ITS creates server for University blogging

Yale Information Technology Services is developing a new server that allows students, faculty and staff to create their own Web logs, hosted by the University’s Web site.

Running on Sun Microsystems’ latest software, the pilot server, http://blogs.yale.edu, was launched in July and is currently supporting about 100 users, mainly ITS professionals and library staff as well as a few students. The free service allows users to post text, links and digital photos once they register for an account.

Jon Lizee, an ITS director, said the site is ideal for posting journals, concert announcements, academic work and technical advice for bloggers campuswide. The site is designed so that anyone can create a blog — even users with no experience in Web design or HTML.

“It’s a place that’s supposed to be for personal expression, so some people are using it to publish simple pages with photos they can share with friends and family, some people are using it for research and some people are using it as a diary that’s publicly available to the world, like the rest of the blogging world,” Lizee said. “We think it’s a service that people have asked for and no one has been able to provide.”

The server is a work in progress, he said, which is why ITS has not yet publicized it to the entire Yale community. Lizee says the unveiling in July was a “soft launch,” not widely publicized except on the ITS faculty support Web site.

“It’s ready for prime time, but the software is due to be upgraded soon, so we didn’t want to announce it right before a brief system shutdown,” Lizee said.

Lizee and his team are using Roller blog software, an open-source Java-based Web application meant to support multiple simultaneous bloggers.

“It’s a very light Web-publishing tool,” Lizee said. “We’re trying to lower the bar and give people a chance to self-publish.”

The site currently runs on Roller 1.2, but an update to Roller 2.0 is in the works. Some new features of the forthcoming upgrade include group blogs, greater options for interface and a souped-up search function.

In the meantime, users will have to make do with the more basic options offered under the current version of Roller.

“We’ve been doing this on the margins,” Lizee said. “We’re asking for people’s patience and forgiveness. We’re not using a state-of-the-art commercial application.”

Sam Yellen ’09 is among the handful of students who have begun to take advantage of the nascent blog server.

“I found it by exploring the Yale Web site when I was trying to set up my personal Web page,” Yellen said. “I wanted to see what Yale ITS had to offer. I was familiar with LiveJournal and other sites like it, but I’ve never kept a continuous blog before. I know they also started up a similar page at MIT that seems pretty popular.”

Yellen said he has high hopes for the new site, even though ITS is still busy ironing out some of the details.

“At the moment, I think it’s a little difficult to use — more difficult than commercial blog sites — but that’s to be expected,” he said. “It’s a great way to keep family and friends updated about what I’m doing at Yale.”

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