Image courtesy of Looking for Fish tacos at ELI 2006, aka CogDog.
Well, I have finally gotten a free minute to get this all down, and get it down I will in hopes that I can drum up some help and support in working through a couple of the issues we’re having with FeedWordPress. So, here goes my state of the union address for FeedWordPress syndicating student work to class blogs on UMW Blogs….
First, FeedWordPress is the real deal, it is a solid interface, not too complicated, works out-of-the-box without cron plugins, and makes syndication a breeze. (D’Arcy overviews it beautifully here). Combine this simple syndication with all the tag and category feeds made available by Donncha’s Sitewide Tags plugin and you got the goods, EDUGLU-o-rama! As the great Mara Scanlon said after we demonstrated the power of FeedWordPress for her Ethics and Literature course today, “This is getting so much easier!” And that it is, she suffered through the days of BDP RSS and the untold issues with WP-Autoblog last year with character and fortitude, and her recognizing this afternoon that the syndication angle is coming together was a morale boost, for she doesn’t compliment ed tech stuff often or lightly.
So, I’m really excited. I can see some real potential and power here, we have over 15 classes using some version of FeedWordPress syndication, and for the most part it works seamlessly, enter one feed for a class tag, and the course blog populates itself, aggregating the student blog posts tagged accordingly. All is good….well, almost good.
Here are some of the issues we have run up against in the last week, in order of gravity:
1) For a few classes we are actually feeding the posts in with comments turned off and the permalink sending the reader back to the original blog. This works well when the feed is first syndicated in FeedWordPress. However, after that the subsequent posts that are pulled in link within the course blog, the permalink no longer send the reader back to the original post on the student’s blog. This sucks! This was a way to allow posts to aggregate in one place, but lead the rest of the class back to the student’s space, particularly useful if the class is subscribing to the course blog feed, for all the feeds will immediately take the reader to the student’s blog, a way to aggregate feeds from a variety of sites off one feed (a kind of tag specific OPML feed for class sites). So, this one is major, and it ain’t working as of now 🙁
2) This may be related to number one, but for several feeds that I click on that have been aggregated via FeedWordPress I get the following error:
Fatal error: Call to undefined function wp_insert_category() in /home/umwblogs/public_html/wp-content/mu-plugins/sitewide-tags.php on line 120
Making me think there may be a correlation between the FeedWordpress issues and the Sitewide Tags plugin. Anyone experience anything similar to this?
3) After FeedWordPress is activated and up and running, if you try and create a Link (just a plain old link in the Write–>Link tab) it actually creates a new, malformed feed in FeedWordPress. Bizarre. This doesn’t necessarily hurt anything that I know of, and I stress that I know of.
4) FeedWordPress doesn’t pull in tags from syndicated posts. Not a huge deal for us right now, but it would be useful.
5) The creation of categories from syndicated posts doesn’t work out-of-the-box. You have to actually update the rss-functions.php and rss.php files using the two they provide in the MagpieRSS Upgrade folder that comes with the FeedWordPres plugin (thanks for pointing this out, D’Arcy).
Ok, that’s it. I’m gonna post a modified version of this on the WPMu forums as well to see if anyone knows anything. The plugin author, Charles Johnson, seems to have been busy with other things and hasn’t upgraded his plugin for WP/Mu 2.6+, and frankly the guys built it out and supported it brilliantly. And once your plugin becomes popular, it must seem like as much as a burden as a service to constantly update and maintain it, I’ve seen it happen with a number of good syndication plugins which makes me nervous. We need to support these folks, and help them develop it out, or contribute accordingly.
So, there it is. FeedWordPress is about as close as we’ve come to realizing the syndication bus in major way, mad props to Andre Malan for turning me onto it again at Norther Voice this past February, and if anyone has any ideas for making it work a bit more consistently don’t be shy.
Oh yeah, one more thing.
The BDP RSS widget Andre Malan created for allowing people to add their feeds to a site via BDP RSS would make even more sense these days for FeedWordPress.