Student Blogs: How to handle comments?

We’ve now a growing number of student blogs. These haven’t been given a high profile. Partly, this was to let them get established, and build up their confidence, before encouraging others to comment. Also, we wanted to be confident that we had appropriate arrangements in place for dealing with comments.

Because Craig and Fraser have been doing so well with their blogs (see previous post) we now want to let them start building an audience. That’s why they’ve now earned the first Student Blog links on the Exc-el Home Page.

What have we done about comments? These are often a source of concern. Ewan‘s experience from Musselburgh Grammar School’s blogs  showed that problems are very unlikely, with only a handful of problem comments out of thousands posted.

Because these are the first Exc-el student blogs to have a public profile, we’ve added some additional monitoring. As well as automated protection against comment spam, we’ve arranged that a copy of every comment left will be automatically emailed to a member of staff at the school as soon as it is left. That teacher has full rights on each blog, and can moderate or delete any comments held for moderation.  The flexibility of WordPress MU is proving valuable.

The Amazing… Craig’s Blog!!!

The Amazing ... Craig's BlogIf you’re interested in student blogging you must have a look at Craig’s amazing blog. The title is his – but he’s not kidding.

Backstory: This is one of the blogs started yesterday, just before lunch, by an autistic S1 student who was completely new to WordPress.

He’s already using Pages to build up a web site about his hobby, birds. Here are just some examples:

Not only were Craig and his classmate Fraser reluctant to leave at lunchtime, I notice this blog has been developing this evening. Why not have a look, and leave a comment?

This is a powerful demonstration of how WordPress might be used in the context of the Extreme Learning Curriculum development.

Anti-spam measures

Today I’ve installed Dr Dave’s Spam Karma 2 plugin to protect against comment spam on our WordPress blogs. We’ve had a number of spam comments reported over the last week or so. This is the price of moving to a more popular blog platform, I guess. This wasn’t an issue with the eZpublish blogs, which didn’t attract spam at all.

The Spam Karma 2 plug-in is sophisticated, and judges what’s likely to be spam by using a range of factors. These include, for example.

  • Is the commenter a member of the Exc-el Edublogs community?
  • Are there a lot of hyperlinks in the comment? (often a characteristic of spam)
  • How long were they on the post before commenting?

There are many more factors. If the system gets suspicious, it may ask for a captcha to be completed.

If you’ve got an Exc-el blog and have been affected by comment spam, let me know what difference you notice. It should now be protecting all of them. There’s a huge range of settings that can be tweaked if necessary.

Autistic bloggers

At Ollie‘s invitation, I set up a couple of blogs for two autistic S1 students at Musselburgh Grammar School. Today was their chance to get started, and I was interested to see how things went. How would they get on with WordPress? Would there be some difficulties we hadn’t foreseen?

Continue reading Autistic bloggers