This semester has raised some questions that have led me to start searching for a better rss aggregation tool for WordPress. And, as is often the case in the WordPress community, I think I have already found it! The background here is that this semester we here at DTLT have begun encouraging students in certain classes to use WordPress.com, or some other free multi-user blogging solution, to set up and maintain their own blog for classes. The downside of this experiment has been finding the right tool for WordPress to aggregate this diaspora of student blog posts into a more centralized course blog that will cleanly and effectively showcase the latest content from the students. I worked initially with Rob Miller’s aggregate plugin, which is a nice tool for getting rss feeds into posts, but the display possibilities are limited and it did not work so well for me in static pages and in the sidebar. Finding a tool that can do all of these things while giving you flexibility with the look and feel of the incoming content would be next to impossible, or so I thought.
About a month ago I found a plugin from The Oz Politics Blog called BDP RSS which has been around for over a year and has gone through several iterations. After playing with this plugin a bit, I think it may be an excellent solution for aggregating student content from distributed blogs into a more centralized WordPress course site (dare I say WordPress course management site?!). Some of the features of BDP RSS are as follows, all of which can be manipulated using the backend RSS tool that is installed under the “Manage” tab upon activation of the plugin.
- As I have already said, it allows you to aggregate feeds into static pages, posts and the sidebar (for pages you need another plugin which allows you to execute php, I used Exec-PHP and it worked great).
- It allows you to edit the output format so that you can organize the content from the sites you are aggregating. You can arrange the order of the blogs you are aggregating chronologically -showing the most recent posts from any of the sites in your list. Alternatively, you can organize the logic of the output alphabetically which will show the most recent posts from each site organized by its blog title. This is a really cool feature that I have yet to come across in other aggregators for WordPress.
- There is also a “List of all sites” feature that is checked by default. If you uncheck this feature you can pick and choose the blogs you want to aggregate without having to delete the others.
- The previous feature is even cooler when used with what I believe is the most impressive feature of this plugin. BDP RSS can save and output customized formats, i.e., you can pick and choose the blogs you want to aggregate from your list of class blogs to create distinct groups of bloggers whose content can be aggregated together on separate pages. In other words, BDP RSS can take all these disparate, “alienated” blogs and foster a larger class blog as well as a series of smaller group blogs -all of which can be viewed on one post and/or page of the course blog, or on several different static pages/posts. This, in effect, allows for a larger class “group blog” as well as more finely customized group blogs, all without any of the potential headaches of a single point of sign-on, user management, permissions, etc. Not a bad day’s work for a plugin.
- Finally, BDP RSS can display inline images, links, italicized text, bold text, block quotes, published date, post title and blog title (both with hyper links). You can choose the amount of characters you want to show before it creates a link to the post, or you can have the entire post show up in the page. The flexibility of the plugin is mind-blowing.
In short :), if you are using WordPress and thinking about aggregating content via rss from several disparate sites, than this plugin may very well save your life!
Here is a quick example I threw together using an aggregation of the DTLT blogs at UMW called bavabuddies, notice that bavatuesdays is not in this list of postings even though my feed was entered with the other four. All I did to leave my posts out was just uncheck the “list all blogs” option and selected (or checked) the other four while still preserving my rss information in the event I want to aggregate myself using another customized format.
This may be a bit jumbled, but I am still exploring the possibilities of such a nifty plugin, one of my new favorites -maybe even up there with podpress !