Open, Public Educational Publishing Platforms #4life

On Monday I checked in on the traffic stats for UMW Blogs, something I do from time-to-time when the semester starts to slow (the fact this didn’t happen until week 14 is telling). I was pleasantly surprised to see that UMW Blogs hit a new high for visits in a single day with 14,099 on Thursday, November 14. This is about 5,000 more visits than our daily average of 9,000. So, alongside Tim Owens and Martha Burtis, I started to dig into the details of the traffic for November 14th to see if there was any one post that was driving up the traffic. And, lo and behold, this post about The Matrix and the allegory of the cave by a student named Rebecca in Zach Whalen‘s Spring 2012 Adaptation course got 715 up votes on Reddit, and the rest is UMW Blogs traffic history. In just one day that post got 4,356 hits, and 8,193 hits over the course of the month. Crazy. This list of traffic by landing pages not only illustrates the reddit effect for the Matrix post, but also pointed us to … [Read more...]

Tracking Over Four Years of Traffic on UMW Blogs

I’m working on presentation about assessment on another front, and as an excuse for a break I decided to post some recent UMW Blogs traffic statistics from the last four years. I know analytics and data is all the rage currently, and these numbers should somehow enable me to better articulate UMW Blogs’ usefulness. Nonetheless, they always seem at once massive and paltry. Massive in that various work produced on UMW Blogs by thousands of students have been viewed 13+ million times over the last four years by milliosn of people. Paltry in that 13 million views is a middling viral YouTube video at best. Probably like most people in the era of “big data,” I often feel lost in a malaise of statisitcal aggregates—data that ultimately means less than nothing without a context. The only hope I garner from this is that people are finding our work, but not at the aggregate. Seems to me it’s at the ground level—thousands of sites with tens and hundreds … [Read more...]

Paris is Burning through Syndication

Have I ever mentioned how awesome #UMW‘s Study Abroad blog aggregator is? More than 200 posts since June. #4Life — Jim Groom (@jimgroom) July 20, 2013 When I tweeted out how awesome UMW’s Study Abroad aggregator blog is a few folks asked me how we’re doing the syndication. Aggregation is something I’ve written about so often on the bava blog that I’m afraid I take for granted. That said, I really don’t want to because I truly believe it is the best way to foster distributed communities, enable ownership of one’s own work, and keep a centralized archive all at once. Aggregation by way of RSS-enabled syndication is still the simplest way at this stuff, and I’m gonna try and prove that once again So with the aforementioned Study Abroad blog aggregator we have almost 90 feeds that have been added (self-service style) over the last two and half years that have syndicated more than 2300 posts. We do this using the plugin called … [Read more...]

UMW Blogs: It Won’t Stop Growing!

File this under arbitrary stats about UMW Blogs. The traffic on UMW Blogs has been really high out of the gate this semester, so I wanted to see what the first two weeks of traffic for the Spring semester looks like compared to the first two weeks of the Fall Semester. The increase is nontrivial. So I submit this for your consideration. During the first two weeks of the Fall 2012 semester UMW Blogs had 82,416 visits (61,745 unique) and 189,618 pageviews. During the first two weeks of the Spring 2013 semester UMW Blogs had 124,823 visits (98,079 unique) and 258,509 pageviews.   One day I hope to  actually have an understanding of what any of this means, but right now I will interpret it as part of my general awesomeness. … [Read more...]

Rosie the Riveter dot umw dot edu

So, it’s been over a year since UMW has had it’s main .edu website running on WordPress. DTLT has been experimenting with the possibilities of aggregating posts from UMW Blogs into (in fact, this post will aggregate into DTLT’s site on But the cooler part is to start experimenting with bringing the work students and faculty are doing in the classroom to the university’s website, and to that end Jess Rigelhaupt’s Oral History class last semester has done some really cool things. Every semester I come and talk to this particular class about the possibilities for creating an open, online space to share the documentary histories they create over the course of the semester. We look at a ton of sites, and imagine what’s possible for them. The final project/product for the entire class is to build a site and populate it with all the documentary media on the assigned topic they create, collect, and curate for the world to … [Read more...]

