Build Your Own Alltop For Advocacy With WordPress and OneNews


Background: I'm sure that many of you are familiar with Alltop. It creates destination pages for topics of interest by aggregating them on a dashboard that displays the five latest headlines from each feed. The items can be previewed by doing a rollover on the headlines and read by clicking on the headline. If you haven't checked out Alltop yet, the Social Media, Social Entrepreneurship, Non-Profit, Good, and Human Rights pages might be a good place to start.

For some advocacy projects, it might be useful to build an Alltop-like dashboard that aggregates relevant content related to the cause on one page. So far, I had thought that it wasn't really possible, without some serious coding.

Then, I built the Indian Election Dashboard for Vote Report India in two hours, and realized how simple it was.

Tool: The trick was to discover the wonderful OneNews theme for WordPress, which is especially designed to build Alltop clones.

Using a special template, the theme converts a page into a collection of widgets, which can be arranged to form the dashboard. The widgets support text, photo, video and search feeds, and can also be used for entering PHP or HTML code, to add elements not built into the theme.

The theme supports an unlimited number of dashboards on a single WordPress install, as each page can be converted into a dashboard.

So, apart from the Indian Election Dashboard I hacked together for Vote Report India, I also built a Indian Bloggers Dashboard for Global Voices (please note that Global Voices hasn't yet endorsed the dashboard).

The theme also supports blog posts, apart from pages/ dashboards. The blog posts have a RSS feed, like a normal blog, but aren't displayed in the usual reverse chronological order on any single page.

The theme is built on WordPress, so almost all the features native to WordPress, like support for multiple languages, should be available for the theme. Also, all the hacks that can be done on any WordPress theme should also be possible here.

Here is a hack that converts the Alltop-like dashboard view to a Techmeme-like river view, using the same OneNews theme.

The OneNews theme is available for $49 for a single use license and $199 for a multiple use license. Based on my experience, it is a small investment worth making for an appropriate project.

Application: While I won't encourage you to make a dashboard just because you can, I can see many applications for such dashboards.

The first application is to build a destination news micro-site for an important event. This is what I have done with the Indian Election Dashboard.

Another application is to aggregate content for a community or a topic of interest. This is what I have done with the Indian Bloggers Dashboard.

Yet another application will be to aggregate conversations around your advocacy project, to showcase the buzz and the impact on one page.

I would caution, however, that such dashboards might not be very useful on a standalone basis. They would work best when used as part of a bigger project, to showcase everything else you are doing on the project.

What other applications of this tool can you think of?

Cross-posted at Gauravonomics, my blog on social media and social change


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