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Installing Notes and Best Practices for Implementing WordPressMU for Courses

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These are the steps I use to set up WordPressMU for Stanford classes:

1) Request afs space for a class. If you request a group at /afs/ir/group/<name of group>

http://www.stanford.edu/services/web/howto.group.html

2) Request the virtual host redirect for <name of group>.stanford.edu at

http://vanityurl.stanford.edu

3) Increase webspace, if necessary at

http://www.stanford.edu/services/disk-space/

4) Add anybody who needs access to the admin group, by navigating in a terminal to the directory and using the pts mems commands:

http://www.stanford.edu/services/afs/info/groupperms.html

5) Submit a HelpSU ticket to request cgi-services for your group at ITS: Request Group

http://www.stanford.edu/services/web/cgi/group.html"

6) request a myql database

https://tools.stanford.edu/cgi-bin/sumysql/sumysql

7) Download WordpressMU.

http://mu.wordpress.org/download/

8) unzip and rename the installer /blogs, or whatever is appropriate for your site. Upload this folder into your site's cgi-bin.

9) Open that folder in your browser and fill in the appropriate information from the email sent you about your mysql db. IMPORTANT: in the stanford environment you will likely want to change the default blog address setting from sub-domains, to sub-directories. Also, DON'T change the server address from stanford.edu

These Settings are available when you navigate to the online folder to Install it:

10) add the plugin akismet to stop spam. You will need an API-key to install, but otherwise this is a simple matter of uploading the plugin to the folder.

11) Although there are MANY different ways of setting up your WordPressMU blog, the following are best practices, based upon 1 year of experience using it with 12-80 student sized classes, with 3-12 blogs each. Some students will FORGET to click on the link in the email inviting them to their blog; some will forget their passwor or which email they offered to use; they may want to change their name, and many other things which cause administrative problems. The safest way to manage the blog is to deputize and train the TA(s), make them admins of invidual blogs and let THEM add the users to the blogs. That way when there are questsions, they can communicate directly with the students, as the administrative problems have less to do with the technology, or even the interface, than just with being consistent and thorough. So:

a. Instead of adding the users, and then the blogs, first add the blogs to be used in the course.
b. Then you can add each user directly to the blog, where her or she will be an author. The advantage of this is the student will have only received ONE email, which includes both the invitation to register and the name of the blog where they have posting privileges.
c. Moderating comments, on even just a few blogs with many users, can be extermely time-consuming. With 8 blogs and 36 students, there are potentially 288 first comments that would have to be approved by a moderator, if the default settings are kept. Therefore, if this is the chosen way, deputize an admin for each blog to moderate comments. The better way for a class at Stanford is to change the Discussion settings to allow only registered users to comment, and to remove all other restictions, email reminders, and so on, in the default settings.

These are good Discussion Settings:

You also need to disable Registration notification, and enable blog administrators to add users in the Site Admin's Options: