Archive | Commons Groups

Help for Commons Group members and administrators

Expanding Group Functionality

Linking social media profiles to groups

Social and you know it? If you’re an admin, you can link your group to your non-Commons social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Flickr, YouTube and Delicious! You’ll find these option in your group Manage tabs under Social Media Accounts:


Cross-posting of forum topics

Have big news you just have to share with everyone? Your forum topics can be visible (or not!) to any or all groups you belong to. All groups that you’re a member of will appear listed beneath your new post. Check one or more of these group checkboxes to crosspost your new forum topic to these groups. Your group members will receive a single notification of each newly-created forum topic.



“My Groups” and “My Sites” Admin Bar Menus

Are you a member of more groups that you can count? Even with your socks off? You can  scroll though the My Groups and My Sites admin bar beneath your avatar in the upper-right hand corner of the screen. For even simpler access to the Sites you love enough to Follow, just click the stable Followed Sites link at the top. The Create a Site link remains sup there as well, because we know many of you have new sites you’re just around the corner from adding! My Groups also shows any Pending Invites awaiting you, so that you can add newbies at will


Group forum search

Are you a member of a group that has plenty of forum activity? Excavating through all the threads can be tiresome, so use the Search Boxes instead. On the right-hand side of the page, just above the topic list, you find a writable field for your searching pleasure.




Changing Your Group’s Privacy Settings

As the screenshot on the right shows, groups on the Commons have three levels of privacy. As the needs of a group evolves, the admin(s) may want to adjust who can see a group’s content.  There are a few things to remember when choosing to open up a group to the public.

Once the switch is made, docs, files, and forum threads will be visible to everyone. Look over group content for files or threads that may not be appropriate for public consumption and either edit or delete accordingly.  Conversely, announcements posted by admins before the group became public will no longer by accessible to group members. Old announcements aren’t permanently deleted and will reappear if the group becomes private again.

If the group has a group site enabled, changing the group from private to public will not automatically change the site’s privacy settings.  You can have a public group with a private group site, or a private group with a public group site.  Find out more about group sites here.  To update the settings of your group site, please visit the “Group Blog” setting of the Admin panel.  Learn more about Groups on the Commons.

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.

FAQ – Groups

Groups on the Commons

How can groups use the Commons?

Please see this blog post on the Help blog: How groups can use the Commons. You can also check out the “Uses” and “Tools” tabs on Help & Support for more suggestions abut how to use the Commons.

How do I create and maintain a group?

After you’ve logged in, click on the “Groups” tab then select the “Create a Group” button next to the Group Directory (Create a Group Screenshot).  Or, you can hover over your avatart in the upper right hand corner of the screen, click on “My Groups” and then click on “Create a Group.”

To get a better understanding of how to create and maintain your group, please check out this blog post from the Help & Support.

What are the differences in permissions for the various group roles, i.e. Admins, Moderators, Members?

Administrators can do the following things that moderators cannot do:
1) Change group settings, eg turn group blog on or off, turn group forums on or off, change group status from public to private, etc
2) Post Annoucements
3) Change group avatar
4) Manage group members: ie kick/ban members, promote/demote members
5) Delete the group

Group moderators can do the following things that normal members cannot do:
1) Edit the Group Details, including the name of the group and group description
2) Edit, close, and delete forum topics/posts
3) Edit/delete group documents
4) Post Announcements

What’s the difference between public, private, and hidden groups?

All content in public groups (member listing, forum posts, activity stream posts) is available to be viewed by anyone, even viewers who aren’t logged into the site. Public groups are listed in the public directory of groups, and any member of the community can join the group without seeking approval from the group owners.

All content in private groups is hidden from the public and is viewable only by members of that group. Private groups are listed in the public directory of groups, but members of the community must request membership to the group and have that request approved before being able to view group content.

All content in hidden groups is hidden from the public and is viewable only by members of that group. Hidden groups are not listed in the public directory of groups. New members must be invited to join by existing group members.

I joined a hidden group and now can see it and all its members. Can everyone else?

No. When users create or become members of hidden groups, they will see them in the group listing on the homepage, but it will be visible only to members of the group, not to the general public or to members of the Commons who aren’t in the group.

Can I view a hidden group without being a member?

Hidden groups aren’t listed in the groups directory, however, those with access to the group URL can view the group name and description. Group content and member information can only be accessed by members of a hidden group.

What happens when a private group becomes public?

