Tag Archives | blogs

Personal Sites or “Blogs”

cc-licensed photo “Evening” by flicker user aloucha

cc-licensed photo “Evening” by flicker user aloucha

Members can have as many WordPress “sites” on the Commons as they want. We have over 1,300 sites on the Commons, many are dedicated to academic group collaboration or professional partnerships. These fall under different use cases. This page deals with personal sites (or “blogs”) – one person posting her/his thoughts, research, articles, poems, images…

We offer domain mapping if you choose to purchase your own domain name – your site will be hosted on the Commons, but your URL will be your own.

Examples of Personal Sites:

Tony’s Thoughts – where the Anthony Picciano, professor and executive officer of the Ph.D. program in Urban Education at the Graduate Center, reliably publishes his thoughts every day, many times focusing on pedagogical issues and current events.

Shehzad NadeemAssistant Professor of Sociology at Lehman College, uses a Commons blog as a portfolio site.

Orienting Statements – Perspectives on Black Music of the Americas by Dean S. Reynolds, a Ph.D. candidate in Ethno-musicology at the CUNY Graduate Center shows how someone can use a Commons site to gather resources and write incisive, personal blog posts. He also uses the site to post his CV and Bio.

Helldriver’s Pitstop – Because your foot shall slide in due time. One of our oldest ongoing blogs Helldriver’s Pit Stop is written by an Assistant Professor of English at Hostos Community College. By turns a music review, a personal diary, and an ongoing meditation on the nature of blogging, the blog recently forked in two directions: “What I’m Listening To” and the “Payphone Project.”

hell driver slide





You Just Created a Site on the Commons – Now What?


You now have a site on the Commons.  If you are new to the Commons or to WordPress, you might feel a bit confused about what to do next and unaware of the possibilities.

Blogs on the Commons

If you’re not already be clear about a focus, here are some examples of how members use blogs or “sites”:

  • Personal blogs
  • Research projects
  • Event or conference sites
  • Department sites (including calendar of events)
  • Class sites
  • Journals and reviews
  • News and Views commentaries
  • Photo blogs

Getting Started With Content

To make any changes to your site, you’ll need to go to your WordPress dashboard.   There you can enter content (i.e. “pages” and “posts”), and organize it with tags, categories, and menus, decorate it with images and videos, and make it accessible in sidebars using widgets.  The opening video demonstrates how to publish your first post.

Other stuff to think about:

  • recent blog postsVisibility – Do you want your site public and have search engines to index it?  Private to only Commons members?  Private only to you, while you are setting it up?  There are a lot of ways to control accessibility.  If your site is public, an excerpt of your posts will appear on the front page of the Commons when you publish, under “Recent Blog Posts.”  It will gradually disappear on the front page, as other members post content. (The Commons Home page displays 8-10 of our member’s most recent posts, and is constantly being updated.)  New blog pages are not shown on the Commons Home page.
  • Discussion – Do you want people to comment on your content?  You can turn discussion on or off globally, or on the page/post level.  Follow this link for more information on discussion settings and ways to filter spam.
  • Collaboration – Do you want to be the sole contributor, or do you want to let colleagues add content too?  You can add new “users” to your site and assign various levels of permissions.

Working With Themes

The default WordPress theme is great, but you might want to experiment with changing the general appearance of your site.  The Commons has hundreds of WordPress themes, many premium, that can make your site more unique.  No coding knowledge is needed, but you’ll just need to configure your new theme to take advantage of its options.

Themes provide alternative ways to layout and advertize your content.  Some come with built-in sliders and customizable front pages.  Some let you configure sidebars that compliment individual pages.  Many themes are designed to appeal to a certain type of blogger – so check them out and see if you see something that looks good and will work for your site.

live preview2A new feature of WordPress lets you preview a theme before you activate it.  In your dashboard, go to Appearance>>Themes, find the theme you are interested in, and then click “Live Preview.”  This will give you a general idea what’s in store if you activate it.

When picking a theme, you might want to consider how it looks on mobile devices.  For more information about this, and a list of mobile-ready themes, see Responsive Themes.

Working With Plugins

Plugins extend what you can do on your site.  So for example, if you are doing research and want to include a map with various sights pinpointed and annotated, you’ll probably be interested in a plugin like Leaflet Maps Marker.  Or if you want to create a Frequently Asked Questions section, you would want to activate Q & A plugin.  Love the 2012 theme, but would like to create a slider for a specific page?  Check out Easy Rotator.  Want to create a cool tag cloud – activate WP-Cumulous.  There are over two hundred plugins on the Commons that do cool stuff, and thousands available on WordPress.org.  If you have a special need or a favorite plugin that is not available on the Commons, submit a plugin request or contact us at support@cunycommons.zendesk.com

See “Tweaking Your Site” for a quick summary of our most popular plugins.

Working with Media

You can easily include pictures and video in your pages and posts.  Typically, on a page or a post, you simply click on the Add Media button, and select “Upload.”  Then find the image on your computer system, and WordPress will upload three different sizes – small, medium and large.  Pick the size you want and orientation (right, left, center), and you are good to go.

Videos are even easier.  Simply paste the URL of the video on a new line and it should automatically embed.

Want to embed a PDF or a Google Doc?  You’ll need to use a specialize plugin – see Simple I-Paper and Google Doc Embed.  Have a presentation that you want to embed?  Check out the possible options.

Help Resources

There are many WordPress help resources available, both on the Commons and on the Web.

  • WordPress Help! A group on the Commons where members help other members out with WordPress questions.
  • On the Commons Wiki, check out the FAQ pages about blogs and Tweaking Your Site.
  • On the Commons Codex menu, see the section on “Blogs” – there are many posts that focus on blogging.
  • Contextual Help – don’t overlook the help button that is available on many dashboard pages.  The WordPress team has done a fine job of documenting common tasks and explaining concepts.  Find the “Help” toggle button in the upper right corner of your dashboard page.  Clicking it will show/hide an area that provides information about the particular task.

The contextual help section for “Pages” is shown in the screenshot below.  On the left side are textual descriptions, on the right, external links to WordPress documentation.

contextual help

  • Instructional videos –  There are a lot of videos to watch to more detailed information.  WordPress TV has some great ones – your might want to look in the beginner category if you are just starting out with WordPress.  You can also search YouTube and Vimeo for good videos on specific topics.


How to Add New Users to a Site

A site can be configured to have one or many contributors, and WordPress allows granularity in the permissions users are assigned. Listed below are roles and their permissions:

  • Administrator – has access to all the administrative duties
  • Editor – can publish posts, manage posts as well as manage other people’s posts
  • Author – can publish and manage their own posts
  • Contributor – can write and manage their posts but not publish post
  • Subscriber – can read comments, and receive comment and news letters

To add a user to an existing site, follow these five steps…

1. Log into the Dashboard of your site.

2. Navigate to the Users tab located in the left navigation bar of your Dashboard and select ‘Add New’. (The Users tab is located between the Plugins and Tools tabs).

3. Enter the member’s member’s email address, username, or display name(this information can be found on their profile page).

  • Please note- Only Commons members can be added to a blog.

4. Set the role of the new user to: Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor or Subscriber.

5. That person will be sent an email asking them to click a link confirming the invite.

New users will not need a new username or password to log into the blog — once they log into the Commons they will have access to the blog under ‘My Blogs’ on the top navigation bar.


Adding Wiki Content to Sites

Suppose you want to record what you learn at a class or a conference. Both wikis and blogs let you compile links and share information, but blogs are better suited to broadcast that information. On the other hand, wikis allow content to evolve and grow by enabling collaboration. Blogs allow feedback in the form of comments, but searching through comments is not that convenient.

So here’s an alternative that lets you use both.  Using the WordPress plug-in “WIKI INC” you can include wiki content in your blog post or page.

After installing, on your post or page edit screen, scroll down to the Wiki Inc section and fill in the wiki site (must be MediaWiki sites like Wikipedia) and the name of the wiki page.  See below:

wiki append

WordPress Tutorials & Links

  • WPCandy tutorials – WPCandy has many useful tutorials that provide tips on configuring your blog.
  • FLOSS – general how-to manual for WordPress (in TWIKI format)
  • WordPress.org – Here you will find complete documentation for WordPress, including available plug-ins and themes and free downloads. As an open source project, WordPress depends on its community to develop plug-ins and themes, and to document each of these by using its Codex, a collection of blog pages which serve up wiki pages that members of the community can collaborate on.
  • WordPress TV Screencast how-tos created by WordPress developers
  • WordCamp NYC 2010 – The folks at WordPress organize “camps” at major cities throughout the year, and they are very interesting to attend. Cheap and highly recommended, if you are interested in WP.

