Trying to get an ELS Blog?

ELS Blogs are now being incorporated into a university-wide blogging initiative. Head over to UMW Blogs and create a blog there, only difference is that it’s just a little bit larger stage!

UMW Blogs

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ELS Blogs rock!

Even if I must say so myself. Ok, so Gardner Campbell is at it again with ELS Blogs and the results are nothing short of amazing -did you expect any less from him? I try and keep up with the the student blogs as much as possible, but such a task is not always easy because there is always so much action coming down the pipes. Let me highlight a few gems I have come across, while acknowledging that these are a small cross section of a much richer series of conversations:

“How I learned to stop worrying and love the blog”:

  • How I learned to stop worryingA recent post on this blog had the video clip of Werner Herzog publicly eating his shoe to fulfill a bet he made with Errol Morris. Namely, if Morris would finish his brilliant first feature Gates of Heaven, Herzog said he would eat his shoe. And so he does, but in fact he uses this occasion to go on a tirade about the state of contemporary culture in 1980. This was a particularly special find for me, because I have quoted this story to others on a number of occasions, but never thought about actually trying to find footage that documented the event. I had no idea it was even filmed. Many eyes… (Link).
  • For an added bonus, check out another post on this blog that discusses how the book Little Women was re-imagined as a pulp fiction novel. The image of the cover is well worth the price of admission.

¿Qué Onda?:

  • A post on this blog offered up a preliminary cross-cultural examination of the hard-boiled novel. Linking Dashiell Hammet’s The Glass Key with an Argentinian novelist, José Donoso´s El Lugar Sin Límites (The Place without Limits). A link to a novel I am now quite interested in reading, how would an Argentine writer invoke the Noir to talk about their culture? I wouldn’t be surprised to imagine a framing of the Pinochet nightmare or the disappeared. But I can only imagine, but I didn’t even think to do that before reading this post. (Link.)

And why not? it worked in Blazing Saddles:

  • Blazing SaddlesThis example illustrates just how willing students are not only to do extra work, but to blog about them in order to make connections.

    This post is a bit random, but after watching Miller’s Crossing I decided to rent another Coen brothers film. I chose Barton Fink—and wow. What a film.I wanted to talk about it for a bit, even though it’s not technically part of our class material.

    Moreover, the analysis of the hotel in Barton Fink as representative of the Dantean spirals of Hell is very engaging to boot. (Link.)

Ellie’s FTC Blog:

  • Elie’s FTC BlogThese two posts about hairstyles are really a fascinating way to imagine film. These post deal with the impact of fashion and style in film upon the culture at large. This blog traces hair styles throughout the decades in order to suggest the role film plays in defining a more pervasive cultural identity. See “The Veronica” and Hairstyles Cont..

Kathleen’s Blog:

  • Kathleen’s BlogA post on Kathleen’s Blog discusses the implications of The Thin Blue Line by Errol Morris. She offers a nice overview of her impressions of Morris’s film-making acumen, and then includes a clip from the film that profiles David Harris which is a perfect example of the unbelievable moral imperative driving this film. It is really exciting to see that students have the ability to meaningfully quote films like this within their reflections. Moreover, the shots of the cassette tape towards the end of the highlight Morris’s unbelievable ability to inform his documentaries as much through the aesthetic of the shot as the compelling stories he so tightly weaves together. Brava!

I’m continually blown away by all the great stuff coming out of these blogs, and I have only focused on one of Gardner’s two classes. How does he do it? And if that wasn’t enough, UMW is currently preparing the next iteration of WPMu that will be a much broader, campus-wide multi-user blog initiative that even has working dynamic sub-domains -boooyah! You can get a sneak preview here, though keep in mind that this space is still very much in its infancy as of now.

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Original post by jimgroom

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divShare plugin for WordPress and WPMu

Recently I have been corresponding with Mario A. Nunez Molina, a professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus, who has been also working on integrating a WPMu blogging solution (RUM Edublogs) for the College of Arts and Sciences. He is also blogging the process, so it looks like I have yet another person to share with and learn from. He is trying to get BDP RSS to play nice with his WPMu install (which is the same version as the ELS Blogs and was the spark that initiated our relationship), and as usual I have offered him little in the way of technical support – lo siento, Mario. I am much better at moral support, but I will continue to search for some answers as to why the plugin is borking for that install while working fine for ours -very strange. In the mean time, as is often the case these days, he has turned me on to a really interesting plugin call divShare uploader that may very well change the game for uploading and managing uploaded files for WPMu, or any WordPress installation for that matter. many thanks to Mario for giving far more than he has received!

