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I spent an hour this afternoon trying to convince decision-makers at RIT to invest a relatively small (by site license standards) amount in a campus license for Movable Type. It was wonderful being able to merge my social software interests with my home institution, since typically the two haven't been closely connected. And with luck, it will turn into something that benefits many of my colleagues and the students here at RIT.

The idea would be to set up something similar to what Minnesota has at UThink, but also to start looking at MT as a platform for content management on departmental sites, class sites, etc. We would also be looking at ways to integrate other pedagogical tools (like testing and gradebook software) into MT templates so that students could have something like my MT courseware, but with RIT-specific private components embedded and/or linked. Fun stuff.

In preparation for the talk, I created a list of educational blogging resources and examples (cribbed from another list on a private server that danah boyd and I have been working on for a workshop). It occurred to me that the list could be useful to others trying to convince their institutions to implement wide-scale blogging initiatives, so feel free to steal from it, point to it, add to it, etc. (Yes, I know, it should be on a wiki. I'm working on installing one that I like, but haven't had time for it recently...) In the meantime, if you leave comments here with things you think should be included, I'll consider them for the list.

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Liz Lawley has a useful resource page called "Weblogs in Academia." Lot's of good links about using blogs, wikis, etc.,... Read More


I don't really have much to add (other than those are great selections of examples!), but I do want to mention that if RIT did pick up on the MT licence, I think it would enable a lot of professors (who might not know about how powerful blogs can be) to do the whole courseware type thing.

It would be great to see some of my professors try to implement it. I hope the meeting went well and has proves fruitful :-)

Meanwhile, Blackboard is on the move. For those who already are using BB, it will very likely that they will use whatever "comes with" the system in the near future.

As much as I like MT myself and understand your affinity with it, and time and energy already invested in it, here's something I've been thinking about for a while now. Academia ultimately is about the public good and although we all have our own careers and egos to think of, in the end we hope to contribute something to Knowledge and Society. The tools we use are not merely neutral means to an end, but they are an integral part of how we gather data, construct knowledge and ideas, and disseminate our work.

With software as our main tools, more than ever we also bend and shape those tools to fit our needs. If those tools are Open Source then our efforts in shaping and sharpening those tools can be made public for the greater good, just as we make public the results of our research for that reason.

MT may seem the right tool now but it is not Open Source and although you may make public your efforts and plugins to make it do exactly what you need it to, all the work you invest in your tool remains contingent on a piece of proprietary software. If someone would like to use your work on this tool, they are forced to buy/license the proprietary part of it first. Also, because a company owns the software, the owners could do any number of things (like go broke) that would make your investments worthless.

It's not just that you personally would lose that investment in time, energy and ideas, it would be lost for other people as well. If you had been working on a piece of Open Source software and for some reason you personally would stop development, someone else could come in and take over, take off on your riff and jam with it.

There are many more good reasons for using Open Source software, but in a nutshell that's why I think that academia should invest in OSS: the two share a modus operandi in which not money and not the individual are the prime interests.

Frank, I share your concerns about open source. However, there currently aren't any open source tools that would do what we need on an enterprise level. WordPress is the closest, but it requires individual installations for each user--a real problem if we're trying to get non-techies to incorporate blogging--and it works only with mySQL, which isn't broadly deployed on our main campus servers.

Since data is easily retrieved from MT, even if the company went broke we'd still be able to migrate. And while they are a company, they're not a faceless corporation--I know and trust the people who run the company...and the people who are their financial backers.

At present, I genuinely think it's the best solution for what we need on campus. Whether that will be true in a couple of years, I don't know. But if it's not, I won't consider the time and effort spent on any customization wasted, particularly if it has the effect of getting our campus excited about and involved in blogging as a communication medium.

Hi Liz,

Just a thought from an IT support person at another WNY institution: have you talked to some of the other groups on campus that might be interested in (or opposed to) a campus-wide MT installation? At my institution, there's a tendency to pick up something like this and run with it, then find out that three other groups are doing something similar. Typically, whoever has the biggest administrator behind them wins, and the others have wasted a year or more's worth of work. :-) It would have been beneficial in many instances to be able to collaborate with other groups instead of competing with them to accomplish the same goals.

