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Content Management > Blogs

Blogs

posted on 3:16 PM, February 14, 2008

Introduction to Blogs

Blogs (short for "Web Logs") are a special type of content management that has proven to be extremely popular.  At their heart, Blogs present and manage a sequential list of articles.  The articles are sequenced by date, much like a diary.  There are several reasons why this is a useful way to manage your content:
  1. new articles are automatically placed "on top", with older articles appearing farther down the page
  2. old articles can automatically be expired into an archive, but called up later by browsing the archive, or searching
  3. articles can be organized by date, and also grouped by topics or keywords
  4. there is no limit to how many articles you can add;  unlike with new web pages, your site map and menus do not become crowded and complicated when there are too many articles
  5. you can provide previews to your articles via RSS

Configuring a Blog

ExSite provides blogging tools through its e-Zine article-management subsystem.  A Blog is a type of e-Zine.  To create a new blog, go into the e-Zines control panel, and select the "Create a new Zine" button.  The setup form has many options, most of which can be ignored, as they have reasonable defaults.  The most important ones are Type and Title.

Type set this to "blog"
Status this should be "active", but you can set it to "inactive" to disable a blog and prevent it from being viewed or updated.
Site this determine which site/section is allowed to display the blog.  If not set, then any section can display it.
Owner this determines who is allowed to update the blog.  If not set, then only a system administrator can update the blog.
Title this is the title or name of the blog.
Subtitle an optional subtitle.
Summary an abstract or summary, which is displayed at the top of the blog and in some types of indexes.  This can be used to provide a more detailed description of the blog and its subject.
Upload Picture  this image or logo will always be displayed at the top of the blog.  The thumbnail will automatically be generated if you do not provide one.
Caption a caption for the picture, which is optional.
Index Display Limit the maximum number of blog articles that will be shown.  If there are more articles than this, the oldest will be put into the archives.  The default is 10.
Index Age Limit the maximum age of articles, in days.  Articles older than this will be moved to the archives.  The default is 60 days.
Index Type defines how articles are listed in the main blog view.
Index Format  defines how each article is formatted in the main blog view.
Comment Policy defines who may add their comments to your articles.
Privacy defines who may view the blog.

There are other settings as well, but they can be ignored.  If you decide to change your settings, you can do so at any time by using the configure button in the blog toolbar.  If you try out a setting, and decide you don't like it, you can usually blank the field, set it back to nothing selected, or set it to zero, and it will revert to the default.

Once the Blog is created, you will see it in the Zines control panel listing of available blogs.  Just click on the blog title to view the blog.  (It will probably not contain anything interesting to see just yet.)

Adding Articles to the Blog

When you view your blog you will see it displayed as a sequence of sections:
  • The Blog Description
  • Most recent blog post.
  • Next most recent blog post.
  • etc...
The tools to manage the blog itself are under the the blog description, but before the first article.  Click the "new article" button here to add a new post to the blog.  This brings up a form to enter an article, with the following fields:

Name this may be used to address the article in URLs, eg. http://mywebsite.com/blog/Article_Name.  You can leave this blank, since a name will be created for you, based on the title.  Or you can define it if you want to control what the name should be.
Title this is the actual title of the article.
Article enter the text of the article here.  If using a capable browser, you will be able to enter the article in WYSIWYG mode, which allows for easy entering of text styles, lists, and other special formats.  If you prefer to work with raw HTML, you can switch the form over to plain-text mode (WARNING: all edits so far will be discarded).
Footnotes anything entered in this text will be shown at the end of the article, possibly in a different font or style.
Upload Picture you can upload a picture that will be displayed at the top of the article.
Caption this is a caption for the picture you uploaded, and is optional.
Attachments  attachments are shown at the end of the article as clickable thumbnails.


Add new articles as often as you like.  The blog automatically reindexes itself as new articles get added, and moves older or excess articles into the archive.

Article Management

You can re-edit your old articles at any time, which allows you update any of the fields noted above.  It is a matter of personal preference whether you want to clearly mark changes you have made so your readers are aware of them, or not.

If you want to remove articles from the blog, you have a few options.
  1. Delete the article - this moves the article, and all of its attachments and comments into the trash.
  2. Disable the article (ie. set its status to "inactive") - do this using the "configure" button under the article.  This keeps the article in the system so that you have a record of it, and can reactivate in the future if you want.  However, only the administrator can see the article.  Disabled articles are shown with a lock icon.
  3. Archive the article (ie. set its status to "archived") - do this using the "configure" button under the article.  This keeps the article viewable in the system, but removes it from the main blog index.  It can only be seen in the archives.
When you update an article in this way, the Blog may change the date of the article, depending on how it has been configured.  In some configurations, it shows the creation time of the article, and in others it shows the time of the last update to the article.  This can be changed by your ExSite administrator, if you do not like the default behaviour.

Comments

By default, blogs accept comments from website members only.  You can change this using the comment policy setting in the blog configuration.  You can also enable/disable comments on any given article, using the comment policy setting on that article.

Comment policy settings are:
  • forbidden - nobody can add comments
  • members - website members only can add comments
  • public - anybody can add comments

Publishing the Blog

The blog must be added to a web page for it to be viewable to the readers of your site.  Choose the page that will contain the blog, or create it, using your preferred CMS tool (eg. "MySite").  Edit the body of this page, and use the Web Application tool in the HTML editor to insert the "Zine" plug-in.  It will offer you a choice of e-Zines to insert into the page;  choose your blog from this list.  If you choose nothing (the "default" setting), then the reader will first be presented with a list of e-Zines to read.  This list should include your blog.

After you have saved the contents of the page, you will have a page that displays your blog.  If this page is dynamic, it will always display the current articles of your blog.  If it is static, then it will only display the contents of the blog at the time it was last published;  in that case you should remember to republish the page (or the site) whenever you update the blog.

Surfing the Blog

Site readers will interact with your blog by reading the front-page posts, but also by clicking on a number of tool buttons that may be available, such as:
  • comment, reply - add a comment to an article or reply to another reader comment
  • link - this is a permalink, a URL that will always take you to the given article, even after it has expired into the archives.
  • archives - browse older articles by date
  • rss - connect to an RSS feed of the blog so that you can monitor its posts.  An RSS-aware reader or browser will be needed (such as Firefox or IE7).

Blog Security

System administrator (level 3 admins) are allowed to access and update all Blogs on the system.

Managers (level 2 admins) are allowed to access and update only those blogs that they own.  The owner can be set (by a system administrator) by configuring the blog.  This allows a website to have multiple "columnists" who can manage their own blogs, but not those of other columnists.

Level 1 users cannot manage blogs, but they can read blogs whose privacy is set to "members only", and they can also comment on articles if the blog comment policy is set to "members".

To disable comments entirely, set the comment policy to "forbidden".

Note that static/published pages are public by their nature, so you should not place a members-only blog onto a static page, as it will not give you the results you want.  You can also place a public blog onto a members-only page, but this does not provide the same level of security as a members-only blog (because your blog articles could technically be called up from other pages on the site that also make use of the Zine plug-in).

Design and Layout

E-Zines are output with lots of HTML mark-up to allow them to be styled in different ways.  However, they do not include any of the CSS to actually do this styling.  (In your actual web pages, that is.  The e-Zine control panel includes some basic CSS to format the output.)

For this reason, a graphic designer may have to spend some time to set up some CSS rules to make your blog format nicely within your graphic design template.

There are some help files accessible from the e-Zines control panel that explain how to go about this.  The stylesheet used by the e-Zines control panel provides a good working example of how to set up CSS for styling your blogs.