Building the Syndication Bus: Plugin Ingredients

Image of a Revolution BusWhile at Duke, UVA, and more recently the University de Mayaguez—I’ll post about that event as soon as I finish traveling—the most common question people had for me was how can they design/build the “Syndication Bus” for WPMu. Well, this is probably a multi-post affair, but to get the ball rolling and to do what I told a number of folks I would, here are a few essential plugins (if other folks have others they are using let me know):

A List of Key Plugins on UMW Blogs for building the Syndication Bus with WPMu

  • FeedWordPress: This is a plugin which republishes feeds from just about anything with RSS. This plugin has been key to creating the syndication hub, and with Andre Malan’s Add Link widget (linked to below), we can now place a field in the sidebar so that authorized users can simply add the URL of their site to a course blog now matter where they publish from.
  • Sitewide Tag Pages Plugin: This plugin creates an ĂĽber-blog that brings in all the posts (along with tags, categories, etc.), which allows you create tag or category feeds across the entire environment. This plugin enables the tag and category based feeds which allow individuals to syndicate out selected posts from their own publishing space while leaving others untouched.
  • Add Link This widget allows you to place a text field in the sidebar so that a feed URL can immediately be added to any blog (which can be hosted anywhere). Think of it as self-service feed addition, taking the labor out of setting up the aggregation.
  • Add User: This widget, again by Andre Malan, allows users you have a username on UMW Blogs can add themselves to any blog as an author that has this widget activated. Think if it as self-service author addition, taking the labor out of setting up the space.*

*This one isn’t actually essential, but I find it extremely useful for group blogs so I figured I would throw it in—god I love Andre Malan!

Image credit: Revolution by Lawrence Whittemore

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16 Responses to Building the Syndication Bus: Plugin Ingredients

  1. Good of you to post the info, Jim. And great talks yesterday! Hope you had a good return home!
    Antonio

  2. Michelle says:

    Hey Jim,

    Thanks for posting these! I’ve always been a little wary of Sitewide Tags plugin because I heard it interferes with FeedWordPress. Is this still the case or are there any necessary modifications needed?

    Any ideas yet if all these plugins play nice with 2.7.1? We’re looking to upgrade and haven’t tried Sitewide Tags yet but I’m thinking we may want to wait to the upgrade.

    Thanks as always keeping us filled in! 🙂

  3. Reverend says:

    I tested them on this blog, which is 2.7.1, and they all play nice. And the issues with Sitewide Tag Pages and FeedWordPress are a thing of the past, just be sure to replace the rss.php and rss-functions.php files in wp-includes with the files that come with the same files that come with FeedWordPress and can be found in the magpie directory of that plugin. I’m really happy with how well this system is working for us, and the latest version of all these plugins are problem free for me 🙂

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  7. MarkS says:

    Hey Jim, I wanted to give you a call BUT knowing that would deprive the rest of world with documentation of these issues and your proposed solutions, I’ll post here. Bus problems:

    1. On a course blog using feedwordpress (and pulling content from a specific tag feed on a Sitewide Tags Blog), new users are created if they aren’t an author on that course blog. So a duplicate user is created since the author was already a user on WPMU but only on their own blog. Am I supposed to add each individual user as a course blog author to fix this problem? Can I get feedwordpress to recognize that the author is a user on wpmu?

    2. On the course blog I lose paragraph formatting in posts fed from the Sitewide Tags Blog. Posts that have multiple paragraphs are just one big block of text. The posts have paragraph formating on the site of origin (student) and on the Sitewide Tags Blog. I found one forum post on this issue but no solution was mentioned.

    3. How do I avoid duplicate posts on the Sitewide Tags Blog? While what occurs seems logical, there must be a work around that I’m missing. The issue: original post is feed to the Sitewide Tags Blog which in turn is feed to the course blog. Then that post is perceived as new (from the course blog) and it is reposted to the Sitewide Tags Blog. This results in a duplicate on the Sitewide Tags Blog. It seems to stop there as feedwordpress seems to recognize it already has that post (thereby not creating an endless loop). Is there a way to stop the duplication? tags.umwblogs.org doesn’t appear to have this issue.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  8. Reverend says:

    Hey Mark,

    I’ll address your issues one-by-one below:
    1. On a course blog using feedwordpress (and pulling content from a specific tag feed on a Sitewide Tags Blog), new users are created if they aren’t an author on that course blog. So a duplicate user is created since the author was already a user on WPMU but only on their own blog. Am I supposed to add each individual user as a course blog author to fix this problem? Can I get feedwordpress to recognize that the author is a user on wpmu?

