Archive | Commons Basics

Help on basic Commons functions including navigation, profiles and security

Repy by Email

If you wanted to respond to a group topic, you can simply click Reply in your email client; Reply By Email takes care of the rest!

A Few “Reply By Email” Notes

  • When you receive a Commons email notification, you’ll notice the phrase “— Reply ABOVE THIS LINE to add a comment —“ (circled in red, above). Anything you type above this line will be part of the message posted to the forum, while everything below this line will be ignored But it is vital that the line itself be present in the reply. Reply By Email uses this info to route your reply back to the Commons. (Depending on your email client, when you hit reply, you might see additional address information added. Don’t worry – this will not be part of your response.)
  • You must reply using the same email address at which you received the notification – Reply By Email uses this as a way of matching you up with your Commons username. (Not an issue for most people, but it may affect those who have set up their email client with multiple email addresses.)
  • You can use Reply by Email to reply to discussion threads on group forums, to personal messages and @mentions, and to group announcements.
  • You cannot use Reply by Email to reply to notification “digests,” Docs notifications (new docs, edited docs, new comments), group file uploads, group invites, or friendship requests.

The Reply by Email plugin was developed for the Commons, and made available to the entire BuddyPress community. See here for technical details.

Navigating the Commons

Our main navigation tabs are picture below.

My Commons

The My Commons tab is where you land when you first login to the Commons.  It provides an easy way to stay current with the network of friends, groups, and sites you develop on the Commons.  It constantly aggregates information that is relevant to you – what your friends are doing, what’s going on in the groups you belong to, and what content and discussion is happening on the sites you follow.


If you are not logged into the Commons, the Home page will be the first open tab you’ll see. This “splash” page provides a site slider as well as a quick look at what’s going on: you can see which members are recently active, you can see a selection of Sites and Groups, and you can see some of the most recently published posts.

Remember that you can click on “Newest”, “Active” and “Popular” hyperlinks to resort the columns, and the “More” hyperlink to get additional information.

And of course each person, blog, group and post is clickable. You’ll probably see your name first in the list of those logged on – click on your hyperlink and view and if you want, change your Commons Profile.


On this tab you can search for people you know, or people with common interests. The Commons has almost 8,000 members, and continues to grow. You may request to become friends on Commons here by simply clicking the “Add Friend” button. Your new friend will be notified and will need to confirm to finalize the friendship.


By clicking the Groups tab, you can see all the groups which have been formed on the Commons. You may do a keyword search to find specific groups. A sub-tab splits groups into “All Groups” and “My Groups” (i.e. groups to which you are a member). On this screen you may join and leave groups, and Create your own group. For more information on groups, see Groups on the Commons.


The Blogs tab gives you access to view all the blogs that have been created on the Commons (depending upon their privacy settings). A keyword search is available here again, and you may view blogs by clicking them, or their most recent posts. You may use this screen to create a new blog. For more information, see Blogs on the Commons.


This tab serves as the hub for Social Paper.  Here you can discover colleagues’ works-in-progress and provide feedback.  Social Paper’s granular permission settings let members of the Commons determine who they want to expose their work to.  Paragraph by paragraph commenting makes Social Paper an ideal tool for modern academic writing.


The Commons Events Calendar is a site-wide plugin that supports individual, group, and global calendars. Designed to publicize events to the friends you’ve developed on the Commons and to the groups you belong to (and which you choose to notify).  This tab will display all events which are public, and all which pertain to groups that you belong to or friends you have made.


Want to know what going on right now at the Commons? Click on the “News” tab to access recent activity. You can use the filters to narrow down results. You can save items which you want to review at a later date by clicking on the “Favorites” button (These can be retrieved on your “My Activity>>Favorites” page.)  Be sure to check out the Twitter sub tab.  It’s a great way to use Twitter to track what’s going on at CUNY.  To find tweets from the @cunycommons/cunycommons list go to our Twitter News page.


About provides information about the Commons. This includes our Mission Statement, Site Administration, Project Staff, and Contact Information.

Getting Help

On the top-right corner of every page of the Commons, you will see a “Help” button.  Clicking it will display two ways to get help with the Commons.  You can visit our Help page where you will find our help documentation. These include Help & Support, FAQ, the Commons Codex, Take the Tour, 10 Things To Do (when you join the Commons), Bug Tracking and Outreach.

You can also send us a message and we’ll work with you to figure out your issue.

