Wordpress & Web Development

How To Turn WordPress Into A Life Stream Of All Your Online Blogs

James Bruce 14-10-2011

wordpress lifestreamFor most of us, the amount of digital content we produce is staggering – Twitter, personal blogs, professional blogs – but bringing all of that in to one central place is a real challenge. Having recently purchased my own vanity domain of jamesbruce.me to act as a central hub for my articles and web content, the task fell upon me to find a suitable way to aggregate it all – commonly called a life stream.


Flavors.me is a great ready-made way to do that, but it isn’t perfect for my needs and certainly doesn’t demonstrate any skills beyond signing up for a free service. I’d also much rather host something on my own server, as the perils of placing your trust in web services has often been tested. Today I’m going to walk you through how to create your own WordPress lifestream, and if you follow along with the tutorial, you should end up with something not dissimilar to this:

wordpress lifestream

It’s a freely available theme, and clicking on any post will take you to the original source.

So what are my requirements?

  • Runs on WordPress. Given that I try to market myself as a WordPress guru and consultant, doing it it on any other platform would just be embarrassing. I should be able to demonstrate that WordPress is quite capable of doing what I want.
  • Aggregates various feeds, automatically and without my input.
  • Doesn’t duplicate content, but instead links back to the original article. This is very important, and I’ll explain it later.
  • Uses images where available – nothing is more boring than a wall of text.

Duplicate Content Issue

The problem with a lot of WordPress RSS-aggregator plugins is that they copy the entire content of the original and create a page that is considered a duplicate by Google, thereby labelling you a dirty rotten content-thief. Serious efforts have been made by Google this year to remove and de-rank those websites that copy other peoples work and try to pass it off as their own – often called spam blogs – but any legitimate attempts by you to republish your own work in its entirety are going to fall foul of the same fate.


To mitigate this, I’ve found a fantastic plugin that still pulls content into your blog to give the freedom that WordPress allows, but also changes the permalink structure of the articles to point directly to their original source.

You Will Need

  • The Shaken Grid Lite free theme [Broken URL Removed] – you must supply a valid email to which the download link will be sent, but it’ll send a separate email asking you to subscribe to the email list, which you can ignore if you wish.
  • The Feed WordPress Plugin, which will handle pulling in all the content automatically and adjusting permalinks.
  • YD FeedWordpress Content Filter, which will import images so we can use them locally.
  • This file which I wrote to fix the issue of featured images not being set by Feed WordPress – rename it to loop.php and replace the same file in your Shaken Grid Lite theme directory. If the featured thumbnail isn’t available, it will use the first attached image file. Feed WordPress will automatically download and attach the media item in the RSS feed, but it doesn’t create the featured image. This solves that problem.
  • FTP access to your site, or the ability to edit theme files.
  • A variety of RSS feeds you wish to aggregate.
  • A decent webhost that isn’t going to disable your account if you use a little power. Feed aggregator plugins are notorious for annoying shared web hosts, but we’ll try to minimize the impact. If you’re at the point where you’re hosting a number of your own successful blogs though, perhaps it’s about time you looked at upgrading to your own virtual server.


Install and activate FeedWordPress, then the YD Content Filter plugin through the standard Plugins -> Add New interface, and upload and activate the Shaken Grid Lite theme.

There should now be a Syndication section on the admin sidebar. Expand it, and I’ll walk you through the options to set up on each screen.


  • This is where you add feed sources. Enter the URL in the box – either a direct feed URL or just a general website address.

wordpress life stream

  • It’ll then validate your feed, or give a choice of feeds that it auto-discovered.

wordpress life stream

Feed & Update Settings

  • By default, your feeds won’t update automatically, so change that setting here under the Update Scheduling option. Set it to update after a page load, and leave it at the default 60 minutes.

wordpress life stream

Post & Links

  • Double check so that under the Links option, the Permalink points to the copy on the original website.

wordpress lifestream theme

  • Disable comments and pings too.

wordpress lifestream theme


You can safely leave the rest of the options alone.

  • The YD FeedWordpress options should be under your regular Settings tab on the sidebar. Click on that, and make sure that the option to Import Images as Local Attachments is enabled.

wordpress lifestream

Theme Adjustments

If you check out your page now, you’ll notice that images aren’t displaying correctly and the full article is being shown instead of just a short snippet. To solve this, download the file I mentioned earlier and navigate to the Shaken Grid Lite theme directory through FTP. Replace the loop.php with the one supplied (rename it to loop.php obviously). Alternatively, if you’re unable to access FTP but can edit the files through WordPress, copy and paste the contents instead.

Assuming the feeds you’ve imported are actually providing featured images, they should now be showing on your homepage. If they aren’t, it’s out of the scope of this article to fix your website, but let us know if you’re having problems in the comments and perhaps we could check your feed for you.


That’s it, you should be well on your way now to having all your published content aggregated. Don’t forget you can still post regular articles on the blog too – they’ll appear alongside and mixed in with the rest, but clicking on them will take you to the full version just like a regular blog would. Happy life-streaming!

Related topics: Feed Reader, Wordpress Plugins.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Todd Lohenry
    October 17, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    I posted a link over on your blog through comments, but here's the sandbox site; I followed all your directions exactly...

    • James Bruce
      October 18, 2011 at 11:44 am

      Hi Todd. It looks like there's an error with either your local PHP/GD image library ebing unable to copy the images, or the mashable feed you're trying to pull in. Could you try another feed and see if it's gets the same problem?

      • Todd Lohenry
        October 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm

        This is actually pulling 4 feeds; 2 from blogs, 2 from Google Reader. For it to be useful to me, it would have to work with these four feeds. Is there a test feed you know will work correctly? How would I test/fix this? "It looks like there's an error with either your local PHP/GD image library ebing unable to copy the images"

        • James Bruce
          October 18, 2011 at 3:29 pm

          Sure - the //www.makeuseof.com/feed/ definitely works. If theres no images being attached when you try that, it's a local problem with permissions on the image directory or something. 

        • Todd Lohenry
          October 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm

          Tested makeusof and you're right -- it works! Why does 'great tech war of 2012' on show the image when others from the same source don't? 

        • James Bruce
          October 19, 2011 at 2:49 pm

          Hi Todd. I'n not seeing any images on any of the feeds now, did you disable them or edit the template?

        • Todd Lohenry
          October 19, 2011 at 8:29 pm

          I didn't change anything...

        • James Bruce
          October 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm

          I can only assume this has something to do with your local setup then Todd, do you have any webhosting you could try it out on instead? It's easy to setup WordPress to hide itself from search engines while you are testing things out.. 

        • Todd Lohenry
          October 22, 2011 at 10:36 am

          I did a fresh install using Fantastico on HostGator. Unless you can tell me what local permissions it might be specifically, it's not worth pursuing. There are lots of different ways I can lifestream and while this was interesting as a test of Feedwordpress, it's not important to resolve unless it's easy... Thanks for your help!

        • muotechguy
          October 26, 2011 at 2:08 pm

          Sorry for the late reply Todd. I'm a little confused - I assumed the fact that your URL was a direct IP address that you were hosting this at home, on a local test server or something. If this is actually installed on hostgator, that could be part of the problem - I'm not familar with webhosts that allow direct IP hosting to be honest (ie, without a domain). 

          As for permissions, if it is that - you'll need the wp-content/uploads directory to be global writeable 777. But understandable if you want to give up by now, it;s quite a unique situation you're playing around with there. 

  2. Riccardo Tommasini
    October 16, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    I followed the guide but when i've changed the loop.php file all images disapear. Can you help me? I think it happens because the blog i try to add is a tumblog (theme)
    Sorry for my english..

    • James Bruce
      October 17, 2011 at 7:40 am

      Hi Ricardo. Could you paste some links here for us to look at maybe? There may be a problem with extracting image information from the tumblr stream, but there shouldnt be. When posts have been imported, can you check there's actually an image attached them from the post-> insert picture->gallery tab?

  3. Todd Lohenry
    October 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    OK, I followed the instructions step by step, but some image is still missing; here's the sandbox site if you want to take a look at it...

    • James Bruce
      October 17, 2011 at 7:41 am

      Hi Todd, I think you forgot to post a link. Would be happy to take a look. Please check if the images are actually being posted with the RSS stream first, and if so, are they being imported correctly? Check the imported posts, and see if there's any media attached. 

  4. Mediotic
    October 15, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Hey!! This is great. 
    But I found a problem. I've installed all this locally and it doesn't grab neither the featured images nor the images from the posts. 
    Sorry bothering you, but I don't know too much php and maybe it's a problem on the posts (or even using it locally).

    Btw, great job. This manual really rocks :D

    • James Bruce
      October 17, 2011 at 7:45 am

      Hi Mediotic. There could be a number of things goign wrong here:

      - As you say, it could be the fact you're running it locally. If you check the source, is it displaying anything in the IMG src? Or is there just not IMG tags listed at all?
      - If theres no image tags, it's likely it's not importing them. Check the imported posts actually have an image attached them. 
      - If they don't have an image attached, it means it's either unable to create them locally - which would indicate a problem on the image upload directory permissions (try manually creating a post and uploading a picture to test this), or that the original feed simply doesn't contain images that are extractable. 

      Please follow those and post back with the results. Good luck!