I can see a lot of advantages in a campus-wide implementation of MT. I've set up an MT blog to keep track of the progress of a group of students and staff who work on the same project from multiple locations, and I want to use it as a CMS for the departmental web site I manage, so I've got a good idea of what it can and can't do. But one point I've seen raised online about campus-wide blogging tool installations is redundancy. As in "we've been pushing our faculty to use our expensive course management system, and now you want us to give them yet another option to post their course material and interact with their students?"

Since your selling points include some things that probably run into other people's territory (e.g., campus or department web site development, course management system administration, etc.) it might be good to talk to others whose work might overlap your own and at least find out where you're going to run into roadblocks or redundancy with other people's efforts--and where you can count on wholehearted support. Maybe you've already done that, I don't know. :-)

Molly, those are good ideas. Happily, that's exactly what was going on yesterday; the meeting was with IT and academic affairs folks, including the people responsible for CMS and courseware. :)

Thanks, Liz, for once again pointing out both great ideas and pointing us in the direction of some great resources.

Just a quick followup on WordPress. The main reason we decided to switch over was not related to features, but to some of the issues Frank brings up. We wanted students and faculty to be able to contribute to the project and know that those contributions would help people in educational contexts not as privileged as our own.

MySQL is a problem, but far from an insurmountable one. In most cases, if you are doing a large-scale install, you are going to have a dedicated server anyway.

As for the multiple installs, I've now set up a system (http://schoolof.info/help/gettingstarted.html) that automagically does an individual install for each student. Compared with using MT (at least in the older version, have they made group management easier?), students find the set-up and management very easy indeed. Although we're very much "in beta" right now, other instructors who have no blogging experience have already started to create course blogs on their own. There is a danger in assuming that because you are familiar with MT (as I was) that it is an easy system to learn to use. Both MT and WP have their own idiosyncrasies.

And as I noted above, the battle is going to come between BlackBoard (and inevitably WebCT, etc.) and non-integrated systems. On campuses that have already bought into course management systems, assuming these are even tolerable systems (and even if they are not), there will be an extreme disincentive to licensing alternatives. If no cost is involved in such a license, however, this might be less of a problem.

(If the MT folks were smart, they would be talking with Blackboard about partnering/licensing. That would allow them to do ride into large universities, and still license on a smaller scale to those who don't have campus agreements.)

Liz (I'm trying to accept the fact that I'm essentially a colleague to the faculty now),

Molly's comment made me think back to the meeting Elouise had arranged with a group of students and two members of ITS who are part of the new portal in development. Were they at the meeting by any chance? Part of the portal was a blog - obviously that is a huge tie-in with this.

I'd be more than happy to write a letter expressing my support of this (as well as updating the software on the servers!), either on your behalf or for myself.

Also, I'd like to thank you for using one of my blogs as an example, it is greatly appreciated. :-)

Hi Liz,

Good list of resources. I'd like to add Edu Blog
News to your list. They also have lots of good
information and links to other academic blog
info. Here's the url:


One angle on your attempt to merge social
technologies into RIT, may be to broach the topic
from a generational learning style perspective.
(See http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0342.pdf )

Younger generations--the Gen X'rs and Millenials
(born after '82) have no qualms or fear using
technology. This will become an increasingly
important issue as instructors have multi-generational student bodies in the classroom.

Moving forward,students will expect these social
technologies, including blogs, to be a part of
their learning process.

So perhaps if you present blogging from that
angle it may spur RIT powers that be to embrace
MT (and other social technologies). Just a thought. ;-)

Then again, change is always hard.


Speaking as someone that basically gutted an MT installation and customized the templates to generate a very non-bloggy site for your 409 class, I'm not so sure that MT is the be-all end-all when it comes to content management systems. While I understand that it's extensible (to a point), I just have a hard time seeing departments cannibalizing an MT installation for their websites. It's just not designed to work for sites that aren't time-based.

Your MT courseware sites work specifically because there is schedule of events that must be followed. I don't think this translates to 98% of the department websites on campus.