500 Open Courses on UMW Blogs

At the beginning of every semester I get a hankering to post something about UMW Blogs. I don’t know why, it has arrived to the point that it’s more like air than technology around campus at this point. We regularly have more than 50 faculty using this platform any given semester as a space to share their teaching out in the open, and after five and a half years of UMW Blogs we now have more than 500 courses on the system (and this doesn’t include courses from the 2007/2008 academic year—we didn’t start tracking them until Fall 08). What’s more, since we started tracking traffic on UMW Blogs in Fall 2009 we have had more than five million unique visitors and almost twelve million page views—two million of those page views came last semester alone. Five hundred open educational experiences laid bare to the world at large, each one a love letter to the ideal of thinking, sharing, and creating on the open web as part of a public institution. To be … [Read more...]

When Plugins Go Rogue

I logged into UMW Blogs yesterday only to find this garrish header advertisement in my dashboard panel: What the hell is this? Advertisement? On UMW Blogs! THIS IS AN OUTRAGE! And so forth. I posted on Twitter to get see if anyone knew anything and it turns out, thanks to Scott Reilly and Kailey Lampert I quickly learned it was the Facebook Like Button. @jimgroom @andrea_r @sabreuse It’s the “Facebook Like Button” plugin. That isn’t permitted in Plugin Directory; author is getting notified — Scott Reilly (@coffee2code) January 9, 2013 @sabreuse @andrea_r @jimgroom Ewww. BTW, Facebook Like Button is the culprit (…) — Kailey (@trepmal) January 9, 2013 So, it is now deleted from UMW Blogs, and shame on us for ever giving into the Facebook-inspired “Like” web. A useless plugin with a terrible ad to remind us of our sins, it seems to me a metaphor for the larger web right now … [Read more...]

A Few Notes on Updating UMW Blogs to WordPress 3.5

The upgrade process for WordPress has been so seamless the last three or four versions that I didn’t realize how spoiled I’ve been until I finally had an issue (and even that was quite simple to resolve).  Between automatic updates for plugins, themes, and core files, WordPress has nailed the convenience end of upgrades, and that’s no small thing—just ask anyone who has to upgrade a Mediawiki install UMW Blogs did have one hangup going from 3.4.2 to 3.5 with the SharDB plugin. It was throing the following error: Warning: array_search() expects parameter 2 to be array, null given in /home/umwblogs/public_html/wp-content/db.php on line 250 Luke Waltzer had the same issue on Blogs@Baruch, so I knew I was in good company  And, as is always the case, Ron Rennick (the original author of the plugin) was on it. (Ron and Andrea deserve every bit of kudos they get from the WordPress community and more.) He fixed the issue in the db.php file for the plugin and noted … [Read more...]

Longwood Blogs Moves Out!

Almost four years ago I experimented with what up and until then was pretty much the coolest thing I had done in edtech (pre-ds106, mind you )—though no one else really noticed save the great Brian Lamb. In less than an hour I had cloned and made available the entire UMW Blogs WordPress framwork (including hosting, plugins, themes, and support material) for Longwood University—a fellow Virginia state university—for the low, low cost of a domain. So, in other words, two years of experimentation and iteration packaged up and mapped to at the low, low cost of $8.95 for a namepsace. The trick was mapping a network onto UMW Blogs and using the same core files, themes, and plugins as UMW Blogs (I used a much earlier version of David Dean’s Networks for WordPress plugin). These days the process is pretty common, we’re doing it pretty impressively on—but in 2008 it was a bit of radical idea. In fact, I had big dreams for it, this is from my post on the experiment … [Read more...]

UMW Blogs is Full of Rainbows and Unicorns

UMW is gearing up for its accreditation review in 2013. We are part of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools which is one of the six regional accrediting bodies in the US that oversees more than 13,000 public and private educational institutions from preschool to university. It’s an interesting process to watch unfold—even from my myopic perspective of it—and what’s even cooler is that thanks to Tim O’Donnell—the glutton for punishment running the SACS review at UMW—the work done by DTLT over the last 5 or 6 years will be prominently featured as part of the review. I won’t bore folks with the UMW Blogs story because I already wrote the story of the emergence of UMW Blogs a few years ago. Rather, I want to focus a bit on some of the materials I’ve been working on that I think might be useful beyond the SACS review. I’m going to publish some of that here to see if anything resembling a narrative emerges from the disparate pieces. In the event a narrative doesn’t congeal, … [Read more...]