My Navigation

At the very top-right corner of every Commons page is a tiny version of your avatar.  Hover over to display personal links:

  • My Activity
  • My Profile
  • My Sites
  • My Groups
  • My Notifications
  • My Events
  • My Settings
  • My Messages
  • My Papers
  • My Friends
  • Send Invites

Options swing out to further options. These are easy, time-saving shortcuts.

How to Read and Comment on a Social Paper

Authors of Social Papers choose how visible they want their paper to be. For more information about that, read this. For instruction on how to create your own Social Paper and other related topics click here.

If the paper has been set to “Public,” anyone with access to the internet can read it. All public papers will appear on the Social Paper Directory, and on your “My Papers” tab ({memberName}/papers/

If it’s private, the author must invite you to be a reader, which will generate a notification – either through email with a URL or as Private Message sent to you through the Commons. Once you know where the paper is, you can follow it by clicking on the “Follow” button. Alerts regarding changes to the paper will be emailed to you, just like other Notifications on the Commons. If you cannot find the paper, ask the author if you’ve been added to the reader group.

Adding Comments to a Paper

The site is an active Writing Desktop. You’ll be able to comment right away. If you’re signed in to the Commons, your comments will appear without moderation; comments sent from outside require author approval.

Commenting can be done in two ways –for the paper as a whole or by paragraph . You cannot post a comment in direct relation to a word or sentence.

Commenting on the Paper as a Whole

If you want to reply to the paper as a whole, you can post a comment at the bottom, beneath “Responses”:

Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 9.21.09 PMThat’s probably something you’ve seen before.

Commenting on a Paragraph

Commenting at the paragraph level is more interactive.  As you scroll down from paragraph to paragraph, you will see either a plus sign or a number appear in a bubble to your right. Like this:

plus bubble


Number bubbleThe plus sign indicates that no one has yet commented; numbers tell you how many comments have already been posted. When you click on the bubble, the paragraph will be highlighted and you will see a place to post your comment:

Who Can Post Comments

On Public Papers if you are already logged in, you can simply post your comment. If you are not logged in, you will be prompted to do so. If you change your mind about adding your comment, simply press the “Cancel” hyperlink to leave the comment space. Once you press “Post Comment”, you cannot edit it.

Once you post, you’ll get a green pop up box saying “Thank you!

Comments from logged-in Commons members are posted immediately,  so there’s no need for you to check in with the author. If you are not logged in, your comment will be moderated by the author.

Private Papers can only be commented on by logged-in members with whom the author has shared the paper.

Replying to Existing Comments

In addition to commenting on the paragraph, you can reply to an already-existing comment:

Replying yo a commentNote that replying to an already-existing comment is only possible if the previous commenter was logged in.

Orphaned Comments

After you have left your comments, the original author may publish a new draft which omits one or more paragraphs. If this happens,  the comments from the original paragraph will appear where that paragraph was previously located. This is not easy to see in the text, but as you scroll you may notice a number bubble that will allow you to see the comments left there:

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 8.51.08 PM


If you have any feedback about this exciting new feature, please email the Community team: . Happy commenting!

Social Paper Codex Pages

  1. Social Paper
  2. How to Create a Social Paper
  3. How to Share and Follow Social Papers
  4. How to Comment on Social Papers (current page)

Social Paper

Social Paper lets members share in-progress writing projects, and receive feedback.  Granular permission settings let members of the Commons determine who they want to expose their work to.  Paragraph by paragraph commenting makes Social Paper an ideal tool for modern academic writing.

Navigating to Social Paper

There are three ways to navigate to a Social Paper. After you log into your Commons account, you can either:


  1. Use the CUNY Academic Commons drop-down menu on the top left and click on Papers;
  2. Select the Papers tab from the tabs across the site; or
  3. Use your Profile drop-down menu on the top right and hover over My Papers.

For more detailed instructions on how to use Social Paper as an author or a reader, see the following pages:

  1. How to Create a Social Paper
  2. How to Share and Follow Social Papers
  3. How to Comment on Social Papers

Social Paper is made possible by The National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities and the City University of New York Advance Grant Program.

How to Create a Social Paper

Welcome to Social Paper! This is one in a series of posts that explain how to use Social Paper tool on the Commons. For information on Reading, Commenting on and Sharing Papers, click here.

Step 1: Create New Papercreatnewpaper

If you’re ready to start your paper, the fastest way to do so is through the profile drop-down menu. Just scroll down to My Papers, then move your cursor to and click Create New Paper.

