Blog aggregation state of the art

I’ve been wanting to recreate the Austin Bloggers magic, and just found a tool to do it.
Back in the day, I was part of an Austin Bloggers group that set up the Austin Bloggers blog aggregator. The site is still going strong is a fun way to check in on Austin-related people and things. The cool thing about the site is that it aggregates only blog posts that people make about Austin. Your blog can be about a variety of topics, but only the posts about Austin will be aggregated. Blogs need to register to be automatically posted. Otherwise, posts are moderated. Registration and moderation is needed to prevent spam.
I really love this model. It pulls together an interesting site, out of the independent actions of decentralized bloggers. By linking to each of the bloggers, it gives credit and traffic to the individual blog. By aggregating posts in a category, it pulls together a coherent site, without forcing the participants to change their writing, and requires minimal editorial effort.
For various reasons, we built the site using TrackBack to aggregate the posts. Lead developer is Chip Rosenthal. The tool is open source, but wasn’t really packaged to make it easier to use for other purposes. And if the site was put together today, RSS would be a reasonable choice.
Easy Automated Aggregation
I’ve been looking for tools that do similar aggregation, in a packaged and reusable way, since then. I’ve recently found it. FeedWordPress is a WordPress plugin that aggregates posts from multiple sites via RSS. It can be set up to pull posts by category/tag, and to link to the authors’ blogs. It’s easy to install and works as described. The bit that is missing is a tool for bloggers to register themselves. Currently, the editor needs to add the urls of the blogs manually.
Calendar Aggregation
Calendar aggregation is a piece of the puzzle that isn’t quite there yet. It would be really cool to be able to aggregate calendar events from decentralized sites. Calendar aggregation today appears to be where blog aggregation was in 2003. Calagator is an open source ruby-based project. developed by and for the tech community in Portland to create a master calendar of tech events. To share an event stream, participants add a url that contains data in any of several popular formats: iCalendar, hCalendar, Upcoming, and MeetUp. The tool with then import new events as they are posted.
Like AustinBloggers, this tool is first being developed for a specific community, for a specific purpose. If the developers wanted, they could make a more re-usable tool. Or, the idea and the code are available for extension.
Why not FriendFeed
I love Friendfeed. Friendfeed is a wonderful tool for building a crowdsourced link blog, with links, posts, tweets, photos, and more. Items are posted to Friendfeed by participants. If nobody posts a link, it doesn’t get aggregated. There a way to filter by topic. And fundamentally, Friendfeed is Friendfeed. You can set up a FriendFeed room about a topic, but you can’t turn that into a destination site with a url and identity of its own.
Aggregation and community
In a world with decentralized organization and creativity, aggregation can be a powerful tool for building useful resources from decentralized contributions. I can see uses in political / civic organizing, local journalism, creative communities and more. With the WordPress plugin, an aggregator site is now a simple install.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *