Mashing up for press freedom

mashups

I just finished producing my first mashup, our second teacher-marked assignment for this course. And here’s how the whole process went.

At first, I thought of creating a music mashup of kundiman songs and mix it up with a modern beat. But I scrapped the whole concept when I finally realized that mastering Audacity would take me forever to finish the task at hand. After considering other genres, particularly mapping and video and photo mashups, I finally decided to do a news mashup instead, using RSS and Atom syndication technologies.

My topic is press freedom. The choice was made easier by my being editorial consultant and former webmaster of zumel.com, the official website of the Antonio Zumel Center for Press Freedom. The current staff was kind enough to allow me to access the site and create a section where I could build a temporary private “playground.”

The idea behind this mashup is to automatically generate all the news produced by groups involved in press freedom advocacy and publish them as an additional section of the zumel.com, which, incidentally, is powered by Joomla. To do this, I needed to install a Joomla component that could aggregate these feeds. I eventually settled for the free Feedgator.

The next step was to select a representative number of organizations listed on zumel.com’s weblinks, visit them, and subscribe to their feeds. Doing this was, in the main, also glitch-free, except for a few organizations that don’t have links to their feed’s URL. I then suddenly remembered Flock, a browser that could automatically detect a site’s syndication feature. But I was well aware that the browser had long been dead. Nevertheless, I still took my chance and decided to visit the site, and got to read this on their homepage:

“The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated. – Mark Twain. Stay tuned.”

Seeing a glimmer of hope, I went to my favorite download site, Filehippo, and found a downloadable Flock (this was a favorite browser of mine and I’m just glad it’s going to be resurrected). To cut the story short, I managed to complete collecting the feeds I needed, which, though not comprehensive, will give one an idea of what the mashup intends to do.

For the video section of the site, I downloaded Simple Youtube Module, also a free Joomla extension. Unfortunately, it could only accommodate one video at a time, as the other available modules are paid downloads.

For the section Media in the News and Reports, I just copied a native Joomla module already installed on the site’s backend to house all those news items that are linked to sites by newspapers and organizations.

Looking at the final product reminds me of several news aggregator apps like Zite, Flipboard, and Pulse, which I all use to read only the news I want. The increasing popularity of these apps is a clear indication that there’s a market for this sort of news mashups. (Google has recently joined the fray with its own app called Currents.)

I’d say I enjoyed doing the assignment. Aside from giving me the basics of what a mashup is, it has also served as one nice opportunity to review my knowledge of Joomla, the Content Management System I used in building several websites for a number of nongovernment organizations in the past.

Please get in touch with me for the username and password if you want to view the final product.

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