Personal Webspace

Creating your QMUL Blog

Creating a blog (web log) is a two part process that requires your own webspace on the college web server and a specially named folder on your central staff (IMAP) email account to contain the blog entries. Once these have been set up, the blogging software will automatically read anything that appears in the blog folder and present it as an entry in your blog.

Set up your webspace.

If you haven't already set up your own webspace, you need to go to the One Stop Links page and select the option to Create Personal Webspace. Information there will explain how to access your webspace once it has been created. The URL (web address) of your webspace will be:

http://webspace.qmul.ac.uk/aperson/

where 'aperson' will normally be your own initials and surname, as specified by the system when your webspace is created.

Creating an IMAP folder for blog entries.

Your blog entries are stored in a standard email folder under your college IMAP account. How you create the folder will depend on how you normally access your email. In Thunderbird, for example, you can choose File > New > Folder or you can right-click on the IMAP mailbox and choose New Folder. You need to call the the new folder 'blog'.

If you have problems creating the folder, look in the mail client's Help system or call the Help Desk on 5297.

Once you have created the blog folder, you need to change its access controls so that the blog software on the web server can access the contents. You can do this using a utility called ACLTool which allows you to control access rights to your mail folders.

You have now given user 'blog' (i.e. the blogging software) read-only access to your blog folder and your blog is on-line.

Accessing Your Blog

Once your blog is on-line, anyone can read it by pointing a web browser at the address:

http:// webspace.qmul.ac.uk/aperson/blog/

where 'aperson' is the name you were given when you set up your webspace. Note that there is no actual blog folder in your webspace, this is a 'virtual' folder that really points to your IMAP blog folder.

Adding Entries To Your Blog

In order to be published, items for your blog need to be placed in your IMAP blog folder; but first you need to compose an email message containing the blog entry.

The Subject: header of the message will form the heading of the blog entry. When you have finished composing the entry, you can either send the message to yourself and move it to your blog folder when it arrives in your Inbox; or you could save the message as a draft message and then move it from the drafts folder to the blog folder.

If you decide to send messages to yourself, you could set up a filter that would move the message to your blog folder automatically by, for example, filtering messages with a specific word in the Subject: field.

Removing Entries

To remove an entry from your blog, just delete the relevant message from the blog folder in your email client.

Taking Your Blog Off-line

If for some reason you want to remove your blog from view, you can use the ACLTool to remove the Read Only access control on the blog folder. If you set the control to No Access, your blog will no longer be accessible, although the content will still be in place should you want re-enable it at any time.

Configuring and Customising Your Blog

If you would like to customise the appearance of your blog, you will need to create and edit a configuration file called blog.ini and place it in the 'root' directory of your webspace. You will need some experience of file transfer to and from the web server to do this. Please read TechNote 8 for more help with file transfer.

The blog.ini file must be a plain text file, which you could create using a text editor, such as Notepad in Windows, and may contain any or all of the following lines:

[Blog]
heading =
description =
subjectchars =
restricted =
stylepath =
style =

Note though that the file MUST start with [Blog] to be usable by the blog software.

The other settings are:

heading: sets the title of the blog. The default title is 'The blog of...'

description: sets the description line, under the title. The default description is 'A blog of a QMUL Employee'

subjectchars: Specifies character strings to be stripped from the start of a message's Subject header. Multiple strings are separated by a colon. The strings can used to assist filtering of messages into the blog folder. For example, Subject: BLOGPOST This is a blog entry for Monday.

restricted: Specifies folders or tags only visible after the reader has logged in to the college IDCheck page. Multiple folders can be specified here separated by a colon. There are two default folders called QMUL and restricted which will have restricted access without being named here. To view and access restricted folders, the reader must click on the Login IDCheck button.

stylepath: Sets the path to styles stored in the user's blog-themes directory, for example, '/aperson/blog-themes' . This is only needed if you download themes and store them in your webspace. If the user's directory is not specified, the server's theme directory where there are several available styles will be used.

style: specifies the name of the style to use. Those available on the server are called: beckett, bryant, city_blend, folio, powell_street, qmul, tickle, and wedding. The default style is qmul.

Some blog.ini examples:

1. This very basic blog.ini just specifies the style, powell_street:

[Blog]
style = powell_street

2. This example sets a title and a description; will strip the string BLOGPOST from the Subject of blog messages and uses the style called tickle:

[Blog]
heading = My blog
description = Vague Rantings
subjectchars = BLOGPOST
style = tickle

3. This following blog.ini will strip the character strings BLOGPOST or BLOG from the Subject of blog messages; set access control on a folder called private, which will only be accessible via IDCheck and uses a style called abstract, stored in A.Person's own blog-themes directory.

[Blog]
heading = My blog
description = Vague Rantings
subjectchars = BLOGPOST : BLOG
restricted = private
stylepath = /aperson/blog-themes
style = abstract

Obtaining Other Themes

A Library of other themes or styles can be found at:

http://www.sixapart.com/movabletype/styles/library

To use any of the themes, download and unpack the zip file as instructed on the site, then upload the theme folder to a directory called blog-themes in your webspace. You can then specify the stylepath and style in your blog.ini file.

Note that to use a particular style, you need to drop 'theme-' from its name when specifying it in the style setting. So, for example, theme-minimalist would be specified as minimalist.