BlogBridge FeedLibrary as EduGlu?

I've been forcing myself to keep thinking about (and rethinking) the concept of EduGlu – a set of tools and/or practices that would more effectively support distributed online publishing while maintaining the sense of group and community needed to make this stuff more meaningful in an educational context. I waver back and forth, between building The One True �berapp To Aggregate Them All, and a more freeform, organic, barebones directory.

I think the lightweight directory is winning. What if EduGlu was nothing more than an organic directory, where people (faculty, students, general public, etc…) are able to create folders and place links to their various locations of their own online publishing. People can create multiple groups/folders for various contexts, and add whatever relevant links they want to in each one. The directory takes care of listing the groups/folders, displaying their contents, and generating OPML containing machine-readable versions of these lists so people can then subscribe to them in their own aggregator(s). Import the OPML into Google Reader. Subscribe to it as a Reading List in BlogBridge. Import it into Bloglines, NetNewsWire, Sage, FeedOnFeeds, etc… Wherever you're happiest. EduGlu isn't about aggregating the ITEMS into one place, it's about individuals sharing their content easily. Which is done more effectively as a directory, rather than an aggregator.

I installed the BlogBridge FeedLibrary application yesterday to start teasing out parts of the idea. It's a pretty nice app (the install process could use some love, but it wasn't hard). It runs nicely on LAMP (or MAMP in my case), and it's free for academic use (not Open Source, but at least it doesn't cost anything for what I need). And it absolutely rocks at doing exactly what I just described.

The idea I'm working on is that a class creates a folder, and interested individuals (prof/teacher, students, others) create subfolders for themselves. Into these subfolders, they add entries for whatever things they publish that are relevant to this class. Could be blogs, Flickr tag(s), del.icio.us tag(s), wiki changes, or anything that they do that generates RSS.�

I'll be playing some more with it, but here's a screenshot of an early stage of the experiment:

The little icons give you access to the RSS for each feed, and to the OPML containing feeds at any level of the directory you are interested in. Just want to subscribe to Dr. Speed's feeds? Grab his OPML. Want the whole class in one shot? Grab the class OPML. Want the entire department/faculty/institution? Sure! Want to just read the items directly on the directory site? BBFL will display the RSS feeds inline, so you don't need an aggregator of your own if you don't want one. Want to archive the activities of a class? Subscribe an aggregator to the class OPML, and save all items that come through. There's your academic archive.

It makes MUCH more sense to put the effort into helping make BlogBridge FeedLibrary a better tool all around, as well as for an academic context, than to build a new tool from scratch. Especially when FeedLibrary is so close to what is needed (there are some workflow issues that may need some work if unleashing it on dozens/hundreds/thousands of students, but nothing that can't be worked out).�

I’ve been forcing myself to keep thinking about (and rethinking) the concept of EduGlu – a set of tools and/or practices that would more effectively support distributed online publishing while maintaining the sense of group and community needed to make this stuff more meaningful in an educational context. I waver back and forth, between building The One True �berapp To Aggregate Them All, and a more freeform, organic, barebones directory.

I think the lightweight directory is winning. What if EduGlu was nothing more than an organic directory, where people (faculty, students, general public, etc…) are able to create folders and place links to their various locations of their own online publishing. People can create multiple groups/folders for various contexts, and add whatever relevant links they want to in each one. The directory takes care of listing the groups/folders, displaying their contents, and generating OPML containing machine-readable versions of these lists so people can then subscribe to them in their own aggregator(s). Import the OPML into Google Reader. Subscribe to it as a Reading List in BlogBridge. Import it into Bloglines, NetNewsWire, Sage, FeedOnFeeds, etc… Wherever you’re happiest. EduGlu isn’t about aggregating the ITEMS into one place, it’s about individuals sharing their content easily. Which is done more effectively as a directory, rather than an aggregator.

I installed the BlogBridge FeedLibrary application yesterday to start teasing out parts of the idea. It’s a pretty nice app (the install process could use some love, but it wasn’t hard). It runs nicely on LAMP (or MAMP in my case), and it’s free for academic use (not Open Source, but at least it doesn’t cost anything for what I need). And it absolutely rocks at doing exactly what I just described.

The idea I’m working on is that a class creates a folder, and interested individuals (prof/teacher, students, others) create subfolders for themselves. Into these subfolders, they add entries for whatever things they publish that are relevant to this class. Could be blogs, Flickr tag(s), del.icio.us tag(s), wiki changes, or anything that they do that generates RSS.�

I’ll be playing some more with it, but here’s a screenshot of an early stage of the experiment:

The little icons give you access to the RSS for each feed, and to the OPML containing feeds at any level of the directory you are interested in. Just want to subscribe to Dr. Speed’s feeds? Grab his OPML. Want the whole class in one shot? Grab the class OPML. Want the entire department/faculty/institution? Sure! Want to just read the items directly on the directory site? BBFL will display the RSS feeds inline, so you don’t need an aggregator of your own if you don’t want one. Want to archive the activities of a class? Subscribe an aggregator to the class OPML, and save all items that come through. There’s your academic archive.

It makes MUCH more sense to put the effort into helping make BlogBridge FeedLibrary a better tool all around, as well as for an academic context, than to build a new tool from scratch. Especially when FeedLibrary is so close to what is needed (there are some workflow issues that may need some work if unleashing it on dozens/hundreds/thousands of students, but nothing that can’t be worked out).�

Rethinking EduGlu

This morning, while riding toward campus on a nicely packed bus, with Arcade Fire cranked up and my notebook open in front of me, I had a thought about EduGlu. I was thinking about something completely unrelated, when it just popped into my head, crystal clear.

