WordPress Multisite Roles Plugin

WordPress logoPart of my job as Web Application Developer at Maryville is to evaluate the tools we use for our website and decide if they are functioning the way they should. We’ve had our fair share of problems with our current content management system (CMS) that we implemented in 2008 and have decided to make the move to WordPress Multisite. For those unfamiliar with WordPress Multisite, it allows you to take a normal WordPress site and create multiple WordPress sites (a network) within one installation of WordPress.

Part of my role in this migration will be setting up the proper permissions for users across the network. If you are at all familiar with WordPress (or pretty much any CMS) it has the idea of roles for a user. Am I an administrator, editor, contributor and what actions can I do in the CMS? With WordPress Multisite, this is slightly more complicated; a user can be an editor in the Academics site, but only be a contributor in the Admissions site (or not have any permissions at all). There is a set of standard roles built in to WordPress, but you have the option to create some unique roles. Now, I want to keep this as simple for myself as possible; I don’t want to recreate that same role on 20 different WordPress sites across our network (Academics, Admissions, Student Life, etc).

Enter the Multisite Roles plugin! Initially, I was going to build a brand new plugin for creating roles network-wide, and I decided to leverage an existing plugin: Members. WordPress has this idea of hooks built into it; as a developer, you can leave a spot for other developers to “hook” into your code and do something. After a short email discussion with the developer of the Members plugin, he has agreed to put a couple hooks into his next release. This will allow my plugin to synchronize roles between all of the sites on our WordPress network when one of the roles is updated.

As soon as the next version of the Members plugin is released, you can expect to see the Multisite Roles plugin land on the wordpress.org plugin repository.

How To: Display Comment Author Photo in WordPress

While browsing this site, you may have noticed in the comments that some people have photos and some don’t. Well, WordPress uses a nifty service called Gravatar that allows you to create an account and setup photos to be used in comments on various sites.

It allows you to enter multiple email addresses and set a different photo for each email (as seen below). All of this happens automatically with WordPress once you’ve created your gravatar account. You might have to wait a few minutes for it to become active.

So if you don’t want to be left in the dust as a silhouette, I’d suggest creating your own account.

Website and Internal Portal

There has been much talk lately about the differences between our website and the new internal portal. Both are powerful communication tools. Which is the right place for your content? The answer lies in your audience.

In the coming months, the content on our website, www.maryville.edu, will be redesigned and relaunched. The primary objective of the new website will be marketing to and recruitment of prospective students. The work of the Interactive Media Group will be to develop new and exciting ways to market the university and our academic programs to this external audience. This will include new video development such as faculty and student profiles, program overviews, campus tours and more. We will be working with each department or program to repackage your content as we move through this process.

As we review content on our current website we will be identifying content that is primarily directed an internal audience. We will be assisting you in getting that information moved to the new portal, my.maryville.edu. As a rule of thumb if your target audience is someone who has a Maryville email address, then likely that content belongs on the internal portal. Things like forms for design requests or menus for food services are examples of internal content. In the coming weeks there will be more details and training on how to publish content to the internal portal. Now is a good time to start rethinking your content and defining your audience.

WordCamp St. Louis 2011

Matt Mullenweg during WCSTL Q&A
Matt Mullenweg during WCSTL Q&A

Well, WordCamp St. Louis 2011 is officially over. It was great to see close to 200 WordPress enthusiasts roaming the halls of Maryville University. We even had Matt Mullenweg grace us with his presence and answer questions in a Q&A session. We were also blessed to have 20+ Automattic employees running the happiness bar where fellow WordPress users could get help with their websites. Unfortunately, from what I saw, this was highly under-utilized.

Hopefully Maryville has the opportunity to be the venue for this event again next year. Watch for video to come online soon at WordPress.TV. For a recap of some of the useful information, check out the twitter hash tag, #WCSTL. It was however trending and managed to pick up some spam, so watch out for some of the tweets.

RedDot Training and Upgrade

Rusty on RedDot? Web services is holding two hour training sessions Sept 24 and 25th and again on Oct 1 and Oct 2. The two hour session will cover the basics of editing content in RedDot. Contact Ronnie Gaubatz in web services if you are interested in attending.

Also, during the last week of September, web services will be upgrading to a new version of RedDot. You may see a few changes to the layout of the interface, but the functionality will remain the same. As always, if you have questions or need help getting something accomplished in RedDot, please visit web services each Wednesday from 1-3pm. We have reserved that time for RedDot tutoring!