Aggregating Comments into a Distributed Course Hub Recipe

comment-box_mediumWe been thinking a lot about new methods of syndication at DTLT, but I have to admit we won’t be writing off RSS just yet. I do hope that one day we can synch comments between in psots seamlessly between a course hub and student blog—or event abstract comments out all together—but in the meantime I’m still using FeedWordPress to aggregatate and display comments from a distributed constellation of student blogs to my course aggregator blog. What follows is a howto for just that.

I actually aggregated all the comments feeds from the True Crime seminar blogs last week and it’s a bit of a workaround, but it works. To do this grab all the blog URLs for your students’ blogs and append /comments/feed. So, http://truecrime.umwblogs.org/comments/feed will aggregate all the comments for that blog, and so on. This is an imperfect method because not all posts for a single blog are related to a particular course, but in my instance, t least, it works.

Once you have all the comment feeds for the student blogs on their own line in a text document you can copy and paste them into an OPML file builder. I found one at FeedShow Goodies here.

FeedShw Goodies OPML Builder

Once all the feeds, each on their own line, are entered click the “Create OPML” button to get the code for the OPML file. Once you have it just copy and paste that into a plain text document and save it as recent_comments.opml (or something like that, just make sure extension is opml).

recent_comments_opml

Once that’s all done, head over to FeedWordPress in the course aggregator blog and click the green “Import Source List” button to import the OPML file.

FeedWordPress Import OPML File

Once you import the OPML file (which brings in the comment feed for each of the student blogs individually) you then need to edit each of the comment feeds and add a unique category to it such as “Comments.” This allows each of the posts that come into the aggregator course hub to have a shared category that you can both exclude from the front page, as well display in the Sidebar as recent comments.

Comments category in FWP

At this point once you assign all incoming posts from the comment feeds to the Comments category you’re ready for the last two steps.

Add the Ultimate Category Excluder plugin to your blog and exclude posts in the Comments category from the front page of your blog. You don’t want all the comments to show up as posts in the blog flow, or at least I don’t. You want them for two reasons: 1) to show the most recent 10 comments from around the blogs in the sidebar (how to do that is the final step coming up next) and 2) for the ability to filter by the comments category in the Posts section of the course blog to see all comments made by students over the course of the semester.

ultimate_category_excluder

The final step is to install the List Category Posts plugin on your blog and set it up in the sidebar so that the 10 most recent posts in the comments category are listed. Here’s how my sidebar widget looks on my True Crime course blog:

category_posts_list

And that should be it, a whole lot of steps for a rather simple thing, but so it goes in the world of a hacker who has no programming skills.

This entry was posted in WordPress and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Aggregating Comments into a Distributed Course Hub Recipe

  1. Alan Levine says:

    Comment wrangling remains elusive- its worth mentioning this works because all of your students are using wordpress, other blog platforms do not provide feeds for comments.

    You can skip the OPML step; instead of using FWP “Import Source List”, you can use Add multiple, and you can just paste in that list of comment Feed URLs. FWP will verify that each feed is valid (a nice check step, especially if you are as typo prone as I), and then add them in bulk.

    Having to add the category tag is tedious. If you set one blog’s category, you can use the drop down menu to select the next feed to add a category too (it would be nice to have a feature on the bulk add to assign a feed/category to each one).

    As an alternative to category excluding, for those not afraid of a little template editing, you can add a query_posts command to the main index.php
    http://codex.wordpress.org/Function_Reference/query_posts#Exclude_Categories_From_Your_Home_Page

    But I probably lost y’all there. I would likely create a custom post type for comments, since they dont need all post features (like you don’t comment on comments), and FWP can be setup to assign a feed’s contents to a different post type.

    The issues her is that syndicated content mingles with your course content, which is why I would like to develop an aggregator template/theme that you could run as its own subdomain, as a course reader.

  2. Reverend says:

    Alan,
    Thanks for that tip on not needing an OPML import, that’s a lador saver. Howard Rheingold will be using a method similar to this, and I have no doubt a separatesite that serves as a FeedReader/comment aggregator would be a godsend. I can totally see the value of that for my True Crime class right now.

    I have to say with syndicating in comments, I really don’t mind the miz with other posts, though a custom post type would be slicker, because I can really easily keep track by the category who is commenting regularly. A boon for my grading of that part of the course.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.