Frequently Asked Questions


				

				

Contents

Frequently Asked Questions

What is WordPress?

WordPress is a state-of-the-art semantic personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. Often associated with a blog, WordPress is much more than a blog -it is a simple and easy-to-use web publishing platform that can allow you to build a web presence with little or no fuss!

UMW Blogs is running a WordPress Multi-user installation which allows the Mary Washington community to quickly signup for and customize their own web publishing space. By extension, each member of the community can create as many distinct spaces as they like and begin experimenting with this space for teaching and learning. See the "Some potential ways for using WordPress in the classroom" for a few preliminary ideas for using WordPress to augment your teaching and learning using technology.

How do I get a blog from UMW Blogs?

To setup a blog on UMW Blogs go to the sign-up page and enter a username and e-mail address (you must use your UMW email). Make sure the "Gimme a blog!" radio button is selected.

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Once you have done this, you will be taken to a page that asks you to specify a domain (this can be anything you like, however there can be no spaces and no special characters -only letters and numbers), enter a blog title (you can change this later on), and select the privacy settings for your blog.

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Once these steps are all completed, you should receive an e-mail confirming that you do, indeed, want a blog or username. Once you click on the link in the e-mail you will be given your login and password, along with a link to login into your account.

How do I just get a username?

To just get a username on UMW Blogs go to the sign-up page and enter a username and e-mail address (you must use your UMW email). Make sure the "Just a username, please" radio button is selected.

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Once I have a blog, where and how do I login?

First things first, where is your web log? Your individual blogs should be located at the address you specified on UMW Blogs. Your initial blog address is determined by the domain you choose when creating your blog. For example, if the domain you chose is "myblog" your blog address will be http://myblog.umwblogs.org.

To access the administrative backend of your blog you should see a login link on the main page. If you do not see this link, for whatever reason, enter the following line to the end of your url address "/wp-admin" (no quotes) - the address should look like the following:

     http://myblog.umwblogs.org/wp-admin

Once you are there, you will see two fields asking for your login and password, as pictured below.

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How do I change my password?

Once you sign-up for a blog, it is a good idea to change your password. To do this, go to the Users tab in the administrative backend and click on the Users tab and click on the My Profile subtab. From here you can enter your personal information, add an avatar (or image of yourself), and change your password in the lower right-hand corner of this page.

How do I change my blog title?

To change the title of your blog in the header, go to Options-->General in the administrative backend and you will see a field for blog title as well as a field for the site tagline which is a space for a brief description of your site.

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To find out more about customizing the settings for your blog view the video tutorial on the Options and Manage tabs here.

How do I deal with issues of privacy?

Privacy at UMW Blogs is definitely a concern. And it is important to realize from the start that the spaces you create here will be accessible by the general public. You can password protect pages and posts (learn more here, but you cannot lock your entire blog or website from the open web. That said, there is a step you can take to make your site relatively private. When creating your blog you will be asked if you want search engines to be able to index your site. If you answer no to this question you effectively prevent people from finding your web space using search engines like Google, Yahoo!, etc.

If you selected yes to this question, but are having second thoughts (or didn't realize the consequences when you answered this question), you can still make your blog private by going to the Options tab and clicking on the Privacy subtab. From here click on the radio button that says "I would like to block search engines, but allow normal visitors." After that, the internet search engines will be prevented from searching and giving out links to your site.

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What's the difference between writing a post versus writing a page?

This is an important terminological/conceptual distinction to grasp. For posts and pages serve radically different functions. A post is an article that shows up in the chronology of your blog. In other words, posts appear in your blog, most recent at the top of the page.

A page is what most folks may be more familiar. This is a static space that is not part of the chronological logic of the blog. A page sits outside of this inverted time line, and often features more static content like information about the site, the author, a syllabus, readings, etc.

What are comments and how do I manage them?

Part of the logic of a blog is allowing people to comment on your work. Comments are often associated with posts (as opposed to pages -see an explanation of this distinction above) and offer a way to have a discussion about a particular post.

Often times, initial comments are placed in a moderation queue until you approve them. Once you approve a comment from a user, he or she should be able to comment freely thereafter. You can view the comments on your blog as well as those awaiting moderation in the Comments tab in the backend of your blog. If you want to change the permissions for your comments -say allow anyone to comment without moderating, see the Options tab and look for the Discussion subtab -this is where you can control the comment settings.

Additionally, when writing a post, you can turn off the comments on a post-by-post basis by clicking on the Discussion section of the right-hand sidebar and un-checking the comments field.

Keep in mind that comments are extremely vulnerable to spammers, so be sure to activate the Spam Karma plugin to control those nasty vermin! Read more about controlling spam here.

How do I control the comments, reading, and writing settings on my blog?