    __________

    This is an issue that persists with FeedWordPress, and we still haven;t found a way to automatically map a user to the existing user. So the creation of a dummy user happen on the aggregated course blog, and the issue persists for us. This is still an issue we are trying to figure out (along with syndicating comments back and forth), and unfortunately I have no solid solution save the fact that each student can still take their stuff from their own blog and import elsewhere without being effecting the dummy users, and the dummy user remains as a kind of archival record in the course blog.

    2. On the course blog I lose paragraph formatting in posts fed from the Sitewide Tags Blog. Posts that have multiple paragraphs are just one big block of text. The posts have paragraph formating on the site of origin (student) and on the Sitewide Tags Blog. I found one forum post on this issue but no solution was mentioned.
    _________
    This is an interesting bug, and I would actually ask first if you copied the rss.php and rss-functions.php that come with FeedWordPress into the wp-includes folder in your WPMU install. That could be one issue, if that’s not the case, then I think it has something to do with the server setup, and I’m not having the same issue on UWM Blogs, but I am having it on my own server when importing Blogger blogs into another site I run called http://readingcapital.org

    So, I am still stumped by this on my own server in terms of blogger, but not WP blogs.

    3. How do I avoid duplicate posts on the Sitewide Tags Blog? While what occurs seems logical, there must be a work around that I’m missing. The issue: original post is feed to the Sitewide Tags Blog which in turn is feed to the course blog. Then that post is perceived as new (from the course blog) and it is re-posted to the Sitewide Tags Blog. This results in a duplicate on the Sitewide Tags Blog. It seems to stop there as feedwordpress seems to recognize it already has that post (thereby not creating an endless loop). Is there a way to stop the duplication? http://tags.umwblogs.org doesn’t appear to have this issue.
    ________

    We still have issues with this as well. There are some posts that duplicate in the tags blog, but we hide that on the homepage. I can give you the code to hide this through the sitewide recent posts feed I am pulling in from the tags blog. However, I would argue there may be a need for the duplicate posts. In the event a student deletes their blog, the duplicate post will still be part of the course archive, and searchable on the tags blog. So, it may not be a complete bug. Does this make sense?

  9. MarkS says:

    Thanks for the quick feedback. My weekend is now looking much brighter! Here are some thoughts:

    1. Dummy Users: I think this becomes a bigger problem when using Buddypress as duplicate names are listed as site members. I noticed that duplicate members at uwmblogs have “via feedwordpress” added to the to their name . I think there were about 50 users with “via feedwordpress”. I’d think you’d have more dummy users (I assumed they are duplicates but with that low number they might be from feeds outside of umwblogs?). Mine don’t have that added. I guess if you have to have both it would be good to distinguish the dummy user. How’d you do that?

    2. Paragraph Formatting: rss.php and rss-funtions.php were copied. I’ll keep working on this…

    3. Duplicate Posts: You’re correct. Duplicates posts are needed for the reasons you stated. When you can, please share the code to hide this in the sitewide recent posts feed.

  10. MarkS says:

    3. Post formatting fix
    Syndication > Posts > Formatting Filters >
    and select ‘Protect syndicated posts from formatting filters’

    Posts are now imported with the same formatting as original post.

  11. Bill says:

    Hi, thanks for this post. I have one question –

    When syndicating content, how are post thumbnails pulled from one blog to another?

    I have used Sitewide Tags plugin, and it does not seem to pull in images attached to posts.

    Thanks!

  12. Reverend says:

    @Bill,

    I wonder what’s happening on your setup, because we aren’t having the same issues with images on UMW Blogs, take a look here: http://tags.umwblogs.org, and you will see that images are, indeed, pulling in. Any details about your setup you can offer?

  13. Emilio says:

    @Bill,Reverand

    Bill,

    I’m also trying to pull in the post-thumbnails. I’m trying to do this with FeedWordPress.

    Reverand,

    Images are being grabbed fine, it’s the post-thumbnails that aren’t. I added images to my RSS feed with these instructions http://www.strangework.com/2010/02/25/how-to-add-a-post-thumbnail-to-an-rss-feed-in-wordpress/ but I don’t know what to put into the Custom Post Settings under Posts & Links in my FeedWordPress settings.

    Does anyone know how to pull in the post-thumbnail from either the native post-thumbnail feature or from Press75’s Simple Post Thumbnails Plugin?

    Thank you!

  14. Reverend says:

    Emilio,

    OK, I see what you mean about the post thumbnail issue, I’m not sure personally, so let me ask around.

  15. Emilio says:

    @Reverand,

    Thank you. I’ll try to figure it out and ask around as well.

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