For several years I’ve had some kind of ‘early modern news’ page on this site (recently moved to EMR), grabbing RSS feeds from relevant blogs/resources by using a built-in WordPress function or a plugin. Meanwhile, I have a long list of early modern-related blogs in my feed reader on my computer. Recently I started wondering about the possibility of doing something a bit more interesting with all those feeds.
And then I got slightly carried away. Early Modern Commons is the result. I can’t help feeling ‘aggregator’ is a slightly grand term for it, but what the hell, I’m gonna use it anyway. It is much more than just a blogroll: it enables you to see at a glance the latest activity on blogs that may interest you, which are tagged by topic areas. It currently contains around 80 blogs, and I’ll be adding more. (And hopefully readers will help by submitting blogs I’ve missed and don’t know about.)
This may well be a slightly insane and doomed endeavour. As we all know, blogs appear all the time, shift in focus, move around, go dormant and sometimes die. I may find that it’s impossible to keep up so that the site is full of useless, out-dated information. But I want to give it a try. The early modern blogosphere is much bigger and more disparate than it used to be, and it seems to me that this can provide a useful hub for early modernists from different fields, both within and beyond academia.
I should note that, although some very basic quality control will be applied (for relevance and factualness), it’s not a “showcase”. Readers will have to evaluate the quality of blogs for themselves. Also, I haven’t included much of the content of the blogs themselves – it’s confined to the titles of recent posts. I want to send readers to blogs, not pinch their material to boost my own site traffic!
I’ve included links to all the blogs’ feeds as well as to the blogs themselves, so that readers can easily add them to their own feed readers. (At some point I’d like to include links to related Twitter feeds, but that’s a manual job that will need a bit of spare time.)
There are various tools that can be used for this kind of aggregator, such as Planet, and I was tempted to try them out (new toys!) but decided to stick with WordPress, at least for now, as it’s what I know well and it’s more convenient for backend administration (as I’m running WP Multi-site anyway). I’m using a slightly customised version of the WordPress RSS in Page plugin to grab updates from feeds, which itself depends on the SimplePie Core plugin. I’ve also made extensive use of WordPress’s built-in custom fields to retain the feeds’ data structure for possible export and re-use in the future.
Perhaps I should have subtitled this post “I ♥ RSS”.