When a private group becomes public, previous announcements will no longer be accessible to group members. For more information about changing a group’s privacy setting please refer to this post on the Commons Codex.

Changing Your Group Settings » What You Need to Know

How can groups share files?

Check out this post to learn how groups can upload and share files. With the Commons 1.2 release, we’ve added a new feature called “Docs” which allows members to work on documents collaboratively. In order to eliminate confusion with “Docs”, we’ve changed the old “Documents” tab to “Files”.

How can groups work on documents collaboratively?

The docs feature in groups allows you to write and edit collaboratively with members of your groups. To learn more about this feature and how to activate it for your group please check out this page on the Codex.

How can groups create a group web site that automatically makes group members subscribers to the site?

We’ve enabled a pretty neat group blog function that makes it easy for group admins to attach a WordPress site to a group. Go to your group and click the “Admin” tab on the left-hand menu.  Click ”enable group blog.”  If you want to use an existing site, select ”Use one of my blogs.” Then select your web site. This will add all members of your group to your chosen site. You can also change the default permission level according to your needs.

How can I attach an existing Commons site to a Group?

To connect an existing site to a group, go to your group home page, and click “Admin” (yes, you need to be an administrator of the group to do this) > Click on Group Blog link > Check the box next to “enable group blog”. Type blog URL to connect the site to your group. That will add all members of your group to your chosen site.Currently, only one site can be attached to a group.

Why am I not receiving Group updates via email?

First, please check your notification settings to make sure that you have set your preferences correctly. Second, please check your account’s spam filter or spam folder, as we have received several reports of group activity stream posts being caught by spam filters. Commons emails are sent from the address “,” so you may need to add that address to your contacts or to your spam filter’s whitelist. If you are still having problems, please contact us.

I’m teaching a class on the Commons. How can I invite my students to join the Commons and to join my class ?

Your class most likely is a group (but it might also have a group blog). See how to get new members signed up to both, in a one step process.  Also, see the following page on Help & Support that describes how members use the Commons for graduate classes.

How can I leave a group?

To unsubscribe from a group, go to the group’s page and click ”Leave Group.” The link is right under the group icon image. Click here for a screenshot showing the the process.

How can I change my group email notifications?

When you join a group, you automatically receive email notifications for all group activity. If you’d like to change your notification settings for your groups, please go to the home page of any group and look for the link titled “Email Options” in the left navigation panel. Click here for a screenshot  On the next page, select the option you would prefer and select “Save Settings”:

  • No Email
  • Weekly Summary Email
  • Daily Digest Email
  • All Email

Click here for a screenshot

For a comprehensive look at how to configure email notifications for all activity on the Commons, see this page.

How do I reply to email notifications?

There are two ways to reply to email notifications. You can click on the link supplied in the notification, log into the Commons, and reply; OR you can Reply By Email, from the comfort of your inbox. For more information about Reply by Email, follow this link. You can use Reply by Email to reply to discussion threads on group forums, to personal messages and @mentions, and to group announcements.

What are Digital Research Tools (DiRT) ?

Digital Research Tools (or DiRT) is an optional feature that can be enabled by group Admins. Once enabled, group members can tap into Berkeley’s DiRT repository without leaving the Commons and discover digital research tools by category or keyword, register usage, and find group members who are using various tools. Here is some documentation that explains how to enable “Digital Resource Tools” for your group, and how the interface works –

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.

Social Paper – Sharing and Following

accessWhen you publish a Social Paper, you have the option to make it public or private. By default, it is public, but at any time you can switch it to private so that it is accessible by you alone, or to individual members of the Commons, or to members of selected groups on the Commons.

Your “Access” controls are visible in a “Settings” panel on the left hand side of your Writing desktop.   By default, the panel  is visible, but it can be toggled to appear and disappear, using the gear icon (see below) at the bottom of the page, to give you more space to write.


The “Access” section of “Settings” panel, pictured at right is only available for papers you have written, and only when you are in edit mode.

I Want My Paper to be Totally Private

When you first publish a paper, you will might want to ensure that your paper is looking the way you want it to before exposing it to others. If you choose “Private” and do not specify any individuals or groups, your paper will be visible to you alone. (Alternatively, you can leave your paper in “draft” mode to ensure privacy.)

member sharingPrivate Sharing

The whole point of Social Paper is to get feedback on your work, so at some point you’ll want to start sharing. You can still keep your paper “Private” and add individual members of the Commons to the list or share your paper with groups on the Commons to which you belong.

