Bebop. A BuddyPress plugin for curating personal collections of (teaching) resources

We finished our JISC-funded Bebop project today. One of the main outcomes is a BuddyPress plugin that allows a user to import content they’ve uploaded on other sites, such as Flickr, Vime, YouTube and any site with an RSS feed, into their BuddyPress activity stream. What’s especially nice, is that the user can select which content appears in their activity stream, so it effectively allows them to curate collections of shared resources as part of their profile. There’s a good reason for this, and you can read all about it over on the project blog.

BuddyPress, Bebop and building the staff directory

The Bebop plugin and documentation

p.s. this was a nice outcome of the project, too: The benefits of code review

WordPress, caching and RAM usage

A brief technical post. In the past week, I’ve offered this advice to a couple of people, so I thought I might as well write it down here, once and for all.

In running WriteToReply, JISCPress and blogs.lincoln, I’ve learned a bit about optimising WordPress’ use of RAM. Basically, the steps I use are:

  1. wp-super-cache for file caching
  2. eaccelerator (or xcache – don’t use APC, it doesn’t work with wp-super-cache) for PHP caching
  3. MySQL usually comes with a number of sample config files (in /usr/share/mysql/) for small, medium, large and huge servers. Try the medium config file and see how you get on. Compare the variables in each file to understand how you can tweak my.cnf. Also, try tune mysql, though this might recommend more resource for optimal performance.

For your comparison, WriteToReply runs on a minimal Ubuntu VPS with 1.5GB RAM and hosts a small Mediawiki site and a WordPress network  of 34 live sites. I know from experience that reducing RAM to just 1GB will cause the server to freeze within a matter of hours as it runs out of memory.

Got any tips? I’d love to hear about them. Thanks.

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?

WordPress: Beyond Blogging session at IWMW10

Together with our Web Manager, Chris Goddard, I ran a session on the use of WordPress in HE at the Institutional Web Management Workshop 2010. It was good to see all chairs taken and people seemed to get something out of it. It was useful for me, too, to find out about how WordPress is being used at other universities. A video interview followed.

WordPress beyond blogging from UKOLN on Vimeo.

WordPress: Beyond Blogging!!

These are slides to accompany an eight minute ‘Lightning Talk’ for the dev8D conference in London, 24-27th February 2010. Each slide is a link to a blog post I have written on ways to use WordPress and WordPress Multi User, that are not about blogging.

Brief notes are available from slide 12 onwards.

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?

OPACPress: Our Talis Incubator proposal

Yesterday, I submitted a proposal to Talis under their Incubator fund. If successful, I would have the pleasure of working with Paul Stainthorp, E-Resources Librarian at the University of Lincoln, and Casey Bisson, ¬†Information Architect at Plymouth State University. The bid is to develop an idea which I’ve posted about¬†before, based on Casey’s work on Scriblio and our adventures with WordPress MU, in particular, JISCPress.

Anyway, rather than re-iterating the bid here. You can read it in full by clicking here.

Comments are very welcome. Thanks.

UPDATE: We made it into the second round of judging but were unsuccessful in the end. Here’s the useful and fair feedback we received.

  • like the idea and how, like the Moodle repository, it can help open up existing content through data sharing. The same question as for others remains of how and why institutions would subscribe to the service.
  • I like this but I think it significantly underestimates the IP issues around library catalogue records which has been a major stumbling block for other activities in this area. That said, I think it is worth taking forward at this stage. The team looks very strong.
  • Ambitious in scope and technology, but /feels/ right for the innovative approach of this fund.
  • “Imagine that a significant number of UK universities and colleges… chose to make use of such a platform.” This type of language frightens me, indicating that they have no partnerships established, where other proposals already do. The point on issues with catalog records (above) should not be overlooked.
  • The use cases won me over. Not without risks ( as they say) and some major challenges
  • this one strikes me as particularly promising, because it has such strong ties to UK institutions and could connect to things Talis does

Spinning a different kind of WPMU platform with JISCPress

We finished JISCPress. If you’re interested, I’ve written a long overview of the work we’ve done with WPMU as a document discussion platform, based on WriteToReply. You’ll see that the project has, among other things, produced three plugins: digress.it, and two Linked Data plugins that run as background services across the platform, create relationships between documents and document sections and post RDF to the Talis Data Store. Fancy!