Welcome to the University Blog Service!

The University Blog Service provides blogs for faculty (for non-course related purposes) and staff at The University of Texas at Austin. The service uses WordPress, a popular blogging platform. Blogs can be created for individuals, groups, projects, or departments.

Have a question? Read about the University Blog Service and find help and the Service Level Agreement (SLA).

Write. Collaborate. Classroom Publishing on UBS

Are you a professor on campus who would like to get your students involved in collaboration and writing? Do you require your students to publish written material for class?

Consider creating a website on the University Blog Service!

We can help you create the site and add your students as users of the site. They will log in with their EIDs and publish their writings all in one place. The centralization provides ease of use for everyone. You will be able to administer the site, and your students can read each other’s work. You can also re-use the site for multiple semesters, maintaining consistency for your class teachings and students, new and old.

Your site will remain active on our service as long as your students are posting and making updates. Please see our Service Level Agreement for further details.

Ready to get started?

– Fill out this form to request a site: https://www.utexas.edu/its/blog/request/
– In the: “Purpose of Website” box, let us know that you are an instructor looking to set up a site with your students as publishers. The University Blog Service team will contact you to help you add those students to the site.

Please Note: Requiring students to use the blog service may be a violation of FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, which is a federal law that pertains to the release of and access to educational records.

FERPA applies to personally identifiable information in educational records. This includes items such as the student’s name, names of family members, addresses, personal identifiers such as social security numbers, and personal characteristics or other information that make the student’s identity easily traceable.

Read more about FERPA and students’ privacy at the Registrar’s page.

 

Wave of the Future: Google Analytics

Dear Readers,

The New Year is always a harbinger for change. This is no different for the blog service. One of our most widely used plugins “FireStats” has fallen into neglect and is no longer being maintained by its author. The blogs team is in the process of retiring this plugin in favor of another that utilizes Google Analytics for users of web analytical tools. A retirement date has not been set, but we encourage all users of FireStats to transition over to Google Analytics. The blogs team will provide more details about the retirement in the near future.

This post will walk you through getting your site up with Google Analytics and properly configured. Let’s get started!

Before beginning, please be sure to review the best practices policy for the use of analytics on campus. Ensure that you have the following before beginning to configure your blog site:

• Site administrator credentials for a University Blog Service blog
• An email address that is not hosted on UTMail
• 30 minutes of free time

First, create a Google Account. This can be your own personal Gmail/Google account if you have one. For departmental blogs or sites with multiple administrators, we do strongly recommend that a new Google Account be created for the group and that the credentials be shared in Stache with fellow administrators.

Next, you will need to create a “Universal Analytics Code.” To do so, log into the Google Analytics page, http://www.google.com/analytics/web, using the blog’s Google Account. Then,

• Click on “Sign up”.
• Complete the next page titled “Tracking Method” with the information relative to your website (i.e., Your URL like sites.utexas.edu/mysite, or utexasapproveddomain.org).
• Select “http://” in the drop down under “Website URL.”
• Towards the bottom of the page you will see a section titled, “Data Sharing Settings.” Uncheck all options in this section.
• Click “Get Tracking ID” and accept the terms of agreement.

 

Google Analytics Settings Page

Google Analytics Settings Page

 

You will want to look for a string of characters that look like this: UA-12345678-1

 

Google Analytics dashboard which contains where the tracking code is

Google Analytics dashboard which contains where the tracking code is

 

Copy your tracking code, as you will reference it for this next step.

Next log into the Dashboard for your WordPress blog site. Perform the following actions after logging in:

• Click on “Plugins” in the left hand menu.
• Look for a plugin named “Google Analytics for WordPress.”
• Click on the “Activate” link under it.

The Dashboard will refresh once the plugin had been successfully activated. At this point the plugin will need to be configured to follow the best practices for Google Analytics use on campus.

• Click on the “Settings” link.
• On the “Google Analytics for WordPress Configuration” page, click on the checkbox for the “Manually enter your UA code.” This is the same tracking code that you copied in during the previous step.
• Check “Show advanced settings.”
• Let the page refresh and scroll to the bottom of the page for the section, “Ignore users.” Select “Subscriber” from the drop down.
• Scroll further down the page and locate the setting “Anonymize IP’s.” Check that box, too.
• Click “Update Google Analytics Settings.”

 

Settings page for Yoast Google Analytics dashboard

Settings page for Yoast Google Analytics dashboard

 

To disable FireStats tracking, click on the “Plugins” link on the left hand menu and search for “FireStats.” Click on the “Deactivate” link below. Be forewarned that once this plugin is disabled, you will not be able to reactivate it.

