Private Comments via XMLIMPORT

Making shareable (Sharing with a single person or specific group but not with the world.) comments on public writing is a fairly awkward spaaaaaace right now. There are things like AnnotateIt and Awesome Screenshot and the annotations in Diigo. So I’m looking around for other free options and brain storming odd ideas and not find a whole lot and I came up with the following . . .

Note: I’m not saying this is a good idea, it may even be a bad idea but it might inspire someone to do something more interesting down the line.1 I at least found it mildly amusing.

Here’s how you might pull an author feed from WordPress into Google Spreadsheets with separate cells each paragraph (for paragraph level commenting). The idea being that you can share the Google document with just that student and do the commenting via the GSS commenting feature.

Google spreadsheets will import lots of things (xml, atom, rss). WordPress provides lots of specific feeds (author, tag, categories, combinations thereof).

So step one is to get the author feed – for example http://rampages.us/fren330/author/sheehantm/feed/. You can then use the IMPORTXML formula in GSS to import that XML and do some XPATH parsing of the pieces. In this case I used =IMPORTXML(“http://rampages.us/fren330/author/sheehantm/”,”//p”) to pull out the paragraphs. I can then share the document with just that student and comment on the paragraphs using the Insert>Comment stuff built into GSS. You can see an image of that below and below that is the embedded document in all its odd glory/shame.

Screen Shot 2014-09-17 at 3.38.45 PM


1 I think it makes a nice cheat to be able to analyze text from an RSS feed using more commonly held SS skills. There are a few other things I’m kicking around in my head as well.

Comments on this post

  1. David Croteau said on September 17, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    I think you’re on to something important. The ephemeral nature of commenting on student work is always an issue. We’ve all had the queasy feeling that all the time and energy we’ve spent commenting on work is ignored, even when revising. Having comments fed to a document like this could be a game-changer in that it creates a permanent–and interactive–record of comments through a semester. And what a great way to document an instructor’s feedback.

    The format and details of this are all up for grabs, I suppose, but the basic idea is really a great one.

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