If you use the main page navigation or the drop-down menu on the top left side of of the page,  you will be taken to the Papers page (Social Paper). To create your paper, click Create New Paper.


Step 2: Give Your Paper a Title

Wait for the paper to load all the way (remember, we’re still in beta), then click on the row where Title appears replacing it with the title of your paper. Your title will automatically become part of the URL of the paper.


Step 3: Start Writing

After you’ve given your paper a Title, click on “Just Write…” and do just that!starttypingeditingtools





You can apply some rich text formatting to  your paper by highlighting your text.  You have the option to make it BOLD, italicized, strike through text, create a hyperlink, add a blockquote, or change the text to H2 or H3.

Add a Block


When you are typing and hit enter, a pop-up will appear that suggests to “Add a block.” Click this to add multimedia, a horizontal line, or a page break. You can insert media from a file on your computer or media library, or insert from URL. Adding a horizontal line will break up your text within the page, and adding a page break will create a new page for the content you are able to add.


Step 4: Update the Paper Settings

decriptionTo access your paper’s settings, click on the gear icon on the bottom left side of the paper.

Add a short description of your paper, which will appear alongside your paper in the Social Paper directory (If you leave this box blank, an excerpt will be used instead).

Decide whether you want your paper to be Public or Private in regards to reading and commenting. If you select Private, you can add readers who are members of the CUNY Academic Commons, who will receive alerts when there is activity on your paper.

You can also associate your paper with one or more groups by entering the group’s name.

Remember that anyone you’ve listed as a reader will receive notifications when there is activity on your paper, such as updates and comments.

When you have selected your settings, click on the gear icon again to toggle the Setting panel off so that you have more room for your writing.

Step 5: Add Tagstags

Include tags that are relevant to your paper (click on the tag icon displayed below in Step 6) so you can organize your work and allow your readers to find it more easily. In the example to the right, if you are writing a book review for your MALS 745 class and the book is on digital computing, you could include these as tags.

Step 6: Save & Publish Your Paper

The final step is to save and publish your paper. You have the ability to save your paper as a draft or publish it.  Your paper will not be visible to others while it is saved in Draft form.

While this is the last step in this post, we realize that these papers are living documents with the strong potential to be edited, re-saved, unpublished and saved as a draft, and republished. Do not feel you have to publish your work until you are ready. That said, the point of the Social Paper is to get feedback, which is a very important part of the writing process — so be social and share!


Social Paper Codex Pages

  1. Social Paper
  2. How to Create a Social Paper (current page)
  3. How to Share and Follow Social Papers
  4. How to Comment on Social Papers

Issue Tracking

If you run into an issue on The Commons, you can report it by using one of the following two methods:

(1) The simpler method is to email us at

(2) Experienced users may prefer to input the issue and track its resolution on CUNY Academic Commons on Redmine.


Our Redmine site (pictured above) requires the creation of a separate login account if you want to post. If you have GC account, you can use that to log in. If not, please write to to create an account.  Once there, you can report an issue, request new WordPress plugins and themes, suggest site improvements, etc. The login is not required if you simply want to browse through all the projects the Commons Community is working on, including bug fixes, new features, support, documentation, outreach, and publicity. Our workflow is on open display.


10 Things to Do


New to the Commons?

10 Things To Get You Started

  • Take the Tour and find out how members connect with colleagues, share ideas, and collaborate.
  • Join some groups or start a group of your own. Collaborate via forums, BP Docs, and file sharing. Participate from the comfort of your inbox using our robust reply-by-email feature.
  • Read some blogs or start one of your own to share interests and passions, facilitate departmental administration, advertise events, or publish research findings.
  • Browse the Commons Twitter page and filter tweets about CUNY six different ways.
  • Adjust Your Privacy to control your information’s visibility and the ways you get site notifications.
  • Follow Us on Facebook and Twitter to stay current with new posts, projects, and threads.
  • Get Help from a variety of resources or Send us a message by clicking the Help tab in the top upper right hand corner.  We welcome ideas on how to make the Commons better and your ideas contribute to our development priorities.
Thank you for joining the CUNY Academic Commons. If you need further assistance, email us at

Events Calendar

cal_5374200948_539b10fb1c_m Events Calendar is a site-wide plugin that supports individual, group, and global calendars. Designed to publicize events to the friends you’ve developed on the Commons and to the groups you belong to (and which you choose to notify), the plugin delivers email notifications about events with vital information, including:

  • Event title
  • A rich description, that allows for links, images, etc.
  • Start and end times
  • Venue (including a map)
  • Whether or not this is a recurring event
  • Commons groups who have been invited

The information is also conveniently aggregated with other Commons events and displayed on individual, group, and global calendars. You can browse through your individual calendar, or look through your groups’ calendars to find events, and click to see details.