Scroll down to the respective text boxes and click to receive an alphabetic list of Commons members or groups, and select the ones you want.

Depending on their email settings, members will receive notifications about your paper, including a link, so that they can go directly to your paper.  Below is an example of an email notification:

email note

Only those explicitly given access will receive notification and be able to read your paper.

Public Sharing

groupsIf you want to share your paper publicly, anyone (regardless whether they are members of the Commons or not) will be able to read and comment on your paper. Comments from outside the Commons are subject to approval by the author to protect against spam.

Public sharing allows you to share your work with colleagues around the world.  Search engines will index your work, and you may get comments from people you do not even know.  You may want to explicitly share with colleagues at other colleges and universities by sending them an email with a link to your paper.

Group Sharing

You may also select Commons groups when you share your public or private papers.  Your paper will be visible in the group’s Papers area and paper activity will appear in the group’s activity stream on its home page. Individual members can still elect to Follow your paper to receive separate email notifications on the paper’s activity.

Social Paper URLs

If your paper is public you may notify colleagues that you have a paper available for review by sharing its URL. For private papers the URL will only work for members with whom the paper has been shared.

All public papers will appear on the Social Paper Directory, and on your “My Papers” tab ({memberName}/papers/).  Logged-in members will be able to see private papers here as well, if permission has been granted on an individual or group level.

How to Discover and Follow Papers on the Commons

If an author gives you permission to access a paper or if the paper is public, you can go one step further and “Follow” a paper.  This makes it easier for you to find it again, if you move away from the page.  And it also ensures that you will be notified when others make comments on the paper.  There are several ways to discover and follow papers.

Follow via Direct Links (from email notifications, My Commons, etc.)

All Social Papers have unique (and configurable) URLs.  As mentioned above, an email notification will provide a direct link to a paper.  My Commons will also provide a direct link to a paper (depending on permission settings).   When you click on a link to a paper, the paper will display in “Reading” mode and a “Follow” button will appear to the right of the author’s name (see below).  If you are already following a paper, the button will appear as “Unfollow” and clicking it will remove it from your personal list of “Followed Papers.”

follow 1

Follow via a Member’s Commons Profile

If you are interested in the work of specific member of the Commons, go to her/his Commons Profile pages.  Here you will see a “Papers” tab which lists the papers s/he has published and the papers s/he are following.  To the right of each paper is a “Follow” button.  Clicking will add it to the list of your own “Followed Papers.”

follow 2

Follow via a Group’s  “Papers” Tab

As mentioned above, papers can be shared explicitly with groups, either publicly  or privately. When you share a paper with a group, it will appear on the Group’s “Papers” tab, highlighted below.  If you are a member of the group, or if it is a public group, you will see the “Follow” or “Unfollow” buttons which function the same as described above.  If you are an author of one of the papers in the list, you will also see a “Delete” button.  Be careful with this button as it will delete your paper from the Commons.

If you would rather stop sharing with a group, go back to your paper’s settings panel. Regardless of whether you are sharing publicly or privately, you can deselect the group and it will not appear on that group’s page.

follow 3

Follow via the Social Paper Directory

All Social Papers are aggregated in the Social Paper Directory, and displayed according to permission levels.  (Please note that you must be logged in to the Commons to see private papers to which you have access.)  The directory also has the three buttons mentioned above – “Follow,” “Unfollow,” and “Delete” and the functionality is the same as described above.

follow 4


Social Paper Codex Pages

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

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


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 –




How to Adjust Discussion Settings

Adjusting WordPress’ Comments Feature

On your dashboard, under Settings>>Discussion you will find the following adjustments for comments:


Please note that changes to these settings will apply to all future pages and posts.  Content that was written previously will retain original discussion settings.  If you want to turn on or off discussion for these, you will need to do it on the post or page level.  See discussion

Turning Off Comments on Individual Posts and Pages

If you only want to turn off comments for one post or page, you can set commenting off on the page/post level.If you don’t see these options, your screen options may need to be adjusted.  Click on the “Screen Options” button in the upper right hand corner.  Learn more about Screen Options.


Sadly, if you turn on discussion, you’ll likely get some spam.  Make sure to activate the plugin called Akismet to strains out almost everything.  We have a free license.  Read How to Detect and Avoid Spam.

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

Staying in Touch with Your Group

The Commons’ powerful email notification system lets members of a group know when other members post content. Used in conjunction with a group blog, it lets you set up a nice place to share content and get feedback. Since the model presented below involves group blogs, here’s a quick look at what they are.

