MUniversity of Minnesota

September 23, 2004

UThink Update

Today is a special day in the history of UThink. We've been running UThink since April 12, and since that time 583 blogs have been created with over 1,000 users. The inspiration for UThink was undoubtedly Blogs at Harvard Law, a system created by blogging guru Dave Winer that has been running for about two years. Blogs at Harvard Law has 581 blogs. That means UThink has surpassed Harvard making this site the largest academic blogging site in America, if not the world. When I was selling this idea to my superiors I made the bold claim that one day we would host over 500 blogs and probably be the largest academic blogging site in America. This really wasn't that bold of a claim given that the U of M has about 65,000 potential bloggers. However, I had no idea that it would happen so fast.

So, some words of thanks are in order. Obviously there have been a lot of blogs created, but I have some special thanks for the early adopters, those people who created blogs without really knowing what UThink was all about. Without these people UThink wouldn't have taken off like it did:

  • Philosophy by Peter Shea. Peter's writing is chock full of little nuggets of wisdom. I enjoy reading it everyday.
  • Selling Sno-Cones on the Beach. One of the first blogs on the system and still going strong. We worried about the infamous B and his surgery and we laughed when your car was stolen and recovered. Keep it up!
  • A Heart with a Twist of Lemon. David, your quirky sense of humor is infectious. And I, too, loved it when you took on the bees.
  • Deception of the Thrush. Still my favorite post of all time on UThink: Nibbled to Death by Small Geese. If you haven't read it, you are missing out.
  • The Daily Spirit Human. Another one of the early adopters and also one of the few people that can say he posts every single day. Absolutely amazing and always something to ponder.
  • Random Thoughts - By Joe. Joe has given us a unique look into the life of a student and now a CA. Keep on fighting the good fight Joe!
  • Coffee Grounds. One of the best political commentary blogs in America (IMHO) and written by someone from New Zealand. Yes, a very unique perspective.
  • Broken Wing. Absolutely impossible to categorize and usually offensive to someone. In other words, the perfect blog! Also, an odd hatred of birds permeates the site.
  • Bio-Med Library - Public Health. The king blog with over 400 posts full of juicy medical goodness. Will anyone ever catch up?
  • Rhetoric 3562W. Although the blog looks a little plain now (look at the archives) it has the distinction of being the first class based blog on the system. I think it is safe to say it started a trend given how class blogs now dominate UThink. Thanks for everything Clancy!
  • Ramona Ramona's Blog. I'll admit Ramona scared me half to death with one of her posts (I won't link to it, it is too frightening). However, it is really nice to have another Twins fan on the system!
  • QWERTY. Another true early adopter and one of the first group blogs. It is a shame they don't have time to post more as usually the posts are thoughtful and well written. The best post on QWERTY? The Best of UThink of course!
  • Steve Mueske. Last but not least, what blog site would be complete without its own poetry blog?

There are so many more, and if I've forgotten anyone I apologize. I truly could go on and on. When they look at the history of UThink, though, scholars of the future will look at these blogs. Again, they have made UThink what it is today.

What about the future then? What do we have in store for users of UThink? First of all we are right now in the midst of planning for an upgrade to Movable Type 3.1. MT 3 has more blogging features, a better comment management feature, a better, faster interface, and a ton of other goodies. We are hoping to have this completed by March if not sooner. We are also going to look into how UThink can better help build community on campus. Tying the system to x.500 was a good start, but hopefully we can take community building to another level. If anyone has any ideas regarding this I am all ears. And given the dominance of class blogs we also hope to make it easier to create blogs specifically for classes. This includes easier ways to tie students to a single blog, as well as templates that make better sense in a classroom setting. And yes, this will probably include a way to make password protected posts. We also hope to make better use of all the MT Plugins available to users of Movable Type. MT is extremely powerful and you would be surprised at what it allows authors to do, especially through all the plugins developed by the MT community. For example, the plug-in MultiBlog "provides the user with the ability to include templated content from other blogs in their MovableType installation." In other words, an author could include blog content from all sorts of blogs in his or her own site. Obviously, this could be very handy for classes that want to use blogging as an assignment alternative and tie all the blogs together. There are a ton of plug-ins we could implement, especially after we upgrade, we just have to find the time!

Anyway, I've rambled on enough. Onward and upward with UThink.

Posted by snackeru at September 23, 2004 10:02 AM