The LIS Web Team is pleased to announce the unified LIS blog, a new and effective way to communicate with both our colleagues in LIS and with our community of users.
As part of the LIS web site make-over, the Web Team – with the support of our AD’s and our team sponsor – recommended that our many LIS blogs be combined into one. LIS website feedback this summer indicated that staff wanted it to be easier to find relevant work updates, and we think that having a unified LIS blog will help meet this need.
Staff who previously posted to LISt may notice some changes. We have changed the title to reflect the blog’s new, unified theme, added a tagline (recognize it?), included several informational pages at the top (in progress), and added a new set of categories in the left column. Once this new one-blog concept gets rolling, LISt will no longer be sent out via all-staff email, and LIS staff will be able to choose what and when to publish. LIS staff can subscribe to posts and comments (or simply check the blog regularly) to stay connected.
LIS blog authors are invited to move their content to the new LIS blog. Content that is added to the new blog will be easier for readers to find. By selecting tags and categories, we can easily direct information to the right audience and give internal and external users the ability to choose what content to follow.
Blog permissions have been adjusted, and all LIS staff can now write and publish on the LIS blog.
New to blogging? Please let us know if you would like some training or guidance in navigating the new LIS blog. We can arrange drop-in workshops, 1:1 tutorials, web tutorials, and work-group training on posting, commenting and subscribing – don’t hesitate to let us know! The new LIS blog is a work in progress, and has the potential to be a great communication tool – but we need the help and support of all LIS staff to make it a success.
We have listed below a few FAQ’s:
LIS Blog FAQ’s
- Q: Can everyone at Middlebury/in the world see the contents of the blog?
- A: Yes! None of the content is private. Sensitive information, whether technical or administrative, would not be part of the blog.
- Q: Who can post on this blog?
- A: All LIS staff members can post.
- Q: How will we prevent inappropriate posts?
- A: There will be no gate-keeping, or pre-approval of posts. The blog will be part of the LIS work world. Staff can be expected to apply professionalism and good sense just as when they talk or e-mail at work.
- Q: What about information that is only of interest to some LIS staff?
- A: Categories and tags will be used to divide up the posts into content areas, enabling readers to find the posts they might be interested in and in particular set up feeds so they can easily keep up-to-date.
- Q: What is the difference between a category and a tag, and how do I know when to use them?
- A: Categories are pre-defined by the LIS Website team, and they reflect audience, functional LIS work areas, LIS teams, and Middlebury Institutions. If additional categories are needed, we can add them. Tags are an additional way to define post content. We may create an initial pool of tag terms when we transition to the LIS Blog, but in general, these are user-supplied.
- Q: What if I only care about reading posts with a specific tag or a specific category?
- A: You can subscribe using RSS to receive posts for the specific tags and specific categories in which you’re interested.
When subscribing to WordPress Categories and Feeds via Google Reader: Add /feed to the end of the category or tag URL
- A: You can subscribe using RSS to receive posts for the specific tags and specific categories in which you’re interested.
- Q: How many categories and tags should my posts have?
- A: Each post will need at least one category. The default category is “★ The Essentials”, which categorizes the post as of interest to both LIS staff AND the larger community. You may use more than one category. Tags are optional but encouraged. You may use as many tags as you wish.
- Q: I’m a blog author. How can I move my blog to this new space?
- A: Contact Ian McBride.
- If you’re in Enterprise Technology and Infrastructure, get in touch with Liz Whitaker-Frietas.
- If you’re in Collection Management, get in touch with Jess Isler.
- If you’re in User Services, get in touch with Elin Waagen.
- If you’re in Academic Consulting Services, get in touch with Carrie Macfarlane.
We welcome your thoughts and questions – feel free to comment on this post.
The LIS Web team,
Ian, Jim, Liz, Jess, Carrie, Doreen, Barbara and Elin
This is a late change and didn’t make the announcement, but it should also be noted that the blog now uses the ShadowBox theme for WordPress designed and developed by Alex Chapin. Thanks to Adam Franco as well for reviewing, installing, and tweaking the theme.
Please also note that the reports of the death of LISt are greatly overstated. We intend to keep up the bi-weekly production of LISt, and to keep sending out notices of its publication (along with a .pdf version) via email, since while we think the world of RSS, we also recognize that not everybody keeps up with the RSS feeds for any number of reasons.
