New features on eduBuzz blogs

The WordPress Multi-User software behind the eduBuzz blogs has been upgraded to the current version, 1.2.5a.

If you’ve got an eduBuzz blog, what will you notice?

  • The editor now offers a “Code” tab where you can – if you want – view and edit the XHTML code behind your posts directly. This is sometimes helpful for more adventurous bloggers. A little HTML here can add tables, for example, to a post or a page.
  • Anarchy buttonsThe Anarchy Media Player buttons are now displaying correctly, making it easy to embed videos from sites such as Google, YouTube and My Space simply by pasting the full URL of the video’s web page – use the yellow V button.

  • A new drop-down site menu in the Dashboard makes it much easier to work with a number of different edubuzz blogs.
  • Upload menuControl of how uploaded files are displayed is now easier. There are clear “radio buttons” to let you choose to show Thumbnail or Full size versions, and to enable you to easily make the image link to the original file.
  • A new Manage Uploads option enables you not just to easily browse uploaded files, but makes it easy to see their URLs. That’s ideal for when you want to supply your own image’s URL for a blogroll link, for example, or a blog header.

Here’s an example of an embedded YouTube video, the wonderful “Web 2.0 … The Machine is Using Us” by Michael Wesch.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/6gmP4nk0EOE" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

eduBuzz sign-up limited to fight spam blogs

Unfortunately the number of spam blogs being created at www.edubuzz.org/blogs has gone from being an occasional nuisance to a many-times-a-day problem. We’re not alone in this: others are having similar problems.

We’ve been managing these manually, but as the frequency has increased this has become difficult.

As a temporary control, sign-ups have been currently restricted to email addresses within the following domains:

  • elcschool.org.uk (school staff)
  • eastlothian.gov.uk (non-school staff)
  • e-lothian.sch.uk (some pupils)

Our aim is to eliminate automatic spam sign-ups using software controls, but attempts to date haven’t been successful, possibly because many of these are relatively new, and maybe don’t take account of possible WordPress Multi-User configurations.

First blog recovered from backup

One of our most popular school web sites, the Pencaitland Blog, has had to be recovered from backup.

What seems to have caused the problem was deleting a user record via the Site Admin / Users menu, when that user was the author of a large number of posts on the blog. Perhaps in an attempt to remove all trace of the user, those posts were also removed. Examination of the wp_<blog no.>_posts table in the WordPress database showed they had gone, and weren’t hanging around in some authorless limbo land.

I don’t know if a warning was issued. Maybe that’s something to try out one day when I’ve some time to spare…

This is the first time that we’ve needed to recover a blog from backup in a year of operation, and is the first time we’ve had occasion to think hard about whether or not it makes sense to entrust sufficiently experienced school staff with Site Admin rights. Continue reading First blog recovered from backup

Use of eduBuzz service is becoming embedded

There was a short interruption to the eduBuzz service around lunchtime today, which turned out to be again due to DNS problems at the datacentre where the site’s hosted.

The problem was quickly resolved. Again, as on the previous occasion, there was very little delay – less than 30 minutes – until reports of the problem started to arrive. It was quickly missed.

This provides evidence that use of the eduBuzz service, particularly the WordPress blogs, is now becoming embedded in teaching and learning practice across the local authority.

Of course that in turn has implications for how reliable such services may need to become in future.

Where’s my “Latest eduBuzz posts” widget?

A recent update to this means it will have vanished from the sidebar of any eduBuzz blog using it.

If you’ve been using it, and you want it back, the good news is that it can just be dragged back again. Go to Presentation / Sidebar Widgets and drag “Latest eduBuzz Posts” to wherever you want it to appear. Don’t forget to save the change.
The changes were:

  • title: changed to latest eduBuzz posts (not Exc-el)
  • config settings: now default to showing both title and author, both were defaulting to hidden

Maybe you’ve tried it before, and wondered why you didn’t see anything? If so, why not give it a try? It has proved one of the most popular ways for people to keep in touch with what’s being posted across the site.

eduBuzz – now with added Widgetbox Widgets

Widgetbox LogoEdubuzz blogs now offer Widgetbox Widgets in addition to the standard Text and RSS ones.

Thanks to a new plugin from incsub and ringofblogs it’s now easy to incorporate Widgetbox Widgets into a WPMU site. The plugin has been developed originally for the edublogs.org blog hosting service, and is being shared under the GPL licence.

Widgetbox offer a huge range of Widgets, many of which have direct educational uses. For example, I’ve just been experimenting with one which offers instant translation of the web page into various languages via the AltaVista Babelfish translation service. You can currently see that one here: https://www.edubuzz.org/healthypassportp4/.

James Farmer has done a 3-minute tutorial video here on how to use them. It requires a bit of cut-and-pastery with Notepad, for example, to extract an ID from the Java code provided by the site, but it’s simple and quick.

I now need some willing testers to try it… feedback welcome.

eduBuzz sign-up back to normal

The fault with eduBuzz sign-up has now been fixed and tested.

For the curious: the fault was being caused by an incorrectly configured plugin, danalog’s site-wide tagging solution, which we’ve been experimenting with. This plugin doesn’t read the domain name automatically, but requires it to be coded into the plugin. And until you do that, it has a placeholder in there of – you guessed it – “domain.tld”.