Finding photos for your blogs posts can be a sticky topic. Some people seem to think anything you turn up on a Google image search is fair game, as if publishing anything to the web instantly makes it public domain. All our wonderful Vol State bloggers are of course better informed than that.
Flickr provides tools to help take the guess work out of fishing for images. The first is The Commons. This is a partnership Flickr has with organizations such as the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library to host a wealth of content for which no known copyright restrictions exist. This includes but is not limited to works in the public domain. The good news is any image you turn up while searching The Commons is fair game for anything you want to do. The bad news is the vast majority of the content is quite old. That can be great for a blog focused on history but not so great for a blog focused on educational technology.
The other method offers more variety in available photos, but also presents more restrictions. If you go into the advanced search you can specify to search only Creative Commons content.
Creative Commons licenses come in many different flavors. It’s possible to make sense of it at a glance using the icons that represent various levels of rights and restrictions, but to be sure look for the license info in the right hand column of the primary image view in Flickr. Click on the link in this section to be taken to a page explaining the exact provisions that govern a particular work.
For a full break down of the various Creative Commons conditions, go to the source. As a publicly funded higher education institution who does not monetize the content on our WordPress server we should qualify for “non-commercial” use. Don’t assume that holds true for another other blogs you may contribute to. All the other aspects of the Creative Commons are fairly straightforward. If you have any questions by all means ask and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Part of the joys of being early adopters in initiatives like this blog server is getting to watch me stumble my way through administrating all these various sites.
My webmaster blog has had an active RSS feed into the “About this site” section of VolState.edu for quite a while now. But our first “real” institutional blog to roll out such a publicly accessible feature is the Thigpen Library. One of the features I sold them on was the ability to track traffic and metrics using Google Analytics. That’s a tool we’ve been using on the main site for around 3 years now. The way I pull it off on this server is using a plugin called Google Analytics for WordPress. Now that the library blog has been live for several days, I got a request to pull some analytics data to share.
Oh no! I didn’t see any data in the profile that was supposed to be collecting it. What happened?!
I stupidly forgot that plugins default to being managed on a per-site basis. The plugin was working on this blog and on the webmaster blog, but I never set it up for the library or several other blogs. Luckily, I found the button to enable a plugin across the entire network of sites. Not-so-luckily, I assumed this fixed the issue. Turns out the plugin has to be configured for each site using it. In hindsight this makes perfect sense. Multi-site functionality in WordPress can run thousands of blogs totally unrelated to each other. Our use for a networked family of related mico-sites is really a fringe case. It was silly of me to assume the same settings would automagically be applied when I activated the plugin across the entire network.
I finally got it set up properly late last week. This morning I pulled the figures over the weekend. That’s not many days, and it can be dangerous to draw sweeping generalizations from such a small sample size. But what I saw impressed me.
Early traffic report for blogging looks promising
Over the 3 day period of last Friday – Sunday, the library blog got a total of 53 pageviews. By contrast, the library home page on the main site got 836 pagevies over the same time frame. That’s really the only point of entry to the blog, targeted at those who have already shown a certain level of interest in library related topics by visiting the library’s main page. So those 53 blog pageviews came from among those 836 home page pageviews. In that sense, we are talking about a type of conversion rate of around 6.33%. If we run the numbers for the official Vol State blog and the home page of VolState.edu that figure drops to about 0.5%. And to be honest I’m quite proud of even that figure.
The Vol State homepage is our single most popular page. Almost everyone filters past that page on their way to whatever content they are seeking at that moment. Most people will be focused on logging into their online classes or checking their email or finding contact information for a specific office and likely not even notice the links to the blog. But a few take the time to look around, and a few of those follow through to the blog.
A similar process takes place for the library blog, of course. But since the topics covered are more specific — and since the audience is already more focused — it would make sense that we see a higher rate of library homepage traffic converting to library blog traffic. That has been one of my major assumptions behind the idea of running our own WordPress server. And I’m very pleased to see the early data supporting that assumption.
Some of the jargon used in the world of blogging can be a little confusing. So I’ll try to explain it with a story.
Derek, the webmaster, has an account. He also “owns” a blog. That is, he’s the Editor of the webmaster blog. If Derek gets hit by a bus and we hire a new webmaster, the new webmaster could get an account and take over Editor duties on the webmaster blog. The purpose of that blog is to provide a communication platform for the College webmaster, not to provide Derek a place to discuss his political leanings or religious views. Derek has other places on the internet for that sort of thing.
Mary also has an account. She is the Editor of the Educational Technology blog. The purpose of her blog is to discuss educational applications of technology. After having a conversation with Derek, she decides to invite him to write a guest post on her educational technology blog.
Mary trusts Derek to not do anything stupid or illegal on a blog she’s ultimately responsible for, so she asked the Administrator to add Derek to her blog as an Author. If Derek were added as a Contributor instead, Mary would have to approve anything he wrote before it gets published.
Derek is now an Author on the educational technology blog. He is still Editor of the webmaster blog. When he logs in to his account, he can go to the dashboard of either blog and find tools tailored to his role for that blog. Since Derek is an Author on the educational technology blog, anything he posts will be published immediately. But he can’t access or edit Mary’s posts. However, as Editor, Mary can edit or even delete Derek’s posts on her blog.