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Blogging at Hamilton College

Introduction

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a blog as “a Web site that contains an online personal
journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer.” In practice, the
capabilities of blogs extend far beyond simple journaling tool. Imagine having an academic blog for
your class and incorporating diagrams, lecture videos, links to YouTube movies, and a collaborative
space for your students. Also imagine creating a blog to advertise your fledgling garage band that
features previews of your songs, interviews, video clips from your live shows, and a performance
schedule. This and much more is possible with the Hamilton blogging solution and it is available as
a resource to all members of the Hamilton community. This guide will walk you through the steps
necessary to create, configure, and maintain your blog.
 

Table of Contents

 

Creating Your Blog

In order to create a blog, you must fill out a form with some basic information. To sign up for your
blog, go to http://www.hamilton.edu/blogs/ and click the sign up link near the top
of the page.

Fill in the requested information and make sure to note that your blog, when approved, will reside at the address http://[prefix].hamiltoncollegeblogs.com where “[prefix]” is the one-word name you give your blog (e.g. “Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist Blog” might be shortened to “federalistblog.hamiltoncollegeblogs.com.”) Also be sure to read the Academic Blogging Policies document linked at the bottom of the form.

After completing the form and reading the Academic Blogging Policies, click Sign up for a blog
at the bottom of the page.

The Web Services team will review your request, create your blog, and send you a confirmation e-
mail welcoming you to the system, listing co-administrators of the blog (if any) and a link to your
new blog.
 

Administering your Blog

You, as Blog Owner, are ultimately responsible for all content in your blog. To assist in this task, your blog features comprehensive administrative tools that allow you to shape how others interact with your blog.

To log on to your blog, go to http://[prefix].hamiltoncollegeblogs.com/admin. A prompt will ask you for your Hamilton username and password. Sign in.

From here you can access a number of different features to manage your blog.

 

The Blog Administrator Main Page


 

Add Entry

  • The Add Entry page is used to create a new entry in your blog.
     
  • The Title: field will assign the blog post a title.
     
  • The actual blog post itself is created in the Body: text box. This is an HTML-based editor that allows you to insert pictures, hyperlinks, and lists in addition to standard text.
     
  • You can organize your posts using Categories: to aid future retrieval. A blog post containing your favorite Chicken Tikki Masala recipe could easily be filed in multiple categories: food, chicken, Indian, Tom’s All-Natural Foods.
  1. NOTE: Categories you create will be accessible in future entries via a pull- down menu in the Categories: section.
  • You can also use Attach File: to append files up to 100MB in size. You do so by clicking on Browse and then selecting the appropriate file.
  1. NOTE: Movies should be uploaded to the Hamilton College Streaming Server at www.hamilton.edu/applications/streamfile/.
  2. Click Preview to see what the post will look like before being uploaded to your blog or click Save to upload the post directly to the blog.
     

Additional Settings

  • The Posted: field provides details on the time and the date the post was created. The information in this field can be modified as needed.
  • The Categories field lists the categories you have used to sort all posts to this point. Selecting a category will bring up all posts that are organized in that category on the immediate right under Entries. These can be sorted by Date and Title as needed.
  • Current Related Entries will populate with posts you select after sorting by category. As you sort through your categories, posts will show up under Entries. Clicking on these posts will associate them with the current post. The related posts will show up at the bottom of the post when you view the actual blog.
  • If you wish to remove post associations, highlight the associated post in question and push Remove Selected.
  • Alias is an automatically generated field that will create a unique name for your post for purposes of identification on the Internet. You need not worry about filling in this field.
  • Allow Comments either permits or denies the ability of users to post comments to the blog post. As the administrator, you or another administrator to whom you have delegated this responsibility must approve all comments made to the post. Remember that you are ultimately responsible for ALL content in your blog, including comments.
  1. NOTE: this only affects permissions on the current post!
  • When set to “yes,” Send Blog Entry to Subscribers will e-mail a copy of the post to parties who have signed up to receive them. Managing subscriptions will be covered later.
  • The Released field governs the visibility of your post. If set to “no,” only you and your blog co-owners (if applicable) will be able to see the post. The default setting is “yes.”
  • NOTE: It is now appropriate to click on the Main button to return to your post. If you are satisfied with the settings on the Main section, feel free to either Preview your post or Save to publish.