Group Blogs

When you create a group on the Commons, you can optionally attach a blog to it. This “group blog” can be brand new, or it can be an existing site on the Commons that you have admin rights to. Just as a group can be public, private, or hidden, a group blog’s visibility can be configured to meet the needs of the group. Here are the options (found on your Group’s Admin page, under “Group Blogs”):

Likewise, group admins can control what rights group members should have on the group blog. Should they be allowed to post, edit, and publish articles? Should they be allowed to make changes to the layout of the site? These options can be controlled from the Group Admin screen, Under “Group Blog.” See the snapshot below:

For more information on how to do this, check out the Codex posts “How to Create, Join and Maintain Groups” and “Groups and Group Blogs, and Bringing Content Together.”

Group blogs are not appropriate for every group, but for many, they can provide a platform for members to post ideas, embed media, announce events, and aggregate category and tag based content.

Activity Notifications

Besides the group blog, members of a group have many other tools to use – the Discussion Forum, BP Docs, Files, Announcements (see more about these here). Each time a member does something using any of these tools – write a post, respond to a forum discussion, upload a file, announce an event – that “activity” is recorded in the Group Activity stream, and an email notification is sent out to other group members.

This robust email notification system is configurable for each group. Members control how they want to “read” a group. (Settings are found on the Group Admin Page under “Email Notifications” or on your personal Profile Page – “Settings>>Notification”). See snapshot below:

Additionally, you can select what kind of activity you want to be notified about. On your Profile page, go to Settings>>Notification. (Many settings found here do not specifically apply to groups, but some important ones do. ) Here you can see all your groups listed and change their notifications levels. Also, the following lets you further qualify how you want to be notified:

The Group and Group Blog Model

So here’s how a group admin might use a group blog to make a space where members can create content, and read and comment on each other’s work:

  • The group admin creates a group and attaches group blog
  • When members join the group, they are automatically signed up as authors on the group blog
  • They write and publish posts
  • Each time a post is published, an email notification is sent out to the group
  • Members click on the link, read the post, and can comment

Members of course still use the discussion forum, and each time they post to the forum, a notification is sent out. For these they can reply by email, without even logging into the Commons. (See “Reply by Email.”) Members can use BP Docs to collaborate on projects, and similarly, when a major edit occurs, members are notified by email.

It’s a terrific pedagogical model, and one that is being used on the Commons to teach graduate courses: students join a group with their classmates. The group has a private blog attached to it, and they are automatically added as users to the blog. They do their assignments as blog posts. Whenever a student publishes a post, an excerpt automatically shows up on the group’s activity stream, and each group member is notified by email (depending upon their notification settings), that one of their peers has posted some content. If the content is a blog post, they can click on the link, read the rest of the post, and comment. If the content is a forum post, they can read it in its entirety, and reply by email, from the comfort of their inbox.

How Do We Do It?

The powerful and ultra-configurable email notification system that keeps Commons group members in touch is made possible by a BuddyPress plugin called Group Email Subscription that was developed by, the CUNY Academic Commons, and

The Group for Group Admins

With Commons 1.3 we’ve begun to automatically invite all new group administrators and moderators to ‘The Group for Group for Admins.’ While joining the group is optional, we encourage you to come aboard and take part in the discussion. If you decline the invitation and decide at a later date that you would like to join you can always find ‘The Group for Group Admins’ by searching for it under the ‘Groups’ tab or following this link.

For more information about The Group for Group Admins, click here.

How to Create a Group Blog

To connect a blog with a group, go to you group home page and click “Admin” (yes, you need to be an administrator of the group to do this):

Red circle highlights admin button on group interface (available only to group admins). Click for larger view.
Red circle highlights admin button on group interface (available only to group admins). Click for larger view.

Click on group blog link:

Click on the Group Blog link. (click image for larger view)
Click on the Group Blog link. (click image for larger view)

Check the box next to “enable group blog”:

Check "enable group blog". (click image for larger view)
Check “enable group blog”. (click image for larger view)

Decide to start a new blog or connect an existing one to your group. Enable member posting if you want your group members to be authors on the blog. You will also be asked to set WordPress roles for administrators, moderators and members.

