September 12, 2003
Technical Issues / Things To Do
On Monday, September 15 we will begin hacking the MT code to make it work for our goals. This is both exciting and a little daunting. Next week will give us a really good idea of whether or not we have the time, resources, and ability to achieve our goals. Here are some of the things we are going to try to figure out next week:
- Can we configure MT to work with our x.500 authentication system? Ideally, we'd like students to be able to create and/or modify their own blogs using their university maintained Internet ID and Password. However, a lot has to happen coding wise to make that happen.
- In order to create a new weblog using MT, the user must first create the web directories that MT will write the public version of the blog to. In addition, these directories must be made chmod 777. We've got to figure out how to do this on the fly.
- Related to this issue then is a policy issue: what do we call the initial public directory? The easy answer is to name it after the user's Internet ID. My public directory would be called /snackeru/ then. However, that's no fun. Users should be able to name their blog and the directory it sits in anything they want.
- When a user account is initially created, that user is given permission to post to a particular blog. We have to figure out how to create the blog and the user at the same time and give the user the proper permissions to have complete control over their own blog, but not anyone else's.
- How will we handle multiple authors for single blogs? The easy answer is to not allow it, but again, that's no fun. Is it possible to allow users the ability to add authors to their own blog and no one else's? Right now, it seems MT comes preconfigured with the ability to turn author creation on or off. If someone has the ability to add users, they also have the ability to assign them to any blog on the system they want. Also, if we allow people to add authors do we want to limit them to the U of M community?
- We need to set up the WEBLOG CONFIG: Core Setup section so that a user can't change the directories they have been assigned to, unless we can, again, create new directories on the fly and give individual users the power to do so. It seems like that could get really messy. Really, the only thing users should be able to do on the Core Setup page is change the name of their blog. The rest of the Config menu's seem all right (Preferences, Archiving, etc.).
It appears to me that we've got our work cut out for us. Worst case scenario is that we manually create blogs for anyone that asks and take away access we don't think they should have for security reasons. As I've said before, next week should be very interesting.
September 11, 2003
Policy issues to decide
In the words of the main programmer of the project, Bill Tantzen, programming will be the easy part. Policy decisions will be the most challenging part of the project, and many policy decisions will dictate how the tool is built. What do I mean? Check out these decisions that must be made:
- How many blogs can a person have? Movable Type allows for multiple blogs, owners, and authors. Do we limit community members to one blog, or allow individual authors as many as they want? How many authors can a single blog have? Can an author be outside the University community?
- Ownership of blogs. Of course, individual authors will be the primary owners of their blogs and the content on the blogs. The Libraries are intrigued with the prosepct, however, of archiving these blogs in perpetuity. What if Pawlenty had a blog when he was a student, and his blog voiced drastically different viewpoints than he has now? Could he ask the Libraries to take down his blog, or erase problematic entries? Hopefully not. The libraries hope to provide researchers of the future a true snapshot of campus life for any given time period that blogs have been active.
- Speaking of which, how do we archive blogs? Given that the University community is at least 60,000, there is a chance that there will be many, many blogs and it will take a lot to archive these things and make them available for research.
- How long can a person have access to his or her blog? Only while he or she is affiliated with the university? Or will we allow someone to maintain a blog even after graduation? What about staff?
I could go on, and I'm sure I will. Gotta go for now...