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WordPress Social Network Aggregation

I really like the idea of a Tumblog – and even have one on Tumblr.com – but I don’t promote it anywhere. Conceptually it’s great – but I don’t like not having control over my content.

What I would really like is to have a site that I can design and control entirely… I also want to be able to automate everything. Automation is brilliant – I use it wherever possible. My goal is to pull the content in from all my different social networks, blogs, and websites and then share it in a single location.

I already have a personal site on my name domain – bengillbanks.co.uk – and this is where I see the new site living.

Social Network Aggregation

WPReader

Recently I noticed a website called WPReader was tweeting my articles. When I checked out the website I saw that it was a bookmarking site that collates posts from prominent WordPress sites and posts (and tweets) the links. I could see it was done automatically, and it was clearly a WordPress site, so I contacted the author of the site and got talking to him.

Anton turned out to be a really helpful developer who also lives in the South of England (clearly the best place to live! :)). We had a little chat and he sent me some code showing how WPReader worked. The code was a standalone script and I wanted to create something that worked as a plugin that could be used in themes – so I developed a very quick prototype.

Content Aggregation

So, what I have done is created a really simple WordPress plugin that lets me add some websites to aggregate content from and then sit back and watch my site update.

What the plugin does is use custom WordPress post types to store the sites that are to be aggregated from. I then make use of the WordPress cron to update the site once an hour – creating a new post each time new content is found in the feed. To ease load on my server I don’t check all the websites all the time – most sites don’t update hourly anyway.

To improve things further I added hooks so that other themes and plugins can sit on top of the aggregation plugin. I also added things I called modifiers. These modify the website content differently for each website. For instance I have a Youtube modifier – and this converts the post format to Video so that, if you have a theme that supports custom post formats the post will be displayed as a video. I’m going to be creating a set of default modifiers for popular sites, and can extend them inside themes as well.

Content Aggregation in Action

To test I have added support for the content aggregation plugin to the Nominate WordPress theme. I then set the plugin up on WPVote.com so that new content can be posted automatically from a group of websites I select.

I have been running the plugin on WPVote.com for a couple of weeks now and it’s been working really well. I see a few things I’d like to add to improve it – content filters being a big addition (to make things more relevant) but overall I’m really pleased with how it’s looking.

Next up I want to get back to my social aggregation theme for bengillbanks.co.uk. I have a design mocked up and am now putting it together – hopefully it will be live in the next week or two.

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6 Comments »

  1. Very cool,

    I’m obsessed with automation as well. I’m working on a similar setup that checks my Google Reader accounts hourly using WP Cron for new starred items. Items are posted here:

    http://www.kevinleary.net/curated/

    From there, a custom page template is used to generate an RSS feed template which is then imported into a Mailchimp RSS to Email campaign:

    http://www.kevinleary.net/curated-rss-feed/

    What’s the end result?

    I sit in bed each night and favorite (or “star”) the best articles I find in Google Reader. They’re curated automatically to my website, and emailed out to people every Tuesday at 10AM.

    I’ve been thinking of adding a vote up/down setup like Digg or Reddit, much like the nominate theme, to get a better understanding of what people like. If you’re interested in collaborating on a curation plugin let me know. It’s not quite finalized yet, but I could always publish it and provide you SVN access… Your a trustworthy guy, right?

    • Hey Kevin – thanks for the comment. Your script sounds really interesting, do you have many people signed up to your newsletter?

      I’d be interested in seeing how your script works for sure and would certainly consider collaborating :)

      Thinking about it I could already use my own plugin to pull in the starred feed reader items so the only bit I am missing is the rss feed – I like the idea of adding that to my own plugin as well but I’m not sure how it would be used. I guess as well as the newsletter idea it could be used for queuing up Tweets on Twitter and other social sharing sites.

      I hope I’m trustworthy! :)

      • Hey Ben,

        Not many, about 50 or so, but I haven’t done any real promotion other than a few mentions on Twitter. I’ve published the current state of the project to Github:

        https://github.com/Kevinlearynet/WordPress-Curated-Content

        I’ve been exploring ways to integrate with other services for easy curation of articles around the web that aren’t in an RSS feed. Evernote, Pocket or Instapaper may work well.

        Google Reader used to have a featured called Send to Reader that would have been perfect, but sadly they discontinued it.

        I’m not sure that this is ready for the WordPress repo yet due to the amount of theme customization needed to get it going. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on whether this should be a plugin, or a theme?

        Either way, Github seems an appropriate place for it to live for now.

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