 

Entries

The Entries page lists all posts made to your blog and other relevant information

  • The Search bar at the top allows you to search by title of post and its content. Filter by Keyword is simply another way, in addition to pushing the enter key, to initiate a search. 
  1. NOTE: You cannot search by category type here.
  • The table lists all of the posts made to your blog. You can sort the list of posts by clicking on Title, Released, Posted, and Views as needed. Clicking twice will sort the entries in reverse order.
  1. The checkbox to the right of each entry in conjunction with the Delete Selected link allows you to delete one or more of your posts. Simply select the checkbox next to the post(s) you wish to delete and use Delete Selected.
  • NOTE: This deletion is permanent and will not ask you to verify your decision.
  • Selecting the Add Entries link will allow you to create a post in your blog.


Categories

The Categories page allows you to manage the tags that organize your posts.

 

  • The categories table will list every tag you use to organize your post. To modify a tag, click on its name under Category.
  • The Entries column indicates the number of entries organized under each tag.
  1. NOTE: By clicking on either Category or Entries, you can order or reverse-order each list.
  • Add Categories will allow you to add a category to the list. Clicking on this will take you to another screen.
  1. In this screen, you can add a category by typing in the name.
  2. alias is a system-generated term—you need not worry about filling in this field.
  3. Select Save to add the category to your list.
  • The checkbox to the right of each category in conjunction with the Delete Selected link allows you to delete one or more of your categories. Simply select the checkbox next to the category(ies) you wish to delete and use Delete Selected.
  1. NOTE: This deletion is permanent and will not ask you to verify your decision.


Comments

The Comments page allows you to see, modify, and delete any comments made to your posts. Comments on this page are “published,” i.e. they have been approved by you or another blog Administrator.

 

  • As in Entries and Categories, the table in Comments can be sorted (and reverse- sorted) by Name , Entry, Posted, and Comment. Simply click on whichever you wish to sort by.
  • Clicking on the comment associated with a post will take you to a screen where you can edit the comment. Editing comments is strongly discouraged: the appropriate action is to contact the user via e-mail and inform them of the changes needed or to detail what revision is necessary and have them re-submit their comments. You have every right to reject inappropriate comments or comments that need revision but the onus should be on the commenter to fix their submission so that you will accept it. Though available to you as an option, the ability to modify comments should not be used to re-word what other people have written.
  • Clicking on View will take you to the post and show the comment.
  • The checkbox to the right of each comment in conjunction with the Delete Selected link allows you to delete one or more of your comments. Simply select the checkbox next to the comment(s) you wish to delete and use Delete Selected.
  1. NOTE: This deletion is permanent and will not ask you to confirm your decision.

 

Moderate Comments

The Moderate Comments page allows you to approve or reject any comment made to a post before it is seen by the general public. Careful moderation and appropriate rejection are essential to prevent people from posting information that violates Hamilton College blog use policy.

 

  • This section is organized in a similar fashion as the Comments page. You can sort and reverse-sort by Name, Entry, Posted, and Comment.
  • Clicking on the comment associated with a post will take you to a screen where you can modify the comment. Again, this practice is strongly discouraged. See the section on comments above. Clicking on Approve will attach the comment to your post.
  1. NOTE: You will have to approve each comment individually.
  • The checkbox to the left of each comment in conjunction with the Delete Selected link allows you to delete one or more of your comments. Simply select the checkbox next to the comment(s) you wish to delete and click Delete Selected.
  1. NOTE: This deletion is permanent and will not ask you to confirm your decision.

