the improper use of wp: creating a closed ____ students experience portal

by on October 31, 2008

You fill out the blank in the title. So far we had course and ePortfolio audit portal-like blogs, and we are looking into building one for Coop program in the near future. In this case I’ll just set on the Coop program requirements, both course and eportfolio specs are very similar.

Lately, OLT has been involved in a few projects (and more are coming) that require having locked down central blog that is fed by number of opened or closed blogs.

Some students in the Coop program (contributors to the site) are willing to share their experiences on the program with other current Coop students (visitors of the site). They get the blog for the sole purpose of feeding the main website which is just an aggregated blog (closed for Coop students only, for sensitivity of information reasons) plus other marketing and informational content (public). The access to the closed component of the website blog in managed through CWL (UBC’s Single Sign On) authentication; only students that are active in the program can login and see the content (list is administered by Coop program staff).

Students’ blog feeds are being automatically imported to the aggregated blog and also tagged and classified according to the original categories and tags. The main website displays latest students’ posts on the main page, lists all the Coop bloggers on the side bar along with aggregated categories and tag cloud. Overall, the result is very user-friendly and dynamic website. By using additional plugins it is simple to introduce additional functionalities that will enhance the homepage, things like: most viewed post, most commented, searches by skills, work place placement, etc.

If it wasn’t for being closed, this would be very straight forward. However, the fact that many students’ blogs are private, makes it difficult to push the feed to the main blog. Two things to make this work (thanks for finding these Scott!):

  • /blogname/wp-rss.php feed doesn’t care much about the fact that blog is closed, this feed is always available (hello WP and your privacy settings, attention please!) and
  • the excellent Feed key extension that adds a 32 bit (or 40 bit) key for each feed, and thus creating unique URL for each key.

Example of similar system (the main difference being wide open) is UBC’s Blog Squad, an aggregated blog of students that are studying abroad.