Tag Archives | privacy

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 shambhalanetwork.org, the CUNY Academic Commons, and bluemandala.com

Password Protecting Individual WordPress Pages and Posts

Lock and Hasp by smig44_uk, on Flickr

By default, when you set up your WordPress site on the Commons, it is accessible to search engines and to anyone on the Web.  There are three ways that you can clamp down on your readership pool.  In Settings>>Privacy, you can specify that you would like your site to be only visible to members of the Commons, or only visible to members of your site, or only visible to Admins of your site.  You can change these setting whenever you choose.  For more information, see How To: Adjust Your Blog’s Privacy Settings.

But what if you want an extra level of privacy?  For example, you want everyone to see most of your site, but several pages or posts you want to keep private.

A member of the Commons had such a use case.  She wanted to include a number of syllabi on her public site.  But these syllabi contained copyrighted materials protected under “fair use” for a subset of her readers (her students), but not for everyone.  I was excited to find that password protection is “baked in” to WordPress for pages and posts.

Hidden away under the “Publish” tab in the dashboard for each page and post, you will find how to do it (see image on the left).

The default for a published page or post is “Public” – all your readers can see it.  If you set it to “Private,” only admins and editors of your site can see it.  If you set it to “Password protected,”  a text input box will appear, and you’ll need to set up a password, which you will then need to supply to whoever you want to read it.  When these folks click on the page or post, they will be prompted for the password.

Hope this helps manage sites!

How to Adjust Site Privacy Settings

If you would like to make particular blog post private so that only you or a group of people you select can view them, there are some steps that you will need to take.

To make a particular post private, follow these steps when you are editing your post:

  • Navigate to the Publish module on the right side of the page. (The Publish module is used to set who can read your posts.)
  • Under the Visibility area you can choose to make your post either:
    • “Password protected”  or
    • “Private” (which means that only blog Editors and Administrators will be able to view your post).


  • Select “OK” then “Publish”/”Update”. These changes will go into effect immediately, but can be updated anytime if you choose to change the visibility of your post.

Alternatively, you may choose to make your entire blog private:

Blogs created on the Commons are automatically visible to everyone. To adjust the privacy settings on your individual/group blog please follow these 5 easy steps:

  • Go to the Dashboard of your individual or group blog
  • Scroll down the left navigation bar and select the ’Settings’ tab
  • Select the ‘Reading’ link from the drop down menu:



  • Choose one of the 5 options:


  • Select ‘Save Changes’ and you’re done!

So whether you want to make one or two posts as private or make your entire blog invite only, it’s completely up to you and how you want to use your blog. If you have any problems, let us know at the Commons help desk – support@cunycommons.zendesk.com

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