So what is divShare? Well, it’s not really a plugin per se, rather a free online file uploading and storage service that integrates directly into the upload field of a WordPress blog’s backend (see figure 1 below). It works seamlessly with WPMu as well, and the way to integrate it is relatively simple. Sign up for a free account at divShare ; download the WP plugin and install & activate it; finally, get your divShare Uploader Key from your divShare account settings and enter it where appropriate -you’re then ready to roll.

Figure 1: divShare upload field embedded within a WP blog

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WPMu Smackdown: RSS, Autoblogs, Aggregators, o-matics, and more…

So, it’s just about time to ckeck-in on the work that has been happening on the WordPress Multi-User front. First and foremost, Gardner Campbell is my Godhead. He is running two classes thi Summer session and they are already abuzz with all sorts of amazing blog action. You can see his New Media Studies “blog portal” here and his Film Text and Culture “blog portal” here. I can’t begin to tell you how amazing Gardner’s vision for this space is, and I think a quick perusal of his student’s work will attest to this almost immediately. More than that, he is willingly doing this in the face of some technical hiccups -taking some lumps this Summer so that many folks can enjoy the same benefits for their classes. So, in short, thank you Gardner for all the amazing work you are doing.

Ok, here’s the tale of the tape thus far:

ELS Autoblogs: The first thing worth mentioning are the experiments with WP-Autoblog for WPMu (I talked about it briefly here). This plugin has really afforded some very interesting versatility for class blogs, in my opinion. WP-Autoblog is basically an aggregator plugin that pulls feeds from ATOM, RSS, & RSS2 into a blog post (which is very similar to WP-o-Matic -which does not work just yet with WPMu). What I like about this plugin is that anyone with a blog on ELS Blogs can enable and add feeds to it. It’s a cinch.

Now let’s think through the implications of this, a professor creates a class blog, enables WP-Autoblog, and then adds the students as administrators to this, and only this, blog. The students are then asked to login in and add their feed to the Wp_Autoblog aggregator (which you can see below) and there it is. An aggregated class blog that constantly provides a trackback to the original posts. So you can republish the student’s work in this class blog, making sure that they know that they should create a separate category for this class so only the relevant posts will feed out, and wham -you have a quick and easy class blog that does not disrupt the flow of the student’s blog nor overburden a professor with a whole lot of hacking and devising to make these resources show up in one, centralized space for the duration of the class.


OK, now what about the student? Well, why couldn’t they use these “autoblogs” to feed out their own work to separate blog spaces that they control to highlight their best work or particular subjects, etc. -what we have here is an infinitely malleable eportfolio? Can you dig it? I knew that ya could.

So Wp-Autoblogs is a huge, simple, out-of-the-wpmu-box solution to aggregation, I really like this. Not to mention it gives a central feed for all the relevant posts for a single class. We have three autoblogs running currently
on ELS Blogs: Film Text and Culture autoblog, New Media Studies autoblog, and All Els Blogs autoblog. Check them out.

BDP RSS 0.6.2: I have talked at length about this slick aggregator plugin for WordPress here. And I recently checked back at the OzPolitics blog to find out that Bryan has updated this brilliant WP plugin. And the upgrades are pretty major, namely he has created updated the aggregator so that it is widget ready! How, pray tell? It took me a little bit to figure it out, but you can actually load feeds into the aggregator, configure it accordingly (the ability to configure BDP RSS is unparalleled as far as I can tell) to create a single feeds for any combination of blogs you choose. For example, I installed the latest version of BDP RSS on here, and I am currently aggregating a unique combination of ELS Blogs and comments into the sidebar of this blog. This is something now that students and faculty have the ability out of the box to do, and while it is not as dead simple as Wp-Autoblog, it makes up for the amount of customization a more experienced user may want to play with. it is really an impressive addition for allowing users to work through their own unique aggregation possibilities. I’m still a huge fan of this plugin. We are using BDP RSS to aggregate the all blog posts and comments into the Sitewide Content page here.

King RSS WordPress Widget: Now, it gets interesting, the King RSS plugin (powered by SimplePie)allows you to get really specific with where and how you want to place your feeds. And once you get the collated feeds from BDP RSS, you can plug that feed url into King RSS and decide where you want to particular aggregated elements to show up on your blog. That’s right, customize where the aggregation shows up in the sidebar from page to page -sick, right! This plugin will take a little bit getting used to, for it is not totally used friendly just yet, despite its being a widget and all, but these three plugins for WPMu in combination begin to suggest some unbelievably interesting way to feed, aggregate, and re-combine posts to create a rich, connected, and constantly evolving network of connections with one simple WPMu install.

