on campus blogging at the university of calgary


I currently run two separate blogging services on campus, and think both actually have their place and so continue to maintain and manage both a community blogging service running on Drupal, and a more individual blogging space running on WordPress Multiuser.

weblogs.ucalgary.ca is the Drupal-powered community blogging system. It's got the organic groups module enabled, with access control configured, meaning people can easily login using their campus LDAP credentials, create groups, and publish content knowing that only members of the specified group(s) can see it.

I first set the service up three and a half years ago, and in that time it's seen activity by 1060 users, publishing 1599 posts. That's a whopping 1.5 posts per person. Not a lot of high end activity, and a lot of tire-kicking (and possibly content deletion) going on.

The second service, ucalgaryblogs.ca, is less than a year old, and has received almost no marketing or promotion. Only a handful of people even know it exists (mostly readers of my blog). I just snuck a copy of WPMU onto a server, configured it to host subdomains aplenty, and let it sit there.

Why haven't I started pimping the heck out of it, in the hopes of fostering something insanely awesome like Jim did at University of Mary Washington?

I'm not convinced that the Institution needs to host a blogging platform anymore.

WordPress.com, edublogs.org, and any of a number of other blogging services are doing extremely well, for free, without requiring any of my time to maintain any software.

The reasons I keep coming back to needing a campus-hosted blogging platform are:

  • integration - potential integration with other services, explicitly campus-wide logins so people don't need Yet Another Account to remember. This may not be a big deal. It's not hard to remember a new username/login, and if you forget, it's easy to get a reminder.
  • trust - if it's on a campus server, there may be a higher level of trust and/or confidence that the service will be there, that it will not change terms of usage, and that it won't get sold to another third party that may not align with the needs of the users. This one could also go the other way - it's possible that students may trust an off-campus service more than they would trust one offered by The Man.
  • authority - having a campus-related URL may be beneficial, especially for people trying to build an online identity - but this could also go the other way, because it backfires for people who may be leaving the campus community and would then have to pack up their stuff and move to a new URL after ditching any googlejuice they've generated.

With that said, none of the high profile blog projects on campus (the President's blog, CIO's blog, solar challenge team, etc...) use either of the services I provide. Maybe that's a sign that they're really not necessary?

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