This project uses the Auto Blog plugin to populate a blog with posts from around your blog network. For example, it can be used to create a "Best of our school" blog where any post on any class blog that is identified as being of sufficient quality is automatically copied into the "Best of our school" blog.
We would strongly recommend reading these notes in full before commencing the project.
Other uses for this project include:
- Setting up a "Science Week" or "Art Week" blog to collect posts from class blogs during the project week;
- Setting up a "World Book Day" blog to collect posts from class blogs on World Book Day;
- Setting up a "School Library" blog to collect book reviews and other posts from class blogs.
What you need:
WPMU Dev’s Auto Blog plugin activated on the blog that you want to use as the blog to display your “Best of our School” posts.
Check Network Admin > Plugins to make sure Auto Blog is included on your list of plugins. If not, send a support request to Creative Blogs to have the plugin installed.
Time required to set up this project: this will probably take up to 2 hours work to set up for a 2 form entry school.
Experience: suitable for Network Admins or teachers who want to extend their blogging skills. Note: if you are not a Network Admin you will require a Network admin to ensure Auto Blog is installed and to create the “Best of” blog to accept all the posts from around your blog network.
Step 1: Create a blog to display your “Best of our School” posts
Go to Network Admin > Sites > Add New Site and fill in the form to create a new blog. You will need the email address of the person who is intended to be the administrator of the site. The web address of the blog must be lowercase and have no spaces: “bestof” would work well.
Note: you will need to create a link to the new blog on the home blog of your network. This might be by adding a button to a slide, a mini feature, or a link on a menu.
Step 2: Agreeing a unique tag
Agreeing a unique tag that all teachers and children will use on their own class blog posts is essential for the project to work. Try “Best Of” as your tag, or choose your own (Blog of the week, stories, poems, any tag you want). Note that tags are case sensitive, so “Best Of”, “best of”, “Bestof”, “bestof” are all treated as separate tags by your blog and the Auto Blog plugin.
For the other projects listed above, your unique tag might be "Science Week", "World Book Day", "Book Review"
Once you have agreed the tag make sure that it is shared with everyone who needs to use it (create a poster?).
Step 3: Configuring the Auto Blog plugin
The key to this project is adding the “feed” from each of your separate class blogs into the Auto Blog plugin on the blog that is collecting the posts. Then, filtering each feed in order to only pull in blogposts with the agreed specific tag (see Step 2, above). So, if you have seven classes you will have to add seven separate feeds into Auto Blog as each class blog has its own unique feed (this is not as onerous as it sounds).
Note: you are not limited to blogs from your own school so if working in a cluster you can add feeds from any participating class.
However, you don’t want to import every single post from each class blog, only those posts that the teacher has identified as being worthy of inclusion on the “Best of” blog. These blog posts are identified by the use of a unique tag which every teacher and child must use to identify the best posts.
Once the blog has been created (in Step 1, above) you will need to visit the dashboard of the new blog by going to Network Admin > Sites > All Sites and clicking “dashboard” underneath your newly created blog.
a) From the Best of Blog’s menu, click on Auto Blog > All Feeds then Add New
b) Now for each class blog in turn fill in the feed form
- Feed title: include the class name in the title, e.g. “Best from 5L”
- Feed URL: this is the address of the RSS feed for your class blog. You must include the http:// then add the blog address of the class, finally add /feed to the end of the URL. So the feed for class 5L might look like http://5l2015.creativeblogs.net/feed or http://creativeblogs.net/5l2015/feed depending on whether you site uses sub domains or sub directories as its structure.
- For Author Details,set as “use feed author”
- Ignore Taxonomies and leave as set.
- For Post Filtering ignore all the boxes except for the last one, “Any of these tags” and then add the chosen tag and plausible alternatives e.g. Best Of, best of, Bestof, bestof (note, no quotation marks). The plausible alternatives are important as this will hopefully collect posts where the tag has not been typed correctly.
- Ignore Post Excerpts and leave as set.
- For Feed Processing set to “Every Day”, or more frequently. Important note: if you set this to happen too frequently it will impact the performance of your site - if you have 14 class feeds in Auto Blog being checked every 5 minutes then your site will slow down. We wouldn’t recommend this being set to any more frequent than hourly at most.
- Save the feed
c) Repeat this process for every class blog that you wish to import posts from. Important note: hover under your original feed that you first added and click “Clone”. This will clone the settings for the next class blog and all you have to do is change the feed URL.
Step 4: Auto Blog Add Ons
Auto Blog has a number of add ons that add useful functionality. For this particular project I would recommend activating the following add ons:
- Image Import
- Replace Author Information
- Use External Permalinks
To activate these add-ons go to Auto Blog > Add Ons and activate the selected add-ons.
Step 5: Testing
To check all is working as it should, go to one of the class blogs who’s feed you have added to Auto Blog. Select a blog post and edit it. Add the tag Best Of (or whatever tag you have chosen) and save.
Now go back to your “Best of” blog and go to Auto Blog > All Feeds. Hover over the feed for the class where you edited the post and click “process”. This runs the Auto Blog feed routine there and then and assuming everything is correct, you will see your imported post in your blog.
If it didn’t work, check the Auto Blog Dashboard which displays all processed feeds and may give you an indication of where any error lies.
The most likely source of issues will be:
- Incorrect feed URL (see step 3, b, 2 above)
- Incorrect tags set in the tag filter or on the post.
Use Auto Blog to collect stories or poems into a single blog;
Use the YouTube Auto Blog add on to import your YouTube channel into a blog, thus avoiding the need to visit YouTube;
Create a Book Review blog and put a book review form on every class blog using Gravity Forms. Import all the resulting blog posts into the Book Review Blog (see tutorials on Gravity Forms).
To read more detailed notes, visit the Auto Blog plugin page on WPMU Dev and click "Usage": https://premium.wpmudev.org/project/autoblog/
Limitations of Auto Blog
Auto Blog in its current form has two major limitations on its use in schools.
- It does not import the original tags used on the imported blog posts. This is a nuisance for things like book reviews where you would want to tag by author, genre etc. There is no option but to use "Quick Edit" from Posts > All Posts and manually add tags to the imported posts.
- It does not import any embedded content. For security reasons Auto Blog will not allow the import of embed codes so any content such as video, Padlets, prezis etc will be stripped from any imported posts.