 

Refresh Blog Cache

Manually resets your entire blog. By invoking this option, your blog will be recreated with all of your content and comments intact. Similar in principle, practice, and result to restarting your computer, this should be used if you notice any erratic behavior in your blog such as missing or malformed posts or comments.

 

Settings

The Settings panel allows you to modify the settings for your blog.


Blog Title

This allows you to change the name of your blog.


Blog Description

This allows you to modify the description of your blog.


Blog Keywords

Like categories, this allows you to tag your blog so search engines like Google can appropriately organize your blog into their results. Thinking logically is key: A blog about cars would probably have keywords like “tires,” “gas,” “highway;” but probably not “onion” or “skateboard.”


Owner E-mail

The e-mail accounts listed here are considered co-administrators. These are the accounts that notifications of new posts and comments are sent to.


Comments Sent From

This field allows you to choose the e-mail address that return comments on the blog appear to be sent from.


Max Entries on Home Page

This allows you to control how many entries are displayed at a time on user screens. Bear in mind that more does not necessarily mean “better”.


Ping urls

Addresses added to this field will be “pinged” or notified when changes are made to your blog. Pinging the url of major search providers is one popular use of this field.


Allow Trackbacks

Depending on your situation, Allow Trackbacks can be useful or harmful. Trackbacks permit other sites to link to your blog and, conversely, put a link on your blog to their sites. This has been used by spammers in the past to put inappropriate links on your blog. Remember that you are responsible for ALL content on your site, including what you link to. Should you decide to use this option, you can, of course, modify the Trackback list and add problematic entries to your Trackback Spamlist.


Trackback Spamlist

This field allows you to add URLs and keywords to block trackback spam. A
number have already been provided for your use should you decide to allow
trackbacks. If you see links appearing in your blog that you do not approve
of, simply adding them to this spamlist will take care of the problem.


Allow Gravatars

Put simply, a gravatar is a user-defined picture that can be used throughout the entire Internet to identify your posts. A user might subscribe to multiple blogs and wish to have a picture that uniquely identifies them in each blog. The picture can be of anything; so inappropriate content can still become a problem. You are responsible for careful moderation.


Administrative Users

This is a list of Hamilton College members with administrative access to your blog. This will be predefined by Web Services and it is recommended that you communicate with them should you need to change ownership of your blog.


Post Users

Post users may post entries to your blog but will not have access to the full suite of controls described in this guide. You must be careful who you give access to posting, as Administrators of blogs are ultimately responsible for any content that is posted to their blog.


Post Groups

Should you wish to globally define a set of users who can post to your blog choose the appropriate option from this list.


Comment Users

This is a list of people who can post comments to your blog. It is recommended that you avoid allow everyone to do this. For sake of neatness and manageability, use Comment Groups to permit everyone to comment in your blog.


Comment Groups

Should you wish to globally define a set of users who can comment on your blog, choose the appropriate option from this list. It is recommended that all boxes be checked.


Login Required

This checkbox will require users to authenticate before they can see your blog. It is only recommended you use this option if you want to limit visibility of your blog to certain groups at Hamilton. Otherwise, simply leave this unchecked.

 

Subscribers

The Subscribers page allows you to manage users who actively subscribe. You must verify all subscribers manually.

  • The table will list all verified and non-verified subscribers to your blog. You can sort by E-mail address and whether they are Verified or not.
  • All unverified subscribers will be listed here as well. To verify them, simply click on the Verify link on the same row as their e-mail address.
  • Should you have unwanted subscribers on the list, you can select the checkbox next to those that need to be deleted and select the Delete Selected link at the bottom-right corner of the screen.

 

Mail Subscribers

The Mail Subscribers page allows you to e-mail all verified subscribers.

 

  • You can compose a message to your verified subscribers as you would a normal e-mail. Simply fill out the Subject and Body fields as needed and click Send at the bottom of the screen.
  1. NOTE: This message will be sent from your Hamilton e-mail address. Responses will be sent to your e-mail inbox and NOT to the blog.

