter archive, RSS Feed TLC
  • A Few More Tricksleveraging categories, adding attribution, setting featured images

In the last segment, I will review some more WordPress mojo you can conjure up for your own syndication site.

Behind the Scenes of The ds106 Daily Create

creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by didbygraham

Gearing up for a wave of new challenges starting in October, I am prepping to dial back my focus on ds106 and the web site. I am not disappearing, but it’s time to spread some energy elsewhere. Jim is teaching a new flavor of ds106 in the Fall and will be likely taking over the keys to the site.

The Daily Create is a special obsession on it’s own. Tim Owens was the real engine in getting the site going in January 2012, and I took over when I arrived at UMW a few weeks later. At some point, because we were talking about doing a print calendar (oops, did I mention that? I never said anything about S-O-C-K-S) I ended up pre-populating Daily Creates from about June 2012 through the end of that year.

I so enjoy coming up with new ones, and have really only done repeats maybe 10 times. I’ve written up a bit of the technical mods I made to make the management and creating of Daily Creates streamlined but that is the usual Alan code dump bark post.

Mariana Funes and Giulia Forsythe both expressed interest in helping keep the flow going. To better explain the “bits and bobs”, I did a live Hangout/Screencast with Mariana today. If you have some weird curiosity what is behind the curtain, here it is

I still have some grandiose plans to recast the Daily Create as a generalizable WordPress theme like I did for the Assignment Bank. The grand plan is that responses would not be via media sites like flickr, Soundcloud, YouTube; they would be submitted via a tweeted link.

It just might happen.

Taking the Hunt for OER Reuse to the Waters

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by Lope®

Having stomped around the forest for almost a week and finding no stories of OER Reuse but whispers and a few broken limbs, I am going to aim my search at the waters. The photos ore just as blurry and the doubters and skeptics just as mocking.

What little bits have come from the forest include:

Simon Thompson alluded to some direct evidence

Here’s the thing. These are all useful and appreciated responses. But I really want to hear educators telling their own stories, in their own words, in a short video (if you really hate being on your camera, point it at a stuffed animal or a cat). Not a big grand sweeping story– if you have reused/modified some morsel, bit of open content (don’t get tripped up in definitions of what is an OER- something that someone else designed for an educational context and shared), please just tell us about it.

A small granular story.

This is what I have so far from you…

no oers

Can it be really that rare that someone has re-used open content? Seriously? Make a 3 minute video, fill out a form– am I asking too much?

I’ve combed through the True Stories archives and found four that fit. Is that it? Is that all ya got, big old Internet?

If The water fails to yield, next is the stomping grounds in the far cold north

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

It’s Not Amazing When the Web Forgets You

Navihedra.com circa 2000

Navihedra.com circa 2000

In prepping my recent call for OER Reuse Stories (which, ahem, I have collected a grand total of ZERO new ones) I was reviewing the original ones I collected the first time I did an Amazing Stories talk on 2009.

By the way, that site still works despite using a defunct CoolIris embed.

In going through my hard drive, I actually found a story I had recorded my self in 2009, about some things that happened some 10 years earlier. For some reason I never published the story. But as listened again, beyond cringing at watching myself on video (yes, all humans do that) the story seemed timely given the recent Reclaim Hackathon in LA.

A true pioneer in web multimedia, a career at the peak in the late 1990s, dies before his time in 2001. By 2005 most of his work has vanished from the web, and by 2014, there are but tiny shreds left. Right before he passed away, he was working on a project with Stephen Hawking called “Virtual Universe” (I remember Roy talking about this project at the Sedona Conversations conference I met him).

You can find mentions of Roy Stringer in the Google Space, but so much more is gone, broken links. The Navihedron.com site, which was listed at a domain registry in 2005, is now (if I read between the lines of the Google Japanese translation) some sort of escort information service.

Choosing to make a photo snap chat ephemeral is one thing, but losing the web references to a person’s achievements is, frankly far far beyond sad, and more into the land of WTF Are We Doing With the Web.

This is less about the “what happens to my web stuff after I die” (I for one will not care, cause I am gone) but more about what are we doing now to preserve, document– just freaking care about information about the ideas, creations, efforts we are doing now. Does it matter if everything you care about professionally (or heck personally) can pretty much disappear to digital dust in 10 years?

It matters to me.

Most of us (me raising hand) have this human thing where the “now” we are in feels like it is so present (no pun) that it will be that radiant a memory in the future.

Of course Roy is not forgotten. His family likely remembers him. People he influenced (like me) remember him. The company he founded remembers him, and an annual lecture series honors his work.

But so much more of what he created digitally is gone.

But what’s un-amazing is that we create all this stuff online, and we do important work. When we’re gone, it could start to fade away. And alot of it is stuff I really don’t want to see fade away. So do what you can to make sure– I was going to say, ‘Make sure your content lives longer than you do’– but it’s just so important to have a record of this work, because it’s moving so fast, but actually it’s kind of ephemeral. We need to archive, we need to keep, and we need to remember. And we need to be amazed.

There is a tradition that says there is a death when our bodies and minds cease to function, but the real death is when people we knew stop telling our stories.

And that is truly why stories matter to me.