The Power of Syndication

This evening I spent quite a bit of time pulling together the feeds of just about every student involved in the Domain of One's Own pilot who has their blog installed into an aggregate site. This site not only aggregates all the work being done in the pilot, but it also categorizes it with a methodology framed out by Jim Groom working with Cathy Derecki to provide a model of how we can systematically pull in content from distinct courses, professors, content areas, and more. To give you an idea of how powerful this is, imagine getting a feed of all the work being done by students of a particular professor, or maybe seeing the work being done across all freshman seminar courses, or the bigger picture of having a firehose of all work students do for the fall semester. By setting up a series of categories to be applied to each student's personal feed and using FeedWordpress to pull it all in and categorize it, we can use the power of generated RSS feeds in Wordpress to get a feed of any of that data we want to pull it in to different spaces and highlight the work being done by our students. There's a lot of room here for this process to become more streamlined. For now there is no way to automatically grab feeds from the pilot because most students are being encouraged to install on subdomains and subfolders of their domain. Luckily the Plesk Panel gives me a good list of all Wordpress installs that I was able to grab and do a manual import into FeedWordpress. The categorization is another beast entirely and frankly where the real streamlining could happen. FeedWordpress doesn't currently have the ability to edit multiple feeds to apply these categories so I had to go into each individual feed, cross reference it against what course the student was in, and then set the categories. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. This was one of many things on our list of what we wanted to have the FWP developer work on, but sadly that seems in limbo as we haven't heard from him since our initial Skype call. So it was certainly manual work to put together and the work isn't done as we continue to have more signups and installs happening daily. In fact tomorrow we will pass 200 domains registered as a part of this pilot and we won't be slowing down. There are a few more courses to finish signing up and then we'll have a pool of domains available to iterate on the pilot for the Spring semester. When all is said and done over 400 students will have their own personal domain on the web to archive the work they do every day at UMW, a space they can take with them, and a space they have complete and total freedom to experiment with. We are living the dream of what a culture of openness can grow into here at UMW, and it's absolutely thrilling to be a part of it!