All of the controls for reading, writing, and commenting are housed within the Options tab in the administrative backend of your blog. For example, using the reading options will allow you to create a static front page for your site rather than the default blog. You can also use the discussion tab to turn off comments on your blog, etc. For more detailed information go here.

Why do I only see code buttons in the text editor?

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If, for some reason, you don't see a visual text editor (as pictured in the image directly above) then you have to enable this option in the Users tab in the My Profile section.

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In the top-left hand corner of the My Profile page there is a check box that says "Use the visual text editor when writing" -make sure this box is checked and editing your blog will be much, much more intuitive.

If this does not work, another potential cause of the problem is that you are using the MAC browser Safari. Try another browser (we recommend firefox) and see if the problem persists.

What's a feed?

A feed is a way to subscribe to blog posts, comments, etc. You can subscribe to a feed use an RSS reader such as Google Reader or Bloglines. To find out more about this RSS thing click here.

What is this RSS stuff?

Why listen to me? Watch the movie that explains RSS in plain English...

How do I upload an image or document and place it in a post or page?

You can easily use a post or page in your blog to upload images or documents, such as a course calendar or syllabus. Doing this is relatively straightforward. Go to Write-->Post (or Page) and include any information about the image or document in the text editor. For example, if you were a professor and wanted to copy the text of your syllabus into a page you can do that using the steps here, and then upload the downloadable version of the document to the text editor and provide a link so that students can have a "hard copy" for themselves. The same process holds true for uploading images from your hard drive as well.

To do this, simply go to the section of the write post (or page) that is directly beneath the text editor. Their you will see a tab that says upload and a text field with a browse button next to it. Click on the browse button, find your document, title it, describe it if you like, and then click on the upload button on the lower-right side of the upload section.

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After that, you should see the file with the title you gave it. Make sure "Link to File" is selected and click sent to editor. Keep in mind that the file will be sent to wherever your cursor is in the text editor.

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How much upload space do I have on UMW Blogs?

As of now you have 50 MB of upload space. If you need more, please contact us with the details.

Additionally, you cannot upload a single file that is larger than 20 MB.

If you are uploading large pdf files or images it may be preferable to use an outside service that you can integrate with UMW Blogs such as Flickr for your photos or DivShare for your files. This is probably the best practice, for if you ever want to move your blog to another service you will have persistent links to documents and images that you will not have to update for the blog when it is moved.

Why should I consider using external services to store my images and documents?

You have 50 MB of upload space. This may not be enough if you are uploading large pdf files or images it may be preferable to use an outside service that you can integrate with UMW Blogs such as Flickr for your photos or DivShare for your files. This is probably the best practice, for if you ever want to move your blog to another service you will have persistent link to documents and images that you will not have to update to the new blog URL.

How do I import my existing blog to UMW Blogs?

You can import a blog from numerous other blogging platforms such as WordPress, MoveableType, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, Grey Matter, TextPattern, DotClear, and RSS.

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Note: To import your blog from an application other than WordPress, please read your respective blogging platforms details for exporting your data. For information on exporting data from WordPress read more here.

Once you have exported your data from your blog, go to the Manage -->Import subtab. From here click on the respective blog type you are importing. Browse for the file (which will most likely be an XML file) and click import.

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Once you're done here, you will be taken to a page that will ask you to map authors, if you are importing a blog with numerous contributors, you may want to allow each author to be associated with their respective blog posts. After that, click the submit button and the import should begin immediately.

One note of caution: depending on your blog application, you may not be able to import pages, links, and theme customization. If you need further help with this, please use the contact form to describe your issue, and we'll get back to you shortly.

How do I export my data from UMW Blogs?

Exporting your blog from UMW Blogs is easy, but there are some important issues you may want to keep in mind, so be sure to read this entire article!

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To export your data from UMW Blogs, you need to do an export for your blog (or an individual export for each and every blog you have on this service). You do this in the Manage-->export subtab. When you export your blog you will be given an XML file that sotres all of the posts and comments for your entire blog. Keep in mind that links and pages will not export. We are working on building in this functionality, but for the moment you need to keep this in mind.

Important: If your blog has a series or documents that you uploaded directly to UMW Blogs, you will need to contact us in order to get copies of all those files. Once you have these files and upload them to your new space, be sure to change the URLs to reflect the location of your blog. Additionally, you will need to update the URLs to images and documents in your new blog in order for them to work. This might all be avoided if you use a third-party service like Flickr for images and DivShare for documents to avoid chasing broken URLs -for these links to images and documents will not change, even if your blog address does -very convenient when moving your data.

What's a blogroll?

A blogroll is just an idiomatic name for a list of links and resources in your sidebar that you can easily add, manage, and categorize. For more information on how to do this see the following tutorial on using the Blogroll here.

What's a plugin?