A bit about the WPMU member roles:

  • Administrator – Somebody who has access to all the administration features.
  • Editor – Somebody who can publish posts, manage posts as well as manage other people’s posts, etc.
  • Author – Somebody who can publish and manage their own posts.
  • Contributor – Somebody who can write and manage their posts but not publish posts.
  • Subscriber – Somebody who can read comments/comment/receive news letters, etc.
Choose a blog for the group and enable member posting
Choose a blog for the group and enable member posting

Click “Save Changes” and the “Blog” link should now appear on the left navigation area of the group.

Group Docs (aka “Docs”)


“Docs” allows group members to collaborate on documents and provides granular control over who can edit documents, and who can view them.

Getting Started

Docs is a BuddyPress plugin, and has been activated for all groups on the Commons. However, it must be “enabled” by a group’s admin in order to work, much in the same way a WordPress plugin must be activated.  Non-admins will not be able to see the “Docs” function until their group admin enables it.

Enabling BuddyPress is simple.  Just check the box below:

You will also be able to control who in your group can create a document.  Choices are: Admins, Moderators or Members.

If an admin is setting up a new group, an additional option (“6. Docs”) will be available, and he/she will be prompted similarly to enable “Docs,”  and be directed to a similar dialog.

What is a BuddyPress Doc?

A BuddyPress Doc is an online document that members of a group may work on together.  It inherits many features that are available for a WordPress post. You may embed pictures and videos, use blockquotes, links, bullets, numbering and indentations. Like posts, some html tags are allowed, and an easy to use tool bar is available for common edit needs (including the “kitchen sink”):

You may switch between Visual and HTML just like your were writing a post. To embed a youtube video, simply paste the url into the body of the Doc.

Creating a Doc

Click on the “New Doc” hyperlink to create a new BuddyPress Document.

Configuring your Doc

There are three sections at the bottom on each Doc which control taxonomy, hierarchy and privileges:


Each document may be tagged to help describe and organize your collection of documents. A complete list of your entered tags will be available as hyperlinks which you may use to filter your collection of documents. Choose tags carefully and consistently to get best results.


Some documents may be hierarchical in nature, and the parent tab is available to assign such linkages. When child/parent relationships are established, links to the parent will appear at the bottom of the child doc, and links to children will appear at the bottom of the parent doc.

Document Edit and Comment privileges

The settings tab on each document control who can edit the document, who can add comments to the document, and who can read the comments that have been written. This is a very powerful feature that may be useful when mangaging group projects.

Document Visibility

If you want your documents invisible to the public, consider making your Commons group either private or hidden. If your group is public, your docs will be visible to everyone, even though you can control who may edit them, comment on them, or read comments (see above).

Managing your Group’s Docs

Tagging is a very powerful way to organize your group’s collection of documents, and you may filter by tags.  Other ways to access your documents also exist. Sorting your collection is a good way to view group docs by title, author, creation date, and last edited date.


You may want to be able to track the changes that took place on each document. This is an enhancement which is on tap for a future release. Stay tuned for a release date!


A url is available for each document and its discussion thread. If your group is private or hidden, these urls will only be viewable by members of your group. Your doc’s discussion thread will be viewable if comments have been set up as readable by the public


Groups and Group Blogs, and Bringing Content Together

A group’s “arsenal” of Tools

The connection between groups and group blogs on the Commons may not be that intuitive. Groups already come with an arsenal of tools, each of which may be configured to generate email notifications when activity occurs, or batched into daily or weekly digests. To review, here’s a summary:

  • Announcements – broadcasts sent by group admins to group members.
  • Files – repositories of uploaded data items (docs, pdfs, spreadsheets, images, etc.), each having a permalink or URL.
  • Forums – discussion threads, where members investigate topics, form opinions, post attachments, and tag content.
  • Docs, a private wiki-like space where members collaborate on documents. Permissions and visibility are configurable.

Group admins can also set up a group blog, but it may not always be clear how that group blog fits into things. The “Visit Blog” option appears in the sidebar once a blog is attached to a group. Admins control the look and feel of the site, and are in charge of setting up a group permissions. In the Admin Tab, under Group Blogs, an admin of a group can determine the role code for their members. Here are the options:

  • Administrator – Somebody who has access to all the administration features.
  • Editor – Somebody who can publish posts, manage posts as well as manage other people’s posts, etc.
  • Author – Somebody who can publish and manage their own posts.
  • Contributor – Somebody who can write and manage their posts but not publish posts.
  • Subscriber – Somebody who can read comments/comment/receive news letters, etc.

