This is the first in a series of posts meant as a guide for
almost anyone to create a WordPress site that operates as a networked hub for content created elsewhere. This is the engine, the Jim Groom Syndication Bus that drives ds106, the Open Digital Storytelling course/community/space.
It is intended primarily for Connected Courses, which is intended to be offered in October-November 2014 as an open course in how to create open courses.
Although published in 2014, the author, aka me, regularly updates, adds tips, fixes
typoes typos, and sometimes tosses in unnecessary gifs. Lately I have pondered a simpler approach via an OPML subscription file and asking participants to learn to use an RSS reader.
I have built several of these sites in the last few years, after learning how it works with ds106, such as ETMOOC (Educational Technology MOOC), Project Community (The Hague University of Applied Science), Harvard Future of Learning Institute, rmooc (Thompson Rivers University), Thought Vectors in Concept Space (UNIV 200 at VCU), The You Show (Thompson Rivers University), Covering the Coverage (VCU Great Bike Race Project), Networked Narratives (Kean University), #ResNetSem Research Networked Seminar (Kean University), Open Learning Hub (AAC&U), Domains of Our Own (OntarioExtend Project), A Hub of Hubs (Open Web DML Workshop).
All of these sites are different with themes, purpose, kinds of syndicated content, but they are all are powered by WordPress and the Feed WordPress plugin. While I have written what I thought were extensive documentation posts, they tend to be full of gory detail for all of the custom coding I have done for each site.
For the purposes of sharing the basics, I am writing this series of posts as a guide that will not depend on any custom coding of template hacking; as an example, I will use the Connected Courses site itself as a model. You do not need to be a WordPress guru, you do not need to know PHP is.
To build one of these sites, you will need a self or institution hosted version of WordPress — you cannot do this on WordPress.com because we need to use a plugin (extra functionality) not available there. If you do not have access to a place to do these, there is no finer option that Reclaim Hosting where as an instructor you can register your own domain and get an entire server infrastructure for the crazy price of $50/year.
It will help to have some basic WordPress concepts (difference between posts and pages, tags and categories, how to install plugins). Or you can use the information here to help your local tech support to enable this functionality for your own site.
The folks at UC Irvine have already selected a lovely theme; I will walk through the steps I did to set it up for syndication, all steps I did via the WordPress dashboard. Much of the information I will write in the next few posts comes from a Skype conversation between myself and Howard Rheingold, which he kindly had transcribed.
Are you ready to be syndicating? Let’s go. Tentatively these are the steps (links will be added as they are written):
- Basic Concepts of Syndication – and what to think about even before you touch that WordPress thing
- Installing and Setting up Feed WordPress – Minimal settings, and planning the way content is sliced, diced, and recombined
- Feeding the Machine – How 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 Tricks – leveraging categories, adding attribution, setting featured images
Also, another way to experience working with this kind of approach is Building a Course Hub part of a Connected Courses Workshops for the 2016 and 2017 DML Conferences. Here you can create a trial web hosting package, and install/experiment with a fully functioning Feed WordPress powered hub site.
Featured Image: Created with the Bart Simpson Chalkboard Generator (because I can)