Upgrading the OpenStreetMap Blogs Aggregator

One of my projects over the winter has been upgrading the blogs.openstreetmap.org feed aggregator. This site collects OpenStreetMap-themed posts from a large number of different blogs and shows them all in one place. The old version of the site was certainly showing its age. The software that powered it, called PlanetPlanet hasn’t been updated for over 10 years, and can’t cope with feeds served using https, so an increasing number of blogs were disappearing from the site. Time for an upgrade.

My larger goal was moving the administration of the site into the open, in order to get more people involved. Shaun has maintained the old system for many years and has done a great job. Unfortunately there were tasks that could only be done by him, such as adding new feeds, removing old feeds, and customising the site. To make any changes you had to know who to ask, and hope that Shaun had time to work on it for you. It was also unclear what criteria a blog feed had to meet to be added, and even more so, if and when a blog should be removed.

The challenge was therefore to move the configuration to a public repository, move the deployment to OSMF hardware, create a clear policy for managing the feeds, and thereby reduce the barriers to getting involved all round.

Thankfully, other people did almost all of the work! After I investigated the different feed aggregation software options – most of them are barely maintained nowadays – I reckoned that Pluto was the best choice. It turns out Shaun had previously come to the same conclusion, and had almost completed the migration himself. Then Tom put together the Chef deployment configuration, which was the second half of the work. So all I had to do was finish converting the list of feeds, make a few template changes, and everything was ready to go. After a few weeks delay while the sysadmins worked on other tasks, the new site went live on Friday.

If you know of a blog that should be added to the site, please check our new guidelines. If you have any changes you want to make to the site, the deployment, or the software that powers it, now is you chance to get involved!

5 thoughts on “Upgrading the OpenStreetMap Blogs Aggregator

  1. RobJN

    Great stuff. I’ve been hoping for an improvement in the blogs site for some years now. Thanks to all those involved 🙂

  2. smsm1986

    Thank you Andy and Tom for taking this on. It’s been lovely to turn off the old cron job and not get the half hourly email with the list of failed feeds.

    Having a little toddler has meant much less time in the evenings to do things, usually being too tired to get into something code like. Some evenings I’ve been going to sleep the same time my toddler does, especially when she takes ages to get off to sleep until 9 or 10pm on many evenings. One up side is that I’ve managed to get some local house numbers added to OSM while walking her to sleep in the buggy, still more collected to add.

    Another eligibility criteria that I’ve considered for removing the blogs, is if there have been no posts for a year. Do I move them to some archive section? They are probably still useful pointers.

    For several blogs I’ve used a category or tag feed to prevent the issue of too many non-OpenStreetMap related blog posts appearing.

  3. Andrew Hain

    Can you take feeds from mailing lists on the site? I was thinking of the announce@ list, the others are too chatty.

  4. Pingback: Steady progress on the OpenStreetMap Website | Gravitystorm Blog

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