Educational Blog Aggregation that Scales

I just commented over at William & Mary Blogs (, and I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am that William & Mary is not only playing around with WordPress Multi-User and kicking around the questions surrounding aggregation, but blogging it publicly! That takes it all to the next level. I should write this up more cohesively, and I will shortly with some more conceptual overhead, but for now I am just going to leave my comment to this post about aggregation, which lays out a quick and easy mehod for scaling creative aggregation within a campus “publishing platform” and beyond, and from my experience it is simple, self-service, and it just works!

I think feedWordPress is the way to go in terms of aggregation. One of the things I have been playing with is a self-service RSS feed drop.

For example, say you have a number of blogs on your WPMu install, which you will, some of which deal with one particular focus as opposed to another. You can run an aggregated blog with FeedWordPress that is actually taking all of its post from an OPML feed created by the BDP RSS aggregation plugin. You can get the aggregated feed for the appropriately numbered output by doing (with the domain being that of the aggreagtor blog).

Why do this? Well, because Andre Malan’s sidebar widget for BDP RSS allows registered WPMu users (and even anyone depending on how you set it up) to drop just about any feed into a text field on the sidebar, and it will automatically be run through FeedWordPress, and into the aggregation blog.

Here is an example:

It is a quick, self-service solution that might just work if you want to use aggregation on a number of scales, i.e. school-wide, discipline specific, course specific, or for particualr groups.

Martha Burtis was talking about it today, and I think it is time we all start collaborating more directly with folks at William & Mary and beyond, in order to build an educational publishing platform that will kick Blackboard’s ass. The beauty of it is that obsolescence is built-in! But more on that soon…

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9 Responses to Educational Blog Aggregation that Scales

  1. Reverend says:

    For clarification purposes, I was thinking about kicking Bb’s ass, Martha was just being intelligent about pooling resources in a distributed way so we dont all re-invent the wheel again and again and again — though i don;t want to rob her of any agency for thinking about burying behemoths 😉

  2. Andrea says:

    What about the sitewide feed plugin?
    Or setting up sitewide categories and pulling category feeds from that?

  3. Reverend says:


    The only problem I see with the sitewide feed is it doesn’t filter anything, so you get everything and if you have a critical mass of bloggers, that could be too much. As for the categories, is there a way to harness feeds for site wide categories? I haven’t really seen it done, I was hoping to do something similar with MuTags, but they don’t have feeds on a site wide tag-by-tag basis just yet (although you can get it for 50 bucks, which I would invest in).

    What I’m thinking here is, allow people to opt into a particular aggregator blog, or even the frontpage/portal aggregation by dropping of their RSS feed. Hey, they can even just drop off one tag/category feed from their blog. For example, you have a course aggregator for all posts dealing with your Early American lit class, you have a tag or category “earlyamerlit,” and you drop the feed in the sidebar of the course aggregator blog. Now, this might be done just as well with a site wide feed or category tag feed, but it requires everyone to use the same tag or category (which can also lead to problems), make the students define their feed, allow them to use your a WPMu blog from the community or some other service like blogger,, etc., and just drop off their feed.

    This would build in a certain amount of lightweight openness that won’t restrict (or lockdown) everything to a specific university WPMu blogging system, but tell students that they have to manage their own digital (where ever that is), and we just want their feeds -just like the Little Shop of Horrors. This gets us out of the support and archiving business, and allows us to focus on managing the information flow, to paraphrase the great Brian Lamb.

    And Andrea, I know you know all this, but this is part of the “clarification and cohesion” my original post did not afford, you have provided the occasion for me to elaborate, so don;t let my comment fool you, I know you know this already, in fact I learned much of it from you on the forums 🙂

  4. Andrea says:

    hmmm, all cool ideas. 😀 Although I do see the small potential for abuse with people dropping in *other* feeds they shoudln’t.

    I just teste don my set-up: I’ve done the sitewide-categories they way drmike explained and yes, each category “tag” has its own feed.

    Sometimes it’s way more interesting and fruitful to mull these things over in blogs & comments than the forums.

  5. Hello, Mr. Groom,

    I think you’re overlooking your little friend — you know, the one with the vacant eyes and the funny blue hat? You know — this one.

    All kidding aside, this is where Drupal’s taxonomy, and the ability to tag feeds on import (an important step in recontextualization) and the ability to import the original user’s tags (thus preserving as much as we can of authorial intent 🙂 ) allows for a nuanced approach to managing large amounts of content.

    WordPress is certainly the king of blogs, but at a certain point blogs become data, and Drupal’s roots as a community based CMS with core taxonomy functionality simplify managing large amounts of data.



  6. Reverend says:

    @Andrea: Very cool, where is doe Dr. Mike talk about this? Did I miss it? Very cool!

    In fact, I couldn;t agree with you more, and I just got out of meeting here at UMW talking about your Drupal aggregator as a directory/archive/visualization piece for all of these feeds from blogs. So, Drupal is integral in killing Bb 🙂

  7. Hello, Jim,

    Are we actually agreeing?

    Man, once we’ve killed off Bb, what’s next 🙂



  8. joe says:

    True, filtering feeds is very important to me.


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