A plugin is a third-party application that interacts with WordPress to provide a certain, usually very specific, function for your blog or web space. For example, if you have a flickr account you can use the flickrRSS plugin to bring photos into your blog space. Or, if you are having spam problems you can activate SpamKarma to help you fight those dirty parasites! Read more about the plugins available on UMW Blogs here.

How do I make my front page a static page rather than a blog?

To make your front page a static page rather than a blog you need to create a static page that you would like as your front page. Then go into the Options tab and then click on the Reading subtab. Once you do this you will see the following:

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Instead of having the front page display your latest posts, select the radio button that says a "static page" and select the page you created for the front page. Additionally, you can create another page where you would like your blog posts to display. This is extremely useful when you would like to create a resource more akin to a traditional page rather than a blog, while maintaining the functionality of both.

Important: When using certain themes you may find that when you try this option you have two tabs in the header that both point to the front page. Depending on the theme this may cause you some concern in terms of the presentation. If you are having this problem, we recommend the following themes:

  • Cutline:this theme automatically defaults to a front page tab making the site a perfect space for utilizing WordPress as a traditional web page.
  • MistyLook: in the MistyLook Options under the Presentation tab, you can hide pages from the header navigation. If you hide the page you created for the new front page, the blog will use the default home.
  • Mandigo: like MistyLook, under the presentation tab in Mandigo options you can hide pages from the header navigation. If you hide the page you created for the new front page, the blog will use the default home.
  • More examples to follow shortly...

How do I make my blog look different?

You can change the look and feel of your blog using the Presentation --> Themes subtab. When you click on the themes subtab you'll notice you have over 70 themes for your site to choose from. If you need to do specific customizations of your theme for whatever reason, this is possible just contact your Instructional technology Specialist for more details or contact us here. To read more specifics about selecting themes, what specific themes provide you with, and the ways in which you can customize your theme click here.

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How do I add a custom image to the header of my blog?

Not all of the themes provided by UMW Blogs allow you to add a custom header image. In fact, each theme has its own options through which you can customize the look and feel of your blog, so the theme in effect is much more than just look and feel -it is also functionality and possibility.

Below is a list of themes we currently support that allow for a customized header image:

  • Ambiru
  • Anubis
  • Blix
  • Contempt
  • Cutline
  • Fauna Beta 2
  • Fjords
  • Flex
  • Freshy 1.0
  • K2 0.9.1
  • LetoPrime 0.9.6
  • MistyLook 3.3.1
  • Ocean
  • PressRow
  • Regulus 2.2
  • Rubric
  • Semiologic 4.3.2
  • Striped Plus 1.0
  • Steam 1.0
  • Sumenep
  • Tarski 1.5
  • Wordpress Default 1.6

What are widgets?

“Widgets” is just a silly buzzword for the functionality built-in to WordPress that allows you to customize the sidebar of your WordPress site without knowing HTML. You can use widgets to add a list of recent photos, comments, flickr photos, del.icio.us links, and much more. You can find your widgets in the Presentation-->Widgets subtab. You may also get access to more widget as you activate new plugins, for many of the plugins available have an associated widget -such as flickrRSS. To find out how you can select from over 5,000 additional widgets, read the tutorial here.

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What are Widgetbox Widgets?

Widgetbox is a site/service that offers over 5,000 additional widgets that can add functionality to your blog (in particular your sidebar). In order to make these widgets work, you need to set up a free account on Widgetbox and watch the following tutorial.

How do I get an avatar?

Go to your blog and click on the Users tab in the administrative backend. From there click on the "Your Profile" subtab and go to the bottom left of the page. You will see fields that will allow you to upload your avatar. Note that your avatar should not be larger than 80px by 80px. You should consider making the avatar square (an equal width to height ratio) for that is how it will be presented on the site. After this you should be finished. If you have a problem doing this in Internet Explorer -send a message via the contact page or post your issue on the forums.

How do I deal with spam?

Spam is the bane of any respectable bloggers existence. Luckily we have ways of dealing with these parasites. If you find you are getting spam on your blog then go into the Plugins tab in the backend and activate the Spam Karma plugin. Then go to the Options-->Spam Karma subtab and scroll down to the bottom of this page and select the "Theme Compatibility Check" button, after this you should be shielded from spam -although one or two may sneak through every so often.

If Spam Karma is not adequately blocking your spam issues, please contact us here.

How do I add an image to a post?

There are two ways to add an image to a post.

  1. The first is to link to the URL of an image that is already online. To do this find the URL address where the images is located. keep in mind that this is not necessarily the webpage where you found the image. Often times, an images has its own URl and you can find this my right clicking on the image and either copying the image location of viewing its properties. Once you have the correct URL for the image, go to the text editor for your post or page and click on the icon of a little tree, it will look like this:
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    After clicking the icon, you will get a dialog box wherein you can copy the image URL and set any parameters for size, alignment, and description of the image you need to. Once your done, click Insert and your done.
  2. The second method is to upload an image from your hard drive and insert it into a post, you can see the instructions for doing this here.