The solution to the problem of distributed, decentralized, heterogeneous online publishing tools used by students is not to build a monolithic berapp to aggregate them all. There is no One Ring to bind them all. If the problem is "how do faculty and students keep track of content published by people (students, each other, etc…) that they care about?", the answer is "We already do that. With RSS and feedreeders."

So, what if the concept of EduGlu is unnecessary, and instead of building a new centralized app, a set of tools to manage OPML (or XO, or whatever) lists of feeds published by individuals is refined.

A person just creates a list of their feeds, and adds it to a master list. Other people pay attention either to the entire list, or to subsets or cross-sections of it, subscribing to the OPML and/or RSS feeds listed within.

There are already several very powerful ways to do that, most notably the BlogBridge Feed Library tool, which does almost exactly what I was seeing – nested sets of feeds organized by whatever criteria (course? person? etc…) and available as OPML so people could consume the feeds however they like.

The solution to every problem doesn't have to involve "Hey! Let's design and build some cool new software!" – more often than not, especially in the last year or two, it should be more of "Hey! Let's use these existing apps in new ways!"

This morning, while riding toward campus on a nicely packed bus, with Arcade Fire cranked up and my notebook open in front of me, I had a thought about EduGlu. I was thinking about something completely unrelated, when it just popped into my head, crystal clear.

The solution to the problem of distributed, decentralized, heterogeneous online publishing tools used by students is not to build a monolithic berapp to aggregate them all. There is no One Ring to bind them all. If the problem is "how do faculty and students keep track of content published by people (students, each other, etc…) that they care about?", the answer is "We already do that. With RSS and feedreeders."

So, what if the concept of EduGlu is unnecessary, and instead of building a new centralized app, a set of tools to manage OPML (or XO, or whatever) lists of feeds published by individuals is refined.

A person just creates a list of their feeds, and adds it to a master list. Other people pay attention either to the entire list, or to subsets or cross-sections of it, subscribing to the OPML and/or RSS feeds listed within.

There are already several very powerful ways to do that, most notably the BlogBridge Feed Library tool, which does almost exactly what I was seeing – nested sets of feeds organized by whatever criteria (course? person? etc…) and available as OPML so people could consume the feeds however they like.

The solution to every problem doesn't have to involve "Hey! Let's design and build some cool new software!" – more often than not, especially in the last year or two, it should be more of "Hey! Let's use these existing apps in new ways!"

Blogroll now OPML-Powered

In the latest round of updates to Blogbridge, they added support for hosting groups of feeds as OPML files. They also just added a service that renders every OPML file as a javascript, ala Feed2JS. So, you can easily embed any group of feeds from your copy of Blogbridge, into any web page, by putting in a simple javascript element. This is a pretty cool set of features. Yet another reason why I love Blogbridge 🙂

I’ve just revamped my Links section to take advantage of these features. Every time I synchronize my subscriptions to the Blogbridge server (which is something like every week) the blogroll gets updated. As opposed to the previous blue-moonly updates.

Added bonus? Each section of my blogroll is available as OPML, for easy peasy importing into whatever RSS reader I’m trying today.

In the latest round of updates to Blogbridge, they added support for hosting groups of feeds as OPML files. They also just added a service that renders every OPML file as a javascript, ala Feed2JS. So, you can easily embed any group of feeds from your copy of Blogbridge, into any web page, by putting in a simple javascript element. This is a pretty cool set of features. Yet another reason why I love Blogbridge 🙂

I’ve just revamped my Links section to take advantage of these features. Every time I synchronize my subscriptions to the Blogbridge server (which is something like every week) the blogroll gets updated. As opposed to the previous blue-moonly updates.

Added bonus? Each section of my blogroll is available as OPML, for easy peasy importing into whatever RSS reader I’m trying today.

My Edublogs Reading List (now with OPML)

I just updated my copy of Blogbridge to the latest weekly (2.12) and in this version they threw the switch on OPML publishing of folders/guides of feeds. I took a couple of minutes to gather my education-related subscriptions into one guide, and tried publishing it as OPML.

D’Arcy’s Wild and Wacky Edublogs Reading List

It contains 102115 feeds of edubloggy goodness. There are some stale feeds that I just can’t bring myself to delete (you know, in case they ever post something). If you’re using an aggregator that groks live OPML feeds, just subscribe to the URL. If you’re using anything else, you may need to download the OPML and manually import it.

No guarantees that I’ll keep the list up to date, but it’s easy enough to do that it shouldn’t be a problem (unlike the iPodder.org educational directory, which is a tedious pain in the ass to maintain – which is why I’ve neglected it for months)

I just updated my copy of Blogbridge to the latest weekly (2.12) and in this version they threw the switch on OPML publishing of folders/guides of feeds. I took a couple of minutes to gather my education-related subscriptions into one guide, and tried publishing it as OPML.

D’Arcy’s Wild and Wacky Edublogs Reading List

It contains 102115 feeds of edubloggy goodness. There are some stale feeds that I just can’t bring myself to delete (you know, in case they ever post something). If you’re using an aggregator that groks live OPML feeds, just subscribe to the URL. If you’re using anything else, you may need to download the OPML and manually import it.

No guarantees that I’ll keep the list up to date, but it’s easy enough to do that it shouldn’t be a problem (unlike the iPodder.org educational directory, which is a tedious pain in the ass to maintain – which is why I’ve neglected it for months)