Using Blojsom for students blogs

It looks like of late there has been a fair bit of noise around and interest in using Blojsom for student blogs. As it’s also it’s the only one that I didn’t get to test-drive when thinking about student blog systems a bit back I thought I’d have a roll over some systems that are using it, the system itself and invite you to have a peek under the hood at the IncSub install.

The two institutions that I know of (thanks for the comments guys :o) using Blojsom are Zane State (Blogs @ Zane State College) and USC with Blog do CETA (here’s an example).

As my Spanish isn’t so hot and as Zane look like they’re a fair bit down the track it’s probably best to focus on them as they look like they’ve got:

-LDAP integration (First Name / Last Name / Zane State ID > Username / Password e.g. Mary / Contrary / 88361 > mcont361 / 88361)

&

-Some good introductions to editing blog settings, posting, adding attachments, changing themes and using RSS.

I really like this, it’s smooth, straightforward and looks like it’s working well. It would be great to have some sort of portal to other blogs linked in to this, a way of finding similar Zane students (and others in similar disciplines) and collective aggregation built in and so on but for a first functional step this is pretty cool.

Am not so sure how keen I am on Blojsom itself though, here’s why:

-Adding a blog entry is painful… you have to code the entire thing (including breaks!) using some pretty tacky tags and then there’s a range of meta options which have no explanation / links to explanations or options for essentially enabling them

-Some of the navigation is painfully over complex (for example you have to go through a category system to get to posts you might want to edit)

-Despite the very high level of tech proficiency you’d need to be comfortable with this tool there is no simple way to edit the templates. In fact, getting your head around installing templates or plugins is something that does not come easy.

-Maybe I’m spoilt but the lists of plugins & extras for Blojsom looks pretty slim and fairly tricky compared to, say, WordPress.

-I’m pretty sure I installed the ‘multi-user’ blog version and yet there is no clear indication as to how I might bring this into being (without going into the databases & hacking code) and even if I did do that there’s no seeming way to get a ‘Create your own blog’ page (you have to have created them all first yourself for people to login)… and that’s a big downer as the vast majority of users here are not going to be doing LDAP)

So, interesting experiment but no thumbs up from me I’m afraid and Apple users… don’t get too excited about the new built in blogging tool!

Would love to hear what other people think! If you have a minute and would like to see what it’s like from the backend I’m making the account publicly accessible here. Login: default Password: blojsom

3 Responses to “Using Blojsom for students blogs”

  1. todd Says:

    ‘lo James,

    The default blog for Blogs @ Zane State is a “community” blog that aggregates content from all our blogs (that haven’t opted out). I recently started using PlanetPlanet to aggregate the blogs of students in a given class. (example)

    A lot of settings in Blojsom are handled by the plugin chains. Once I figured this out, I configured the template used to create new blogs to automatically include the things I felt necessary, such as line-breaks (I just added this to your plugin chain so now you don’t have to manually add breaks). href-hyperlinks is another must-have.

    Add a blog by going to Weblog settings-Blogs. Add users to an existing blog via Weblog settings-Authorization.

    I agree it’s a bit tricky at first, but the end-user doesn’t have to toy with most of the admin stuff.

    Also, I mentioned the need for a “register new blog” for users; the developer was considering writing a plugin for it, or perhaps it will come out of Blojsom’s recent plugin contest. We ended up creating blogs en masse, so our need for this went away.

    Thanks for the review!

  2. James Says:

    Thanks for that Todd, I guess my tension (as ever) is between facilitating successful subversion and providing a non-geeky environment.

    It’s good news that you can configure Blojsom like you have and I guess that makes it much more usable.

    Y’know, I’m so spoilt really! I would’ve given my right arm for a simple blogging tool with comments, trackbacks, RSS and so on a year or so back and now here I am complaining… whinging Pom as the aussies would say ;)

    I’d be fascinated to see how things go, read your reflections on this project, is there anywhere in particular you might be posting them?

  3. todd Says:

    James, I post administrative notes about the system in blogmeister-meisterblog and as usage grows (fingers crossed) I’ll post in my “regular” blog, Big IDEA.

    I think Blojsom will continue to improve; however, you’re spot-on about the user interface being a little kludgy/non-intuitive. There has been great improvement in it from the previous version to the current, so I’m hopeful the trend will continue.