Tag Archives | sites

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





Getting Started with Google Analytics

Google Analytics and the Commons

The Commons has Google Analytics running on the whole site to gather statistics and metrics.  If you want to get statistics for your site on the Commons,  contact us at support@cunycommons.zendesk.com, and we’ll set you up with online access to review statistics, and/or daily, weekly, or monthly reports, sent to your email. Activity is provided in a spreadsheet or PDF, and can be broken down many ways, including by Pageviews, Unique Pageviews, Average Time per Visit, Bounce Percentage, and Exit Percentage.  Google seems to be constantly changing Analytics, and there seems to be a lot of new stuff constantly appearing.

There are a couple other ways to gather the kind of information – check out Statistics For Your Site for alternatives.

Please Note

This documentation is for the Commons Community team, and others who have been granted admin privileges to Google Analytics for the site.  Users with basic access will not be able to do many of the things below, but are invited to read on, if interested.

Where Am I?

ga whereIt is confusing at first (and even afterwards) to figure out where you are in the Google Analytics API.   Basically, you can be looking at the whole site and control admin and users from there, or you can go into a “view” and edit settings and set up reports for that sliver of data.  There are many views or subdomains (aka blog sites) listed, including one view of the entire site (commons.gc.cuny.edu).  A good way to tell where you are is to look at the top right corner of the page.

The screenshot above shows two examples of what would display in your top right corner when you are looking at: (1) the whole site, and (2) at one view called “Digital Labor”.  It is easy to think you are looking at the whole site, when in fact you are only in one view.

User Privileges

ga users2Typically, we assign permissions based on subdomains, but some users will be assigned permissions for the entire site.  There are four levels of permissions, and they can be assigned on the whole Commons site, or on the subdomains level.

If assigned at the subdomains level, you will see “None” in the screenshot below, which is found at Admin>>User Management:

GA Users1

If you click on a user’s email, you will be taken to a screen that shows the permissions assigned on a subdomain level.  In the screenshot below, we are looking at the permissions assigned to Anthropology Fellows.  As you can see, these individuals have access to two subdomains and can collaborate, read and organize:

ga users3

To add a User, you only will need his or her valid gmail address.  You should encourage members who want to use this tool online to get a gmail account.  Other email addresses can be problematic.

Creating Views and Filters

To isolate and report on the statistics of a particular blog, we need to do two things – create a “view” and create a “filter” (you can call it anything, but mostly we just call it by the same name).  The filter strains all the metadata – typically we use these parameters: “include only“, “traffic to hostname“, “that begin with“.  That way when we create the filter, we can input the hostname as the sub-domain address (“xxxx.commons.gc.cuny.edu”) and effectively filter out any traffic that is not going there.

Here is a screenshot that shows how to create a view.

new view2

Once you have created a view, you need to filter it display the stats you want see.  Without a filter, you’ll see all visits to the Commons.  Be careful here – syntax counts.  No “http//” or trailing “/”.  That will mess up your outcome.

GA filter

Once you’re done, you might want to visit the “view” site and see if you are getting counted.  It takes awhile – maybe a couple hours – but if you’ve done it correctly, you should see some uptick in the blue line.  The standard reports are based on monthly totals, so it really takes a month to get any meaningful stats.

ga uptick

ga viewsGetting Historical Data

A view only starts filtering out data from the time it was created.  How can you get statistics to subdomains prior to view creation?

First, go to the Commons view.  This is the view that was created when the Commons was first set up on Google Analytics, and it has compiled all our data since then.

We will need to create a customized report based on this data.  Click on “Customization” highlighted in the red box and then “New Custom Report” to get the process rolling.customized

metricsOn the new report page, you’ll need to supply a report name, and some metrics you want to report on.  To see all metrics possible, check the “Display Options Alphabetically.”  This will make it a lot easier to see the possibilities.  A good metric to start with is “Visits.”  You can always add or subtract metrics later.

Next you will probably want to choose “HostName” as your dimension if you want to report on one or all subdomains.

Next you will probably want to filter by one or more subdomains.  You can set up the filter to exclude or include.  Usually you will pick “Include” and “Exact” and then just provide the name of the subdomain.  The API will prompt you.  You can enter several includes, or if you know regular expressions, you can use one or more to filter down to exactly what you are looking for.

When you save your report, your data will display after a couple seconds.  You can adjust the timeframe at this point.  You can set the report to begin and end on certain dates, and you can report by day, week, or month.  These controls are found on the actual report and can be changed dynamically.  “Line Chart” is the default, but you can also choose “Motion Chart” to animate the data.  Line Charts can be exported to a variety of formats.

