Blogbuilder 3.26 and 3.27

Over the past month we have released 2 new versions of Blogbuilder, with a number of improvements and long-standing bug fixes:

  • You can now choose a fixed width version of any of the existing blog designs, and also easily move the sidebar to the right side of the page, by selecting from the options on the Appearance admin page.
  • We've added the ability to add social sharing buttons to each of your entries, using the "Show 'Like' buttons" option. This will add Facebook Like, Tweet, and Google +1 buttons to the entry.
  • We've adjusted the layout of each blog on small-screen mobile devices for easier reading.
  • And we've fixed issues including:
    • Adding tags to entries on the 'Admin entries' page.
    • Links disappearing in IE8 on the Create entry drop-down.
    • Listing entries by tags with Chinese characters, and untagged entries.
    • Apostrophes in image descriptions causing problems with inserting images.
    • Departments being listed in the wrong faculty in the directory.
    • Blockquotes not being inserted correctly.

Blogbuilder 3.25

We've just released a new version of Warwick Blogs (the last one was nearly 2 years ago!) with a number of improvements and bug fixes:

  • We've improved the RSS and Atom feeds from your blogs, and also added JSON support (add ?json=json to the URL, and you can add callback and assign parameters to do JSONP). For example: http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/news/?json=json
  • We've significantly improved our support for newer web browsers (IE9, Chrome, Firefox 4) and you should find fewer problems using these browsers with Warwick Blogs
  • We've added OAuth support to Warwick Blogs with the following details:
  • Request token: https://websignon.warwick.ac.uk/oauth/requestToken?scope=urn%3Ablogs.warwick.ac.uk%3Ablogbuilder%3Aservice
  • Authorisation: https://websignon.warwick.ac.uk/oauth/authorise
  • Access token: https://websignon.warwick.ac.uk/oauth/accessToken
  • You'll need a consumer key and secret to use OAuth to Warwick Blogs in your own application, you can contact the IT Services Helpdesk (helpdesk@warwick.ac.uk) to request this
  • We've modified the Atom API to allow setting of arbitrary permissions by adding the special elements <blogbuilder:read-permission> and <blogbuilder:comment-permission> - these can be set to webgroups, names of groups on the blog in question, or to the special strings Anyone, Staff, Students or Alumni.
  • We've increased the text limit for the biography and contact details sections of the profile page significantly (32,000 characters)
  • We've added more "Back to Blog Manager" and "Back to my blog" links to the Admin section to make it easier to navigate
  • We've fixed issues with uploading files with spaces in and inserting media into the editor

As always, if you have any problems you can comment below or email the IT Services helpdesk at helpdesk@warwick.ac.uk


Bugfix release

We've just redeployed a new version of Warwick Blogs with a few bug fixes and changes.

  • Anonymous users can no longer post web links in their comments, which should hopefully reduce the level of spam we have been receiving from paid-for spam companies
  • The Admin Entries page is now paginated, and should load a lot faster
  • Creative Commons copyright items are fixed
  • Departmental groups are fixed
  • WGA members should now be able to register for new blogs

There are a few other fixes as well, and some general tidying up. If you find any problems, or have any comments, feel free to reply here or email elab at elab@warwick.ac.uk


New release

A new version of Blogbuilder was released this morning, with the following changes:

Improved WYSIWYG Editor

TinyMCE 3.0

Version 3 of the "TinyMCE" WYSIWYG editor has been rolled out onto the system. This has a new design and should have an improved editing experience.

This also includes fixes for previously known bugs with the Blockquote and Spellcheker features - these should work as designed now.

PNG Resizing

The long-standing known bug where PNG images were not resized properly and either did not display at all or displayed with an ugly red overlay has been fixed.

Comments and suggestions can be made in response to this entry, by email to blogs@warwick.ac.uk or on the Blogs feedback forum


Blogs in People Search

Writing about web page http://search.warwick.ac.uk/people

As some of you may have noticed, we are currently trialling a new People Search application as part of the Warwick website search at http://search.warwick.ac.uk/people - these results also appear on general searches on the Warwick website.

As part of the results for this, we display the user's Warwick Blog or e-Portfolio if they have one, and so if you have a Warwick Blog (or an e-portfolio), you'll find that your blog appears in search results, which may or may not be something you'd like to happen.  For example, a search for Mat Mannion reveals a Warwick Blog:

Mat Mannion

If you don't want your blog to appear in search results, you can turn off "Show in blog directory" from your blog's Settings page. Click here for more detailed instructions - it may take up to a week for the directory to update and for your blog to be removed from results.

If the wrong blog appears for your name, you can leave a comment on this entry or email us at blogs@warwick.ac.uk - this usually happens because the wrong blog is marked as your "personal" blog; we can change which blog is marked as your personal blog for you.


Flash player issues

SiteBuilder and Warwick Blogs use various Flash players in order to play multimedia e.g. MP3 audio, FLV videos. The most recent version of the Adobe Flash Player (9.0.115.0) has a bug that is causing all of these players to break. Technical details of this bug from Adobe can be found here.

As this was a minor Flash Player update most users will not have the affected version (9.0.47.0 for example works fine). We hope that Adobe will release an update to the player soon to fix the problem.

If you are experiencing problems playing multimedia in SiteBuilder or Blogs, try going to this page and see which version you have installed. If it is 9.0.115.0 you can install the previous version using the links below, which should fix the problem.

