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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.

Upgrade to WordPress 3.0

We recently completed upgrading all of the Missouri State Blogs to the new version 3.0 of WordPress. You should notice some small differences in the layout and functionality of the dashboard of your blogs at this time, but no changes in the look of your actual blog.

This new version of WordPress has some great new features, including better menus and navigation, custom post types and taxonomies and a better back-end interface. We plan on updating the themes available to users during the fall 2010 semester to better take advantage of these new features, so stay tuned. We will also be updating our support pages in the fall to better reflect the changes and updates in 3.0.

If you’re curious about the changes and updates made to WordPress 3.0, please watch the video tour below:

Posted in New Features, System upgrades.

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Threaded Comments

This morning we updated the Missouri State blogs to better work with the WordPress threaded commenting system. We have been using a third-party plugin to allow for threaded comments, but our themes now work with the integrated WordPress threaded comments and thus the plugin is no longer needed.

To turn on threaded comments on your blog:

  1. On your blog’s Dashboard, navigate to Settings > Discussion.
  2. Under ‘Other Comment Settings,’ check the box labeled ‘Enable threaded (nested) comments.’
  3. Select the number of levels deep you would like the threaded comments to go.
  4. Click the Save Changes button on the bottom of the page.

We have also integrated a Tiny MCE Comments plugin into all of the blogs, allowing for commenters to add links, format text, etc. This plugin works on both threaded and un-threaded comments.

Posted in Plugins, Updates.

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