Blogs FAQ

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Introduction

Humanities Computing is able to offer individual and group (multi-author) blogs to faculty and staff in the Humanities Division in support of research and other collaborative projects. Please contact Peter Thorson, Web Services Administrator for the Humanities Division, for more information.

Frequent Questions & Answers

What is a blog?

A blog is a website where entries are typically written in journal style and displayed in reverse chronological order. The term "blog" itself is a portmanteau, a blend of the words web and log. "Blog" or "blogging" can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog (adapted from the Wikipedia entry on blogs).

I'm not interested in blogging about myself. Why should I consider using a blog?

It's helpful to make a distinction between a blog as a web-based publishing tool, and blogging as an activity. On its own, a blog is nothing more than an easy to edit website, pre-divided into sections for time related items ("posts"), static, or more or less permanent sections ("pages") and an area for miscellaneous content such as weblinks, lists of recent additions to the site etc. ("sidebar"). Seen in this light, a blog is a simple means of publishing content on the web on the basis of pre-exisiting layouts. Blog can easily be employed for a wide range of applications such as conference websites, collaborative research, graduate workshops , individual faculty pages etc.

Does anyone else at the University of Chicago have a blog (or blog based website)?

Certainly. See for instance, Bling the Department of Linguistics blog, the Society for the Study of Early China blog, the Law School Faculty Blog, the University of Chicago Press Blog, Gary Becker and Richard Posner's Beckner-Posner Blog, the Virtual Tourist in Renaissance Rome symposium website, the Humanities faculty grants and fellowships blog, the Humanities News blog, Steven Leavitt and Stephen Dubner's Freakonomics Blog (now hosted by the New York Times), the Nietzsche Colloquium site, the Early Modern Philosophy Workshop and the Workshop in Semantics and the Philosophy of Language Workshop. Please see http://humanities.uchicago.edu/blogs/ for a current list of Humanities hosted blogs.

May anyone request a blog from the division?

Faculty members (full faculty members or lecturers) with a permanent appointment in the Humanities Division may request a blog hosted by the Humanities Division as long as this is not used primarily for teaching purposes / classes (for which the proper resource is Chalk). Blogs can also be made available to staff on a case by case basis with the endorsement of the staff member's supervisor. Students cannot receive their own divisional blogs but are welcome to contribute to group (multi-author) blogs, such as a departmental or research project blog. Finally, all coordinators of graduate student workshops are eligible for a blog for their workshop through a special arrangement with the Council on Advanced Studies (CAS).

What about research collaborators from outside the UofC?

No problem. Every blog owner will be able to add as many additional user accounts as he/she wants. These need not be restricted to UofC community members and can be set to different privilege levels. In most cases we recommend that a blog owner limit administrative rights to just him or herself and give the remaining contributors to the blog lesser privileges.

Can you provide me with a blog for my class?

Unfortunately, no. Your blog cannot be used primarily for teaching or pedagogic purposes, in particular when this necessitates a large number of student accounts. Please contact NSIT Academic Technologies for assistance if you require a blog for a class you are teaching. If you are unsure about whether you qualify, please contact us. We may, for example, be able to make a blog available to you for a project related to a course, such as a workshop.

May I have a personal blog to blog on subjects unrelated to my work in the Humanities Division?

No. All blogs offered through the Division must be closely related to your professional research or administrative work in the Division. We recommend a private, off-campus blogging service such as Blogger or TypePad for personal blogging.

What software does the Humanities Division use for its blogging service?

Our blogs run on MU Wordpress, a multi-user version of Wordpress, a customizable, easy-to-use, open-source blogging service hosted on Humanities Computing servers.

How can I get usage stats for my blog?

There is a stats widget on the dashboard of every blog that will show you how much traffic your blog recieves as well as what the top posts, referrers, and search terms are. The username and password for these stats is hcsstats / walkerhall respectively. For more advanced stats (such as segregating results by region/locale) we recommend the use of Google Analytics. Please see the Lucian WordPress Plugins page under the section titled "SEO" for details.

