UMW Domains-Now with More Community!

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Domain of One’s Own has been an unqualified success, and Martha’s post on this project provides a nice summary of where we are at six months in. We’re on track to have more than 700 folks in the UMW community with their own domain and web hosting this academic year, and for 2014/15 we’re shooting to double that number with an additional 1500 domains. Just think of it, 2200 people with their own domain by year two. That’s almost half our campus community—that’s absolutely awesome. Unparalled in the known world—we’re the god damned Magellans of edtech!

But like any age of exploration, we have to start mapping this brave new worlds for beauteous mankind, and that’s just what Martha Burtis and Tim Owens  have been doing. Since the beginning of the semester they’ve been building a community hub for all of the distributed working happening on UMW Domains. Tim wrote about creating this space in some detail already, and it’s amazing how the longstanding dream for many of us in edtech of “eduglu” (a syndication hub that could seamlessly pull feeds and tags from a variety of applications) has become a reality for us at UMW once we abstracted beyond dependence on one particular application. The Community site for UMW Domains is the best approximation of a syndication hub for a distributed community we’ve yet to build, very much inspired by our earlier work with UMW Blogs and ds106.

One would think with the early syndication work with UMW Blogs we’d be able to crack the syndication nut. The fact we were locked into WordPress Multi-Site for everything with UMW Blogs, which on first thought should make things easier for this sort of thing, proved to be just the opposite. Everything was dependent on this one application (a similar issue we’ve always had with the LMS in edtech) which meant we’d become a bit  myopic in our approach. With ds106 we started to understand community through a single WordPress install that simply acted as the syndication hub—it was just the place we added the feeds. And while the the UMW Domains Community uses WordPress and FeedWordPress for the syndication, we are getting at the

UMW Domain Community Frontpage

While the UMW Domains Community site still uses WordPress and FeedWordPress for the syndication hub,  with the web hosting and domain setup we’ve been able abstract out a level and start hooking into the application installer Installatron through API calls to enable us to add additional metadata when anyone installs an application. For example, when faculty and students install a WordPress site in their web hosting account they can assocaite it with a course, a specific instructor, topic, etc at the point of install. The results have been astounding, we now have a real community hub that not only features sites and recent work on the homepage, but also allows anyone to filter and search by instructor, department, course, semester, software, etc. All of which you can seen on the directory page of the UMW Domains Community site.

UMW Domains Directory

What’s more, thanks to the add-on plugin FeedWordPress Advanced Filters all the content coming into the syndication hub can be filtered by predetermined categories we want to highlight. For example, 3D Printing, Digital History, the Internet, Storytelling, Gaming, etc. Radical!
Topics for UWM Domains Community
To make the whole thing even more amazing, Martha just built a feature so that provides a calendar view of all the posts thus far. Each day shows a featured image and the number of published on a specific day of each month. Each day of this calendar based archive links to page with all the posts for that day.

COmmunity Calendar
With the UMW Domains Community site we’re providing a much needed platform for our students and faculty to share what they’re doing. What’s more, it’s an open space that anyone can explore. Hopefully, as a result, this will lead to serendipitous discoveries along the way to finding what we’re looking for. This is exactly what Geocities offered in the mid 1990s that was radical. Geocities didn’t only provide simplified web hosting, they also provided a sense of neighborhoods and communities so that people could get a broader view of what was happening. This was rarely, if ever, the case with commodity web hosting. All we’re doing with the UMW Domains Community is taking the decade old reality of commodity web hosting and building an academic community around it. And that’s just the begininng, we currently have a group of UMW Computer Science students designing a Reddit-inspired suite of plugins for upvoting, downvoting, discussion,a nd more—but that’s fodder for my next post :)