Recently, I outlined our “small pieces (not so loosely) joined” approach for setting up a system of blogs + wikis + discussion boards for the work next year by our faculty-led action groups. These groups will be leading activities next year related to Learning Objects, ePortfolios, Hybrid Course structures, and Emerging Learning Technologies.
While waiting (patiently) this summer for our folks to get up to speed with this pile of new tools, I looked at our “map” and saw some places to tie in a bit more RSS…
Here was the schematic for the new Ocotillo Central site(s):
To relieve the load on RSS that is generated dynamically by scripts in both the UseMod wiki and the phpBB discussion boards, I had written my own routines to run by a timed action (I love cron) every 15 minutes, and generate small text files that are sucked into the blogs by a simple PHP include.
So it was not much of a step, to add some extra code, so that while these content files are updated every 15 minutes, I am also updating a static RSS 2.0 feed for each area, providing the Ocotillo Central with an RSS for each blog, wiki, and discussion board”
and thus also being able to provide these as links on each of the blog’s side bars (see example for Learning Objects Action Group blog). The wiki RSS feeds provide no content, just the link, name, and date of the latest change in the wikis. The discussion board feeds provide the contents of every post; for now I have it truncating at 1000 chars if someone gets a bit too prolific (nice problem).
Of course the biggest hurdle and unknown in this has nothing to do with the technology- it is the human nature and I curious to see what kind of acceptance we can create within our system to use this new set of communication tools. After all, there is not much to blog about if our groups just send out e-mails with Word docs attached ;-)
So yes, another small piece in the “not so loose” joining. This took a bit more elbow grease than I wanted to, mostly dealing with trying to find out where the wikis specify the date cut offs for the feeds, and the usual tripping up over the various date/time formats you have to deal with in different systems and what the feed specs want.
If you are doing any sort of tool to generate feeds, make triple sure you run them through the Feed Validator.