Community Blogs Overhaul

I hate to say it, but this post has taken me a year to write. No, it’s not a fine piece of literary work, rather it has taken a year to finally update the ODTUG Community blogs site. If you don’t know about the ODTUG Community blogs, they’re an aggregation of the top Oracle blogs in the world rolled into one location. Each community has their own space and their links are:

History

Before going any further, it’s important to understand what has transpired over the past year. ODTUG.com changed last year to a new CMS system. Their blog display system could only display one RSS feed and was limited by the number of posts it could display. There were also no searching capabilities.

Unfortunately, those features weren’t enough for the ODTUG members who wanted a much more powerful blog reader. This was primarily due to the fact that the APEX Community page used to be hosted by Dimitri Gielis, who had an amazing blog aggregator. The new site did not have any of the great features that his old site had, and thus we heard a lot of negative feedback from the APEX Community. Believe me when I say this, it did not fall on deaf ears.

To make matters worse, the system that we were using to aggregate all the blogs into one feed (Google Reader) was terminated on July 1 this past year. This was a really important service since it merged a lot of different blogs from many different sources into one RSS feed for easy consumption.

The Solution

Phase 1

Given the July 1 Google Reader deadline, we decided to break up the project into two portions. The first, and most important, was to find an alternative to Google Reader. We, along with other volunteers, looked for a third-party solution to do what we wanted. Surprisingly, we weren’t able to find a single option, paid or otherwise.

With the Google deadline looming and Kscope right around the corner, I created a simple solution using Yahoo Pipes, Oracle XE, and Oracle APEX. By combining all the tools, I was able to aggregate all the RSS feeds from all the blogs that ODTUG displays and generate a single RSS feed, which was used on ODTUG’s new CMS system. Though this solution wasn’t perfect, it got the job done; we were able to successfully move off Google Reader with little to no disruption.

Phase 2

With the RSS aggregation issue out of the way, it was on to the next step: adding advanced search capabilities. Again, we tried to find various third-party tools but didn’t find one that met our requirements. I started to dabble with some ideas until I finally broke down and just built an application that displayed all the RSS feeds and supported some key features that our members asked for: pagination and the ability to search all the blogs.

Since I had done all of this on my own time, I decided to create a new site called Aggrssgator with the potential of offering the same solution for other organizations who may have the same requirements. The reason why I’m bringing up the new site is because some people have started to look at the URLs behind the scenes and have noticed the content was being served by aggrssgator.com rather than odtug.com. This should now help explain the association.

Going Forward

Once all the Community blogs were upgraded, we received a lot of positive feedback. We’re really excited about the new blog sites and hope that you are too. If you haven’t already done so, please check out the new blog sites (links at top of article), and let us know what you think.

Happy reading,

Martin

 

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