RSS in, RSS out. Experimenting with WordPress for scholarly publishing

My presentation for the RSP event: Doing it differently. No slides, just a live demo using the outline below.

1. WordPress is an excellent feed generator:

http://joss.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2009/04/15/addicted-to-feeds/

2. It's also an excellent, personal, scholarly CMS

http://joss.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2009/08/25/scholarly-publishing-with-wordpress/

3. If you have an RSS feed, you can create other document types, too

http://joss.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2010/01/04/creating-a-pdf-or-ebook-from-an-rss-feed/

4. We conceived a WordPress site as a document (and a WordPress
Multisite install as a personal/team/dept/institutional multi-document
authoring environment)

http://jiscpress.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk
http://jiscpress.org

5. Here's my MA Dissertation as a WordPress site using digress.it

http://tait.josswinn.org/

6. WordPress allows you to perform certain actions on feeds, such as
reversing the post/section order

http://tait.josswinn.org/feed/?orderby=post_date&order=ASC

7. EPrints allows you to 'capture' data from a URI

http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/2004/

8. Suck it into your feed reader, for storage/reading - it's searchable
there, too.

https://www.google.com/reader/view/feed/http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/2004/2/index.html%253Forderby%253Dpost_date%2526order%253DASC

9. And use another service to create an ebook or PDF version

http://www.feedbooks.com/news

10. RSS. Loosely joined services:

Author: WordPress -->
                   Preserve: EPrints -->
                                        Read: GReader
                                              Feedbooks
                                              etc...

11. p.s. How about using EPrints to drive a WordPress site, too? Why extend a perfectly good preservation and storage application to include web 2.0 features, when it can be used to populate a cutting edge CMS with repo data?

Displaying a dynamic publications list from a repository on a staff profile page

I repeat this to people all the time. If I write it down here, then I only have to share a link ;-)

RSS feeds are a very popular way of syndicating content from one source website to another subscribing website.

Some university websites, such as the Institutional Repository or University blogs, produce RSS feeds but not all university websites can easily subscribe to them. However, by using ‘feed2js’, any website can display a syndicated news feed in just a few steps. This way, you can embed your blog or publication list in Blackboard or on your personal web profile, for example.

Creating a publications list from the repository

We use EPrints as our Institutional Repository. EPrints provides news feeds (RSS, RSS2, Atom) for every search query. Therefore you can create a news feed of publications by Faculty, School, Department, Research Team or Staff member. Having created the news feed, you can then display that list of publications on any web page of your choice.

An example staff profile using Feed2JS

Click on the image to see a real example

The advantage of this is that every time you deposit something new in the repository, the list will automatically update on your chosen web page. You never need to edit your publications list again.

Steps to embedding your feed

Create your publications list. Use the Advanced Search page to construct your publications list. If you want a personal publications list, simply search for your name. If you have a common name, your search may return publications that belong to someone else. In that case, you should keyword all your repository items with a unique ‘key’, such as ‘q73g’. You can then search for that keyword and your name and only your items will be returned by the search.

Search results

Copy your feed URL. Typically, you need to right-click on the orange RSS 2.0 icon on the search results page and copy the link.

Go to http://feed2js.org/index.php?s=build and paste your link into the URL box. If you are a member of the University of Lincoln, contact me for a better link, hosted at the university.


From this point on, you can click the ‘Preview Feed’ button at any time to see what your feed will look like. Read the listed options carefully. They allow you to choose whether you wish to display the title of the feed; whether you wish to show the full content of the feed or just the titles; whether you wish to show images or video content in the feed (if there is any in the original source), etc. Experiment by previewing the feed to see what looks best for you.

Previewing a feed

Previewing a feed

When you are happy with your feed, click the ‘Generate Javascript’ button. Copy everything inside the Get Your Code Here box. Note how the box scrolls. Copy it all!

Example generated javascript

Example generated javascript

Paste the javascript into the appropriate place in your website’s HTML code. Save your web page and examine your work. The embedded feed should fit in well with your existing web site design and use the colour scheme you have chosen for your site. If you wish to make the publications list stand out from your web page, you should read the page about dressing up your output.

There is no more you need to do. The feed will automatically update every hour or so with any new content from the source website.

Feeding WordPress with EPrints: A Social Repo?

I’ve just knocked up a ‘Social Repo‘ site and would be keen to get some feedback on the general idea.

It’s a WordPress site in microblog mode driven by feeds from our repo via the FeedWordPress plugin. Just an experiment in automating something similar to our Post2Blog plugin.

As a way of making EPrints content more ‘social’, I thought that specific subject feeds from different IRs could be aggregated into a single subject site where interested people could follow and comment on the research outputs.

I’m a fan of aaaargh.org which is a site where people share hard-to-obtain texts, mostly academic level material and largely related to critical, social theory. There’s a discussion board attached to it, too. No-one really controls it and it’s a great way of finding hard to obtain texts :-)

Along loosely similar lines, I was thinking earlier that IRs could aggregate their feeds into a site, like my example, that provided a way to search, filter and discuss the source research outputs. If there was a site that aggregated feeds from IRs around the world, pulling in only content relating to critical, social theory, for example, had a twitter account attached, too, as well as useful RSS feeds of its own, I’d be keen to follow it and contribute to the discussion of work as it appeared and looked of interest.

I can imagine that some texts could spark quite detailed threaded discussions.

