You are probably all aware of the concept of the River in terms of social networking platforms; being able to see what your friends have been up to as a list of events – what they have been doing, who they have made their friend etc.

This feature – made popular by the facebook “mini-feed” – has become one of the things that users expect from any platform they use and is rather compelling.

What if you want to see what they have been doing on other networks? Would it not be a pretty neat thing to be able to subscribe to their activity in order to receive updates about what they have been up to in a similar way as you would be able to subscribe to their blog via RSS?

This turns out to be a simple yet powerful use case for OpenDD, and this is how we’re doing it in the new version of Elgg.

I talked a bit about how the river was implemented in Elgg 1.0 in previous articles. In a nutshell we have a system log which stores events as they happen in terms of a simple relationship, e.g. “User X CREATED BlogPost”, “User X UPDATED profile”, etc.

Once you have that information it becomes very easy to mine that for extra information and turn it into a River event. Essentially, a plugin would create a view on the specific event and entity and then be able to render it as a river item and provide new views on existing data.

If you remember, I also talked about how I changed the river code to use this thing called ElggRiverStatement, which lets you construct the river in a much more linguistic way and also provides all the information needed by the river views.

Creating a “Friends activity elsewhere” syndication view becomes quite easy. Essentially, all you need to do is export the system log for a user, which you can do very easily using OpenDD as a sequence of OpenDD Relationships. This is because “User X CREATED BlogPost” can be thought of in terms of a relationship.

Once this is done, an aggregation client can retrieve the feeds of all the friends that you’ve signed up to and then sort the relationships by published data, and then – because everything has a UUID – you can then drill down and pull the extra information required – details about the user who initiated the action, the object the event was performed on, metadata etc.

This essentially means you can construct a succession of ElggRiverStatement objects out of an OpenDD feed. This is quite cool, because it means you can take those objects and inject them into the already existing river views and get a river entry back. This means that for absolutely zero extra work, every plugin has the ability to render a “Friend elsewhere” event… and it becomes seamless!

Additionally, you can look to digging further and getting extra information about the entities involved and actually be able to see the entity in question – whether by linking to the entity elsewhere or using the information you have about it to render it locally.

This is quite a simple example, but it shows some of the power of OpenDD. Additionally, I should point out that since OpenDD is atomic, you don’t ever have to get all the information in one go!

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