  • As an individual, you can check out your personal calendar to see all events targeted for the groups to which you belong, and the events that have been entered by your friends.
  • As a group member, you can access your group’s calendar to find events specifically targeted to your group.
  • As a member of the Commons, you can (soon) access the global calendar and see what events are happening in public groups.

my events

Accessing Your Individual Calendar

There are several ways to access your individual calendar once you are logged into the Commons.

  • Hover over your avatar in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Here you will see a new option called “My Events” (pictured at the right).
  • You can also visit your “Commons Profile.” Here you will see a new tab called “My Events.”

When you click on “My Events>>Calendar” you will see events entered by you, your friends, or by members of groups to which you belong. The calendar grid provides a convenient way to plan your schedule.

my cal

If you click on the “Upcoming Events” tab you’ll see a more condensed view, displayed as a list. No matter which view you choose, you can click on each event for its metadata.


The “Manage” tab is useful when you have events that are in draft, and that you have not yet published.

Accessing Group Calendars

omekaGroup calendars can be accessed from a new tab in the group menu called “Events” (see image on the right). Group calendars are different from individual calendars in that they display events to which they are specifically targeted.

If you click on “ New Event” from inside your group, the event you enter will be automatically added to your group new groupcalendar.  But don’t stop there.  You can add other groups that you think will be interested in the event you are publicizing.   You can add public, private and hidden groups, provided you belong to them.  And as stated before, the members of these groups will be notified by email, and events will display on their individual and group calendars.

Understanding Privacy

  • Your personal calendar is discrete from everyone else’s and is private to you.
  • Events you enter from your personal calendar are visible to your friends on the Commons. They will be notified by email upon publication.
  • When creating an individual event, you can target the groups you belong to.
  • If the only group your choose is private or hidden, only those members will be notified.
  • If you post from a private or hidden group, no trace of the event will display except on the calendars of those belonging to those private or hidden groups.
  • If you include a public group, those members will be notified, and the event will be added to the group.
  • All “Public” group events will be viewable on the global calendar, but notification emails will not be sent to everyone on the Commons.

Adding Events to your Google, MS Outlook, or similar third party calendars

If you use “Google Calendar,” or MS Outlook, or a similar API, you can automatically add events from your Commons calendars.  Click on the event to add them by clicking the “Download iCal file” hyperlink (highlighted below).  They will be added to your third party calendar.


Site-Wide Calendar

The Commons site-wide calendar is a great way to see what’s happening all over CUNY.  It shows events added to public groups, but will not display events only associated to private or hidden groups. You can access from the Commons home page, on the “Events” tab or at


Digital Research Tools

dirt2Digital Research Tools (DiRT) is a robust directory containing an ever-growing list of research tools, searchable by category or keyword. Resources range “from content management systems to music OCR, statistical analysis packages to mind-mapping software.” DiRT makes it easier to discover and compare tools for digital research.

Getting Started with DiRT

DiRT is primarily group-based, and is totally optional. By default, it’s turned off, since it may not be useful for some groups. For others, it’s an exciting addition.  Group admins go to “Manage” and then “Digital Resource Tools” to enable DiRT.   See the screenshot below :


Once enabled, a new tab will appear on your group homepage.  All members of your group can now click on it and explore what tools other group members are using and check the “I use this” boxes to register personal usage.


To rescind your usage, simply uncheck the “I use this” box.  If you have never visited this tab or want to add to your list of tools, click on the Digital Tools Directory hyperlink.  Here you will see a list of all the tools that are used by Commons members, and you can easily check some more boxes to register usage.  You can also be a pioneer and search the DiRT repository for tools no one on the Commons has checked yet:


Here you tap into all tools on the DiRT repository.  Search by category or keyword.  Explore possible tools and register usage or interest in a tool.   Click on the “Show Description” hyperlink in the search results list to get a quick synopsis of the tool without leaving the Commons.  Or you can click on “Learn more on” and leave the Commons to drill down to even more specifics on the DiRT site.

Don’t worry if you are in two groups that both have DiRT enabled.  You do not need to re-enter your tool usage.  In fact, you will notice a new menu item called “Digital Research Tools” on your “Commons Profile” page, circled in red, which lets you enter your digital tools and access DiRT outside the context of a Commons group.