This is just a quick start for Google Analytics on the Commons.  There are obviously hundreds more options.

Here is an experimental report that I played around with for “Helldriver’s Pit Stop.”  It has four tabs with different report metrics.

ga example

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.


List Pages Shortcode

flicker_poles_6594723627_6e3dcf6137_zThe List Pages Shortcode plugin comes in handy if your site has a lot of pages and you want a quick way to make them accessible.  As its name suggests, it provides an easy-to-use shortcode with a bunch of optional parameters to list out links to your pages. Just type in the shortcode on a new line on the page where you want the list to appear.

You can exclude pages from the list, you can only show “child” pages of the current page, and specify how deep your want to go (grandchildren, great-grandchildren…), or you can only show siblings of the current page (pages with common ancestor pages).  You can sort the list according to specified fields (post_author, post_title, ID, post_date, etc. ).  And you can include a page excerpt (excerpt=”1″).  This plugin works well with the “Page Excerpt” plugin, which allows you to create a excerpt that summarizes and teases your readers to explore the page.  To exclude the current page, use exclude_current_page=”1″.  If you plan to do some custom styling of your list using CSS, you can add a class (class=”my_page_list”).

Here are some sample ways to use the shortcode:

listpagesAnd here are some of the parameters that you can use:


An explanation of how to use these parameters can be found here.

This plugin is a great way to organize and manage content on your site.

Responsive Themes on the Commons

What’s a Responsive Theme?

Responsive themes use fluid layouts, flexible images and media queries to make your site look and act great on a variety of devices.  Sidebars and navigation menus collapse gracefully, and retain functionality.  Approach designs vary, and you should check out how each theme handles display when real estate becomes narrow.  Many themes provide live demos that show how a site would look if the width was very narrow.  On a desktop, you can experiment by narrowing the browser window for these themes to see how they respond.

See more about Responsive Design.


What Responsive Themes are Available on the Common?

To find all our responsive themes, go to Appearances >> Themes on your blog dashboard and search our installed themes for “responsive.”  Here are some options:

  • Twenty Twelve is the old default theme released with WordPress 3.5.  Minimalistic, easy to use, this theme is a great basis for a child theme. Few bells and whistles, but a solid, attractive theme.  Check out demo.
  • Twenty Thirteen is the new default theme released with WordPress 3.6.
  • Oxygen is also written by Automattic, provides a sleek, magazine look to your site.  Check out its live demo.
  • Clean is a premium theme by Theme Trust.  As advertised, it is “extremely stylish theme that looks amazing across multiple devices and screen resolutions. This versatile theme can be used as a blog or a portfolio to show off your work. It features infinite scrolling and a touch swipe slideshow.”  Check out its Live Demo.
  • Luna is a premium theme by ThemeForest and lets provides two homepage types – blog or portfolio.  It’s a neat theme with lots of configurations.  Check out its Live Demo.
  • Presswork is a free WordPress theme and has an array of features, including some drag and drop admin design functionality.  It’s a beautiful theme (it’s actually a framework), but sadly the authors have decided not to support it any more, which could prove problematic.
  • Simplex is a minimalistic WordPress theme that provides great responsive design.

I’m sure that we’ll be adding more responsive themes. Stay tuned!

Statistics For Your Site

It’s great to quantify your readership, and there are a couple plugins on the Commons that provide interesting statistics, and there is also Google Analytics (see below) , which is perhaps the best at gathering what’s happening on your site.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is installed on the Commons site-wide, and provides a wide variety of statistics for individual sites. Follow this link to see how it works. Contact us at commons@gc.cuny.edu, and we’ll set you up to receive activity emails on a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule. Activity is provided in a spreadsheet or PDF, broken down by Pageviews, Unique Pageviews, Average Time per Visit, Bounce Percentage, and Exit Percentage. There’s a lot of customization possible.

Since we have Google Analytics running site-wide, we don’t provide widgets to display individual site stats – you’ll need to receive data via email.


One of the plugins that’s included in JetPack is called “Stats” and it presents readership data in various graphs, in your dashboard, as shown below:

The Admin bar has a simple graph showing activity, and when clicked, takes you to full details.

StatPress Visitors

The StatPress Visitors plugin was recently installed on the Commons, and comes with two sidebar widgets to display statistics. One shows the most popular posts and pages on your blog and the other shows statistics for today – number of visitors currently online, users logged on, etc.

From your dashboard you can retrieve a lot of detailed information, including statistics about bots, spiders, subscriptions to RSS feeds, popular pages, unique visitors, page views, browser and operating systems, IP addresses, etc.

