Saturday, March 20, 2010

'Blog Rolls' -- Best Practice and a Time-Saving Tool

My post for this week is to point out the 'best practice' of maintaining 'blog rolls.' These are used all over the web (and on our Community 2.0 website of course) as a sort of portal to a known set of blogs. When you think about it, different blog rolls would be useful for different types of users--for students participating in a particular class, a virtual, vertical cluster, a prospective student, or even faculty coordinating all this. (Different sets of users in different classes and projects would be grouped and combined separately in different blog rolls.)

As we connect students across different content areas, er, courses/communities, we'll need to update these blog rolls with correct URLs and the names of each blog. Obviously, this might be an administrative challenge!

For example, I will be linking my students' blogs for LIB 200 this weekend. (After my handout on signing up, almost all of them signed up for a blog--hooray.) I created an Excel spreadsheet with their e-mail and blog addresses, so we can keep track....

I want to have an entry point to our 'blog roll' on Blackboard (yes, we're still using this traditional courseware) and on our course wiki....

So to facilitate this, I just spent a few hours writing a little web script that automates the generation of a 'blog roll.' First, you just type a list of URLs (web addresses) of student blogs (separated by commas) in the following web form available at (Alternatively, you can cut-and-paste these values from an Excel spreadsheet or Word with the same information.) Next, click on the Generate Blog Roll button.

The script will check to see if your students' URL is valid. If so, it will 'scrape' the title of your students' blogs and use this as the name of the blog in the 'roll.' This saves you the step of having to cut and paste this yourself. The script generates HTML for the links for your blog roll. In a browser, you can select 'view source,' highlight the HTML and copy that into whatever web page (into Blackboard, another blog, a wiki, a Ning or whatever) and gain easy access to all your students' blogs. It just takes a few seconds.

Here is a link to a 'demo.' of the generated output of a blog roll for my class so far.

As with any experimental software, this is provided as-is. I've tested it with Firefox, and a list of about 15 students with blogs (some with broken addresses). It seems pretty handy.

**All this suggests non-technical folks need tools and admin. support to get the most out of blogs.... Let me know what you think!


  1. That's awesome!
    If you're using Google Reader to follow your student's blogs, you can also use that to either export a blogroll or create a public page with blog content. Google doesn't give the raw HTML like yours does, though.

  2. R--

    I visited your wiki and played around with the blog roll--great tool! This will work wonders for Nings and wikis.

    Question: is it possible for you to rewrite the script so that the blogs open in a new window?

    I am asking bc. once I went to a students' blog, I could not go back to your wiki again.