Hope you enjoy this discovery tool!

The CUNY Academic Commons collaborated on a Mellon grant with UC Berkeley to make its Drupal-based Digital Research Tool repository (DiRT) accessible to other Web sites via custom-built APIs. The Commons was the pilot site for this project, and members can pull in content from DiRT without leaving the Commons. The interface is designed to collect tool usage information from Commons members and provide a way to share experience with particular tools. It also exposes a robust directory containing a growing list of research tools, searchable by category or keyword. Resources range “from content management systems to music OCR, statistical analysis packages to mind-mapping software.” DiRT makes it easier to discover and compare tools for digital research.




Invitations to the Commons, to Groups, and to Group Sites

When you invite colleagues or students to join the Commons, there are a number of options that can save you a bunch of time. Listed below are the basic scenarios, and how you can combine what you want to do into one process.

Inviting Someone to Join the Commons
This is the basic scenario – you want to invite a CUNY colleague to join the Commons. Any member of the Commons can send a customized email invitation, and the recipient can simply click on a hyperlink to begin the registration process.

Hover over your avatar in the top right corner of your browser screen, and scroll down to the “Send Invites” option.


When you click on Send Invites, you’ll see a screen like below. Fill in your colleague’s email addresses, one per line, in the box highlighted in red. You can customize the subject line and the text of the invitation.



Inviting Someone to Join the Commons and Your Group(s)
If you want to invite someone to join the Commons, and to join one or more of your groups, follow the same procedure as above, but in the optional section 4, click on one of the checkboxes of the groups you’d like the new member to consider joining. When he or she completes the registration process, an invitation to the group(s) will be waiting for acceptance.

This is particularly effective if you are using the Commons to teach a graduate class. Make sure you create your class group first, and then, when you send out invitations to class members, check your class group’s box. Then your students will receive an invitation to join the Commons, and once they registered, will automatically receive a request to join the class group.

Inviting Someone to Join the Commons, Your Group, and Your Group Site
The final scenario pertains if you have a group site. If you already have a group site, go to “Send Invites” on the left to search for members to invite:


The invitees will be sent an email with a confirmation link. The invitee will initially join as a Member. If you’d like to remove, ban or promote individual members, go to Manage (on the left) and select the Members tab in the middle. Next to each name are four options:


Members are free to leave the Group by navigating to the group Site, then clicking Leave Group:



Please let us know if you have any difficulties or questions about this process at the Commons help desk –




You Just Joined a Group on the Commons – Now What?

There are hundreds of groups on the Commons, and you’ll probably want to join a bunch.  For public groups,  when you click the join button, membership is immediate. For private groups, you’ll need to ask to join, and the admins of the group will need to approve your membership.  There are also hidden groups on the Commons, and to join these, you’ll need to receive and accept an invitation.

So What Next?

If you are new to the Commons, you might wonder about groups and their purposes.  Some are very very casual, and have sporadic activity.  Other “working” groups are very active, and many members share information and collaborate on projects.  Here are some examples of how groups are used on the Commons:

  • Common interests. For example, the CUNY Open Education Resources (OER) is a public group with a public blog that provides “… a space for CUNY librarians and teaching faculty interested in free and open textbooks and other open education resources…”
  • Department or program administration. For example, The College of Staten Island English Department has a private group with a private blog that facilitates communication between faculty, students, and staff members.
  • Committees.  Groups on the Commons provide fantastic ways to share files, minutes, organize meetings, discuss plans, and collaborate on projects.
  • Conduct graduate classes. Group forums are a great place to bounce around ideas, discuss issues, and post class announcements.  Private group blogs can be used to publish syllabi and post writing assignments and course reflections.  Class members can work collaboratively on projects using Docs feature.  Check out the Digital Praxis Seminar for an example.
  • Projects.   ePortfolios @SPS – a private working group and group blog for the “Connect to Learning at SPS” project)
  • Campus “Commons” sites.  A great example of this is The Lehman Teaching & Learning Commons – “a space for Lehman’s faculty, staff, and graduate students to join in conversations and activities about their Lehman experience.”
  • Conferences/events/seminars.  Plan, organize and advertise upcoming group events.

