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Uthink FAQ

1. What is a weblog or blog?

According to Donna Wentworth, Web Publications Editor at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, a weblog or blog is:

"... a website updated frequently with links, commentary and anything else you like. New items go on top and older items flow down the page. Blogs can be political journals, news digests, and/or personal diaries; they can focus on one narrow subject or range across a universe of topics. The weblog form is unique to the Web, highly addictive, and may be changing how we communicate with one another." (http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/about/)

2. Why are the University Libraries hosting blogs?

Libraries believe passionately in intellectual and academic freedom, and our role as advocates for those freedoms. Blogs are an excellent tool whereby students, faculty and staff at the University can let their opinions be heard. Blogs offer a way to rapidly discuss opinions, issues, and ideas, and allow people from across the country, and campus, to connect with each other through these ideas.

The Libraries are also excited about the opportunities blogs will provide the students, faculty, and staff of the University to build communities of interest. Blogs are an excellent collaborative work environment tool through which people can write about their research interests, and encourage others in their field to comment on these writings or even create their own blog to share their own thoughts.

In addition, blogs are great tool to promote discussion within classes on campus. Through this service, professors and TAs will easily be able to create blogs for specific classes and give the students in those classes access to post articles and opinions. Some classes on campus have already started to use blogs in this fashion. We hope this service will encourage other classes to take the leap!

Finally, one of the functions of the Libraries is to retain the history and cultural memory of the institution. Currently, we perform this function through our collections, such as the University Archives. Blogs are another way we can perform this function, and provide researchers of the future with access to the rich content blogs are sure to provide concerning the University.

In summary, the Libraries have numerous goals with this project: to promote intellectual freedom, to help build communities of interest on campus, to investigate the connections between blogging and the traditional academic enterprise, and to retain the cultural memory of the institution.

Who can use the service?

The University Libraries offer this service to the faculty, staff, and students of the University of Minnesota. Anyone with an active U of M Interent Account may login with his or her Internet ID and Password (your email ID and password) and start blogging! Guest authors may also use UThink. If you have a friend that would like to participate on your blog, encourage them to create a guest Internet ID and then attach that Internet ID to your blog.

How much does it cost?

Of course, there is a cost for the University Libraries to provide and maintain this service. However, the service is free to the faculty, staff, and students of the University of Minnesota.

Why should I use the blog service at the University Libraries? Why not Blogger or LiveJournal?

Good question. You are free to use whatever blogging system you want, however you may want to check out what our system offers:

* No advertisements.
* Integration with the U of M Central Authentication Hub (x.500) for access to the system using Internet IDs and Passwords. This means no messy username/password maintenance for us, and easy access to the system for students/faculty/staff.
* Allows students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to create multiple blogs, really as many blogs as anyone wants.
* Allows blog owners to easily attach other authors to their blogs to create team blogs, class blogs, club blogs, etc. Blog authors can attach anyone that has an Internet ID and Password (including guest Internet IDs) to his or her blog.
* Allows blog authors to upload graphics and other multimedia (doc, ppt, pdf, etc.) to their blogs.
* Creates the necessary blog directories (the main directory and the archives directory) on the fly without any administrator intervention.
* Uses of one of the most popular blog software packages in the world: Movable Type.

What are some specific ways I can use UThink: Blogs at the University Libraries?

People around the world are using blogs in a myriad of ways, but an academic setting provides some unique usages for blogs:

Faculty and Instructors

* Create UThink blogs for specific classes, and attach the students of those classes to the blogs as authors, in order to encourage discussion and debate. Many classes across the country are already doing this, including classes at the U of M.
* Encourage students to create their own blogs, and create assignments that give students the option to use their blogs as the mechanism for completing those assignments.
* Use UThink to rapidly publish new ideas and areas of research to a much wider audience than ever before, and receive comments on your entries thanks to Movable Type's comment functionality.
* Use UThink to track areas of research interest, web sites about a particular topic, or happenings in a particular field. With the categorization functionality of Movable Type you can quickly and easily manage entries on all your research interests. In addition, each blog comes with its own search engine so you can quickly find past entries.
* Use blogs to keep in touch with current and former students, or with colleagues around the world. Thanks to Movable Type's notification functionality you can have the blog server automatically email specific people every time you update your blog.
* Use UThink to create a newsletter, or a faculty group blog to keep everyone up to date on departmental matters. And thanks to UThink's U of M Internet ID and password integration you can attach all of your colleagues from any of the four U of M campuses as authors.
* Create a blog for colleagues around the world. UThink recognizes guest Internet IDs.

