“We aint one-at-a-timin’ here, we’re mass communicatin”

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Well, if you don’ know the quote from O Brother, Where art thou? it is worth a listen for it speaks to what exactly we’re doing over at ELS Blogs -this project ain’t no one off -this is the whole kit and kaboodle in one simply complex install!

Image of O Brother

We are getting ready to build a more extensive version for UMW that touches many departments throughout the campus that will most likely be starting with a number of the Freshman Seminars set during the Fall and Spring semesters, though it could quickly be opened up for a broader audience if the possibilities arise -which they very well may. That being said, I have been taking the last couple of weeks to experiment more extensively with WordPress Multi-User, something I enjoy tremendously, and I have to say that there are a lot of cool new options, plugins and theme packs (see this post for more on themes) that I will be blogging about in the near future. But right now I want to focus in particular on the aggregating possibilities that are beginning to emerge in WPMu.

WP-Autoblog has been around for single-installations of WordPress for a while now, and does a nice job of aggreagating content into blog posts from various feeds around the web, much like WP-o-Matic -which I talk about here. I like WP-o-Matic a lot because it uses SimplePie parsing that does an excellent job with images and other objects, while being relatively feed agnostic -unfortunately it is not compatible with WPMu just yet. However, WP-Autoblog has been made to play nice with WPMu (get the plugin here), and it is a really dead simple interface that allows for an easy cut and paste approach to including feeds. So, I got to thinking a couple of things:

  • What about taking all the feeds from elsblogs and putting them into a WP-Autoblog blog -you can see an example of this up and running here– a site wide aggregator in the guise of a K2 themed blog that is capturing all the content from around the environment -most recent on top! Simple to do, and yet another way to capture and re-present all the rich content that is coming in over the wires, or is it tubes
  • Ok, so now we have this plugin that pretty much anyone with a blog on ELS Blogs can use to create an aggregator of feeds within a blog (themed to their liking of course). Hmmm, so does this mean that professors and their ilk can create their own aggregator blog by asking students to record their blog’s rss feeds in a wiki, google docs, spreadsheet, or what have you? It is a quick and easy way to locate content in one specific blog that may give folks who come across a blog like this an interesting and different visualization of a group of posts in relationship to one another within the context of a “class blog” which is quite distinct from the logic that will emerge on an individual student blog (equally valuable yet very different). We did this already here, but it wasn’t something anyone in the environment could do by simply activating a plug-in and copying and pasting feeds. And while I like that aggregation space and plan on re-using it (powered by BDPRSS and Optimal pugins), the whole idea in my mind is to multiply the ways through which students can see all this content in various contexts and map relationships between and amongst these various pieces along the way.
  • Last, and by no means least, the best way at cross-pollinating content (posts) within a specific class as well as throughout the entire ELS Blogs environment might be to create these little blog aggregators (and anyone on the system has access to this plugin -a splog nightmare if you aren’t careful) and can create a blog aggregator of sites they are reading and content they are interested in, or even the blogs from different classes or students they have yet to meet around the environment. The genius here is that content becomes re-purposed and propagated throughout an environment (sometimes redundantly) with the idea that you offer many different potential moments for serendipity by republishing content in various spaces throughout this distributed collection of blogs.

I’m pretty excited about this because I think it offers a quick, easy and informal way for users, profs and students alike, to create spontaneous collections of the feeds, sites, and resources that they are using which will in turn be populating blogs throughout the community that could give way to a certain amount of content chaos that may ultimately result in a new way of avoiding the “one-at-a-timin” [Aggregator and single WordPress installs] in order to work towards “mass communicatin” [throughout campus] the web for one another on a more regular basis within a specific environment.

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Original post by jimgroom

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