Tag Archives: WordPress

The system that runs sites.middlebury.edu

7 Innovative Midd Course Sites in WordPress

Have you considered using WordPress as a course website, but aren’t sure how it might look? Are you using it already, but curious about new ideas? Here’s a sneak peek at how other Middlebury faculty have been doing it.

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A footnote to your blog

Thanks to a request by the New England Review, a new plugin called Simple Footnotes and Simple Footnotes Editor Button can be activated on your WordPress site for fast, elegant, hyperlinked footnotes.

First, activate Simple Footnotes under the Plugins menu at your WordPress Dashboard. When you create a new post or page, you’ll notice a new ab1 button in the editing toolbar.

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 3.00.40 PM

When you’re ready to add a footnote, click that new button:

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 3.04.27 PM

Type the text of your footnote in the Insert a footnote box that pops up and then Insert.

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 3.08.14 PM

Use the Preview button to see how your footnotes look. While in edit mode, you’ll only see “tags” around your footnotes, like this = 1. Don’t fear! Your footnotes will look wonderful to the rest of the world once you publish your post or page, like this:

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 3.14.19 PM

And at the bottom of your page, your footnote will look like this:

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 3.15.34 PM

Notes:

    Group support added to WordPress

    We are pleased to announce the addition of a much-awaited feature to our WordPress site network. As of today groups added to sites can automatically maintain their membership over time. Site administrators will no longer have to go back into WordPress and regularly bulk-add groups to grant access to new group members.

    In the WordPress Dashboard
    When you add users to a WordPress site by group the new default option is to keep the group in sync:

    Adding a new group to a site, keeping the group in sync.

    Adding a new group to a site.
    Note the new “Keep in Sync” option.

    All users currently in the group will be added to the site with the role you specified. Members of the group who already have a role with greater abilities will not have their permissions reduced. Members of the group who already have a role with less abilities will be raised to the role specified for the group.

    The groups synced are shown in a list and can be removed if desired.

    The groups synced are shown in a list and can be removed if desired.

    Over time, as people are added to the group, their roles in the site will be updated whenever they log into WordPress. If a person is removed from a group they will have their role in the site removed when they log into WordPress if their role hasn’t been manually changed to a different level.

    More details about group-synchronization are available in the LIS Wiki.

    In the Course Hub
    In tandem with this new feature in the WordPress dashboard, the Course Hub now automatically adds class-groups to WordPress sites when adding WordPress Resources. When you add a WordPress Resource to the Course Hub the screen now includes an option that lets you specify what role to give students in the WordPress site. (Instructors will always be administrators of the site.)

    Choose which role to give students in the WordPress site.

    Choose which role to give students in the WordPress site.

    When you save the WordPress Resource in the Course Hub three class-groups (instructors, students, and audits) are added to WordPress site and kept in sync. Instructors no longer need to do the extra step of going to WordPress and adding the class-groups to the site. As well, new students enrolled during the “Add/Drop Period” will automatically have access to the WordPress site when they log in after their enrollment has processed.

    The instructors, students, and audits groups are automatically added to WordPress by the Course Hub.

    The instructors, students, and audits groups are automatically added to WordPress by the Course Hub.

    If you delete the WordPress Resource from the Course Hub the users and class-groups it added will be removed from the WordPress site, however the site itself will not be deleted automatically.

    Looking back at comment-spam in WordPress

    In February 2012 we started noticing a large influx of new comment-spam coming into our sites.middlebury.edu WordPress system that the built-in anti-spam plugins weren’t able to handle. To combat this annoying plague we created a new plugin that instantly killed any comments trying to submit an “author URL” along with the “author name” and “comment text” now that the “author URL” field is hidden.

    In the year and a half since this plugin has been in place across our blog network it has blocked an average of 40,000 spam comments every month.

    +------+-------+--------------+
    | year | month | spam blocked |
    +------+-------+--------------+
    | 2012 |     3 |       14,814 |
    | 2012 |     4 |       19,956 |
    | 2012 |     5 |       18,225 |
    | 2012 |     6 |       15,937 |
    | 2012 |     7 |       29,232 |
    | 2012 |     8 |       24,073 |
    | 2012 |     9 |       25,973 |
    | 2012 |    10 |       42,514 |
    | 2012 |    11 |       49,265 |
    | 2012 |    12 |      106,128 |
    | 2013 |     1 |      103,850 |
    | 2013 |     2 |       72,944 |
    | 2013 |     3 |       38,336 |
    | 2013 |     4 |       35,125 |
    | 2013 |     5 |       32,975 |
    | 2013 |     6 |       35,011 |
    | 2013 |     7 |       28,218 |
    +------+-------+--------------+

    While some spam is bound to get past any automated filtering, we hope that these efforts have alleviated most of the hassle of dealing with spam comments in WordPress.

    WordPress Plugin Spotlight: Embed Google Docs in your Posts

    This is an ongoing series of posts to highlight some of the features that we have installed in WordPress that you might like to use on your site, but might not know are available.

    This plugin requires little in the way of explanation. If you have a document hosted on Google Docs or Google Drive and want to embed it in a blog post or page, enable the Google Docs Shortcode plugin in your site’s administration interface. This plugin supports embedding documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and forms. You can use some shortcode like this to add your documents:

    [gdoc link="LINK_TO_GOOGLE_DOC" height="600"]

    Documentation on getting the link for the shortcode is available at that link. As an example, here’s are presentation slides from a session I gave on our Drupal architecture:

    WordPress Plugin Spotlight: Tons of Features in Jetpack (Part 2)

    This is an ongoing series of posts to highlight some of the features that we have installed in WordPress that you might like to use on your site, but might not know are available.

