From Blogs to Publishing Platforms

D’Arcy wrote a post over the weekend questioning the need for an Institutionally run blogging environment … I always take notice when he asks questions like this for a number of reasons — he’s smart, he’s been in the field for a long time making smart decisions, and his posts tend to bring in smart comments. This is no exception. D’Arcy asks if, given the plethora of open/free blogging services on the Web, the University of Calgary should be running its own service. I see where he is coming from and it is something I wrestle with across the board. There is a real tension between what we can/should provide in comparison to just recommending a .com service. Blogs are the tip of the iceberg … think email, calendar, and other more mission critical things that are being outsourced by Institutions all over the country.

D’Arcy talks about how hosting your own may provide for increased integration, trust, and authority. I think these are solid reasons, but I might expand them a bit. I can honestly say the reason we adopted MovableType as our blogging platform had very little to do with blogging. We knew we were going to be able to (over time) shift it towards a very powerful publishing platform that can do all sorts of things online. When we went down the path, the immediate win was a robust, scalable, integrated, and universally available blogging tool that people could use to support teaching, learning, expression, or really anything else.

Going forward, the idea is that you arrive at your personal webspace and are encouraged to just click over to your MT dashboard and publish. It is a jump for a user to think of this outside of setting up a blog — on the surface, the environment is a blogging toolset after all. The big ah-ha moment comes when you actually watch how easy it is to extend this into the world of instant site creation, all with the affordances of a modern CMS and blogging platform — instant publishing, RSS, ping/trackbacks, categories, tags, search, and so much more.

The work of our faculty fellow, Dr. Carla Zembal-Saul, this summer illustrates just how powerful this is when the jump is made to publishing and not just blogging. And the most interesting work being done has to do with how the portfolio becomes a social environment — guess what our platform is really good at? IN the coming weeks, I am going to try and focus some energy on explaining Carla’s work and share some more tangible evidence of the new ePortfolio Platform (powered by MT) we will be promoting here at PSU. The idea that a blog can be used for any publishing task is important to grasp if we are going to move to the next level of academic utilization of the web as a platform — at least, if you agree with D’Arcy that the notion of doing it on the inside promotes integration, trust, and authority.

2 thoughts on “From Blogs to Publishing Platforms

  1. Cole, thanks for the followup post!

    Aside from the PSU branding and integration with the campus webspace, is there anything that you’re doing with the MT environment that couldn’t be done at TypePad, or

    Is the internal institutional hosting more about a culture and community of users than the technology?

  2. D, I think the big things that make it work well within our environment is the customization we can do under the hood so that when students create an ePortfolio site it can be pre-populated with the right kinds of things … categories that match program outcomes for tracking progress, designs that match the needs of an individual program of study, and so forth. Could we do that at TP or Maybe, but controlling it ourselves gives us new opportunities … now we have to weigh these to the cost of doing the customization — we won’t know the answer to that one for quite some time.

    Culture and community certainly plays a role, but it is more about weighing what we can do going forward with where we are today. There’s more to this that we can touch base on as it progresses.

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