Whilst on a recent holiday to Verona I had the pleasure of snatching a few hours of chat over a drink in the sunshine with Jim Groom, during which he relentlessly argued the case for more use of the WordPress API for syndication and aggregation. I sat down with him loving RSS and FeedWordPress and by the time I stood up, I was converted. Only one glass of wine required.
I’d read his recent blog post about his visit to VCU, and I’ve been following information about the HAX work at Penn State via Twitter and various Apereo colleagues. It all sounded pretty cool, but not something I needed to do more than keep a watching brief on. However, we were chatting about how we’ve woven blogging into our new institutional Web Strategy at Edinburgh* and it all started clicking.
I’d been wondering how we could get a better blend of blogs and institutional website. How could we mash WP and Drupal together in ways that were harmonious and a bit more sophisticated than a link to a blog on an ed.ac.uk domain? Also how could we create institutional blogs but still give people the freedom to have their own personal domains as well? I was planning to rely on FeedWordPress for a lot of this, but as Jim rightly pointed out, there’s quite a bit of setup required, and it doesn’t always run smoothly. We need to be doing better in this space and making it easier.
The more more I started to think, the more I realised we’re also not that far away from what’s required already. We use Drupal to run our institutional website and already have the ‘headless’ concept in place – we use Drupal to edit, but for a few years now we’ve been outputting static HTML copy which takes the strain and allows us to keep the site up even whilst we’re doing Drupal updates.
Jim was explaining how this model could extend to being able to publish from an institutional blog into the institutional website, or even push to your own personal archive too. That would work well for someone like me – I have chosen to blog on my own site so I can be a potty mouth and intersperse reasonably worthwhile content with total idiocy, personal vanity, and whimsy – but if could blog on a University domain for some of the time, and syndicate a copy into my personal site too, I’d jump in a heartbeat (though I think I’d actually want the copy that goes into my archive to be a full-fat WP post, not static HTML as I want to be able to work with it ongoing).
So now I’m thinking that I (well, not me, people who know how to code proper and stuff) want to build a couple of plugins:
(1) For WP that allow users to push copies of posts to another WP site of their choosing.
(2) For WP that allows a push to the institutional website – maybe into Drupal, maybe as static HTML – work will always still be required to put navigation links in from other Drupal content items (I thought about a pull from Drupal instead, but I think that kind of violates all sorts of ideas about the privacy and ownership of blogging spaces).
It would need some security model to be built into it too – but that should be do-able. I suspect there will always be some end-user config required, but maybe it can be as simple as a url and username/password or some other security token?
On that basis, some links that look useful. At some point I’ll also expand out a couple of use cases in more detail once I’ve thought about it a bit more.
I’d be very grateful if anyone has done this already btw! Please let me know…
* Our web team have a great blog where you can follow lots of the excellent work they do.
(Sun mosaic at Castelvecchio, Verona. Photo by me, no rights reserved.)