Group Tools

group optionsThere is a lot more to groups than the group forum.   Here is a quick review of all the tools that are avaialbe to group members:

  • On your group’s Home page, below its summary statement and avatar is the group activity stream, a rich log with links to everything that’s happened in the group – new members, new forum topics, replies to discussion threads, announcements, etc. Browse the group’s Activity Stream to stay current with your groups news. (If your group subscribes to any external RSS feeds, that content will appear here as well.)
  • The Announcements page lists all the announcements posted by the group’s admins and moderators.
  • If your group has a group blog, you can access it via the Blog tab.  Read and post to the Group Blog.  (This option will not appear if your group does not have a blog.)  For more info, see Groups and Groups Blogs.
  • The Files page lets you upload and share files.  Members can upload files to the group site, and make them available to everyone.  By default, group members are notified when a file is uploaded, but you can choose “Silent Upload” and not disturb your colleagues if you are making some small changes to a file or if it is not ready to be reviewed by the whole group.  For more info, see Working with Group Files.
  • Read and contribute to the forum.  As a member, you can start new topics and comment on existing threads.  By default, you are notified by email when other members post to the forum, and you can either reply by email to the thread, or click on the link embedded in the email, and log into the Commons to reply.  These two options make it extremely easy to participate in a discussion.
  • Collaborate with other members using Docs.  You can think of Docs as your group’s private wiki.  It has granular privacy settings which allow subgroups to work together and collaborate confidentially, and keeps a record of changes.  Docs can be tagged and grouped hierarchically.  (Docs can be enabled or disabled by your group admin – if you want this functionality and don’t see it, ask your group admin to enable it.)
  • Find out who is in your group by clicking the Members tab.
  • Send Invites to your colleagues to join your group.    (Invited members need to be members of the Commons.)
  • Configure your email notifications with Email Options page.  tab provides access to your notification settings.  For more see Managing Privacy on the Commons.

Additional Resources

CUNY.IS Quick Links

Members can set up easy-to-remember, short URLs that link to their profiles, sites, groups, docs, or posts.  Once set up, the urls will all begin with “

On a member’s Commons Portfolio, there is an automated way to do this, using the textbox shown below.  Quick Links for Commons Portfolios will initially be populated with members’ usernames, but the dialog below lets members change the URL to something else, as long as it is not already taken.

short URL 2

Other Ways You Might Use Quick Links


To set up one of these types of CUNY.IS quick links, please email the Commons team.

CUNY on Twitter

twitter news dropdownThe Commons provides a great way to use Twitter to track what’s going on at CUNY.  To find tweets from the @cunycommons/cunycommons list go to our Twitter News page or find it easily by clicking on “News” Tab on the Commons Home page and then the “Twitter” drop down option (circled in red on the picture to your right). This page shows:

  • Tweets from Commons Members – The Commons maintains a list of its members’  Twitter accounts.  Tweets from these accounts are aggregated here.  To get your account on this list, send us an email at
  • Tweets from around CUNY – whenever anyone uses hash tags like #CUNY, #CUNYCOMMONS, #CUNYEVENTS,  these tweets will be aggregated here.
  • @cunycommons tweets – these tweets come from the Commons own account – @cunycommons.  They generally advertise new content posted on the Commons.
  • #cuny – Tweets that include hash tags #cuny are aggregated here.
  • #cunyevents – Tweets that include hash tag #cunyevents are aggregated here.

On the right hand side of the page (pictured below), you’ll see:

  • options to sort by the categories above
  • a quick refresher about how Twitter works
  • other Twitter resources
  • a download link which takes you to the source code found on GitHub.


Our Tweets are refreshed every five or ten minutes.  Refresh your browser to find the latest news. The software which makes all this possible was developed by the CUNY Academic Commons.  We hope you enjoy it!

Managing Your Commons Profile/Portfolio

Members can create dynamic, online profiles, and access them with easy-to-remember URLs, using our new CUNY.IS Quick Links.

Here is a sample portfolio page:sv5You’ll notice as you scroll down on the page, the black header area will shrink up a bit, and just show your name and avatar.  You can scroll back up again to see full header details.

Getting Started

To get started, log into the Commons and click on your avatar.  Your profile is now divided into two tabs: “Public Portfolio” and “Commons Profile”.  (You’ll see the “Edit” button only if you are logged into your account.)

  • Public Portfolio – This tab is designed to be shared outside the CUNY Academic Commons community.  It is your online presence that can be configured to reflect your add friend3accomplishments, current projects, interests, positions, publications and RSS feeds.  The new interface provides many ways to build your profile.  You’ll notice very little reference to the Commons on this tab.