Upgrading to WPMu 1.2.3: The bestest thing about this whole post is that Gardner and I upgraded WPMu from version 1 to version 1.2.3 to see if it might fix some database bugs (the verdict is still out on that, fingers crossed), and it went as smooth as upgrading a single WP installation. Can you believe that? Almost 100 blogs, and not a hiccup with the upgrade, I know 100 blogs is nothing by WPMu standards, but try upgrading a 100 single installs manually -even if via Fantastico.

Ok, this post is almost over, and if you made it this far I commend you. Andy Rush had mentioned to me today that the ELS Blogs site seemed a bit cluttered (oh, how sharper than a serpent’s tooth is a colleague’s ingratitude!). Which made me think, is this site completely undecipherable to the unacquainted user? Well, got to ELS blogs and take a look and let me know what you think. More than that, give me any recommendations you may have to make it better.

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Original post by jimgroom

Posted in Development blog | Comments Off on WPMu Smackdown: RSS, Autoblogs, Aggregators, o-matics, and more…

“We aint one-at-a-timin’ here, we’re mass communicatin”

Download link

Well, if you don’t know the quote from O Brother, Where art thou? it is worth a listen for it speaks to what exactly we’re doing over at ELS Blogs -this project ain’t no one off -this is the whole kit and kaboodle in one simply complex install!

We are getting ready to build a more extensive WPMu installation for UMW that touches many departments throughout the campus that will be starting with many of the Freshman Seminars for the Fall and Spring semesters -but by no means limited to these seminars. That being said, I have been using the last couple of weeks to experiment more extensively with WordPress Multi-User, something I enjoy tremendously. It was nice to discover that there are a lot of cool new options, plugins and theme packs (see this post for more on themes) that I will be blogging about in the near future. But right now I want to focus in particular on the aggregating possibilities that are beginning to emerge in WPMu.

WP-Autoblog has been around for single-installations of WordPress for a while now which does a nice job of aggregating content into blog posts from various feeds around the web -much like WP-o-Matic discussed here. I like WP-o-Matic a lot because it uses SimplePie parsing that does an excellent job with images and other objects, while being relatively feed agnostic. Unfortunately, WP-o-Matic is not compatible with WPMu just yet. WP-Autoblog, on the other hand, has been made to play nice with WPMu (get the WPMu version of this plugin here) and it is a really dead simple interface that allows for an easy cut and paste approach to including feeds. So, I got to thinking a couple of things:

  • What about taking all the feeds from ELS Blogs and putting them into a WP-Autoblog blog -you can see an example of this up and running here. What WP-Autoblog provides is a site wide aggregator in the guise of a K2-themed blog (although you have 66 other themes to choose from on ELS Blogs) that is capturing all the content from around the environment. Simple enough to do and yet another way to capture and re-present all the rich content that is coming in over the wires, or is it tubes?
  • OK, so now we have this plugin that pretty much anyone with a blog on ELS Blogs can use to create an aggregator of feeds within a blog (with these feeds themed to their preference). Hmmm, so does this mean that professors and their ilk can create their own aggregator blog by asking students to record their blog’s RSS feeds in something like wiki, google docs, spreadsheet, or what have you? It is a quick and easy way to locate content in one specific blog that may give folks who come across a blog like this an interesting and different visualization of a group of posts in relationship to one another within the context of a “class blog,” which is quite distinct from the logic that will emerge on an individual student blog. We have experimented with aggregation like this already here, but it wasn’t something anyone in the environment could do by simply activating a plug-in and copying and pasting feeds. And while I like this aggregation space referenced (find out how the two plugins BDP RSS and Optimal were used to create this space here) it requires a small php hack which is impossible for general users on WPMu. So rather than hacking around these limitations, the idea here is to make it simple in order to multiply the ways people can access content and map relationships within various contexts.
  • Last, and by no means least, the best way at cross-pollinating student content within a specific class as well as throughout the entire ELS Blogs environment might be to create these little blog aggregators (and remember that anyone on the system has access to this plugin -a [[splog]] nightmare if you aren’t careful) in order to syndicate sites they are reading and highlight content that they are interested in. The genius here is that content becomes re-purposed and propagated throughout an environment (sometimes redundantly) with the idea that you create myriad possibilities for serendipity by republishing content in various spaces throughout this distributed collection of blogs.