That’s it! You’re done! If you should have any questions, please feel free to send a quick email to help@sites.utexas.edu!

Questions
Will I be able to import my FireStats data to Google Analytics?

There is no option to import FireStats data into Google Analytics.

Would it be possible to get my FireStats data?

It certainly is possible to provide you your site’s analytical data. This information will be exported from the WordPress database in the form of dumps of tables that the plugin created for your site.

 

Yours humbly,

The plugin-retiring-happy blogs University Blogs Team

Introducing Your sites.utexas.edu!

Hello University Blog Service customers!

The University Blog Service (UBS) has completed its transition to its new domain name sites.utexas.edu! This change highlights the service’s content management and general Web publishing functions; the new name was approved by the Web Technologies and Infrastructure governance committee.

Blogs is now Sites!

Are you a current customers of UBS? You can rest assure that you blogs will work as they did before and will continue to be powered by WordPress. Plugins and themes will work as they always had. The domain change only affects websites with the URL blogs.utexas.edu/[websitename]; these can now be accessed at sites.utexas.edu/[websitename].  UBS websites with a custom URL have not been affected. 

Worried about published links with blogs.utexas.edu? Don’t be! All traffic to blogs.utexas.edu will be automatically redirected to its new location on sites.utexas.edu until August 2016.

Are you new to campus or only becoming aware of UBS? Sign up here for your own WordPress website!

Be sure to send your blogs related questions to help@sites.utexas.edu and stay tuned for updates!

Humbly yours,

The University Blogs Team

Hello Mini Twitter Feed widget

Goodbye to the widget called: “Twitter”. Hello to the new widget called: “Mini Twitter Feed”

We have disabled the older widget called “Twitter” because it is outdated and no longer supported by the developer.

Fear not! We are introducing a new Twitter feed widget called: “Mini Twitter Feed”.

With the new widget, you will also be able to display your Twitter feed in any post or page you wish using a WordPress shortcode!

1. First, activate the “Mini Twitter Feed” plugin from your Dashboard > Plugins > Click Activate.

2. Then, go to Appearance > Widgets and add the “Mini Twitter Feed’ to an area in your sidebar or footer.

3. Now it’s time to configure the widget: In the miniTwitter widget, click “Create a new widget”.

getyourtwitter

This will take you to your Twitter account. Login and click on the blue button: “Create Widget”

sharkweekcreatewidget

You will be presented with a small bit of HTML code, something like this:

-------------------------
<a href="https://twitter.com/SharkWeek" 
data-widget-id="365134152221200385">Tweets by @SharkWeek</a>
<script>!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],
p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id))
{js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+"://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js"
;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");</script>
-------------------------

 

The box maybe difficult to see but the text will be selected. You only need to note the data-widget-id number and your Twitter username.

4. Copy and paste the code into a blank Word document or the text editor of your choice.

5. Look for the numbers assigned to “data-widget-id” as well as your Twitter account name.

6. Copy the data-widget-id into the Twitter Widget ID box.

7. Then, type your Twitter user name into the “Username” box.

8. Click Save.

sharkweekwidgetready

Putting Mini Twitter feed on a page or post instead of the sidebar

If you want this on a page or post, use the Widget’s shortcode;

[minitwitter id="SERIESOFNUMBERS" width="250px" username="YOURTWITTERUSERNAME"]

 

Your shortcode will look something like this;

[minitwitter id="365134152221200385" width="250px" username="SharkWeek"]

 

Now your Twitter feed will appear inside in your post or page.

Have fun!

For more information about this widget, please see – https://wordpress.org/plugins/mini-twitter-feed/

As always, feel free to send an email at help@sites.utexas.edu if you have any questions.

Out with old themes, in with the new

It’s time for new themes! We have reviewed the themes available in University Blogs in order to evaluate:

  • Are they outdated and/or no longer supported by the theme developer?
  • Does WordPress.org still offer them from their site?

We found a large number of our themes do not meet this criteria, so they will be removed from use.

University Blogs Approved Themes

The themes below will remain in our service:

UT Responsive Theme

UT Responsive Theme

UT Responsive Small Image Theme

UT Responsive Small Image Theme

Twenty Eleven Theme

Twenty Eleven Theme

Twenty Twelve Theme

Twenty Twelve Theme

Twenty Thirteen Theme

Twenty Thirteen Theme

 

Will my blog be affected?

No. If you are currently using a deprecated theme (not listed above), it will continue to be activated for you.