One way to improve my quick example would be to show the EPrints abstract in the post content below the citation. Alas, that’s not in the source EPrints feed right now. I would also make a few tweaks to the theme so that the permalinks didn’t all point to the source record, but that the source link was clearly provided.

The plugin that we created for the JISCPress project could provide a background service to create semantic tags and do term extraction on the abstract, to automate keywords for each item. Crikey! we could even use the other Linked Data plugin we developed and push the RDF to the Talis Platform, aggregating Linked Data around subject feeds from Institutional Repositories.

I’m sure I can think of more improvements, but as a 30 min exercise, I’ve found it interesting. I think that once a Repo record becomes joined to a WordPress record, it’s got a lot more going for it in terms of added levels of interaction and malleability. Any thoughts?

Facebook to the repository via SWORD

A post to note that I have successfully deposited a document into our institutional repository from my Facebook account using the Facebook SWORD app, written by Stuart Lewis

There’s a few things worth mentioning: It’s a 3.1.1 EPrints IR, hosted at our university and maintained by EPrints Services. EPrints has supported SWORD since v3.1. Originally, the FB app didn’t work for the following reasons:

  • The ‘Depositing on behalf of’ field has to be left empty. I was told by Seb at EPrints Services that this is ‘disabled by default’.
  • The repository URL needs to point at the ‘service document’, not the base URL of the IR. For us, that is http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/sword-app/servicedocument
  • We use LDAP for authentication and the IR configuration needed to be tweaked to account for this when depositing via SWORD.
Once we’d overcome these issues, my ‘test.txt’ doc was successfully deposited from my desktop to the University of Lincoln IR via Facebook:
…with a few caveats:
  • The app announced ‘Item Deposited!’ and gave a URL which resulted in a 404 dead link http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/sword-app/collections/1738/deposit. I don’t know why. I thought it was because I wasn’t logged in to the IR, but even after logging in, the link was dead.
  • The app (maybe it’s defined in the SWORD spec, I haven’t checked), zipped up my metadata and document, which resulted in depositing two items: My test.txt document and the original zip file were both showing in my item list. This could be because of the way our IR is configured to unpack zip folders. I don’t know.

  • The metadata mapping was partially successful. The referreed status didn’t map across at all and the URL reference I gave mapped to the ‘Identification number’ field in EPrints, rather than the ‘Related URLs’ field, which was what I was expecting. Maybe the SWORD app field could be renamed ‘Identification URL/DOI’ or similar? The title, abstract and my name were correctly mapped. It’s a shame that my email address wasn’t autocompleted as it would be if I were depositing through the normal EPrints workflow. 
Despite these issues, it’s good to see this working in principle and I imagine that the above could be rectified quite easily. Perhaps someone can offer their solutions here?

As Stuart notes on his blog, the main value in this kind of app is the ability to broadcast to your Facebook friends that you’ve just deposited something in an IR. My main gripe, however, would be that it doesn’t make the deposit process any easier, which is what interests me about the SWORD protocol. Working this way…

  • I have to use two applications to make my document public, the benefit being that other people are told about what I’ve just done. 
  • The EPrints URL that the app points to, even if it was working, points to a non-public space, so my friends don’t have a direct link to the document from within Facebook. 
  • The metadata fields in the present version of the app, are not configurable which means that I have to add more metadata through the EPrints interface. 
  • Finally, it does seem odd to upload a document from my desktop to Facebook only to send it to another application and finish off the process of deposit there. It would be more useful, if I could deposit files that I already hold in Facebook. I don’t use Facebook enough to really know if there are apps that allow you to create documents within Facebook, but if there were, then perhaps Facebook could be used as a (collaborative?) working space and the SWORD app used to deposit final versions to an IR.

EPrints Session and OR08 Reflections

Back in the office, following a week away at the Open Repositories conference.

The last couple of days were spent in EPrints sessions, as that is the repository software we use here at Lincoln. I found the first session most interesting as the new features in EPrints 3.1 were discussed. The linked page explains in detail the changes in v3.1, but in summary they provide much more control for repository managers through a web interface, rather than editing config files directly. Les’ slides give a nice overview.

The following session on EPrints and the RAE generally reflected the experience we’ve had using EPrints 2 for the RAE last year.

A session on repository analytics was a very useful overview of using Google Analytics, AWStats and IRStats to measure the various uses of an EPrints repository. Very useful, in particular IRStats which has been developed at Southampton for EPrints. I look forward to installing it.

The final sessions were mainly aimed at developers with a knowledge of Perl. I found the session on how to write plugins for EPrints 3 clear and interesting, but not especially useful as I don’t understand Perl. Still, it was obvious, even to me, that with a basic knowledge of programming, plugins could be written quite easily. I think it’s important for repository managers to immerse themselves in the technicalities of repository development even if they don’t understand much of the detail. Just by sharing ideas and questions with developers, you get a better understanding of what is involved in rolling out new features and a sense of what can be achieved within given resources.

On the whole, the conference leaned towards the technical rather than the strategic and managerial aspects of institutional repositories. There were a lot of developers present and the number of technical projects discussed seemed high. Personally, I appreciated this and came away with a good sense of where the development of repositories is going. It would have been good to have had an event which explicitly aimed at bringing both developers and repository staff together.

Finally, I do wonder whether the open access repository community would benefit from engaging with developments in Enterprise Content Management, as there is a great deal of overlap, having to face similar issues around workflow, IPR and technical standards. Perhaps there are universities evaluating the open source Alfresco ECMS as a repository platform. If so, I’d like to hear about them.

Next year, the conference is in Atlanta, USA.