Internet Explorer 6 & 7

Firefox


AV Recording

A new version of Blogbuilder has been released today. This includes a number of corrective fixes (in particular, to adding and removing users to groups on your blog). This release also includes a new feature, allowing users to record audio and video into their blog entries. This is inserted in the same way as other videos into blog entries.

For more information, please see the FAQ Can I record a video or audio file in my blog entry?


New release

We've released a new version of BlogBuilder today with a few new features.

New Aggregation Views 

Recent Entries (final design)Firstly (and most visibly to most users), we've created a new design for our aggregation pages, as we thought the old design was now getting more than a little dated. Hopefully, this should make entries easier to read. We've also added some new ways to see different kinds of entries:

  • Entries by students
  • Entries by staff members
  • Entries by alumni
  • Entries in "personal" blogs
  • Entries in "academic" blogs

For the moment we are adding blogs to the list of "personal" or "academic" blogs as we go along - if you think that your blog fits this category, please email blogs@warwick.ac.uk.

Comment Moderation

You can now choose to moderate comments on your blog entries, if you wish, from the Settings screen in the "Admin" section of your blog. Moderating comments means that they won't actually appear on your blog until you've approved them.  You can choose to moderate the comments of all users, or just users who are not logged in.

More information can be found here.

Skipping over entries

On the "Recent entries" page, there's now a little box at the top of each entry showing the date and time of the entry.  These boxes have an extra, very handy function; if you don't think you'll want to read a particular entry, clicking on its date/time box will skip you straight to the next entry, and leave your mouse cursor perfectly positioned to do the same thing again should that be what you want.  This makes skipping through "All recent entries" looking for things which might interest you much easier.

As always, we welcome any comments or suggestions about these new features; please feel free to comment on this entry. 


BlogBuilder Update

We have released a new version of BlogBuilder today on blogs.warwick.ac.uk. This new version is mainly a bug fix release, tidying up some loose threads that have been hanging over the past few months. However, there are a few improvements that users may notice:

  • We have upgraded our image editing software to the latest version. This should offer increased quality and usability when using this feature. Read more about image editing
  • The code that runs at the backend of lookups for music, books, DVDs and games has also been upgraded, so writing reviews should be improved. FAQ
  • When writing a comment, clicking the preview button will show the correct number of your comment, and will also show you all previous comments - so you can refer back and quote previous comments, and also see if there have been new comments since you started writing FAQ
  • We have also upgraded a lot of core libraries included in Blogbuilder, which should hopefully improve performance for users

Comments, bugs and suggestions can be posted on this entry or the blogs forum

Update 9th Nov: These features have been postponed until further notice

Update 2 15th Nov: These features have been re-deployed with problems with blog forms and comments hopefully resolved


Three years on

Warwick Blogs has been running for a little bit more than three years now; we had a pilot period between about May and September 2004, then we went live in October 2004, offering a blog to every student and staff member who wanted one.  That means that Warwick Blogs has now run for three consecutive academic years, so it seems as though this might be an interesting time to look at some statistics for those three years.  Here they are:-

Blogs Authors Posts Comments Commenters Photos
04/5 2,362 2,242 35,983 88,231 8,602 48,709
05/6 988 1,721 32,411 70,261 7,344 45,954
06/7 800 1,396 24,254 31,829 6,340 16,111

Essentially, usage is declining.  Can we hazard any guesses as to why?  I can think of three reasons, though I'm sure there may be others:-

  1. In the first year, we marketed the existence of blogs very heavily, with posters, fridge magnets, beer mats and anything else we could think of.  We went to some time and trouble to get these promotional materials dstributed widely; into academic departments, University House and the residences.  We had an enormous banner made and put it up in University House so that students who were queuing to register might see it and remember it.  Then in the second year, we did a little bit of the same sort of stuff - but nothing like as much.  And in the third year we did no marketing at all (and we haven't done anything in this, the fourth year, either).

  2. This is just a theory, but I think there was a moment when we were first getting started when blogging was, relatively speaking, a new, shiny, interesting thing, (and our own system was itself new and shiny), and I wonder if we benefited from that timing.  But nothing can stay new forever, and there are now many more alternatives to having a Warwick Blog; you can have a blog in any number of good and interesting systems, like Vox or Typepad.  Or you can Twitter instead of blogging.  Or...

  3. ... you could have a Facebook account, and I suspect that this swamps number 1 or 2.  For social networking within the academic community, Facebook is all-conquering, and we observe a startling number of students who have a Facebook account before they arrive or get one soon after they start. And if you already have a Facebook account then it's not immediately obvious that you need another place to write about what you're doing, or another place to share your photos (hence the precipitous drop in the number of photos uploaded; they've all gone into Facebook instead).
One interesting trend that we observe as this academic year got started, though: the proportion of blog entries which are essentially academic in nature seems to have risen sharply.  It's too soon to say yet whether this year will continue the overall downwards trend from last year, but it's very noticeable when looking at the recent entries for the last week or so that (a) most of them have some degree of permissions set on them (mostly "Staff only", presumably because they're entries written at the behest of a tutor), and (b) they're almost all course or study related.  Perhaps this is also a consequence of the Facebook explosion; institutional systems such as ours end up settling into a different niche (ironically, the one we had thought we were originally building for), the area of study and personal development-related blogging.  Time will tell.


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