Hmm. Our team’s intention was to realize staff effeciencies (as per our charge) in not compiling this bi-weekly newsletter and helping departmental colleagues in finding ways to subscribe to the LIS blog either through RSS or the Subscribe2 plugin, which allows email subscriptions. Of course, you reserved the right to veto team decisions during the team process, however, we agreed that such vetoes would require an explanation of the decision back to the team to allow us time to reevaluate our recommendations and propose new solutions.
I’m probably being overly pedantic, but I do think it’s important to clarify which decisions belong to the team, as we’d thought we were assisting the long term goals of increasing efficiency within our organization by removing the manual PDF creation of the biweekly LISt newsletter and helping people subscribe to updates in other ways.
It is the hope of the team that this morphing of the old LISt to the new LIS blog will increase the use of the blog, and eliminate the need for staff intervention in compiling pdf newsletters, approving posts and publishing news on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. By empowering all LIS staff to write and publish on the LIS blog, there is hope that it will function as a vibrant and timely platform for communication across and beyond LIS. It is understandable that during the early and transitional phase of the new blog, that LIS would want to continue publishing the pdf version of the blog , but our hope is that eventually it will not be necessary to do so.
As a team we never intended to keep up bi-weekly production of LISt. In fact, we repeatedly cited this one Blog with LIS-wide authorship as a way to eliminate the manual LISt creation process.
We also never intended for the “death” of the pdf of LISt to herald an end to internal LIS communication. Quite the opposite!–we envisioned the Blog bringing our organization together and enabling us to efficiently receive updates on our colleagues’ work, news, accomplishments, and organizational progress. This is an opportunity to communicate with our colleagues (and external users) in a far more sustainable and timely manner than LISt ever allowed.
Personally, I also see this is a clear opportunity for some members within LIS to “not do” a task which may be accomplished using a simpler, more effective tool (i.e. this blog.) Saying we’ll continue bi-weekly production of LISt undermines the force of this initiative.
I guess it would be possible for LIS admin. to send out an e-mail a couple of times with links to blog posts that they want to draw attention to, for the sake of staff who aren’t keeping up with the blog initially. But this should be only for a transition period. In general, we see the blog as more free-form than that, with all staff posting and all staff choosing for themselves what to keep up with.
Had I known that the proposal to consolidate all LIS blogs into a single blog also meant that we would no longer send out an email version of LISt, I would have argued against that, as I believe that there are any number of folks within LIS (and other readers of LISt) who prefer to have their news delivered to them in their inbox, and aren’t likely to stay current by way of RSS feeds or periodic checking of the blog. Part of my evidence for this is that any number of people complained when we converted LISt to a blog, and we put in place the .pdf version as a way to help make sure that people kept informed. I love the idea of putting all of the LIS blogs into a single space, and believe that that will make it easier for all of LIS to stay informed about what’s going on, and what changes on the horizon might have an impact on their work or the work of others in the community. That said, if the blog really does take off as I hope it will, I worry that the volume of material will make it more likely that important information will get lost in the deluge. My argument for keeping LISt is that a) it will allow us to make sure that important information gets highlighted and b) the proactive, planned approach to it (where we nudge people to contribute to it regularly) will help keep the flow of information moving along. As Elin suggests, I would suggest that we during this transitional period keep doing the bi-weekly summary/highlighting of recent contributions to the LIS blog, but that we also let our colleagues know that the long-term vision is a vision where people simply get in the habit of reading the blog, either through RSS, through email reminders of new content, or just going there on a regular basis. If, as Jess suggests, providing the .pdf version is a hindrance to getting to this long-term vision, we can continue to debate this point, inviting the rest of LIS to weigh in. And to answer Ian’s complaint that I am not playing by the rules we established for the teams, I would repeat my initial statement: I simply didn’t realize that the proposal to consolidate blogs also meant that we were shutting off LISt.
Fair enough, if there was a communications issue in addressing this point. I think it’s pretty clear from our recommendations document, which was provided in advance of the meeting where we agreed to proceed with this idea, that we were proposing moving away from email delivery of this information. But as it was not explicitly stated in that document it’s understandable that the point might have been missed. Knowing now that this is a recommendation from our team, I do think it’s appropriate to continue to discuss it and not just dismiss the concept out of hand. In many ways it’s great that the conversation began here since, hey, that was our whole goal in recommendating this point to begin with!
My personal belief is that the longer we continue to compile a PDF copy of this communication to send out, the less incentive people will have to try out the blog version and subscribe in one of the ways we’ve set up. We haven’t done this in the past, perhaps because we couldn’t provide a broad base of support to provide one-on-one assistance with getting things set up. Our team has taken on that task and identified ways (listed in this post) that people who have questions can get answers. I think it would be a productive exercise to try going for a while without a PDF copy of LISt and allowing us to work with our colleagues to work through any issues which arise.
