Note: I spent a bit of time this morning editing and cleaning up this post because upon re-reading it—which as usual was well after I published it—I thought there were a few things I could clean-up and clarify. That said, I haven’t changed any of the ideas or the overall argument which is basically: Y U NO MAKE SYNDICATING RSS EASY.
I don’t necessarily disagree with Alan Levine that ds106 shouldn’t “come in a box,” especially given the bulk of what makes that course/community great is the people—and there is no packaging that. However, in order for others to use the syndication framework that ds106 runs on—and that’s more important for folks not particularly interested in ds106 in and of itself—we still have to try and make automating blog syndication more accessible.
FeedWordPress has been the key ingredient for that in WordPress, and it has been pretty well automated using the premium plugin Gravity Forms and some other hacking by Martha Burtis. That said, without that plugin and hack any faculty member trying to create a syndicated blog for his or her course will end up spending the first few weeks manually adding and tagging feeds in FeedWordPress. That’s just not practical. Making this easier is crucial, even if it is not perfect. In fact, it’s probably more important than a new version of the assignment bank, which I think is a cornerstone of ds106. Providing a simple way for people to sign-up their blog feed (and Twitter, Flickr, etc.) and have it automatically syndicate is the basic model of eduglu we’ve been approximating for years. While it was never gonna be perfect (what is?), I sure as shit didn’t think we would still be floundering around manually adding feeds the way we are.
Without being able to automate adding feeds to a site like ds106, it takes a tremendous amount of labor on the part of a professor to make a syndicated course work—with or without a community. I don’t think this is “in-a-box” as much as it is a necessary streamlining of the syndication framework which is long overdue. Fact is, sometimes a basic structure for shelter, like a box, has its uses in a case where a faculty member wants to experiment with a syndicated course structure but doesn’t want to have to be farming feeds for the first three weeks of class to do it. There is a balance here when it comes to the idea of making a framework like ds106 more usable for a wide-range of people. To suggest it’s all about the community might miss some of the basic elements a faculty member needs just to get started with such an experiment.