My so-called blogserver

The guts of the informatics MT server are now in decent shape, with rudimentary backups and security automated. It seems that Stanford is headed toward MT, but they’ve made the wise decision to hold off on centralizing it until MT Pro comes along. Looks like Dartmouth beat us to the punch in terms of getting up a server.

Here’s why ours is going to be better, though: this isn’t predicated on “Build it and they will come.” Most people are not just sitting there with a bunch of things they want to express to the world. By integrating it with the curriculum, and using it in various classes, we give the students a raison-de-blog(ue?). Many of them, I suspect, will do the bare minimum needed to pass the class and then drop it. Others, I bet, will continue to blog and become better writers and more interesting people for it.

In the mean time, I have spent far too much time plugging away at this. Like blogging on my own site, the hours spent doing this are not part of my job description–they are just for fun. Anything that doesn’t lead to funding or publication (in that order) is considered extraneous. Too bad it’s so fun.

Lots of bits an pieces still need to happen. I need to put up privacy and use policies, as well as some very basic MT tutorials.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted 9/7/2003 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Very cool.

    mySQL backend?

    How are you handling new authors/blogs? Manually? Or have you written a signup form that automates the addition into the database?

  2. Posted 9/7/2003 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Liz: Yes, a MySQL backend.

    > How are you handling new authors/blogs?
    > Manually? Or have you written a signup form
    > that automates the addition into the database?

    I had a couple of choices here. One was to take some time to look at procedures to bypass MT completely and add users and blogs directly to the database. I thought I had done this using four of the tables–I kept good notes so that I could script the process and add front-end. But when all was said and done, there were some strange templating issues. Namely, the “new comment” form was bare: not even a save button. This was easily fixed manually, of course, but I need to track down where it is in the database. There was also some funkiness with some “Null” values being loaded as the string “NULL”. Neither of these problems is insurmountable, and I think I’ll need to write a script (form, but either email authorized to a buffalo domain email or held for administrator OK) if it scales.

    In short, I ran out of time and ended up doing it manually. Adding users and permissions is pretty straightforward. Creating a new blogs script will need a free weekend.

  3. Posted 9/8/2003 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    After having issues with some very rude and vindictive people posting on my blog, I’m thinking of switching (finally) to MT. Is it possible to have a script set up to give permission to have a comment posted? I wish I didn’t have to think about this, but I guess when you give people the opportunity to post whatever they want, they can take advantage of that (and of you).

  4. Alex
    Posted 9/8/2003 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    MT has the built-in ability to ban particular IP addresses and ranges, but that obviously won’t help stop someone who is determined. I don’t know if greymatter has this feature, but you could set up an .htaccess file to do the same thing fairly easily.

    (If you wanted to be sneaky, you could even set up htaccess to redirect requests from a certain IP address to a static version of your page, making it look like you haven’t been updating your blog… not that you could tell. ;)

    If you need something with more coverage, but still not too onerous to set up, you can use .htaccess to protect a directory. In your case, you could simply put an .htaccess file that requires authentication on your “archives” directory. That way, anyone who wants to view comments or add to them would require a password, but everyone could see your main page. This would be pretty easy, but you would have to provide that username and password via email to those you wanted to have access (a “whitelist”). You can also do this in javascript, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

    The most complex solution involves allowing anyone to see comments, but only some people to add to them. This would probably mean rolling up your sleeves and altering the code a little bit to check for a new form input. It wouldn’t be very hard, as long as you weren’t looking for Brinx like protection, but it would be a bit time-consuming.

    LiveJournals has a membership system built in, but it’s… LiveJournal. If you’d like to experiment with an MT installation, email me and I’ll set up an account for you on UBlogs.

    Finally, I don’t know what the nature of the postings were, but in extreme cases you should be aware that New York has a cyberstalking provision. In a public forum, the line between stalking and trolling can be thin, but continued harassment, whether on the computer or in person, is a crime in many states.

One Trackback

  1. By Alex Halavais » Blog Server, Part Deux on 8/29/2004 at 5:03 am

    […] s blog server on Software Freedom Day, which makes sense given that we are moving from the MT Server that has been up for about a year and a half to WordPress. There isn’t a pretty blo […]

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