This is a neat plugin with a lot of bells and whistles, and one worth checking out. Check out their Flickr slideshow:

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!

Importing and Exporting Site Content

If you have content on another WordPress site, Blogger, Tumblr, etc., or any site that has RSS feed functionality, you can easily import your content to your Commons site with these plugins. First, you’ll need to export your content to a file, and that process varies, depending upon the platform.

How to Export from WordPress 

If you have content on another WordPress site, simply go to the dashboard to Tools>>Export. Choose what the types of content you want to export – posts, pages, comments, all. (Premium themes may have other types in their export options.) Then click on “Download Export File.” An export file will be downloaded to your computer with the naming convention “sitename.wordpress.date of export.” (This is also a great way to backup your site’s content.) Now, go to your Commons site and install the “WordPress Importer” plugin.

How to Export from Blogger 

Blogger is Google’s free blog-publishing service. If your site’s url is something like “yoursitename.blogspot.com” – you’re using Blogger. To export your content to a file, follow these instructions. Then install the “Blogger Importer” plugin on your Commons site.

How to Export from Tumblr 

Tumblr is a microblogging platform and social networking website, now owned and operated by Yahoo.  If your site url is something like “yoursitename.tumblr.com” you are using Tumblr.  Follow these instructions to export your content to an xmr file. Then install the “Tumblr Importer” plugin on your Commons site.

How to Export from an RSS feed

If you can access content on the Web via an RSS feed, you can import that content into your blog stream using the “RSS Importer.”  If you see a RSS icon, you can click on that, or you might try to simply append “/feed” to the end of the contents url.  Once you reach a screen that looks something like this, you can click on “view source” and then save that file on your computer.   Then install the “RSS Importer” plugin on your Commons site.

How to Export from Movable Type and TypePad 

If your site’s url is something like “yoursitename.typepad.com” you’re using TypePad. If your site’s url is something like “yoursitename.movabletype.com” you’re using Movable Type. To export your content to a file, follow these instructions. Then install the Movable Type and TypePad Importer plugin on your Commons site.

How to Export from Live Journal 

If your site’s url is something like “yoursitename.livejournal.com” – you’re using Live Journal. To export your content to a file, follow these instructions. Then install the Live Journal Importer” plugin on your Commons site.

Import Process

Once you have your exported file, go your Commons site and open up your dashboard.  Go to Tools>>Import and find the importer that corresponds with your content. Click on Run Importer, then upload you files.

Any questions? Please email the Community team: support@cunycommons.zendesk.com .

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

How to Embed A Presentation

Just get back from presenting at a conference and want to share your work? Below is a rundown of some options available for members who are interested in embedding a document or presentation into their WordPress blog post or page.

Chose the option that best suits your needs then follow the instructions to share information with your readers without having to re-create your work:


You can now embed a slideshare presentation in the same way as a YouTube video: by placing the url of the presentation on its own line in a blog post/page. This option is ideal for members who don’t want to activate a plugin before embedding a document.

You can upload documents in the following formats:

Adobe PDF (.pdf)
Microsoft Word (.doc .docx, .txt)
Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt,.pps,.pptx, .ppsx, .potx)
OpenOffice (.odt, .odp, .ods)
Apple Mac Formats (.zip, .key, .iWorks)
Videos (all commons formats)
You will need to create an account on Slideshare in order to embed/download presentations.


The Simpler iPaper plugin is an effective way to add a document to your blog posts or pages from your Scribd account. After activating this plugin, you can embed a document into your post and share information with your readers without having to re-create your work. To learn how to embed a document from your Scribd account visit the following page on the CUNY Academic Commons Codex.

You can upload documents in the following formats:

Adobe PDF (.pdf)
Adobe PostScript (.ps)
Microsoft Word (.doc/ .docx)
Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt/.pps/.pptx)
Microsoft Excel (.xls/.xlsx)
OpenOffice Text Document (.odt, .sxw)
OpenOffice Presentation Document (.odp, .sxi)
OpenOffice Spreadsheet (.ods, .sxc)
All OpenDocument formats
Plain text (.txt)
Rich text format (.rtf)
You will need to create an account on Scribd in order to embed documents/presentations.


Prezi is a cloud-based presentation software that allows you to create dynamic zooming presentations. In order to embed a Prezi presentation, you will first need to activate the Prezi WP Plugin. To learn how to embed Prezi presentations into your blog, visit the following page on the CUNY Academic Commons Codex.


Creative Commons License

Need help with the Commons? Visit our
help page
Send us a message
Skip to toolbar