    WordPress is an open-source, community-built platform, but it also has a company behind it that coordinates activity and runs WordPress.com. This company Automattic, has released some of the most popular features of WordPress.com as a plugin they support named Jetpack. By connecting your site with a WordPress.com account, you get access to many additional features. This post describes the Contact Forms feature, but descriptions of other features can be found in part one of this post and are also available at their site.

    Activating the Plugin

    You can activate Jetpack as you would any other plugin in the WordPress administration interface for your site. After you activate the plugin, you need to connect it with a WordPress.com account. These are free to register on their site, but if you do not wish to create an account, let us know and we can connect it using one of ours. It is important to note at this point that all features of Jetpack are currently free to use, but some may require an additional payment in the future.

    Contact Forms

    The Jetpack plugin adds a feature for collecting simple feedback and information from visitors to your site through a custom form. Before we start, here are some things that these forms are not good at:

    • Collecting sensitive or personally identifiable information. This should never be done in our WordPress or Drupal sites. If you need to collect this type of information, please contact LIS so we can work on finding an appropriate solution.
    • Reporting. There’s no export feature for the data these forms collect. If you need to download the form data to Excel, consider using the Webform module in our Drupal site instead.
    • Complex form logic, branching, and advanced survey fields like scales and grids. These forms have only a few basic field types available and everything needs to be on the same page. Advanced survey features are available through our KeySurvey application and you can contact LIS for access.

    But if you just want to add a basic feedback form or a poll to your blog or site in WordPress, this can be a handy tool.

    Creating Forms

    To add a new form to a post, click the form button to the right of the Add Media button while editing the post. This will bring up an interface with some example fields.

    Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 3.17.06 PM

    Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 3.18.32 PM

    Modify that sample form to suit your needs and click the “Add this form to my post” button. This will put a bunch of shortcode text into the body of your post, but when you Publish the post visitors to your post will see the form.

    Getting Feedback

    When people submit the form, the results will be stored in the “Feedbacks” section available in the left sidebar of your site’s Dashboard.

    Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 3.22.52 PM

    Also, when creating your form, there is an “Email Notifications” tab that you can click on to send the form results to one or more email addresses.

    Let us know what you think

     

     

    WordPress Plugin Spotlight: Tons of Features in Jetpack (Part 1)

    This is an ongoing series of posts to highlight some of the features that we have installed in WordPress that you might like to use on your site, but might not know are available.

    WordPress is an open-source, community-built platform, but it also has a company behind it that coordinates activity and runs WordPress.com. This company Automattic, has released some of the most popular features of WordPress.com as a plugin they support named Jetpack. By connecting your site with a WordPress.com account, you get access to many additional features. We’ll describe a few of these features here, and in a follow-up post, but descriptions are also available at their site.

    Activating the Plugin

    You can activate Jetpack as you would any other plugin in the WordPress administration interface for your site. After you activate the plugin, you need to connect it with a WordPress.com account. These are free to register on their site, but if you do not wish to create an account, let us know and we can connect it using one of ours. It is important to note at this point that all features of Jetpack are currently free to use, but some may require an additional payment in the future.

    Useful Features

    Here are some of the things that you can do with the Jetpack plugin.

    Site Stats

    Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 11.34.34 AM

     

    Jetpack can be used to collect information about the people visiting your site and display that data in an interface that is significantly easier to use than Google Analytics. This allows you to see which of your posts were the most popular, how people are finding your site, and the geographic distribution of visitors to your site.

    Extra Shortcodes

    In addition to the embedable items you have access to with the WordPress Video Plugin, Jetpack adds some extra shortcodes allowing you to add Google Maps, Scribd and SlideShare documents.

    There is also code for adding LaTeX markup to your posts, making is easy (well, easier) to write things like this:

    i\hbar\frac{\partial}{\partial t}\left|\Psi(t)\right>=H\left|\Psi(t)\right>

    Extra Sidebar Widgets

    Jetpack adds three extra widgets that you can add to site sidebars:

    • Twitter: show the latest tweets from your account to encourage people to follow you on Twitter.
    • RSS Links: add a link to the RSS feeds for the posts and/or comments on your site.
    • Image: add an image to your sidebar for extra visual appeal.

    More Image Galleries

    While we have the NextGen Gallery Plugin for advanced image galleries, with Jetpack you get access to two more simple image gallery layouts: Tiled Galleries and Carousels. Here is an example of a Tiled Gallery in a post:

    Stay Tuned

    In the next post in this series, we’ll cover the Contact Forms feature of the Jetpack plugin.

    WordPress Plugin Spotlight: Organize your Widgets with Display Widgets

    This is an ongoing series of posts to highlight some of the features that we have installed in WordPress that you might like to use on your site, but might not know are available.

    Widgets are a powerful feature of WordPress that allow you to easily add dynamic features to your site sidebars like tag clouds, a list of authors on your site, links to other resources, search forms, and social media features. Sometimes, though, you only want a widget to appear on a specific page of your site and by default adding a widget to a sidebar will make it show up everywhere.

    screenshot-1

    Activating the Display Widgets plugin on your site will allow you to control where widgets appear. Once activated, your widget settings screen will contain a list of pages with checkboxes. You can choose to either show or hide each of your widgets on the selected pages. With this, you can do things like tailor a list of resource links to a particular topic page, or only show your Facebook like button on the homepage.