Sites on the Commons

The Commons has different types of platforms that individuals and groups  use to communicate and collaborate — Groups (with discussion forums, papers, docs) and Sites. So why use a site, rather than a group?

Sites offer:

  • A more flexible system of publishing than groups. The visual appearance of the site can be altered through the use of themes. The functionality of the blog can be changed by the activation of various plugins
  • A way for non-CUNY users to contribute to the conversation through comments (since only members of CUNY can create accounts on the Commons, only members of CUNY can join groups
  • A more advanced system of privacy. Whereas groups can currently only have three levels of privacy — public, private, and hidden — sites have five different levels of privacy, all available from the Settings > Privacy menu of the blog dashboard:

Site privacy settings available on blog dashboard from Settings > Privacy.

You can choose one of the following five options to adjust your blog’s visibility.

  • 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 from the blog community
  • I would like my site to be visible only to registered members of this blog
  • I would like my site to be visible only to administrators of this blog

You may also make individual posts on your site private and password protected.

You can create as many WordPress sites as you want on the Commons. You can decide on the level of privacy, choose a cool theme, and create posts and pages. Your posts will be broadcast on the Commons Home page, or not, depending upon your preferences.

How to Detect and Avoid Spam

Bloggers love to get feedback from those who read their posts, but how can they ensure that the comments are genuine?

Spammers comment on blogs to get their URLs posted on legitimate sites, and increase their Google rankings. (.edu sites are especially enticing to them!)  How can bloggers avoid “legitimizing” this activity?

Blog settings
On your WordPress dashboard, find “Settings” on the left-hand menu, and choose “Discussion Settings.” You will find many ways to regulate those who comment on your blog. You may want to require manual approval for first-time commentors – or for commentors who include a lot of URLS (spam often contains many external links). You can set up the rules here.

Suspicious URLs
Spam comment almost always includes urls. Take a look at them to determine if they look funny.

Suspicious e-Mail addresses
Spam comment may also include e-mail addresses, and these can also tip you off that you are being spammed. Look for odd addresses…

Context-free “Praise”
Watch for comments that offer little specific context (i.e. “I love your post!”). Or comments that string together keywords from your post in incoherent phrases.

Other examples:

“I am not any authority, but I presume you just crafted a particularly high-quality point. You plainly understand what you’re speaking about, and I can see the issue being made here.”
“I am not a specialist, nevertheless I suppose you just produced an especially high-quality point. You clearly understand what youre speaking about, and I can quite get behind that.”
“Thank you a great deal of for so worthwhile article. Outstanding job!”

When in Doubt
Remember, you can always approve a comment, but get rid of its links, rendering it inconsequential.

When Not in Doubt
Mark the comment as “Spam.” Don’t just click “Trash.” This will help the various filters identify future spam.

Akismet is a WordPress plug-in that is by default installed on Commons blogs, but you’ll need to configure it with an activation key. It is a filter that acts as our first line of defense against spam. Check out Akismet’s FAQ page for more information. The Commons now has a free activation key for Akismet – check out this post for more information.

WordPress Plugins

WordPress uses plug-ins to extend the core functionality of blogs. There are over ten thousand plug-ins which have been developed by the WordPress Community. The Plug-in Directory provides download access to them, and lets you search by keyword and tags.

The Commons provides access to a subset of this huge group of plug-ins. These plug-ins are installed and ready to be enabled. The list of plug-ins changes over time. If you know of a plug-in which you would like to use, but which is not installed on the Commons, send an email to support@cunycommons.zendesk.com. Check out Tweaking Your Site for a listing of popular WordPress plugins. Each entry provides a brief description and a link to a post about it.

How to Activate a Plug-in on a Commons Blog

Activating a plug-in is a one time operation – on the WordPress Dashboard, click on “Plug-ins.” Then scroll down until you find a plug-in you’d like to try out. Click the checkbox and the “Activate” hyperlink. If you don’t like the plug-in or find that it doesn’t do what you want, you can follow the same procedure, by click on the “DeActivate” hyperlink.

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