A little article in English for once as it is more openly addressed to the WordPress community as a whole, and not restricted to the usual little French gettho 😉
Two sides of the same coin
Bloggers are, before all, blog readers. When you have a blog, you generally spend a lot of time reading others’ blogs. Blogs of friends, of interesting topics, of your commentators, …
In most of the situations, you use a software to maintain your blog (WordPress, DotClear, TypePad, …), and so PUBLISH. And you use another software (primarily your web browser but sometimes some specialized RSS feed aggregator) to READ other blogs.
If feels like a millennium ago, the first blogging software I used, called Radio, from Dave Winer’s Userland Software, was a blogging tool with a built in RSS feed aggregator (Dave Winer is actually one of the creator of RSS).
Much more closely, one of Twitter’s key feature, is the easy way you can aggregate twitter feeds with the built in Follow feature.
The closeness of the read / write action in blogosphere using Radio, or in micro-blogosphere using Twitter, makes it easy and natural to re-tweet, or re-blog, contributions made by the people you read.
This is why it always felt normal to me that your blogging software ought to be the tool you used to read blogs too.
That is what I’ll try to do with WordPress : adding to WordPress an RSS feed aggregator.
RSS Parteibush Aggregator is based on the now seems to be discontinued BDP RSS Aggregator. It’s a pretty powerfull plugin that will read all the RSS feeds that you tell him to. It creates many tables in your MySQL database: some to store your feeds, others to store the fetched articles, and others to build an index that will help you search the articles. You can group feeds into categories.
To display the aggregated articles, all you need to do is chose one of your page, and Parteibush Aggretator will show the articles at the bottom of it. You have access to the templates and CSS, if you don’t like the display.
Parteibush Aggretator works better with cron, bug can also work without.
As of this writting, it does bug with WP 3.0+, but all you need to fix it is copy a few lines of code written on comment 85 of the page. That is all you need to do to fix it, and it only takes a few seconds. Most of that page is written in German, which I don’t speak at all. Thankfully, it’s not that difficult to decipher once you know what the plugin does, and the most important comment are in English.
SmartRSS is another discontinued WP plugin. Darwin struck again. You can find some French translated enhancement of that plugin, but it only works with older version of WordPress.
Unlike our preceding plugin, FeedWordPress syndicates articles from as many RSS / Atom sources as you want, and turn them into articles of your blog. No creation of numerous tables in your MySQL database. FeedWordPress stores its data in the existing wp_options, and puts all articles it reads from the RSS feeds you’ve chosen into the wp_posts table.
FeedWordPress works very well and has a lot of options. It can rely on cron to fetch updates but can also work without cron or any shell access. It gets the categories of syndicated articles and create them locally if you wish. You can also set FeedWordPress so that it will only import an article, if it is associated with an existing local category. FeedWordPress also adds a lot of metadata to each imported article, so you can remember its original source, url, …
One of the issue you will quickly encounter using FeedWordPress, is to differentiate articles syndicated from outer sources, from your own articles. You have two ways to deal with that task: fiddle with you template files 😥 , or install that companion plugin called Add Attribution :-). As I could not find Add Attribution in the official WP plugin directory, I had to download and upload the files manually to my /wp-content/plugins/ folder. Add Attribution is very simple. It gives you the possibility to add content before or after the title / content / excerpt of imported articles. (It’s at the bottom of the Posts & Links settings page, for those like me who had trouble finding what Add Attribution had actually added to WP’s admin pages).
Two things I have yet to learn how to do with FeedWordPress is to forbid imported articles to show up in my blog’s home page, and to create a special aggregated articles page that only shows imported articles. If anybody has any clue …
WP-o-Matic is another very good RSS Aggregator plugin. Like FeedWordPress, it turns into articles the items it fetches. It does not need another plugin to add HTML to the content it imports:
PS: now I wonder if all of this is really of any use, now that Twitter has almost killed RSS. I wonder how many of us that used to spend their free time on their news aggregator, now simply read the tweets of the people they follow on Twitter.