WPMu Smackdown: RSS, Autoblogs, Aggregators, o-matics, and more…

So, it’s just about time to ckeck-in on the work that has been happening on the WordPress Multi-User front. First and foremost, Gardner Campbell is my Godhead. He is teaching two classes this Summer session and they are already abuzz with all sorts of amazing blog action. You can see his New Media Studies “blog portal” here and his Film Text and Culture “blog portal” here. I can’t begin to tell you how amazing Gardner’s vision for this space is, and I think a quick perusal of his student’s work will attest to this almost immediately. More than that, he is willingly doing this in the face of some technical hiccups -taking some lumps this Summer so that many folks can enjoy the same benefits for their classes. So, in short, thank you Gardner for all the amazing work you are doing.

Ok, here’s the tale of the tape thus far:

ELS Autoblogs: The first thing worth mentioning are the experiments with WP-Autoblog for WPMu (I talked about it briefly here). This plugin has really afforded some very interesting versatility for class blogs, in my opinion. WP-Autoblog is basically an aggregator plugin that pulls feeds from ATOM, RSS, & RSS2 into a blog post (which is very similar to WP-o-Matic -which does not work just yet with WPMu). What I like about this plugin is that anyone with a blog on ELS Blogs can enable and add feeds to it. It’s a cinch.

Now let’s think through the implications of this, a professor creates a class blog, enables WP-Autoblog, and then adds the students as administrators to this, and only this, blog. The students are then asked to login in and add their feed to the Wp_Autoblog aggregator (which you can see below) and there it is. An aggregated class blog that constantly provides a trackback to the original posts. So you can republish the student’s work in this class blog, making sure that they know that they should create a separate category for this class so only the relevant posts will feed out, and wham -you have a quick and easy class blog that does not disrupt the flow of the student’s blog nor overburden a professor with a whole lot of hacking and devising to make these resources show up in one, centralized space for the duration of the class.

Wp-Autoblog

OK, now what about the student? Well, why couldn’t they use these “autoblogs” to feed out their own work to separate blog spaces that they control to highlight their best work or particular subjects, etc. -what we have here is an infinitely malleable eportfolio? Can you dig it? I knew that ya could.

So Wp-Autoblogs is a huge, simple, out-of-the-wpmu-box solution to aggregation, I really like this. Not to mention it gives a central feed for all the relevant posts for a single class. We have three autoblogs running currently
on ELS Blogs: Film Text and Culture autoblog, New Media Studies autoblog, and All Els Blogs autoblog. Check them out.

BDP RSS 0.6.2: I have talked at length about this slick aggregator plugin for WordPress here. And I recently checked back at the OzPolitics blog to find out that Bryan has updated this brilliant WP plugin. And the upgrades are pretty major, namely he has updated his aggregator so that it is widget ready! How, pray tell? It took me a little bit to figure it out, but you can actually load feeds into the aggregator and configure it accordingly (the ability to configure BDP RSS is unparalleled as far as I can tell) to create a single feed for any combination of blogs you choose. For example, I installed the latest version of BDP RSS on this blog, and I am currently aggregating a unique combination of ELS Blogs and comments into the sidebar. This is now something that students and faculty have the ability to do with the activation of the plugin, and while it is not as dead simple as WP-Autoblog, it makes up for it with customizing option which would be welcome for more experienced users. The BDP RSS upgrade offers an impressive addition for allowing users to work through their own unique aggregation possibilities. I’m still a huge fan of this plugin. We are using BDP RSS to aggregate the all blog posts and comments into the Sitewide Content page here.

King RSS WordPress Widget: Now it gets interesting, the King RSS plugin (powered by SimplePie) allows you to get really specific with where and how you want to place your feeds. And once you get the collated feeds from BDP RSS, you can plug that feed url into King RSS and decide where you want particular aggregated elements to show up on your blog. That’s right, customize where the aggregation shows up in the sidebar from page to page -sick, right! This plugin will take a little bit of getting used to, for it is not totally user-friendly just yet, despite its being a widget.

These three plugins for WPMu in combination, or individually, begin to suggest some interesting ways to feed, aggregate, and re-combine posts to create a rich, connected, and constantly evolving connections with one simple WPMu install.

Upgrading to WPMu 1.2.3: The bestest thing about this whole post is that Gardner and I upgraded WPMu from version 1 to version 1.2.3 to see if it might fix some database bugs (the verdict is still out on that, fingers crossed), and it went as smooth as upgrading a single WP installation. Can you believe that? Almost 100 blogs, and not a hiccup with the upgrade, I know 100 blogs is nothing by WPMu standards, but try upgrading a 100 single installs manually -even if via Fantastico.

Ok, this post is almost over, and if you made it this far I commend you. Andy Rush had mentioned to me today that the ELS Blogs site seemed a bit cluttered (oh, how sharper than a serpent’s tooth is a colleague’s ingratitude!). Which in turn made me think about whether this site would prove completely undecipherable to the unacquainted user? Well, do me a favor and go to ELS blogs and take a look and let me know what you think. More than that, give me any recommendations you may have to make it more user-friendly.

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Original post by jimgroom

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