 

Pod Manager

Pods are little helper applications in your blog that add functionality to the right side of the main blog screen. This panel lets you control which appear and in what order. Pods are provided to you and you cannot install your own pods.

  • Archives.cfm permits easy access to earlier posts not immediately visible in the main screen. It appears as Archive by Subject on the main page of your blog.
  • Calendar.cfm provides users with a calendar on the main page of the blog. This calendar boldfaces dates that correlate with entries on the calendar.
  • Feed.cfm provides news stories aggregated by a service provided by Adobe called MXNA. The stories are generally about Adobe products such as Flash and Acrobat and might therefore be of no use to you. Feel free to enable or disable this feature.
  • Pages.cfm provides the Navigation Pod that lists all of the pages of your blog on the main page.
  • Recent.cfm shows the most recent entries posted to your blog under Recent Entries. RSS subscribers will see essentially the same entries.
  • Recentcomments.cfm, like Recent.cfm, shows the most recent comments made to entries on your blog.
  • RSS.cfm provides a window labeled RSS. Upon clicking the link inside that box, users will be able to subscribe to your blog’s posts in their RSS readers (Google Reader, NetNewsWire, etc.) It is recommended that you leave this checked.
  • Subscribe.cfm allows unsubscribed users to enter their e-mail address in a field so as to subscribe to your blog. Their request will end up in the Subscribers panel, whose functionality is detailed in the entry above. It is recommended that you leave this checked.
  • Tagcloud.cfm is a nonfunctional pod.

 

Pages

Put simply, pages are static posts linked from the Navigation Pod on the main page. These entries have some HTML capabilities (e.g. hyperlinks, embedded videos) but should not be considered a substitute for SiteManager or other true webpage development tools.

  • The pages on your blog can be sorted by Title and URL. The Title is the name of the page as it will appear in the Navigation Pod and the URL is a unique link that will permit users direct access to that page, bypassing the main page of the blog.
  1. NOTE: The security settings for your blog will determine whether people can directly access the page or need to log on first.
  2. The URL provided for each page can be copied and pasted into an e-mail for easy dissemination.
  • The checkbox to the left of each page in conjunction with the Delete Selected link allows you to delete one or more of your pages. Simply select the checkbox next to the page(s) you wish to delete and use Delete Selected.
  1. NOTE: This deletion is permanent and will not ask you to verify your decision.
  • Clicking on the title of each page takes you to a basic page editor that allows you to write a plain-text webpage. More advanced web pages can be created if you know how to write HTML code.
  1. In the page editor, the title field sets the name of the webpage.
  2. alias is a system-defined field and ought not to be manually set.
  3. The body field will be the actual text of the webpage. This is a mixed plaintext/HTML entry form and permits you to either write very simple or complex web pages depending on your skill set. Please consider this a very basic HTML editor; more complex functionality may not be present.
  4. The Save button will post your webpage to the site. Cancel will reject any changes or alterations that you have made.
  5. Your webpage can be viewed by clicking on the address in the url field.

 

Blog Viewing Options [Your Blog, Your Blog (New Window), Your Blog Stats]

These options allow you to see the finished product as well as measure just about every facet of the operations of your blog.

  • Your Blog will immediately direct your browser to the main page of your blog along with taking you out of administrative options. You may return to the Administrator at any time by clicking the back button in your browser.
  • Your Blog (New Window) will, depending on your browser, open the main page of your blog in another window or tab.
  • Your Blog Stats provides you with a comprehensive statistical breakdown of how your Blog is being used both by you and by other people.