When viewing other member’s portfolios, logged-in members will see some options (pictured above) that are displayed immediately under a colleague’s avatar.  You can easily create a friendship (if you are not already friends), send a private message or mention that person.

  • Commons Profile – This tab is designed for working within the Commons.  It has all the easy navigational links you’ll remember from your old profile page.  You can quickly access your sites, groups, and friends.

edit portfolio

Start Building Your Portfolio

who can seeClick on Edit (circled in red, above).  There are a number of legacy fields that are essential to both profiles, and most of these can be configured to display, depending upon the status of the viewer.  (See screenshot, right.)

So, for example, if you only want to display your phone number to your friends on the Commons, click on the “My Friends” radio button.

The fields are listed in two columns:

  • Full Name
  • Role(s) (only displayed on Commons Profile)
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Website
  • Blog
  • Social Media links (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube,, Delicious) – these are automatically converted into icons.

Describe Yourself

A couple of important new fields, only displayed on the “Public Portfolio” tab, are now available:

  • Brief Descriptor – this field is a neat little tag line displayed underneath your name.  It is displayed in a different color (grey) and highlights your profile.  It is limited to only one line of text.  This field is not required, and if not used, it absence will not be apparent.
  • About You – This field is much larger, but is still constrained to 350 characters.  Once again, this text is not required.

Quick Links

Another great improvement rolled out with Commons 1.5 is the ability to create customized short URLs.  For your Commons Portfolio, your quick link will automatically be populated with your username, but you can easily change it using the textbox shown in the screenshot below.  Type in some text in the box, and the system will determine if it is available (i.e. already taken or not).  When you save your changes, you will be able to more easily access and share the URL of your portfolio.  Simply use

short URL 2

Profile Widgets

To customize your profile, use the widgets that are provided below the text boxes:


All the widgets conform to the portfolio’s basic layout – a section name, displayed in bold on the right, followed by a block of text, displayed on the right.  You’ll notice that some are grayed out.  This indicates that they have already been used in your existing portfolio, and that the particular widget can appear only once.  To change content for one of these widgets, you’ll need to go into edit mode (described below), and click on the section’s text area.

If the widget is not grayed out, you can simply click on the “plus” icon to add a new section.  You will be taken directly to the widget data entry area.

Widget Edit Mode

Clicking  on the “Edit” button automatically puts you into widget maintenance mode.  Hovering your mouse over the text of each section will turn the text area yellow.  Clicking on a yellow area will start the edit process.  Clicking “OK” or “Cancel” will take you out of editing the section, but will not save your profile changes.  To save your profile changes, please remember to click “Save Changes” button.  This will save all the changes you’ve made to the text boxes, described previously, as well as to the widgets, and will take you out of edit mode.

If you want to remove a widget area, you can click on the “Remove” button while in Edit Mode.  After saving, the widget will not appear in your portfolio.


Re-Ordering Sections

In Edit Mode, you can drag and drop sections of your portfolio.   Click on the grey stripped area of a section, and drag it up or down to find its best place. Make sure you save your changes once you’ve got it looking the way you want.

Below is a brief description of the widgets:

  • Free Entry Widget

This widget lets you add and customize text, images, lists, links, etc.  It’s great for adding a simple paragraph of text.  You’ll need some basic HTML and CSS skills to get fancy in this area. You can also copy a block of HTML that’s already formatted the way you want and paste it in, if you want.  You can use this widget more than once in your portfolio to create free text areas, with different names.

  • Academic Interests Widget

This widget is designed to be used only once.  You cannot change its name.  By default it is displayed on both your Commons Profile and Public Portfolio.  When you enter comma delimited items into the text box, they are automatically turned into links. You can control this by using brackets around items you want to become links.  So, for example, you can add some text like “I am interested in [Mark Twain], [Whitman], and [GPS],” and only the items in brackets will be turned into links.

You’ll notice that the widget comes pre-populated with the data you entered on your Commons Profile.

The auto-generated hyperlinks are intended to aggregate members with similar interests.  If one of your interests is “history”, clicking on the hyperlink will provide a list of other Commons members who have also entered “history” as an interest.

  • Education Widget

This widget is also designed to be used only once and also has a fixed name.  Use the editable text area to create a list of degrees and institutions.

  • Positions Widget

This widget is also designed to be used only once and also has a fixed name.  Here you can create a list of positions.  Three fields are available – College, Department, and Title.  Use the text boxes to add each position you want to display on your profile.  Use the “+ Add New” hyperlink to add another one.  The widget will automatically create a list for you.


