Early Modern Commons: Post Categories searching


Early Modern Commons has now been aggregating blog posts for several months. I recently added pages for book reviews and job adverts. Today I’ve gone a step further and added a search page for blog post categories.

This will search the categories, tags, labels, etc,* assigned to blog posts by their authors (for posts since the beginning of August 2012). So, for example, you can search for categories mentioning London, or the category Gunpowder Plot.

This is very much a work in progress. The most obvious limitation is that you can only search for posts in blogs that are included in Early Modern Commons. (I’ve been pondering for a while more generally how it might be possible to include relevant posts from blogs that only occasionally have early modern content…)

Alos, at the moment it’s a very simple word/phrase search; the only choices are between searching anywhere within categories and searching for an exact category. I’ll be adding some more sophisticated options later (it would obviously be useful to be able to find, say, ’17th century’ or ‘seventeenth century’ in the same search!).

I hope this addition to the site will be useful! Firstly, it will allow site users more flexible access to the content EMC has been aggregating.

Secondly, moreover, I hope to facilitate the pro-active use of tags and categories by bloggers to create useful resources by grouping together blogging about specific news, topics, conferences, etc, in a similar fashion to Twitter hashtags. All searches can be bookmarked for reference (and I hope to provide RSS feeds before too long); see the notes below on search URL construction.

Bloggers simply need to use a shared tag/category to make it accessible through this search – they could agree on one together for an event, or an organiser could announce one in advance.

So, for example, if a number of EMC bloggers individually blog about early modern panels at the upcoming American Historical Association 2013 meeting and tag/categorise their posts with AHA2013, their posts would all be accessible shortly afterwards through http://commons.earlymodernweb.org/searchcat?s=aha2013

Feedback will be very welcome.

Tag away!
Notes on Search URLs

With URL encoding as appropriate for spaces etc, it should be possible to work out in advance what the URL to search for any given category will be. This is the basic formula:

http://commons.earlymodernweb.org/searchcat?s={search phrase}

For example, the simple London URL looks like this:

http://commons.earlymodernweb.org/searchcat?s=london (The searches are all case-insensitive.)

Meanwhie, the Gunpowder Plot search URL looks like this:


In this more complex search URL %20 is the URL encoding for a space between words and &exact=on adds the exact category requirement. (When more search options are added in the future they will similarly be preceded by &.)

I will do my best to ensure that the basic URL construction (searchcat?s=…) is stable and persistent as long as the site is around.

*The terminology varies with different blog platforms (and some, like WordPress, use more than one type), but this shouldn’t matter. Certainly, WordPress tags and categories, Blogspot labels, and Tumblr tags are all being captured and saved in the database. Movable Type/Typepad categories should also be fine though I haven’t checked this yet. NB that the search does not include the content of posts.

Early Modern Commons Update


My early modern blogs project, Early Modern Commons, is now more than a year old. Today I’ve posted a major overhaul of the backend (let’s call it v2.0), moving away from WordPress into a purpose-built database.

Hopefully it’ll be lighter and faster loading. A few URLs will be broken, unfortunately, as I’ve had to change some blog IDs, but mostly everything should work.

I’ve also added about 25 blogs (and have a few more to come), taking the count over 200 – probably about 220 by the time I’ve completed the additions.

The most important change is that I’ve added aggregation for blog posts as well as blogs. EMC began with an idea for an enhanced blogroll (growing out of my long-standing dissatisfaction with the standard list-of-names blogroll), and at its core will continue to provide that service. But I’ve been keen to do more with it, and that’s now possible with the backend changes.

The new Recent Posts feature is quite basic at the moment but it will be possible to expand it and to make it more sophisticated, especially with a little help from the bloggers themselves. For example, it could be possible to have a ‘Research Blogging’ feed if bloggers are willing to tag their posts with a distinctive category/keyword to denote research-heavy posts (discussion welcome on what the keyword should be) – a simplified version of Research Blogging. I’ll also be experimenting with the use of keyword filters to create more feeds like the one for CFPs and conferences (and to improve that one; it’s not quite right at the moment).

Feedback welcome, and if you have any ideas for future developments let me know.

Early Modern Commons: an aggregator for early modernists


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”.