While I disagree in selling MT to the administration as a CMS, I agree that students and faculty should have access to it for blogging purposes. It's not hard to see on your courseware sites how well it such a system generates discussion in classes that would otherwise be silent.


Well, it's not always easy to use MT as a CMS, but there are actually a lot of sites that do, pretty effectively. For example, Andy Phelps' entire web site is MT-based, but with no sign of the time-based approach. He then re-used those templates for the Muppets project site, with great success.

I also think there's some real value in making departmental web sites more time-based and interactive--giving people a reason to come back to them, to participate in them, to give the departments a sense of "voice." USC's Interactive Media department is doing this...I'd love to see programs at RIT doing something similar.

In fact, if RIT departments used weblog-based software for their sites, the automatically-generated RSS feeds would be a great way for students to keep up with additions and changes to the site; and it would be simple to create an RSS portlet for the main RIT portal to show news and announcements.


As someone who has used a number of more full-featured content management systems--something more than merely weblog software--I tend to think that you might do well to explore other options before advocating a program-wide adoption. There are certainly tools other than MT that will serve a wider range of web site applications.

That being said, in reference to your comment about what Frank said on open source, realize that for the cost of what you pay in licensing, it might easily be possible to not only pay for development of some kind of easy multi-site based installation package that you need along with additional plugins. Then those improvements can be made available to everyone, including other institutions, to use and further develop.

I'm returning to the discussion a bit late and find many great replies :)

I'm not against licensing per se and I understand that you like and trust 6A, but apart from the question of open source, I think Charlie and Alex do have a point in saying that MT might not be the best solution for a complete courseware package. I was thinking that you were using MT primarily for bloggin in class and that probably works fine, but I have tried implementing a bigger (not even that big a site) completely in MT (2.6) and quickly ran into problems with ever expanding category trees and myriad templates.

Obviously MT works well for you in your situation, but lately I have been looking are more fully fledged content management systems that offer blogging as one of their 'modules'. I'm thinking particularly of (the open source packages) Drupal and Xaraya.

Of the two Xaraya is the (conceptually) more pleasing one (to me at least) and is easier to adapt and style, but it also hasn't quite reached 1.0 status (currently at 0.9.10). It is very extensible but many of the extensions are still being worked on (quite extensively ;).

Xaraya's modular system allows you to define, for example, different publishing types. If you define a blog-type, you then choose to link it with the category module, commenting module, the trackback module, and the xmlrpc server module. Set up a template for the blog type and you're on your way. The brilliant thing about the modular approach is that all these modules, like commenting or trackback, can also be attached to (or detached from) other publishing types, like articles, grade tables, photo galleries, etc.

Drupal is very powerful and offers things like a collaborative book module and versioning straight out of the box, but I find it much more challenging to wrap my head around the conceptual layout of the package and it is harder to style and adapt. That being said, Drupal is very scalable and can work in and across multisite deployments due to their distributed authentication system, which I can imagine would be very handy for campuses and different courses.

One thing virtually every CMS I've looked at seems to miss though, is support for multiple languages. I'm not talking about being able to 'localize' the interface, but about being able to make a bilingual or multilingual site, where the content objects (blog post, article, etc.) can exist in multiple languages and react to the user's language choices.


I wouldn't be surprised to find that Xaraya may offer some of that multilanguage support you are looking for since PostNuke does.

As for Drupal, I use it extensively. Once you "wrap [your] head round the conceptual layout" of it, you'll find that the difficulties you are experiencing are because of the flexibility of Drupal's design. For instance, I don't imagine it would be easy to design a site like terminus1525 with any other CMS (try the English/French translation buttons on the top right). And flexinode in Drupal is designed for user creation of node (publishing) types similar to what Xaraya is doing.

One of the nice things we'll be seeing from these full-featured CMS's is configurable site profiles. I'm currently working on the one for CivicSpace (based on Drupal) which should be available within the next couple of months (you can see the storyboard of it as a work in progress; use the collaborative book navigation structure to move around in it). This would be my goal for any institution-wide CMS implementation, to offer similar institution-specific site profile options via an easy to use wizard: various class site structures, weblogs and/or personal websites for faculty, departmental websites, action organizations, etc. Site designs in a box :)

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