MUniversity of Minnesota

January 2006 Archives

January 30, 2006

UThink comment cleanup

First of all, thanks for helping to make UThink: Blogs at the University Libraries the success that it is. UThink is one of the largest, if not the largest, academic blogging sites in North America. However, with this success we have attracted the unwanted attention of comment spammers. Our recent upgrade to Movable Type 3.2 (November 2005) has almost completely stopped comment spam (thanks to the new MT plugin SpamLookup), however some does still slip through the cracks. Please let me know if you are having any difficulty with this.

Before our upgrade to MT 3.2, a lot of comment spam slipped through the cracks. We would now like to deal with it. On Tuesday, January 31, we will be mass deleting any comment with 6 or more URLs in the comment text. From our inspection, we have found that almost all comments with 6 or more URLs are worthy of deletion. Our mass deletion will NOT touch any of your actual entries. All entries will remain intact. This is just deletion of comments.

This is just a courtesy note to let you know of our plans. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Posted by snackeru at 11:46 AM | Comments (1)

January 26, 2006

Back to normal

Everything seems to be back to normal. Without getting too technical, the UThink server was experiencing some memory problems which was causing some flakiness. It appears that the system is working as it should now. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Posted by snackeru at 12:43 PM

Technical difficulties

UThink is currently experiencing some technical difficulties. Thanks for your patience.

Posted by snackeru at 11:22 AM

January 20, 2006

Default comments setting and other tips

• Just a few words of advice for new UThink blog maintainers. First of all, when you create a new blog, comments are set to "moderated" by default. This means that any comment that is submitted to your new blog must be approved by the blog owner or entry author before they show up on your blog. This default setting is there to try to combat comment spam, but some people may find this annoying to have to approve comments before they show up. To turn this feature off and set up your blog to automatically publish comments follow these instructions:

Login to UThink, enter your blog, and click on "Settings." Then click on the "Feedback" tab. Look for the section that says, "Immediately publish comments from:" and set that to "Anyone." Save your changes and then rebuild your blog. Doing this will not necessarily increase your comment spam. We have already installed some pretty good spam blocking tools that seem to be doing a good job. Opening up comments may also make large class blogs work a little better as students are able to comment on their classmates' writing more easily. As always let me know if you have any questions.

• Also, on your new blog home page you may also notice a section titled "Links" and you may be wondering how to actually put some links in there. To populate this section with actual links, use the "MT-Blogroll" tool located on the first page of Movable Type after you enter the blog you want to edit. This tool allows you to quickly enter links, or a "blogroll," onto your blog. It will also make it easier for you to retain your links if you ever make changes to your blog's appearance.

• I have also noticed a lot of people using the "Extended Entry" option of Movable Type. My advice would be to stop using this option. Keep your whole entry in the main "Entry Body" unless you are typing something really, really long. I have noticed that people very rarely follow the link to the Extended Entry, so if you want your readers to keep reading, keep your entry all on the same page.

That's it for now. Let me know if you have any questions or comments!

Posted by snackeru at 01:26 PM

January 18, 2006

XML-RPC in UThink

In case you didn't know, UThink contains XML-RPC capabilities through Movable Type. Technically speaking, XML-RPC is a remote procedure call that allows code to be executed on our server without a programmer needing to explicitly code for the procedure. XML-RPC obviously uses XML to encode its calls. With me so far? For our purposes, XML-RPC allows UThink users to use different applications to submit entries to their blogs rather than the default web interface.

For example, there are many different types of desktop applications (some free, some not) that can connect to your UThink blog, post and edit entries, and give you perhaps a more appealing user interface for your blog maintenance needs. In addition, many of these desktop clients come with spell checking capabilities, something that is definitely missing from UThink's implementation of Movable Type. Some of the more famous desktop XML-RPC based clients include Ecto, w.bloggar, and Mars Edit for the Mac.

If you are interested in using XML-RPC you will need the location of the XML-RPC script on the UThink site:

You will also need a username and password. Your username is the U of M Internet ID you use to access UThink. Your password is a little different, though. To access your password, login to UThink and then click on your username/Internet ID in the upper right ("Welcome username"). On the next page look for the section called "API Password." Depending on when you created your first blog, you may or may not have a password available to "reveal." If you do not have an API password, or you would like to change your password, enter your new password and click "Save Changes." Unfortunately, you will receive a cryptic error message next, but be assured that you have successfully saved your new password. Click "Go Back" and then "Reveal" to make sure.

From there, you can use the XML-RPC script, and your username/password to connect to UThink in a different way. Another example of this is Flickr. If you post pictures to Flickr on a regular basis, you can actually hook your blog into Flickr so that when you post a picture there it also posts that picture on your UThink blog too. There are many other uses for XML-RPC. If you've got any interesting ideas or implementations, please let us all know in the comments below!

Posted by snackeru at 10:13 AM | Comments (1)

January 10, 2006

Comments and Trackbacks back up

Greetings! I am happy to report that we have worked through some issues and comments and trackbacks are working again. To make sure your blog is functioning properly, please login to UThink and rebuild your entire site. That way everything should work the right way for you.

Our changes with comments and trackbacks should also make comment spamming almost impossible. So, that is an added bonus for everyone.

In addition, we have made some other changes to the system that should make UThink a little faster. As always, please let me know if you encounter any difficulties.

Posted by snackeru at 01:29 PM | Comments (3)

January 06, 2006

Technical Difficulties

I must apologize. Many of you may have noticed that we are experiencing some technical difficulties right now in UThink land. I'm very sorry about this. Right now we are dillegently working on making the system as perfect as possible (and hopefully speedy too), but we have run into some snags. We hope to have these worked out very soon.

Right now comments and trackbacks are not working properly. Thankfully right now, in between semesters, is a slower time for UThink users. Again, we hope to have these problems worked out shortly.

Thank you for your patience. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Posted by snackeru at 08:22 PM | Comments (1)