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Blogging tips for September

Sharing your stories

It’s often noted that “public affairs” is strived for by so many universities, so what sets Missouri State University apart? Your students may be asking the same thing! Since September kicks off several of the signature public affairs events for the University, it’s a good time to talk about ethical leadership, community engagement and cultural competence, and what it means at a grass roots level.

How does your department embody the ideals of public affairs, or how do you integrate or connect to the public affairs theme “Global Perspective: Why it Matters”? This would be a great topic to explain in a blog this month:

Global Perspective: Why it Matters – that’s the public affairs theme for Missouri State University in 2013-14. You’ll hear it a lot throughout the year, and we encourage you to get involved during Public Affairs Week Sept. 16-20 and Stomp Out Hunger: All Collegiate Shoe Drive Sept. 28-Oct. 19. More importantly, we want you to know that our field/department lives this mission by teaching our students (fill in how your department is connected).

Reading the Common Reader for this year, “Start Something that Matters,” is a great way to get inspired and to feel a part of a bigger movement. The author, Blake Mycoskie, founder and chief shoe giver of TOMS shoes, will be on campus to discuss how TOMS got its start later in November. 

Blogging tip

Incorporating links into your blog allows you to give your readers access to the newest, most complete information about events without having to maintain it yourself. We recommend hyperlinking the text (as seen above) rather than pasting URLs into the text.

Learn more blogging tips by attending our one-hour workshop at 9 a.m. Sept. 25 in Meyer Library 205. If you haven’t already, register now.

Points of pride

Your blog is a fantastic way to showcase the points of pride for your department – the things that make you great! For September, consider highlighting:

  • Interesting service learning projects that have your students touching lives in the community
  • Students who have been nominated or selected as Citizen Scholars

These students are shining examples, and who doesn’t love a great story?

Looking forward

Sharing upcoming deadlines, trips, presentations or University events make great blog posts, too, since they’re relevant information to your audience. Here are just a few important dates you might wish to highlight:

Posted in Best Practices.

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Blogging tips for August

A blog is a great tool to communicate short messages to your audience, but the less often you post, the more people forget that you’re there!  This is why we recommend that blogging becomes a habit, and recommend that you update it at least once a month.

This month’s blogging tip

StudentsWe will also begin sharing blogging ideas monthly. With this assistance, we hope you will begin posting regularly to communicate with prospective, new and current students. For the month of August, an easy yet meaningful post would be something like: 

Welcome back students! So much has happened over the summer, and we hope that you are ready to begin an exciting year, finding your place here at Missouri State. Get the most of your college experience by joining one of our student organizations (link to them) or attend the New Student Festival on Aug. 18 to learn about getting involved on campus.

That’s it. A blog is not a research paper and doesn’t need to be more than a couple of sentences. If you have other ideas that are longer – that’s great, too. But they don’t have to be. Just think of it as a way to showcase some points of pride for your department.

Online resources and updating editors

Do you have questions about your blog? Review our collection of resources about making posts, managing contributors and more.

If you feel that there is someone better equipped to maintain the blog, we can add editors. Complete this online form to add or delete users from your blog.

Posted in Best Practices.

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Recent spam posts on blogs

1055089_95190830As most of you are aware, the University blogging system has been receiving a lot of spam comments as of late. While our Akismet spam catching plugin catches 99% of the spam posted to the blogs, some posts still manage to slip through.

Over the past weekend and earlier this week the number of spam posts getting through has increased.

Updates to WordPress

Our office has taken steps to cut down on the amount of spam that is being posted:

  • Discussion settings on all blogs have been modified so that comments are not allowed on older posts, most often any posts any older than 60 days old. You can modify this setting by going to Settings > Discussion on your blog Dashboard and changing the value in the option labeled ‘Automatically close comments on articles older than X days.’ We suggest keeping the box checked and only modifying this value.
  • A new plugin was activated on all blogs that disallows comments on all Pages. If you would like to allow comments on your static pages, go to Settings > No Page Comment and adjust the settings there.

Email notification settings

Comment email notifications can also be turned off if you feel you are receiving too many emails from the blog. To turn off comment notification, go to Settings > Discussion on your Dashboard and unchecking both boxes under the ‘Email me whenever’ heading.

Posted in Updates.

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Database Server Failure

On the evening of Monday, Sept. 18, the database server, which houses information for many of our websites, experienced multiple hard drive failures. This type of failure is very extreme and rare.

Computer services enterprise systems group was able to quickly correct the hard drive problems and restore the databases from the latest backup, which occurred at 10 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17. This means that any data changes that occurred between 10 p.m. Sunday night and 8 p.m. Monday night were lost and are not recoverable.

List of websites affected

  • Sites that begin with https://ws.missouristate.edu/
  • Sites that begin with http://blogs.missouristate.edu/
  • News.missouristate.edu
  • Magazine.missouristate.edu
  • Any Web Press or apps.missouristate.edu form that used the Database services management system
  • Personal and course website databases
  • Any other website that uses AppsDB databases

What to do next

  • Re-make any blog posts or database entries for your website from yesterday
  • Ask your customers to resubmit their database form submissions from yesterday

If you have any questions, please contact us at web@missouristate.edu or 417-836-5271.