  • Publications Widget

This widget provides an easy way to list your publications.  Copy and paste content from a text editor and populate your publications section, or type your publications in directly.  This widget accepts HTML and allows you to link to online publications.

  • RSS Feed Widget

This widget lets you create a section on your portfolio, give it a name and provide an RSS feed to populate it.  You can use this widget more than once.  If you have a blog, you might want to create a section called “Recent Posts” and provide your feed URL.  The section will list the last five posts published.




Edit Mode More Intuitive

Previously, when you clicked on your avatar in the upper left hand corner of the screen, you were taken right into “edit mode” for your member profile page. To improve usability, we’ve added an “Edit” buttons in each of the two sections of your profile page. To make changes to your profile, click one of these buttons to toggle into edit mode. Click on “Save Changes” after you have entered your changes, or alternatively “Cancel” to return to your previous version.

Quick Layout Review

Your member profile page is comprised of a top section (with a black background) and a bottom one (with a white background):

my profile

Editable fields in the top section include a Brief Descriptor, an “About You” descriptor, your various social links (rendered as clickable icons), as well as your website, blog, and CUNY/IS shortlink. All fields are optional, and can be maintained by clicking the edit button.

This top section’s height expands and collapses as you scroll up and down. Scrolling down highlights the widget section of a profile page:

my profile collapsed

This section is populated by seven customizable widgets, shown below. All widgets are optional. Some (Academic Interests, Education, Publication, and Positions) can be used only once. The others can be used more than once, if needed.


Rich Text Editor

Another important usability improvement introduced in Commons 1.6 is the ability to use rich text editing when using the Free Text, Academic Interests, Education, Publications, and Positions widgets. See an example below:


Simply highlight some text and click one of the rich text buttons to transform and standardize your content.

Reordering Entries using the Positions Widget

When using the Positions widget, members often need to change the order of the jobs they enter. Now you can easily “drag and drop” entries so that they displayed in the proper order. See below:


Twitter Widget

One of the most exciting enhancement in Commons 1.6 is the new Twitter widget that displays your latest tweets on your member profile page. Simply provide a title and a twitter username to get dynamic content onto your page. You can use this widget more than once if, for example, you want to display your own tweets and also maybe tweets from a project you are involved with. Here is an example, using the Commons twitter username:

twitter widget

We hope these usability tweaks and functional enhancements make it easier to design attractive and useful member profile pages. If you have any questions, send us an email at

Mention Members using @username

One way to include particular members into a conversation on the Commons is to use their username with a ‘@’ in front of it. You may have noticed in both the screenshot from Facebook and the Academic Commons that a “friend/member” was hyperlinked in the update. While the “tag/@mention” process is done somewhat differently, it has the same effect — it links others to the profile of the individual while notifying the individual of the mention via email. This @mention system was first implemented by Twitter, but has been adapted by Facebook and now us!

If you are trying to reach out to specific group members, simply put the @ symbol in front of their username and it will send a notification to their email address. This is a great way to bring members into conversations that can otherwise be easily overlooked in the frenzy of Web2.0 information overload. Don’t know a member’s username? Just go to their profile page and their @handle will be listed directly below their name.

Member Directory Filters

The member search interface includes three attribute-based filters – College, Role, and Academic Interests. These filters allow you to narrow your member search based on selected attributes, improving results.

To try out the new member directory filters, select ‘People’ from the Commons home page. On the ‘Member Directory’ page you will see a column of ‘Filters’ below the main search field.

College Filters

Filter by College – By default eight colleges are visible in the list. Click ‘More’ to display all colleges.

Clicking on the check box by a college displays only members from that college, filtering out all others. You can select or deselect multiple colleges to filter.

Click ‘Clear’ to remove all filters by college.

Role Filters

Filter by Role – There are seven roles by which you can filter search. Similar to filter by college, you can select or deselect multiple roles to filter.

Click ‘Clear’ to remove all filters by role.

Academic Interest Filters

Filter by Academic Interest – Term(s) searched scan the academic profile field of all members of the Commons.

Type a term and enter. The term appears in a box below the search field. The list of members is now reduced to those that have included this term in their profile. You may enter additional terms and add them to your filter.

Remove a term from the filter by clicking the ‘x’ to the left of the term. Click ‘Clear’ to remove all academic interest terms filtered.

Clearing Filters

Clear All Filters – Filters selected across attributes act together to narrow the resulting list of Commons members displayed. To remove all filters from your search click ‘Clear All’ at the top of the filter list.

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