Tag Archives | privacy

“My Commons” – Your Personal Homepage

My Commons provides a really 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.


Getting Started

“My Commons” (boxed in red, in the image above) is a new Commons tab.  It only appears when you are logged into the Commons and is the only tab that is blue.  If you login from the Commons “Home” page, you will be redirected  there automatically.  This may be a little jarring at first, if you are used to going to the “Home” page to explore site-wide activity, but you can still go to the Commons “Home” page and shop around for like-minded scholars to become friends with, find interesting groups to join, and sites to follow.

“My Commons” makes it easier to keep track of the circles of interest that you’ve already developed on the Commons.

If you generally log in directly to your site or group on the Commons, you may not notice the new “My Commons” tab.  You will only be redirected there when you log in from the Commons “Home” page.

We hope you take some time to explore this convenient and focused way to browse the Commons.

Understanding the “My Commons” Activity Stream

Every time members do things on the Commons such as join a group, make a friend, upload a file, post to a site (or comment on a site post), follow a site, or participate in a forum discussion, that activity is recorded on the Commons site-wide activity stream.  “My Commons” picks out items from that stream which is relevant to you.

My Commons and Privacy

Different for every member, “My Commons” aggregates feeds according to your privileges on the Commons. (For more information on privacy, please see Managing Your Privacy.)

  • For a public, private, or hidden group, you will only see feeds if you are a member of the group.
  • You will only see member activity if you have established a friendship with that member.
  • You will only see site activity if you are a member of a site, or if you have elected to “Follow” the site.

“My Commons” is not visible to people who are not logged into the Commons or who are not members of our community.  “My Commons” is a personal page that other members can’t see (unless they are looking over your shoulders).

Filtering “My Commons” Activity By Type
You can filter “My Commons” items by specific types of activities, or just see everything. Items are presented in descending date order. myCommonsFilters

At the top of the page you will see the available filters – by default, you will see “Everything” but you can winnow down stream results by “Friends”, “Groups” and “Sites.”

Each item has convenient hyperlinks to the author, and to the content posted.  Clicking the hyperlinks will take you right to the place where the activity took place.  So, for example, you can read a comment written on a recently published post, and click the link, and be taken to the site’s post and be able to read the post, and comment as well.

If group-related, the icons to the left of each entry will have two overlapping images that show the group’s avatar and the group members avatar.  See an example, below:


If the item relates to a newly published post, and that post has an image, a thumbnail of the image will also appear.

Replying from My Commons

For certain items, you will see that you can “Reply” to an activity.  The following activities allow this:

  • the establishment of a friendship
  • the upload of a file
  • when a friend posts a personal “Update”
  • when a friend creates a group
  • when someone joins a group

So for example: you might comment – “Glad you two became friends” or  “Looking forward to reading your file.”  Simply click on “Reply” and post what you want to say.


Threaded replies are possible, and mini-conversations can develop that help foster collaboration.

Load Newest / Load More

My Commons displays activity in descending order by date.  You activity is likely to span many pages so as you scroll down, you can use the “Load More” button at the bottom.  If you want to go back to the most recent activity, there is a convenient “Load Newest” button on the top of the page.


My Commons is a convenient way to keep in touch with what matters to you the most on the Commons.  Let us know if you have any questions.











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

Managing your Privacy


The CUNY Academic Commons can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection, but some content is purposefully hidden from sight. The sections below show how members and groups can control privacy by using the granular adjustments available on the site.

For more general information about privacy, please also consult the CUNY Academic Commons Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Privacy and Your Commons Profile/Public Portfolio

Much of the profile information you enter can be filtered out when viewed by people you don’t know. Use the radio buttons pictured on the right to control who should be able to see personal information. For more information about this and about setting up your Commons Profile, see
Managing your Commons Profile/Portfolio

Privacy Settings for Groups

There are three types of groups on the Commons, and each has differing levels of privacy.

  • Public Groups

Public groups are open to all members of the Commons, and their content can be viewed by everyone on the internet. Members of the Commons can request to join groups and are automatically added. Group members can be notified whenever new forum posts are published.

Non-group members who are members of the Commons may may comment on group forums, but they cannot start new topics.

  • Private Groups

Non-members cannot view Private groups forums. Commons members may request membership, but group admins must grant access. All content is private.

  • Hidden Groups

Hidden groups are invisible to non-members. These are open by invitation only. Once membership is granted, the group will become visible on the new member’s profile page.  All content is private.

For further information, see How to Create, Join, and Maintain Groups and How Groups Can Use the Commons.

Silent Uploads

By default, when members upload files to a group, each member of the group is notified.  If a small change is made to the file, and then re-uploaded, again each member of the group gets a notification.  A recent change in Commons 1.5 allows for “Silent Uploads.”  Just mark the checkbox labeled “Silent Upload” and you will not clog up your colleagues’ mailbox unnecessarily. For more information, see Working with Group Files on the Commons Codex.

Privacy and Blogs

Blogs on the Commons are by default visible to everyone on the Web who knows the blog’s URL, or who can navigate to it from within the Commons, or find it through Web searches. Search engines index the Commons as they do other Web sites, but there are settings available on the WordPress dashboard which can be used to control who can read your blogs.

WordPress privacy settings are quite powerful, and can be used to filter viewers from everyone to registered and logged in Common members, to registered blog readers, or even to blog administrators.

You can also password protect certain blog posts and pages so that they are only viewable to a subset of your readers.

There are several useful posts in the Commons Codex that describe how to manage your WordPress blog’s visibility. In How to: Adjust your Blog’s Privacy Settings Sarah Morgano describes how to set levels of privacy.

If you want to keep some pages or posts viewable to a select few, you might want to use WordPress’ built in password protection feature.  Check out Password Protecting Individual WordPress Pages and Posts on the Commons Codex for more information.

Group Blogs

When you create a group on the Commons, you can optionally create a Group Blog.  The privacy settings are similar to individual blogs.  So even if you have a private or hidden group, you can  create a public blog if you want.  For more information, see Groups and Group Blogs.

BuddyPress Docs – A Private Wiki for Groups

If you are hesitant about the putting up content on the Commons Wiki, there is another option.  Group members can collaborate on content privately by using Docs, a wiki-like document handling interface with granular permissions settings. Click here for more information on BuddyPress Docs.

Only members of your group (or a designated subset of your group) will be able to edit documents.  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 control who may edit them, comment on them, or read comments.

Email Notifications – Finding the Right Settings

The notification system on the Commons can be configured just the way you want.  If you find that you are getting notification emails for things you don’t care about, be sure visit My Commons>>Settings>> Notifications.  You can adjust the settings for each of your groups individually.  For more information, see Receiving Notifications.


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.

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