I’m pretty excited about this because I think it offers a quick, easy and informal way for users, profs and students alike, to create spontaneous collections of feed-driven content that will in turn populate blogs throughout the community, potentially giving rise to a certain amount of content chaos that may ultimately result in a new way of avoiding the “one-at-a-timin’ [Aggregator and single WordPress installs in relative isolation] so that we can work towards mass communicatin’ [throughout campus]” the web for one another on a more regular basis within a specific environment.

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Original post by jimgroom

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6 months later, 37 new themes

There are now 67, count ’em sixty seven, themes available at ELS Blogs, too many to create a list here. So, just dive right into your new blog by clicking on the presentation tab and presto, just about as many themes as a young and inspired English, Linguistics and Speech major could ever dream of. Now say it with me, ready…

Photo by Xeer

These themes were made freely available by the tireless work and good will of Farms here, who I believe is James Farmer of edublogs fame (if it is, indeed, -well then thank you James, if not, well then thank you Farms).

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Widgets are now available on ELS Blogs

ELS Blogs is the blogging service that just keeps on giving! You all now have the options of widgetizing your sidebar -which basically means you can customize how your sidebar looks by adding “Widgets” with customized text, html code, flickr images, YouTube videos, bookmarks, etc. You can also list all the blogs in the ELS Blogs environment, including the most active blogs, the most recently updated blogs, and the most recent posts from around this network.

You can start using sidebar widgets by activating them in the plugins tab. Widgets are automatically enabled. You can view and manipulate these widgets within the “Presentation” tab –>under the “Sidebar Widgets” sub-tab.

Note: if you have a problem dragging the widgets around the screen press the “Shift”key  and the “Refresh” button on your browser simultaneously (a hard refresh) to reload the page.

As always, be careful out there and have fun!

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You can take it with you!

If anyone who has been utilizing the ELS Blogs and would like to take their work with them -it is as easy as 1-2 (no 3).

Here’s how:

  • Within the Manage tab in the backend there is a subtab titled export. Click on this subtab and you will get a screen that looks like the following
  • Next just click on the export button in the center of the Export subtab and all of you posts, pages, etc., will be downloaded to your desktop as an XML file. You can then take this file and import it to your own blog on or where ever you’d like.

Please note: If you have uploaded a number of images to your own blog, then you should contact me at If not, all of the links to online images, videos, etc. will remain in tact. Additionally, if you are graduating this semester and you don’t want to move your blog (and you intend to keep using it) please send me an e-mail saying as much.

Easy, right?

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The Anarchy Media Player for WPMU

WordPress Multi-User now has an all-in-one multi-media player thanks to the Anarchy Media Plugin. To make it purr, look for the little yellow “A” (for Anarchy) on your Editor toolbar and click on it. Then just copy the url that points to your media in the appropriate field and you can include sound, images, videos, and flash files from just about any place you can imagine. Amazing when you think about it!

Here are the file formats and online services this plugin supports:

Simple href links: Upload your mp3, flv, mov, mp4, m4v, m4a, m4b, 3gp, wmv, avi or asf file via the WordPress editor’s upload browser then “send to editor” – or make a hypertext link to any external file on the web – and you’re done!

Rich text editor: Flash swf (including Google Video, YouTube etc., players via the “A” for anarchy button) or Director dcr use the respective rich editor buttons. To embed the various media players supported by AMP enter the full HTTP address (url) to your YouTube, Google Video, iFilm, Revver, Metacafe, MySpace or GoEar web page. For DailyMotion video and Apple iTunes iMixes just copy and paste the code from their embeddable players.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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Annotating online videos with Mojiti

Update: Mojiti is deader than a doornail. Long live Mojiti!

Mojiti is an online service that allows you to add comments within a video. You can then quickly and easily embed this video into your blog and open it up so others can also annotate it. More specifically, anyone who has a Mojiti account can add spots to a video that has been opened up to the larger community right within a blog post. And while you have to be logged on for Mojiti’s service to do this, they are so smart that they allow you to login right through the video on your blog -never having to leave the page. Here is an example.

So, there is really no more than three very simple steps to integrate Mojiti into your blog:
1) Sign-up for a Mojiti account,
2) Add a video and make it public,
and 3) embed the video on your class blog/site.

Here are some screen shots of the in-blog login and commentary possibilities:



Try it out, and let me know via the comments if you have any problems.

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