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Exploring UMW’s Online Presence, part 2: How it works

The starting point for all the data going into the datastore for the Exhibits is the feeds that the blogs produce. This has advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that I’ve punted the problem of interoperability with new web tools. We edupunks are constantly discovering and incorporating new tools for expressing UMW’s intellectual products. To try to directly interoperate with each new thing that comes along would be impossible. But I can fairly safely count on being able to get a feed out of most any new thing that comes along. The disadvantage is the relative weak expressiveness of feeds. There’s a good amount of information that gets obscured in the feeds. I decided to just work around that as best I can.

The starting point is the information from umwblogs.org just because that’s where the majority of a action is. UMWBlogs produces a feed of all the new posts. I’m looking at that feed just to find the newest posts. Then, using a tool for feed reading called Simple Pie, I’m finding the feeds for the blog of those posts. That lets me move through all the newest posts and discover all the other posts listed within that blog’s feed (though right now there are hiccups for some feeds).

Then I’m looking through the information in the feed to gather as much information as I can. I’m grabbing information about publication and modification time, links, authors, tags, images, and embedded media, among some other things. That all gets dumped into a big ol’ datastore using a tool called ARC.

The Exhibits that make the actual display of information are produced with some relatively straightforward work with Exhibit from MIT’s SIMILE project.

And ta-daa! That’s all there is.

Well, there’s a little more to it, technically speaking. Posts about that will be coming along at my other blog.

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