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One of the many things I maintain outside work is a blog aggregator (aka “planet”) for blogs about open source and technology from the Brazilian community. I try to invite new authors to this “planet” who have something interesting to share about their lives, regardless of what Linux distribution they use, gender, political views or religious beliefs. It is not as popular as some of the other Brazilian news sites, but I think it has a good number of subscribers.

The engine behind it was for the last 3 years the well known planetplanet feed reader and for most of the part it did its job well. Every now and then there would be a hiccup here and there, mostly due to badly formatted feeds, but things usually worked itself out without any intervention. Well, it turns out that this aggregator had stopped working for quite some time without my knowledge (what can I say, I’ve been busy and selectively picking what emails to read) and people started complaining to me that they couldn’t receive their news anymore.

To make a long story short, I spent many iterations trying to get rid of all the brokenness by parsing the configuration file and error logs, and whacking the “bad” feeds when it dawned on me: “This should be easier like maintaining a blog!” The first thing that came to mind was to use WordPress as the “framework” and see if there was a plugin to turn it into a blog aggregator. A few hits on a Google search brought me to FeedWordPress, “an open-source Atom/RSS aggregator for the WordPress weblog software. It syndicates content from feeds that you choose into your WordPress weblog; if you syndicate several feeds you can use WordPress’s posts database and templating engine as the back-end of an aggregator (“planet”) website.”

If that sounds too easy of a solution, then rest assured: it is! After performing a standard WordPress installation, I added this plugin and… voilá! The aggregator was born! There’s even an easy to use web interface that not only allows you to copy and paste the url of the blog you want to syndicate, but it validates it too! How convenient!

So far the web site seems to be running just fine, updating blogs as they come fresh out of their respective sites. No more ssh’ing to my server to enter new entries into a configuration file… Lots of already developed/created plugins, widgets, themes, you name it out there for me to use… and a huge user base to answer any question I may have about the platform!

Now, I don’t know anything about performance issues and/or benchmark numbers for running an aggreagtor with WordPress compared to any other tool out there (if you do, please share), but if you need something done quick and painless, you may want to try it yourself.


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