For the first part of this semester I was in over my head with UMW Blogs. We had come up with the idea (through covert communication with other schools not to be named 😉 ) to use FeedWordPress as a syndicating engine. Quite simply, that students create their own blogs and tag posts for their respective courses, which would automatically republish them in an aggregating course blog.
For example, Sue Fernsebner’s History 299 course would tag relevant posts 08fern299, and those posts would be automatically re-posted in the course blog. How are they re-posted automatically? Well, Donncha’s Sitewide Tags Pages plugin collects all posts, tags and categories into one blog (http://tags.umwblogs.org), that by extension gives a single feed for all tags through the WPMu environment. You can see all of professor Fernsebner’s class blog posts one that blog here: http://tags.umwblogs.org/tag/08fern299/
And if you just smack the term “feed” at the end of the above URL you then have an RSS feed for every post in UMW Blogs that has the tag 08fern299: http://tags.umwblogs.org/tag/08fern299/feed
Now, FeedWordPress just consumes this feed and republishes all the distributed posts in one blog and allows the permalink to point back to the students original blog post on their blog. Perfect, right?
Well, almost. Fact is that the .2.x version of the Sitewide Tags was not actually working with FeedWordPress that well. What was happening was that FeedWordPress was not updating correctly and the permalinks would only point to the post on the course blog, effectively erasing the link back to the student blog. The only way to fix this was to go into the course blog and delete the posts that didn’t link back to the student blog, and update the feed again which works when you manually pull the feed but not when it is automatically pulled in (which was the root of the problem). Well, this issue is no more, the latest version of Donncha’s Sitewide Tags Pages plugin 0.3.1 fixes the issue with FeedWordPress and has put UMW Blogs back in the Syndicating cloud (I was worried there for a second, and I don’t miss all the duct tape fixes at all).
The moral of the story? It didn’t take long for the WPMu community to make things right, and it didn’t cost UMW anything but a little bit of experimentation, patience, and sharing. I mean who’s afraid of the open source wolf? These times demand many things, and one of them is cooperation and sharing, not fear and closing down. Open source is not proprietary 🙂
I’ve been thinking about how it would be possible to create wiki, forum and blog functionality done through all three of the technologies.
With the feed abilities described it might be possible to create the equivalent of a forum with blog posts and comments working like forum threads. The difference is changing the post organization to latest comment.
Steve,This sounds interesting, what do you mean exactly by changing post organizations to latest comments? What I always thought would be useful (and the plugin/application for WordPress does this) is creates a link from a post to a forum. The post is reproduced in the forum, and you can treat the idea as a forum thread. The user publishing the post should be able to decide whether they want the post to be a thread. In this way, they can keep all their writings central in their blog, and leave the discussion to the forum. But why not let the discussion happen in a distributed manner on the blogs? Well, that takes getting used to for folks who don;t use blogs, but the ability to control your own space is empowering. Yet, an issue that constantly plagues bloggers and commentators is th ability to control and archive comments you make on other people’s blog. There is still no way to republish your comments back to your blog without copy and paste, and many of these comments may be something you want ot preserve. Co-comment tried this, but it isn’t pretty. The ability to comment on other folks work, while preserving a copy of your comment with a link to its context would be a key element on such an environment.
It’s not always the integration of these apps that is top priority, but the ability to get their info out should they want. I record of their thinking that they can take with them. That is the key in my mind, but I am often wrong 🙂