Is it possible to change the appearance of my blog?

Yes, though with some limitations. We currently offer over a dozen WordPress themes for Humanities blogs. Most of these themes in turn can be customized by changing e.g. the banner image, font style, color and/or navigation elements (although individual themes offer different degrees of customization). N.B. All blogs run by faculty/staff or academic units in the Humanities Division need to display the Divisional wordmark both to identify the blog as being part of the Division and as a way to link back to the Division's homepage, together with a standard footer. Please see our list of supported themes and feel free to contact Peter Thorson if you'd like us to investigate if we can support a different theme for your blog.

I don't want just anyone commenting on my blog entries.

User comments can be turned off globally or permitted on a case by case basis. In addition, user comments can be moderated, and/or restricted to a specific group of users. Our blogging software also includes built-in, highly effective anti-spam filters.

I've seen a really interesting and useful widget/plugin/effect on a blog on the internet - can you add this functionality to my blog as well?

It depends. Given our very limited personell resources, the only way we can offer blogs to our faculty, staff and graduate workshops is by strictly limiting the number of options (themes, plugins, other customizations) we need to support. That said, if you see some functionality on an outside blog that you would like to see implemented on your own blog, please let us know and we will investigate. But first, please take a look at our list of pre-installed WordPress plugins. It's  likely that the feature you're looking for is already covered by one or more of these plugins.

How many files and images can I upload to my blog?

You can upload upto 50MB of data to your blog, with no file greater than 8MB. If you need to make larger files available to your readers, please contact us and we will see if we can host the files for you elsewhere (and link to them from your blog).

Are there restrictions on what kinds of files I can upload?

Due to the many different (and in part incompatible) versions of Microsoft Word document formats, and in order to limit the spread of MS Word based viruses we currently do not allow our blog users to upload MS Word (.doc, .docx) documents. Please convert these documents into Adobe PDF format. On Mac OS X you can do this by selecting "PDF" in the bottom left corner of a standard Print dialog box. Under Windows you can use a free program such as PDF Creator or CutePDF for this purpose. For more advanced documents we recommend the use of Adobe Acrobat which is available at a steep discount for academic use at the Campus Computer Store.

May I call my blog, whateveriwant.uchicago.edu?

All blogs hosted by the Humanities Division should be publicized and linked in the form humanities.uchicago.edu/blogs/blogname. For example, http://humanities.uchicago.edu/blogs/bling. After typing in the blog URL you will be re-directed to the server hosting our blogs (currently lucian.uchicago.edu). An exception to this are the CAS workshop blogs which are currently in the form cas.uchicago.edu/workshops/blogname. Please contact us if you need to have a different web address for your blog.

Where can I go for help & support for my blog?

End-user support for blogs is available to full-time Humanities Division faculty and staff from Humanities Computing Desktop Support. The only exception to this is in the case of graduate student workshop blogs. Here, coordinators should contact the Administrative Assistant in CAS for support. Due to our very limited resources, Humanities Computing is not able to provide direct support to individual CAS workshop coordinators.

Where can I find online help, screencasts and documentation?

Links to documentation and user-forums can be found on the main Wordpress.org site. The articles Introduction to Blogging and First Steps With WordPress are good places to start. Please note that our end-user support is strictly limited to those features of the blog present in the existing Wordpress and Wordpress theme user-interface. We will not support or allow changes to the underlying software code. The following links provide an overview with screencasts of new features introduced by WordPress 2.6, WordPress 2.7and WordPress 2.8. Our system current runs WordPress v.2.9.x.

The WordPress TV website is an excellent resource for screencasts with demos and tutorials of various features and extensions to WordPress.
Short, subject-based video tutorials (courtesy of Edublogs) showcasing the latest version of WordPress. Some of the new user-interface and features described here are based on WordPress v2.7 which was made available to our users in Spring 09. Requires Adobe's free Flash Player.
A video introduction to the WordPress blogging software by Humanities Computing. Requires Apple's free QuickTime player (please note that some of the user-interface elements show here have seen been modified in WordPress).

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