Syndication is for suckers

So not only am I struggling to do what Stephen Downes did more than four years ago, now I can’t even do what I did myself two years ago.

It should be a simple problem. Assemble a list of thirty or so student weblogs, allowing them to choose their own platforms, and create a reasonably readable aggregated metablog of all their entries.

Every “feed blender” type application I have tried simply collapses under that number of feeds, and collectively represents a huge time suck over the past few weeks years.

I like the Grazr widgets, but the widget does not track unread entries or provide any sense of which entries are new. Ditto for the promising new Ginger release of Netvibes: promising, but a portal view just doesn’t cut it.

Don’t even start with me on Technorati. It was never reliable, and now I’d rather depend on carrier pigeons or pneumatic tubes. I tried to be a good ELI conference blogger last week, did my Technorati tagging to no effect whatsoever.

Until now, the best simple hack I had come up with was using the results of a tagsearch from Google Blogsearch sorted chronologically, and running the RSS through the ever-reliable Feed2JS. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked OK.

But there are perils with depending on the kindness and stability of third party software. And Google is evidently not immune to that. It seems that Google blogsearch has adjusted its algorithm somehow. In any event, the number of returned entries has decreased in recent weeks, even as the student entries have piled up. Indeed, today there are two fewer entries than yesterday.

So we are making OK progress on assembling a WordPress Multi-User courseblog along the lines of the stuff UMW Blogs does. And D’Arcy is making tantalizing noises of a prototype based on Bill Fitzgerald’s work with Open Academic using Drupal. Maybe Stephen Downes’s impending release of Edu_RSS will do the trick.

But for now my modest optimism is tempered by a long string of disappointments, and hundreds of seemingly wasted hours.

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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