More themes soon

We have already begun evaluating and testing new themes for our service. Our plan is to have two new themes up and available in the coming weeks.

Moving forward, we plan to regularly evaluate and test new themes for our service in order to build up our Theme library. We are also committed to creating more UT-branded themes as well.

Thank you for your patience as we work through this process. The new themes will be a big improvement towards more modern, mobile responsive and accessible theme designs.

The Events Calendar plugin

Events are fun – so are calendars! Publish your events with our new plugin – The Events Calendar. This is a carefully crafted, extensible plugin that lets you easily share your events.

You can activate it from your Plugins directory in your blog. Click Plugins from the left-hand side menu of your Dashboard. Once activated, view the Help link for  step-by-step instructions and videos.

From your Dashboard > left-hand side menu > Events > Help.

Or use this link – http://tri.be/support/documentation/events-calendar-pro-new-user-primer/

Enjoy….

We just made Blogs more accessible!

Per the University’s Web Accessibility Policy, all affiliated sites must comply with accessibility standards. For blogs using the UT Responsive Theme (both standard & small header design), we identified and fixed a number of elements to improve accessibility. You likely won’t notice any difference on your UT Responsive blog; you’ll simply have less to do to keep your site accessible.

What we improved

  • Font sizes are now set as “em” instead of “pixel” declarations
  • Text has a higher color contrast ratio
  • The footer is white by default, improving color contrast

Compare the changes

Footer Before:

Footer Before

 

Footer After:

Footer After

 

Header Text Before:

Header Before

Header Text After:

Header After

 

Does this mean you don’t have to think about accessibility anymore?

No. Many elements that you control contribute to making an accessible website, including ALT text for images, font sizes, table headers and captions, and keyboard navigation. We encourage reviewing the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

New Plugin! WooSlider!

There’s a new plugin on the block: WooSlider. Activate the plugin and you’re on your way to making a slideshow in minutes.

What is it?
WooSlider is an easy to use, highly customizable slideshow plugin. You can create slideshows of images or of blog posts. WooSlider is fully responsive which means your content will look great, regardless of the device it is viewed on.

Demo Slideshow:

  • Football Stadium

  • Walking by buildings

  • Tower

  • Statue


How do I use it in my blog?Dashboard-Slideshows
1. After activating the plugin, you’ll see “Slideshows” listed on your administrative navigation:

2. Go to Slideshows > Add New Slide to create new slides just as you would blog posts. Slides can be any combination of images and text

3. Put slides into slideshow groups just as you would categorize blog posts.

4. To insert slideshows into a post, Go to Add Media> Slideshows > Slideshow Type. Here you have the option to create a slideshow from already attached images, from previous blog posts, or from the slideshow group you just created.

5. Customize the slider in the Advanced Settings button on the same screen.

6. Click the Insert Slideshowbutton and some code will be inserted into your post. You now have a slideshow.

Where can I find more info?

 

Our customers spoke – we listened.

We have a new theme based on the UT Responsive Theme. Our customers told us they would like to have an option to use the UT Responsive Theme – but with a smaller header image. The new UT Responsive Small Image theme serves this purpose.

new UT Responsive Small Image theme

UT Responsive Small Image theme

Your options for using the UT Responsive Theme are:

– UT Responsive Theme – image size: 960w x 320h
– UT Responsive Small Image has a header image of: 960w x 100h

To activate these themes on your blog, log in to your Dashboard and on the right-hand side, go to:

Appearance > Themes
In the “Search Installed Themes” box, type: Responsive

You will then see the two UT Responsive Themes provided by the University Blogs Team (provided one of these themes is not already your current theme).

To change the header image, go to:

Appearance > Header

Click the Choose File button and browse to the new graphic you created. Then click upload.

You also have the option to remove a header graphic completely. Click: Remove Header Image to do this. The title of your blog will show instead.


We hope you find these themes useful. Additional information about this theme can be found here. http://sites.utexas.edu/utresponsive/

Theme Retirement

There comes a time in a WordPress Theme’s life when it hears the call of the sea.

Bering Sea Sunset by im me

Photo Credit: Bering Sea Sunset by im me



We are beginning our plans to review and retire old blog themes. This, in turn, will allow us to review and load newer and better themes.

We will keep you informed of our process and plans. Themes in production that are retired will continue to work but will no longer be available for selection in the Themes Appearance section.

We are excited about this process and bringing you newer themes with more features that are responsive to any device – smartphone, tablet, desktop, etc.

Stay tuned. Your University Blogs Team