Posted in Uncategorized.

Google Analytics on blogs

Google Analytics logoWe are in the process of rolling out a new feature on all Missouri State blogs that allows for Google Analytics tracking. It is currently enabled on all blogs. You can take advantage of this plugin if you have your own Google Analytics account.

To use the built-in analytics, log in to your blog’s Dashboard, and under the Settings menu on the right you’ll find a link labeled “Google Analytics (MSU).” Click on this link and enter your Web Property ID. You can now track stats from your blog in your Google Analytics account.

We have previously been using two different third-party plugins called Google Analyticator and Ultimate Google Analytics, which were a stop-gap measure until we could build this functionality into all of our blogs. If you are currently using one of these plugins, we will switch your blog over to the new version and deactivate the old plugin. Once all blogs are switched to this new system, we will be removing both the Google Analyticator and Ultimate Google Analytics plugins from the system.

Posted in New Features, System upgrades.

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Creating a Profile

Before you start writing blog posts, it is a good idea to set up your profile in the WordPress system. Setting up a profile allows you to have an author box at the end of your posts which will show your profile picture and description. Below is an example of the author box.

Add a description

Log in to your blog’s Dashboard, and then click on Users > All Users in the left sidebar. This will show you a list of the users on your blog. Hover over your profile and select the Edit link that appears.

Add your bio to the box labeled Biographical Info; this field must be filled in to have the author box appear on your blog posts. Add information to any other fields you wish, then clcik the blue Update Profile button on the bottom of the page.

Create a profile picture

WordPress uses the Gravatar system to house profile pictures. To have your picture included in the author box on your blog posts:

  1. Visit Gravatar
  2. Click on the Get your Gravatar today button
  3. Follow the instructions on the Gravatar site. You must use your BearPass Email address.
  4. Next time you log in to your blog, you should see your picture in your profile.

Posted in Best Practices.

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Blog theme redesign

Over the past few weeks we have been converting all Missouri State blogs to our new redesigned theme, which is designed to utilize all of the new features offered in WordPress 3.x and better coordinates with the 2010 web templates. Now that the conversion process is completed, I wanted to share more detailed information about the new theme and all of the options now available to blog users.

Here are some of the key features of the new Missouri State Blog theme:

Various color options

There are now seven color options for your blog; these colors coordinate with the new skins in Web Press. You can now choose a color layout of Maroon, Grey, Orange, Blue, Tan, Green or Lime.

Updates to header images

The new header images utilize a larger size of 960×198 pixels. We have also created a set of default header images that blog administrators can choose from, and the option of creating and uploading a custom header image is still in effect. The process for uploading header images has also been updated, and is documented on the Header Images tutorial within our blog support pages.

Now that the process for uploading header images is integrated into your blog Dashboard, we will be phasing out the NextGEN Gallery plugin in the near future. We suggest using either the built-in photo gallery for WordPress or the Inline Media Tool plugin in combination with Flickr for any future slideshows or galleries that need to be embedded in your blog posts.

Drop-down menus

The Missouri State 2010 theme neatly organizes your pages into a menu in your blog’s header, and includes drop-down menus for multiple levels of nested sub-pages.

Author box

An box containing information about a blog post’s author is now default on all blogs (you can see an example at the bottom of this post). To have the box appear on your blog, the author must have some information entered on their profile within WordPress. You can enter this information by visiting your profile page.

Multiple sidebars

The new blog theme supports up to two sidebars on the right side of the blog and up to four sidebars above the footer. The layout of the theme will change dynamically depending on how many sidebars you utilize.

Posted in New Features, Updates.

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Blogs upgraded to WordPress 3.1

This morning all University blogs were upgraded to the new 3.1 version of WordPress. Some of the new updates include a new top admin bar, streamlined posting interface as well as new developer tools. Read the WordPress Development blog for more details in this new release.

Posted in Updates.

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Server move on Oct. 7, 2010

We’ll be moving all of our WordPress blogs to a different server on the morning of Friday, October 7, 2010. Things should go smoothly and there won’t be any downtime; however if you experience problems or notice a brief downtime that morning, please keep in mind that we are probably in the middle of the server migration. If you notice problems after noon on Oct. 7, please let me know by calling the Web Help Desk at 836-5271.

Posted in System upgrades.

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New blogs homepage

As you can see, this page has been updated and made into a blog intended to host news and updates about Missouri State blogs. Important links can be found at the top of this page, along with the option to log in to your blogs. On the right, you will find categories and archives for this administrative site, along with a directory of all Missouri State blogs.

If you are the administrator of one or more blogs, please subscribe to this site, as any news about WordPress blogs will be posted here. Examples of content you can expect are:

  • new or updated plugins
  • changes or updates to the Missouri State blog themes
  • upgrades to our WordPress installation
  • server moves, downtime, etc.

Posted in Updates.