Blog Forward!

Investigation time.

Looking at blog tools is pretty fun. Over the years, I think I’ve tested most of the popular brands of blog — although I forget what some of them looked like. 

Right now, I’m having a good look at WordPress. I have a personal WordPress blog, set one up for the DH’s band, and now I’m looking at the moster of all WordPresses (WPMU – WordPress Multi-User) for work. Yes, we already have Roller (the blog software that I’m currently authoring this post on — but not necessarily the software you are reading it on!!!!), but it seems time to move forward.

In general, WordPress is a top-notch blog system, with sooo many theme and plugin options, and is used by pros and amateurs alike. In general, it can be easy to use, can look professional, and can be customized to some extent. There’s also a pretty large community of users and developers that are on top of problems, developing new tools, etc.

Let’s ditch the traditional ‘Pros & Cons’ list and instead post a list of things we have already found in WPMY, thing we need to have in order to go forward, and things that are nice to have… (I may use ‘WPMU’ instead of typing out ‘WordPress’ from here on out)

Got it!

  •  LDAP Authentication –  This is required so that users don’t have to have a different login & password to access the system. They can use their usual my.ryerson login. There’s a plugin to provide this, seems to work pretty well so far.
  • Great Looking Themes – There are many many many themes for WordPress. It’s up to us to track down the ones that work well with WPMU, that offer different layout and style options for our users – and possibly some customization at the user-level. I’m working on this…
  • Ability to easily add RSS from other sources – Users can use the Widgets in WPMU to add feeds from their Twitter, Flicker and other blog accounts. There are actually quite a few really useful widgets.
  • Simple Podcasting! – Users need to be able to generate a podcast without having to do too much legwork. By default, WP podcasts any appropriate media files that are added to a post. I’m working on extending this by adding a plugin that also embeds the audio/video in a blog post without the author having to do anything else (see below).

… There are lots of things that I like about WordPress, but I think I’ll leave you with those few items.

 Need to Have

  • Post Aggregation – Basically, we need to be able to aggregate posts from various blogs (different from having many users contribute to a single blog). We have tried a number of plugins, but none of them provide exactly what we are looking for.
  • User-level Theme Customization – WPMU does not give the users access to customize the themes, as the changes would affect the themes for EVERYONE. That leaves the responsibility on the theme designers to code in some customization ability. Most of them don’t offer any — and some offer customization, but the interface is confusing. Le sigh.
  • A Decent Site Homepage – We either have to code this ourselves, or buy a premium theme to get what we want. I haven’t found a really good free theme for this.

Nice to Have

  • Group Creation – Admin should be able to group users and give group-level access to resources. The aggregation should tie into this.
  • Podcasting w Embedded Player – We’re pretty close to having this. There are a few bugs with the plugin we’re testing, but it works well for the most part.

Any Ryerson folks reading this blog post — what features are you looking for in a blog? What are the  most important things that you would need to have to run a successful blog? Your suggestions don’t even have to be reasonable — this is a "blue sky" wishlist.