Syndicating and republishing decentralized content with WordPress

I was going to write up a post describing how to use the cool FeedWordPress plugin for WordPress to syndicate external content into a blog, and republish it in the context of a class or group. But, of course, Jim Groom has beaten me to the punch, and done a much more thorough job of documenting the process than I would/could have done. So, yet again, I’ll just refer to Jim’s work. What I can do is provide a demonstrating workflow to show how FeedWordPress could be used to pull content from one blog into others in the context of a group, project, or class.

Take, for instance, this post I wrote back in July about the Learning Community for Blogging and Student Publishing. It’s published to my blog, and stored in my own outboard brain. But it’s not presented in the context of the University of Calgary.

What about my campus blog at dlnorman.ucalgaryblogs.ca? Should I copy and paste the post there, because it relates to UCalgary? Nope. I’ve just enabled FeedWordPress on that blog, and anything I publish to my “main” blog using the tag “ucalgary” will automatically get republished on my campus blog.

What about the Learning Communities blog? That post would also be useful to the participants in the project, and I’m not about to expect or compel them all to subscribe to my blog. So I just configured FeedWordPress to pull the “learning communities” feed from my “main” blog and republish posts to the Learning Communities blog.

FeedWordPress in action
FeedWordPress in action

This gives some pretty easy flexibility – I don’t have to manually republish things into various community resources, and I don’t have to make anyone subscribe to anything they don’t want to. If a one-stop-shopping type of resource is useful for a community (class, group, department, etc…) then why break that? Just use syndication and republishing to get the best of both worlds – decentralized publishing and centralized contextualization.

This process also gets around the hassle and confusion of republishing content. I’ve never wanted to publish to any place other than my own blog. I’ve never accepted invitations to write for other blogs. If I want to write something, I’ll publish to my blog. But, with automated syndication and republishing via tag-based feeds, it becomes trivial to allow content to flow into various other blogs and websites where it might be beneficial.

There is one wrinkle in the love fest that is FeedWordPress. Although it can suck categories and tags from items in an RSS feed and put them into categories in the receiving WordPress blog – it doesn’t currently create tags. It just adds category after category after category. Which works, but is messy. Hopefully a future revision of the plugin properly groks the category/tags distinction…

Finally, this post is tagged with “ucalgary” but not “learning communities” so I know it will automagically appear on my campus blog, but not the Learning Communities project blog. And I won’t have to do anything else to make that happen. Very cool stuff.

7 Replies to “Syndicating and republishing decentralized content with WordPress”

  1. I was just about to set up my very first course blog using FeedWordPress… I\’m really pleased to see it works not only for the Rev, but for you too!

  2. I’ve set it up so that the syndicated/republished copies of the posts don’t accept comments, and they link back here so people are free to comment. But, that might not be ideal for something like a courseblog, where it would be better for all comments to be in one place (and potentially away from the original source of the article).

  3. D’Arcy,

    Great stuff, you are so exact in your description of this stuff. it is really helpful for me to see you nail it so cleanly. Now, I want to talk a bit about Feed WordPress. I’ running WPMu 2.6, and the last few days a few random feeds that come into a course blog actually don’t link back to the original, they remain land-locked within the course blog (not privacy setting, checked that). This was the case with the Reading Capital blogs as well, at it fixed itself with the upgrade to 2.6. But those issue seem like they are occurring on UWM Blogs. Anyone trying this stuff have similar issues?

    Also, with DSader’s sitewide 3-in-1 multipanel widget, I’m getting strange links out to recent posts at times. Particularly those using FeedWordPress, it will through a weird php error, and reside in Donncha’s sitewide tags plugin. Much to do before I sleep….

  4. D’Arcy,

    This is the error I am getting:
    Fatal error: Call to undefined function wp_insert_category() in …wp-content/mu-plugins/sitewide-tags.php on line 120

    Looks like the insert_category function via FeedWordPress is colliding with sitewidetags.php somehow.

  5. Hi Darcy,

    Our science blog network Sciblogs.co.nz is using WordPress MU to host 30 science blogs, around half of which are syndicated from independent science blogs, many of which are hosted on WordPress (some are on Blogger or Typepad too)

    WordPress MU syndication via RSS to Sciblogs is working exceptionally well except for one thing – comments left on independent blogs cannot be syndicated to Sciblogs and vice versa. THis means that bloggers have to maintain two separate conversations – one at Sciblogs, one on their own blog.

    Do you know whether there is a way to merge the comments so that the bloggers can maintain the conversation in one place and all the comments in the discussion are mirrored at both locations? If we can do this, comment traffic will be so much better.

    Any plug-ins out there that handle this? Any ideas appreciated!

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