Admins can also control site privacy by selecting one of the following:

  • I would like my site to be visible to everyone, including search engines (like Google, Bing, Technorati) and archivers
  • I would like to block search engines, but allow normal visitors
  • I would like my site to be visible only to registered users of CUNY Academic Commons
  • I would like my site to be visible only to members of my group
  • I would like my site to be visible only to Admins.

But group members may not be aware they can create posts on the site, and be unsure of the site’s privacy level.

It may make sense to note these settings in your site’s “About” page.

Using Your Site to Bring Group Content Together

A successful group site often acts as a hub, linking out and annotating content from its forums, BP Docs, Files, and Announcements, as well as soliciting contributions in the form of posts, pages, and comments from its members.

The hub and spoke model – one option

Each group is different, and group admins need to decide how best to control site content.

WordPress now has custom menus, and these can be used to create navigation that links out to the group content. Each discussion thread, each doc, each file, and each announcement has a permalink which may be used in a group blog’s post, page, or sidebar. Custom menus are a great way for admins to bring group content together (see tutorial at the end on this page).

Both admins and members can take advantage of the built-in WP presentation tools, and available plug-ins to embellish content on the site. This can bring a cool dimension to a group site.

Experiment with Google Calendar, Google Map Embed, Contact Form 7, Twitter Tools, and many other plug-ins to see how your group can benefit from a group blog!

And check out Wiki Inc plug-in which lets you include content from the Commons Wiki or any other MediaWiki based site, like Wikipedia.

Custom Menus Tutorial:

How Groups Can Use the Commons

Groups on the Commons

The Academic Commons is a great place for CUNY groups, so we thought we’d pull together a list of some of the ways that groups can use this space to collaborate. Let us know in the comments if we’ve missed anything. And please feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments, too.

Type of Groups

Any member of the Academic Commons can create a group (here’s how). If you’d like to create a group, there are three types to choose from:

Public Groups

With a public group everything the group creates is visible on the Commons: the group page, member list, announcements, and forum posts. No permission is required to join a public group. Public groups can also enable group blogs and set different roles for members.

Private Groups

In a private group certain elements of the group are not visible to those who are not members. Only members can see the member list, announcements, and forum posts. The group does appear in the list on the Commons Groups page, but non-members can only view a simplified version of the group page. You must request membership to join a private group.

Hidden Groups

A hidden group is invisible on the Commons to everyone except for group members. The group page, member list, wire, and forum posts are all hidden from the public.

Once you’ve created your group, here are some ways your group can use the Commons:

Communicating between group members

To communicate to all members of a group, administrators and moderators can post group announcements and check the box beneath the text field to email the update to all members. Members can reply to group updates. In a public group, the activity on the group’s page will also be visible to anyone; in a private or hidden group, group activity will only be visible to group members. *Please note- If a group changes from private to public, prior annoucements will no longer be accessible to group members.

The forum enables all members of a group to start and engage in conversations on any given subject. Members can attach files and subscribe to specific topics.

Groups may also wish to create a blog and use blog posts and comments for group communication. By default Commons blogs are visible to all, though you can adjust the blog’s privacy settings. Individual posts may also be so that only those who know the password can view them.

Host a blog or website to share information about the group’s work

All Commons members can create a blog on the site, and any group member can be added to the blog as a content contributor. The Commons runs on the WordPress blogging system which is easy to update and customize. Groups and members can also create static pages on their WordPress blog, just as on a standard website.

Posting meeting minutes and other documents

Groups may wish to use their Commons space to archive meeting minutes or other pertinent documents. One way to accomplish this is to use the group’s forum. Minutes can be uploaded as a forum post or attached as a file. Commons forums accept most common file types as attachments, for example, Word docs or PDFs.

To learn how to add documents to blog posts, click here.

Collaborative editing

Group members may wish to collaborate on documents, resources, etc., and the Academic Commons wiki is a great space for that kind of collaboration. Groups can create as many pages on the wiki as they’d like.

All wiki pages are currently visible to all Commons visitors. If you’ve created a wiki page and would like to have it linked from the main wiki page, please let us know.

With the Commons 1.2 release, group admins can now enable “Docs,” a powerful new tool that allows groups to collaboratively write and edit documents. Docs is a simple way for groups to work together on creating documents and store them within the group. The collaborative documents can be tagged, commented on, and and searched through by keywords. To learn more about this new feature, please click here.

The Academic Commons is designed to be flexible, so you can tailor your use of Groups to meet your members’ unique needs. If you come up with creative uses that we didn’t mention here, please write to us at

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