Frequently Asked Questions
Content Management Systems
A blog is traditionally just a website with a selection of recent articles on the main page and links to chronologically-sorted articles in a sidebar. Blog authors and administrators usually create content and manage the site through a web browser instead of a dedicated desktop application.
Programmers of blog software soon discovered that it made sense to add other criteria for sorting, such as tags and categories. Also, some items of content made more sense as hierarchically organized pages. No longer limited to just simple articles with titles, blogs can now even facilitate posting of custom structured content types, such as status updates, asides, FAQs, how-tos, gallery posts, recipes, reviews, video diaries, etc.
If a site calls itself a blog, site visitors expect to have the option to interact with the post authors and/or other site visitors via a comment system.
A site powered by a blog content management system can be indistinguishable from one driven by an enterprise content management system, and the answer to “what’s a blog?” becomes more nebulous.
Excellent question. We plan to create a comparison table in the near future.
Please contact if you are unsure about what direction to take with your upcoming website projects.
How do I get a blog?
Please read the instructions on our Request a Site page. We support websites related to teaching, research, and communication outreach for faculty projects and officially recognized University groups and programs.
We are currently only offering blogs to University departments, programs, official student organizations, official student publications, faculty, and faculty research groups.
You could also install WordPress in your Central File System account and use the WebScript PHP learning environment.
Through special arrangement with Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, the blog service is available to all officially recognized student organizations and publications, including those sponsored by ODUS, ORL, and PACE. ODUS serves as both the primary administrative contact and support conduit for student organizations that may desire a blog site.
It is against University policy to collect ad revenue (affiliate programs, Adsense, or other pay-per-click services) from pages served off of University servers. An externally hosted solution is the best option for organizations that wish to generate money from their websites.
OIT Academic Services will set up a WordPress blog for a course at the request of the instructor. However, the self-service interactive tools built into Blackboard 9.x might be, in some cases, a more desirable option for course blogs.
The Blackboard learning management system provides tools for creating journals or blogs. Journals, according to Blackboard, are “personal writing spaces for self-reflection or personal communication with the instructor.” A blog is a “commentary available for class review and comment.” Each has different options for individual and group authorship and also options for sharing posts with the entire class or just the instructor.
The first key difference between the platforms is privacy. Access to Blackboard blog content is restricted to instructors and students enrolled in a course. Blackboard, Inc., considers that opening student course work to the outside world might violate privacy laws, and they choose to make Blackboard a closed system. While it is possible to restrict access for WordPress blog content to a members-only group, the WordPress platform is geared toward publishing content for a wider audience.
The second key difference is that Blackboard blogs and journals are subsections of the Blackboard course site. They have direct Grade Center integration, and they leverage the Registrar’s enrollment data for access control. WordPress blogs have no direct integration with Blackboard or enrollment data. An instructor could just create a clickable link to an external WordPress site within a Blackboard course site; however, each enrolled student must manually be added as an author of the WordPress site.
Movable Type to WordPress
Six Apart’s Movable Type was once the premier blog publishing system, with revolutionary, industry-leading features, including unrivaled multisite support. However, they alienated their user community with a controversial licensing change in 2004, an arguably mishandled release of version 5 in 2010, and a disconcerting reorganization later that year.
Princeton University maintained an enterprise license with Six Apart for four years. However, the high cost of the yearly license became difficult to justify, and the diminishing base of users and developers greatly concerned us. A Japanese IT company now owns the Movable Type product, and another company has assumed responsibility for worldwide technical support. We have no experience with either of these organizations.
While a small community of developers is steadfastly working to keep Movable Type alive, and the platform may once again flourish in one form or another; we felt that it was time to move on.
The WordPress platform is a stable, innovative publishing system with a vast library of third-party plugins and themes. It powers over 60 million websites, including 22% of new active domains in the United States. An expansive, vibrant community of WordPress users and developers are continually improving the software, offering support, writing tutorials, and sharing best practices. We look forward to fostering an active community of WordPress users within Princeton.
If your entries (posts) are all just text and simple HTML code, we can import the XML export file from Movable Type into your new WordPress site.
With rich media blogs, we need to use Movable Type’s backup tool. We will create the archive and upload it to a temporary directory on the WordPress server. Then we will use the Movable Type Backup Importer plugin. This will create a local copy of all images, convert simple embeds to oEmbeds, and preserve tags, categories, and comments.
Pages will have to be recreated manually.
We will not bring over any of the pre-fab Movable Type themes. Your best bet is to start with a fresh WordPress theme. We will work closely with site owners who have highly customized themes.
Ideally, we will have migrated our last blog out of the Movable Type environment by September 2012. We will not shut down the Movable Type server until the last active blog is either migrated to WordPress, migrated to a third-party platform, or archived to a static website.
The WordPress Codex is the official documentation site for WordPress.
The University purchased a site license for the entire Lynda.com online training library, which includes over 20 hours of WordPress 3 training. Visit lynda.princeton.edu and log in with your Princeton net ID to access their library from anywhere.
We also have a University-wide license for Safari Books Online. This service has at least a dozen books dedicated to WordPress 3.
This website, blogs.princeton.edu, will be a resource for training materials that are specific to our environment, including plugin-specific tutorials.
The production WordPress servers are locked down, secure environments.
Web Development Services tests all themes and plugins for security problems, compatibility problems, user experience issues, and performance issues before deploying them to the live servers.
With over 16,000 plugins and 1,400 themes on WordPress.org alone, not all of them play nicely with each other or with the latest version of WordPress. Not all are designed for a multisite environment, and some can kill performance on high traffic servers.
WordPress, itself, and all plugins and themes are uploaded to a separate version-controlled repository, then deployed via scripts to the QA and production web servers. This allows us to roll back to a previous version of the environment with a single command if we discover a problematic plugin or theme.
We tried to mimic many of WordPress.com’s features, and we have added many other plugins based on early feedback.
To simplify the interface for casual users, not all plugins are activated across the network. Site administrators can activate certain plugins just for their site. These include a Poll/Survey plugin, an FAQ plugin, and a LaTeX plugin.
We welcome suggestions for added functionality and new themes to add to our WordPress environment. Please use the Contact link above.
As long as your site is active and does not violate University policies, we will continue to host your site. However, if your site has been inactive for three (3) years, we reserve the right to remove your site from our servers.
We ask that each site request designates an administrative contact and a technical contact. These designated individuals become the site owner(s). Before deleting an inactive site, we will attempt to contact a site owner. If none of the designated site owners are still with the University, we will contact another individual within the administrative contact’s former department. If your site has a sponsor organization, such as the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students or Princeton in Asia, we will also coordinate with that organization.
With the site owner, we will discuss options for archiving an inactive site’s content before removing it from our servers.