Form of a Blog Post about ds106, RSS, and more

I am getting ready to map out my goals for this month’s Reclaim EdTech’s Flex Course on Gravity Forms, and after reading Tom Woodward’s post about using Gravity Forms to pull RSS feeds into FeedWordPress I was reminded how much the open standard web made building something awesome like ds106 possible. Gravity Forms was in many ways the next step for an Edtech steeped in WordPress to move beyond the “it’s more than a blog” rhetoric into actually building small, powerful integrations on top of WordPress.

Image of ds106 assignment bank

ds106 Assignment Bank

In fact, it could be argued that the ds106 experiment demonstrated what some creative integrations with RSS and Gravity Forms could make possible thanks to the likes of Martha Burtis, Tim Owens, Tom Woodward, and Alan Levine. The ugly and rudimentary Daily Shoot syndication experiments I built were certainly pathetic, but I want to believe they led those smarter than me, namely Martha, to create the truly groundbreaking Assignment Bank that used categories for syndicated assignment posts to turn the blog into an assignment-centered social network. And leveraging Google Forms to allow the broader ds106 community to submit assignments on the fly. A project that inspired Tim Owens to build The Daily Create in January 2012 after the Daily Shoot site was shuttered, but rather than Google Forms on this site Tim used Gravity Forms which pushed the envelope that much further. This was also an early sign that Tim and Martha were a dynamic duo and their integration chops would soon be applied to transforming Domain of One’s Own from a pipe dream into a reality.

Image of original Daily Create site

Image of Daily Create site

I know this is old territory in some ways, ds106 is almost twelve years old, RSS remains on life support, and the emergence of new standards around JSON and APIs for integrating data always seem just a programmer or two away from working easily. Hope springs eternal. But given I still have a hand in ensuring ds106.us stays online, I remain amazed that all this magic is rooted in that old technology that easily allows folks to add their RSS feed (I spent countless hours in 2011 manually adding 500+ RSS feeds to FeedWordPress as ds106 took off), or even the ways in which the Daily Create became a syndication site using FeedWordPress as well as a form-driven site for new Daily Create suggestions anyone could submit.

Image of Giffing.net site

Giffing.net site

Another little know form-based site that was not directly related to ds106, but in many ways built of the same cloth was Martha Burtis’s Giffing.netI blogged it here. It is a brilliant site used for the UMW Freshman Orientation since at least 2015 to get students playing with Photoshop to create GIFs that they would then submit via Gravity Forms.* This is one of my favorite DTLT sites from my final days in that outfit, and Martha was fully locked-in to creating these small, assignment-based teaching tools with a ridiculous amount of creativity! In fact, the students created two GIFs, the second was masked to fit on the Convergence Center’s video wall—how sick is that? Featuring student work for all to see.

So, in many ways all the pieces of what my goals are for this month-long Gravity Forms Flex Course are immediately apparent: I just want to be able to do what Martha and Tim did in 2011 and 2012! I am playing catch-up 🙂

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*I called it WP Toolkit in 2015, but Gravity Forms was part of that collection I believe.

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