 

 

Tips and Tricks

Getting Started

Though ultimately rewarding, authoring your blog can present some challenges. Here are a few suggestions for getting past the first hurdles:

  • Start your blog TODAY.
  • Blog with consistency. Write new posts as often as possible. Some blogs might not need frequent updates but often can be enhanced with videos, thoughts, questions, polls, etc…
  • Establish a dialogue with your commenters. Respond to their comments, post comments of your own in response, make suggestions, ask for feedback, and send them e-mails. Cultivating a relationship with your commenters ensures that they return to your blog frequently.
  • Include pictures, videos, music, and links to other web pages. Nothing keeps people riveted to a post like hyperlinks and pictures. Quality and quantity are equally important in this
  • Be yourself. Don’t feel pressured to conform your blog personality to your intended audience.
  • Read other blogs—your online peers are a wonderful resource.
  • Write in an approachable manner. This is especially important for blogs with a technical slant—many of your readers may not have any background in the field you’re blogging about. Either explain as you go along, or write with a novice audience in mind.
  • Most importantly: Stick with it! Give your blog at least a month of dedicated effort.

 

Dealing with Trouble

Despite your best efforts to counter them, inappropriate comments and spam are still possible. There are a number of ways to deal with these problems. NOTE: For sake of communication and courtesy, please make sure to inform those that will be affected by your administrative actions. Comments on posts are the intellectual property of those who have posted even though you ultimately control what appears in your blog.

  • Inappropriate Comments or comments that need revision
  1. Case 1: Retroactive deletion
  1. You might find that a user has left a comment in your blog that might warrant deletion. You can accomplish this in the Comments page (See Section D above) of BlogCFC Administrator. Please note that this should be used sparingly, if at all. Once a comment passes your moderation and you allow it onto your blog, it should almost without exception remain a permanent part of your blog. Spam comments are another matter entirely and will be covered later.
  1. Case 2: Modifying comments
  1. A user may submit a comment to a post that needs a little touching up in order to make it fully appropriate for inclusion in your blog. In these cases the appropriate action is to contact the user via e-mail and inform them of the changes needed or to detail what revision is necessary and have them resubmit their comments. You have every right to reject inappropriate comments or comments that need revision but the onus should be on the commenter to fix their submission so that you will accept it. Though available to you as an option, the ability to modify comments should not be used to re-word what other people have written.
  • Spam

One misconception about spam is that you are totally protected and safe under the aegis of Hamilton’s security systems. This is patently untrue. Though BlogCFC employs a technology called “capcha” which stops most computer-generated spam, some spam comments may appear on your blog. This is no reason to let this ruin your blogging experience, though! BlogCFC offers a number of features that empower the blog owner in dealing with spam.

  1. Case 1: Loads of generic spam comments on your posts
  1. You might already be familiar with this kind of attack: Ads from fake companies advertising discount drugs, weight loss programs, adult services, and money launderers just to name a few. These kinds of repetitive messages can show up as comments to your posts but are easy to filter out.
  2. In the Settings page in CFC Administrator (See Section G above), you can modify the Trackback Spamlist to include keywords from the spam messages you’re receiving. BlogCFC will monitor incoming comments for these keywords and eliminate them before they ever are brought to your attention. Note that several keywords have been set up for your protection.

 

  1. Case 2: An individual sends inappropriate or hateful comments to your blog.
  1. ITS recommends you forward this particular type of spam to Web Services (ws@hamilton.edu) so that appropriate action can be taken.
  2. You can also temporarily disable comments from the group of people that includes the offending user. This is accomplished in the Settings page in CFC Administrator. You can uncheck the appropriate group in Comment groups and the person in question (along with their entire peer group) will be blocked from spamming you with comments.

 

Further Questions

ITS strives to assist you in using BlogCFC in ways that meet your goals. Should you find yourself in
need of help, please contact one of the following resources:

  • For assistance with the settings in BlogCFC or to troubleshoot problems with your blog, please call the Help Desk at x4181 or send an email to hd@hamilton.edu.
  • To use a blog as part of a course project at Hamilton College, please contact Carl Rosenfield at crosenfiel@hamilton.edu.
     

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