How do I password protect a page or post?

Password protecting a post or page is quite simple. All you need to do is look for the "post password" or 'page password" sections on the right-hand side of where you write a post or page and enter a value into the text field. This value can be whatever you want it to be, but if you want others to see what is in this page or post, you will have to share th password with them.

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How do I add Flickr images to my sidebar?

Adding Flickr images to your sidebar is a three step process assuming you already have (or want) your own Flickr account. Although, please keep in mind that you do not necessarily need a Flickr account to include images in your sidebar.

  • First, go into the plugins tab in the backend an activate the flickrRSS plugin.
  • Second, go to the Options-->flickrRSS subtab and you will see the following screen without the values in the fields:
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    • The UserID is your unique id for Flickr if you already have an account. If you just want to stream images from Flickr in your sidebar but don't want your own Flickr account leave the UserID blank and set the Display option to public and create a "tag" (or keyword) to filter Flickr images for your sidebar.
      • If you have a Flickr account and need to locate your UserID, then go to your Flickr photos page and locate the 11 digit string in the URL address of your Flickr account. it will look something like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9301848@N07/
      • Alternatively, if you have a Flickr pro account you may have been offered a text-based username for your Flickr URL, something like http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimgroom/
      • Please note: the username you use to login to flickr will not necessarily be what you enter here, so look at the URL for your flickr photos to find out the correct value to enter here.
    • Display allows you to select whether you want to display all public photos, your photos (User), or group photos -you can also specifiy how many images and how big (square size recommended for the WordPress sidebar). If you don't have a Flickr account and don't want one, set this option to public and create a "tag" (or keyword) you would like to filter Flickr images by for your sidebar, as described below.
    • Tags allow you to specify particular tags you want to filter into your site. For example, only photos banned UMW would be brought into your sidebar if you specified UMW here. If you don't have a Flickr account and don't want one, set the Display option above to public and create a "tag" (or keyword) you would like to filter Flickr images by for your sidebar.
  • Third, go to the Presentation-->Widgets subtab and drag the flickrRSS widget into your sidebar. After that, you're ready to go...

How do I embed YouTube videos?

Embedding a video from YouTube (or most other online video hosting services) has never been easier. When writing a post or page in your blog look for the little yellow A icon in the visual text editor and click on it.

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Next, paste the URL provided by the respective online video service in the dialog box that requests the URL to the video. For certain video sites, the actual URL in the web browser field is not always the correct URL -for example in YouTube you can find the correct URL in the field to the right of the video.

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How do I copy and paste word documents?

There are two ways at this one.

1) The first is a keyboard shortcut that allows you more options in your Visual Text Editor for writing pages and posts. To see a button for importing Word documents do one of the following shortcuts depending on your operating system and browser.

Go from this:

to this:

Just hit alt-shift-v (Firefox) or alt-v (IE) to toggle it. (Not seeing either of those? Visit Users → Your Profile and make sure that “Use the visual editor when writing” is checked. Still having problems? Contact us.)

Alternatively, in the plugins tab there is a tool that gives you a more sophisticated visual text editor. If you activate this plugin you will see an icon with the MS Word icon in your visual text editor when writing posts or pages. Click on this and copy the Word Document text into this window and save it. This strips out all the MS Word code and "cleans" the text for publishing on WordPress. There may be some minor formatting you have to update afterwards, but most of the formatting from MS Word should remain in tact.

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There's an error message on my blog. What do I do?

The most common error message you may come across is the following message that is asking you to visit Spam Karma's admin page:

 It sounds like SK2 has recently been updated on this blog. But not fully  
 configured. You MUST visit Spam Karma's admin page at least once before 
 letting it filter your comments (chaos may ensue otherwise).

Simply click on the link and you will be taken to the Spam karma admin page and the message will dissappear. This message is simpy there to let you know Spam Karma has been activated for your blog by an administrator.

If you are coming across a different error message please us the contact form to send us the exact verbiage of that message, where it happened, and your blog address so that we can research and fix the problem promptly.

How do I delete my blog?

Deleting a blog on UMW Blogs is simple. Go into the administrative backend of your blog and click on the "Options" tab. From there select the "Delete Blog" subtab and check the box and click on the "Delete My Blog Permanently" button.

Once you have done this, you will receive a confirmation e-mail at your UMW address to re-confirm that you want to delete your blog. Just click on the link and your blog will be history. Keep in mind there is no way to get it back once you have confirmed this deletion.

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How do I get more help for issues not listed here?

If there is an issue or question you have that you don't see here then contact us and we'll be sure to both answer your question as well as update this knowledge base so that everyone can benefit from your contribution (anonymously of course).