If people want the information, they will figure out how to get it one way or another.
This is a comment about the theme of the this blog. It has a some serious usability issues. Foremost is the inability to see links in text. I am not suggesting underlining every link. However, there should be some salient feature of the text that is automatically applied to links in text. Perhaps they could be treated like the links for emails or comments or tags are in this them. I manually made some important links more noticeable, but 99% of users won’t take the extra time.
Second point. In general, there is too little contrast. Widget headers are the most serious offenders. The whole thing is hard to read owing to its general “washed out” appearance.
I second Bryan’s comment about the links – I thought there was a setting that allowed links to be automatically underlined, but perhaps I’m thinking about Segue. Or mediawiki. Or blogger. Or something else. But I’ve noticed that as well and, like Bryan, I’ll manually underline if important but it’s quite frankly stupid to have to do that.
On the LISt issue, I’m on the fence. My initial reaction was like Mike’s, and perhaps the ADs should reconsider that aspect of the discussion. However, it would also be a simple matter to tag posts that would otherwise be in LISt (I’d suggest using a tag such as “LISt”), and simply telling people to “subscribe to LISt by adding ‘http://sites.middlebury.edu/lis/tag/LISt/feed’ to your feedreader”. So, like I said, I’m on the fence, and it’s sharp and pointy there.
Not that problems with this theme shouldn’t be fixed in the meantime (they should, especially if it’s a usability issue like text links), but I think White Whale is giving us Blog templates at some point (right?). Hopefully they’ll be fantastically usable!
First, we should acknowledge that this theme is the first production iteration of Alex’s work on the ShadowBox theme, based on the Atahualpa theme and his UI work for Segue. There are likely to be a few usability tweaks required, and we should get those notes to Alex so that he can make the changes needed. On Jess’ point that we’ll be getting new themes delivered by White Whale for WordPress at some point, that is in fact the case and this blog will probably use one of those when we get them working. The team asked me today if we had any idea what those designs would look like or when we will receive them. We don’t.
Next, I’ve made some changes, where I could, to the theme for the blog. Links in content are now underlined, rather than having a box around them. I get what Alex was going for with setting it to style a link with a box around it, rather than underlining it. Because links are always underlined, we can’t use underlining for its intended purpose (to provide emphasis) on the web. Everyone will just think your strong statement is a link and try to click it. Links should have started out styled differently. Sadly, because this convention has been in place on the web since the first GUI web browsers, we’re stuck with it and it’s actually less productive to break the convention here than to conform.
I also put the links to pages in the site header, though the color contrast of those links doesn’t work on a white background, so I changed the background to blue. There’s no option for changing the color of the left and right widget headers and the backgrounds offered there are not particularly appealing. Perhaps Alex can offer more options for those areas in the theme. If there are other changes you’d like me to try on the theme through the admin interface, just let me know. The LIS Website Team voted to change users of the blog to Editors, so updates to the theme, plugins, and membership will need to go through the Web Development workgroup.
Members of the LIS Website Team asked me how to view stats for the blog. This is probably of interest to many people in LIS and you can view the statistics here after logging in: https://sites.middlebury.edu/lis/wp-admin/index.php?page=stats
Lastly, I’ve added the Subscribe2 plugin to the site. It was in our groups recommendations document to enable this feature and allow people to subscribe by email to our blog. It should have been there all along. My apologies for the omission.
Those small changes have helped a lot Ian. Thanks. Now, how about a “Hello Kitty” image in the header ;-)
As Ian noted, this blog is using a theme I designed. The theme has a number of options including those for setting the color and style of text and links. I wanted blog admins to be able to customize the contrast between links and text. If links are not important to a given blog then low contrast colors and styles can be used (e.g. black text and blue links with no underline). If a given blog wants links in its posts to really stand out, high contrast colors and styles can be used (e.g. light gray text and red links with underline). Similar options are available for category and tag links.
The theme has about a dozen other customization options including settings for background, header and sidebar colors, settings for layout such the width of the blog and its sidebar and so on. I’ll try to document all these soon.
I welcome feedback, comments and suggestions. I’m already working on a new version that incorporates feedback I’ve gotten thus far (such as increasing the contrast in the comment field), displaying links to category, tag and author feeds. Hope to have this update out soon. Please contact me if you are interested in seeing a preview of latest version.