Launching a Blogger Program: Part 4

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Higher Education, Marketing, Recruitment, Technology, Web | Posted on 10-01-2007

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This should have actually been an earlier topic, but it’s still important so I’m going to throw it into the series.

Platform.

One of the first things you should be doing is deciding what platform you want to run.  Obviously, the guys of SquaredPeg were rooting for a WordPress install (Cost=$0).  Unfortunately, IT does not support PHP installs on our campus, so that went out the window rather quickly.  Our next option was to pull a Ben Jones and launch a hosted .com that would allow us to use WordPress and also allow a high level of customizing. The .com solution had several problems for us, mainly being that we wanted to ensure that all of the content was searchable from the main Admission site.

Another option was hosted blogs through a vendor.  Hobsons offered hosted blogs for approximately $1200.  So I looked into it…. and found out that they just use WordPress.  Pay someone for a template blog using free software? No way.

Then our research led us to a nifty little software package back in June: Community Server.  Initially a free open source package from Telligent, they recently beefed up CS and now charge for it.  At $600 (or cheaper), it’s great, and more importantly it will install on our .NET platform.

So we bought it, and started customizing it.  We wrapped the entire site with our template using CSS, then let the students go wild with their own personal blogs.  I gotta say, a few of them are doing a great job at designing.

I have been very impressed with this software so far.  Fully integrated blogs, forums, and photos.  My bloggers are able to upload an image directly to their photo album from the blog WYSIWYG, THEN  pull that image into the post at any size they wish (thumb, small, medium, etc…), and link it back to the photo album or the full size image. Very cool.

There are a lot of ‘community’ features (thus the name Community Server??), such as rating posts, adding friends, private messages, point/rank system for doing certain things, and more.

As the year goes on (and as soon as we officially introduce it all to our prospectives at the end of the week), I think the true potential of this software will come out.

At first I was unsure, but for what we’re trying to do, I’ll take Community Server over WordPress any day.  I would fully expect to see some other universities start to use this solution after they see its potential.

Comments posted (2)

Glad you guys found a reasonably-priced solution for your student blogs. We use Movable Type for our blogging platform at UMR (but no student blogs). MT has worked well, and we’re looking at what the IT folks call an “enterprise solution” that would allow us to expand MT’s use.

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