Really Simple?

Ive been recently looking at some of the bigger institution-wide Wordpress and RSS sites, and looking at ways that Wordpress installs may or may not be integrated into other LMS / CMS systems. One seemingly small but significant thing I’m coming to appreciate is the utility of simple overviews when it comes to a ‘blog central’ kind of aggregation page. Maybe I’m just a sucker for sitemaps and other kinds of simplistic visualisations of information architectures that are formed from distributed complex and dynamic data networks, but I think there is something to be said for them. In terms of building research and learning communities and sharing information for the current UNSW project, I think the more accessible the information about various RSS sources, authors, topics etc the better. Not only that, but clear representations of a potentially chaotic MU site architecture might go some way towards convincing certain ’stakeholders’.

MIT’s Open Course Ware has central RSS feed page - simple and effective, although it must be said that its not aggregating Wordpress MU based research blogs. The page lists the topics, departments, courses etc as a list of RSS feeds, and encourages poking around and exploring instead of immediately being drawn into a “recently updated” vortex. The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard has something in between, a slightly clearer central blog aggregation page, but still no clear overview. (One interesting example more generally is the Digital Natives course bring together a Wordpress blog, a course Wiki, a whole bunch of RSS and Web 2.0 widgets for Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, YouTube etc as well as an add for a book of the same name all from the course font page.)

UMW’s central aggregation page looks exactly like any other Wordpress blog. From a design perspective this seems to be a bit of problem here in that there is little to differentiate the aggregation blog from the individual blogs that are feeding it, visually or otherwise. Given the apparent level of activity within the UMW community, a clearer, dare I say it more ’structured’ overview might give a new user a better sense of the scope of the research community. There seems to be a resulting proliferation of aggregate feeds like “New Blogs” “Active Blogs” “Sitewide Updates” “Blog News” and every other imaginable configuration, and yet no simple overview of individual blogs or departments etc? Or at least if it exists, i couldnt easily find it from the front page. Could this be a symptom of Wordpress MU or it might it be an intentional choice?

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