This is a pondering not a promise.

I’ve been thinking longer on this, but have a dream of rolling a lot of the custom coding I have done for past Connected Course projects (e.g. ds106, Thoughtvectors, ETMOOC, Future of Learning, YouShow— all building a syndication hub in WordPress using the Feed WordPress plugin, e.g. Connected Courses) into something anyone could use– ideally as a WordPress plugin.

I’ve not been asked to do one in a while, which might mean people are figuring out the duct tape needed to do this, maybe from the Feed WordPress 101 blog post series.

I know Ken Bauer has been doing this like mad for his Flipped Learning Open course and other ones at Tec De Monterey.

As has Kim Jaxon:

And from Paolo who emailed a question, and shared her syndicated recipe site http://www.veganly.it/ — “I collect recipes from Italian vegan blogs and catalog them, so people can find what they need more easily.”

Feed WordPress also aggregates Italian vegan recipes!
Feed WordPress also aggregates Italian vegan recipes!

When I am asked to set up a site for a client, I typically use Gravity Forms with a custom script that adds the content to the syndication hub by writing a new WordPress link, with the funky data format in the notes field that Feed WordPress uses.

I love and use Gravity Forms for many client sites, but am thinking with the stuff I have done on the DS106 Assignment Bank theme and SPLOTs I should be able to develop a generic form so a site can have direct user subscription adds.

There are the things I would out into the Unnamed Feed WordPress Box Plugin:

  • Magic Box: To help people discover their blog feed URL, I send them to a scripted Magic Box (usually done as a WordPress Page. it would probably be better if I rigged it into the form with some Ajaxy stuff (Martin Hawksey did this like 10 years ago). I waver between something more automatic, and wanting people to know what a feed is. And the automatic feed finders do not work on category / tag urls (the RSS feed embedded in the source code is always for the root blog) (sigh).
  • Random syndicated post I nearly always build it in as a simple page template, but it can be done by writing an action script
  • Blog Post Exporter, for those that want the data on all syndicated posts in a spreadsheat-able format. I can just use the code from the plugin I already wrote (my first one!)
  • Admin feature to add add published post to featured category from view or from dashboard. I wrote one for the YouShow site to make it easy to add a post to a special category used to highlight the best posts. With some methods I learned recently on a new feature on the Daily Blank site, I can make it also work from the posts listing in the dashboard.
  • Form and code to add feed to site (self register) This will be the biggest chunk to set up a form, make it so a site owner can list the registration options.
  • Feedroll short tag (show all, or just in a category) Code already done, used in Thoughtvectors, ds106, etc.
  • Dynamic generation of OPML file ability to generate an up to date subscription file (also done already)

I have a lot of the parts, it’s a matter of tying it together in a plugin, and also creating an options / settings page (define the default category for syndicated posts, which categories to present as options for the sign up form.

Anyhow, this is my road plan. Is it worth doing? I’m going to break out the chisel and hammer next week.

The thing is, Feed WordPress is always messy. People enter the wrong URLs in the forms or check the wrong affiliation box. Sites go south. The plugs that create featured images seem to import the same image like 15 times. Yadda Yadda.

It always needs a bit of TLC. If you are seeking pure automation, get yerself an LMS!


Top / Featured Image: One of many magical gizmos I saw at the National Museum of Computing in the UK- flickr photo by me https://flickr.com/photos/cogdog/14114451102 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

The post "A Feed WordPress Magic Box" was originally pulled from under moldy cheese at the back of the fridge at CogDogBlog (http://cogdogblog.com/2016/02/a-feed-wordpress-magic-box/) on February 12, 2016.

5 Comments

  • Sandy

    Alan,
    I need the core function explained to me sans jargon. I looked at a couple of referenced sites. It looks like Jason has all his students on WP sites in one place. Cool. That is what I do, too, and Edu Blogs delivers nicely on that score. I’d like to get out of that walled garden, of course, does your plug in do that?

    Am I understanding correctly what it does?

    • Alan Levine aka CogDog cogdogblog.com

      It does not do anything yet, these are just my own notes for an idea. This post is for ME!

      This has nothing to do with organizing where students blog (it is distributed, they can blog anywhere that provides an RSS feed), but to build the aggregating of students posts into a central site, the way ds106, et al do. It’s built around a WordPress plugin called Feed WordPress which does the work, but these are some extra capabilities I have been manually building into various projects the last 2 years. I have written up a series of posts that have helped some people, this would be my attempt to provide extra capabilities the plug in does not provide- the most important one is a a web form that allows people to add their blog to your site.

  • Laura Gibbs

    So curious to hear which way this will go, Alan! I continue to be blissed out with Inoreader, but I use the Inoreader consolidated feed (kind of a hub) mainly for purposes of my keeping track of what’s going on in the classes; the students connect with each other via my various randomizers, not via the hub itself. But still, i’ve got hub-like pages, and they work nicely enough. It’s easy-peasy and well suited to the codeless among us (e.g. me).
    http://3043.mythfolklore.net/index.html
    What’s really appealing here is that if there WERE a magic box, I could run my consolidated feed as generated by Inoreader into the Magic Box: I would get a gorgeous-looking hub as well as having all the granular control over the individual blogs that I expect from a feed reader (automated filters, rules, tags, folders etc.) Hmmmmm…

  • Adam Croom

    I’m a bit late to this party but this would be highly valuable to us. We have half a dozen courses using the FWP method and its a bit taxing on faculty who wish for an automated process (even though that inevitably requires some cleanup). The magic box would be very helpful and the random post a great feature for discovery. Consider me in if/when this does happen!

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