How to recreate my handmade, RSS-aggregating, local-info website using existing CMS & plugins?
November 30, 2007 8:00 AM   Subscribe

How could you use an off-the-shelf free CMS, theme and plugins to generate a (5+ column, RSS-aggregating, screen-scraping, client-side-scripting-free, fast-loading, autoupdating) page like this handmade local-info-aggregator webpage?

OK, so I did things the hard way: last spring, after running into too many third-party-applet surprise limitations, I spent way too much time rolling my own local-info aggregator.

Now I need to know if it's worth improving&extending my Ruby scripts. It's not worth doing so, if there's a CMS with theme and plugins that can do the same things more elegantly and extensibly.

At present, my script runs hourly to generate a cached webpage, using an RSS aggregator script which groups RSS feeds and arranges their posts and other info onto the page as specified by some configuration files.


1) Site owner can configure column positioning, any # of columns, widgets within columns, widget types

2) One widget type aggregates posts from a group of RSS feeds, and sorts the aggregated posts by their creation date (so if the blogger fixes a speling error in an older post, the old post doesn't jump to the top)

3) Another widget type gives extra prominence to a particular feed of a particular single weblog, and extra prominence to its most recent post but only if said post is fresh. (not a dealbreaker, I could still run a separate script to do this, right?)

4) There's no scripting (client-side nor server-side) when delivering the page, so it loads fast and is friendly to scripting-disabled browsing.

5) No reliance on the benificence and continued function&extensibility of third party applets/sites

6) When it breaks, I can fix it...

I know that much of this effort was reinventing the wheel, but I don't know - without a lot of trial and error, some of which I've tried... - how I could duplicate the page using existing tools.

Perhaps you do?

(the main sticking points would likely be the 5+ 'equivalent' columns and 5+ separate aggregated feedgroups, not making the client use Javascript, and not depending on third-party websites and their continued existence&functioning&lack of limitations)

Thanks much if you can help -
(I'm not really anonymous, just didn't want to tie my site to a Metafilter account)
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I always find it easier to write code then try to extend existing software. I always run into things like poor or no documentation, etc. Website CMS engines are a particular pain, in my experience. You work the way they want you to work or you spend forever trying to hack it out.

Never much fun.
posted by delmoi at 8:27 PM on December 1, 2007

I've done a number of sites like this using Movable Type (n.b. I work with the team that makes it) and there are some other great sites out there doing it similarly, like WatchBlog.

To do it now, I'd use MT along with Refeed. Both are available for free.
posted by anildash at 12:08 AM on December 3, 2007

Drupal's built-in RSS aggregator, and the Panels module, do a reasonably good job. It might be a bit like swatting a fly with a buick, though.
posted by verb at 9:12 PM on December 13, 2007

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