For more information on how faculty from around the world are using blogs check out this Chronicle of Higher Education article: Scholars Who Blog.

Students

* Create a UThink blog to share your opinion on classes at the U, campus events, local or world news, or really anything! Let your opinion be heard.
* Create UThink blogs for your classes, or specific papers or speeches, and easily organize your thoughts using MT's categorization functionality. Also, find old entries quickly thanks to your blog's built in search capabilities.
* Use UThink blogs to keep your friends and family up to date about what you are up to.
* Use UThink blogs to keep track of links to important web sites used in your classes, or keep track of library index and database citations for your papers and speeches.
* Use UThink blogs as a research tool. The more people we have logging in and posting opinions, the richer the search results will become.
* Create a UThink blog for any student organization, club, or group you might belong to and easily keep other students up to date on your group's activities, events, or views on a particular topic.
* Thanks to Movable Type's templates functionality, customize and design your blog to look any way you want.

These are just some of the usages for blogs in an academic environment. If you are using blogs in a way we haven't listed, please let us know at uthink@umn.edu.

Does the library offer any support to users of the blog system?

Currently there is very limited support for users of the system. If you have any questions or comments about the service please email uthink@umn.edu. The libraries also hope to offer training sessions in the future. Please also try to find answers to your questions using the Movable Type Support Forum.

The Libraries are also more than happy to give a presentation to any group that wants to learn more about UThink and how to use the service. Please email uthink@umn.edu for more information.

How much control do I have over my blog(s)? Can I edit entries I make?

You have complete control over your blog(s). You may add, edit, or delete any entries you make into your blog. You may also delete your entire blog if you feel that is necessary. You may also change the appearance of your blog including adding or editing any of the HTML, CSS, or graphics.

How long can I have access to my blog?

The University Libraries intends to provide access to a blog as long as the blog owner has an active U of M Internet Account. This means that a user could have access even after he or she graduates.

How can I tell if anyone is reading my blog?

We recommend that you look at some free hit counters like Extreme Tracking or Site Meter or ServuStats.com. These free counters are relatively easy to set up. Just follow the instructions.

I've been writing in my blog for a while and no one is reading it. What gives?

There are many things you can do to increase the readership of your blog. One way is to tell your family and friends that you have a blog. Blogs are an excellent way to keep your loved ones informed about what you are up to. Another way to get people to read your blog is to link to other blogs you are interested in. Then tell those blog owners that you have linked to them and ask for a reciprocal link. They don't have to if they don't want to, but sometimes they will link back to you. You could also submit your blog to search engines (like Google) for indexing although they will eventually find it on their own. You should defintely add your blog to the blog directory Blogarama. Finally in your blog's administration interface click on Weblog Config > Preferences > and click on the checkboxes under "Notify the following sites when I update my blog." This will alert blo.gs and weblogs.com that you have added new content on your blog.

Blogging takes dilligence. Don't expect hundreds of visitors and comments just because you started a blog. It takes time to build an audience. Start a blog for yourself, to practice writing or to track an important topic you are interested in. Eventually, if you want them to, people will start coming to your blog.

I would like to have a private blog, where access is blocked by a username and password. Is this possible?

There is a way to block a site through a directory wide password. Please read this UThink Technical FAQ Wiki post for more information.

Are there any rules I should be aware of?

U Think: Blogs at the University Libraries is governed by the same rules, guidelines, and policies that govern the student, faculty, and staff web space provided by OIT. For more information please see Service Guidelines and Description.