Category Archives: Yale Academic Commons

WordPress Filename Bug

A large Thank You goes out to Heather Klemann of English for alerting us to a bug in WordPress's handling of certain characters in filenames when you upload files to the Media Gallery. In short, there are certain characters that won't get handled properly by WordPress, leaving you with a file unreachable from the web browser. WordPress developers are aware of the bug but can't agree whether it's WordPress's problem or a system administrator's problem. For the time being, you are, unfortunately, the best source for the workaround.

Broadly speaking, you have two nonexclusive options:

  1. Avoid having any of the characters below in a filename you upload to Academic Commons.
  2. When you upload a file to the Media Gallery, verify that it has uploaded successfully by going to its entry in Media Gallery and accessing the View link you get when hovering over the entry. (On a mobile device you may need to tap the filename, then find and tap the View Attachment Page button.) For non-image files, you may need to click/tap the link in the post that then appears to check it.

We'll follow this one with WordPress and let you know when it's fixed or that it won't be fixed. (For what it's worth, the same roughly goes for Classes*v2.)

Character Description
\ Back slash
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* Asterisk
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Academic Commons Release Notes for February 2014

Here are the notable changes to Academic Commons between February 1, 2014 and February 28, 2014. We're a week late on this, in a sense, because we (that is, I) write this update only on Friday, and this is the first Friday after the close of February.

New Plugins

Just one this month: WP QuickLaTeX
From the plugin author, this plugin "Insert formulas & graphics in the posts and comments using native LaTeX shorthands directly in the text. Inline formulas, displayed equations auto-numbering, labeling and referencing, AMS-LaTeX, TikZ, custom LaTeX preamble. No LaTeX installation required. Easily customizable using UI page. Actively developed and maintained." You can read more at the WordPress plugin page or at the QuickLaTeX homepage.

New Themes

No new themes this month. See one out there that you'd like? Reach us at itg@yale.edu. (Caveat: Themes must be on the WordPress site itself or from a WordPress-recommended vendor and must work painlessly with our installation. We're on version 3.5.2 as of today, just so you can check.)

Fixes/Enhancements

Though it's not a fix per se, we want to mention that we are working on a fix to the deep-linking problem. Currently, if you follow a link to something other than the homepage of a restricted site, the login process ends with you getting unceremoniously dumped onto that homepage rather than your intended destination. This happens whether you are trying to reach a post, page, or the Dashboard. We're very close and hope to have this fixed before the end of March.

Academic Commons Release Notes for January 2014

Here are the notable changes to Academic Commons since January 1, 2014.

New Plugins

Just one this month: WordPress Google Form
From the plugin author, this plugin "[f]etches a published Google Form using a WordPress custom post or shortcode, removes the Gooogle wrapper HTML and then renders it as an HTML form embedded in your blog post or page."

New Themes

Just one this month: Clean Retina
This theme features, among other things, a customizable header and menu; the ability to set featured images; a choice of one, two or three-column layouts; responsive design; and prepackaged layouts included.

Fixes/Enhancements

The Query Multiple Taxonomies plugin had a problem, displaying "there are 0 entries" in the appropriate context but linked to a missing entry. It's now hidden when there are 0 entries returned for a query.

It's Not Just Weird Twitter That's Weird

You've heard about (or seen for yourself) the phenomenon known as Weird Twitter (too many NSFW for me to crawl through for an example, so here's a search that will start getting you there), but it turns out that Twitter itself flies the weird flag as well. A little over a month ago they announced they would stop supporting HTTP plaintext connections to the Twitter 1.1 API, requiring everything to use TLS/SSL. Perhaps since WordPress does not develop Twitter applications as a core part of its operations, this change didn't get filed in their bugtracker until after the switch had been flipped. Properly, WordPress devs contacted Twitter to ask about things, and a Twitter dev seemed to me to say that they would look into some sort of failover, but as of today the oEmbed provider in 3.5.2 still does not work for tweets.

The weirdness comes because Twitter keeps making changes with little regard for third party developers and even for average users. Remember when they decided to not-block accounts that you had selected for blocking? (Later reversed, yes, but still. And it's not like 75 million sites run WordPress or anything.) Inarguably, Twitter is a corporation whose primary mission as a capitalist actor is to gain money, not a public commons. But whether they call twitterers customers, clients, users, investors, or people, irritating them (us) enough makes that bottom line hurt, too.

As Arlo said, though, that's not what I came to tell you about. I'm here to tell you that we've updated Academic Commons (in part thanks to an old post at "And now it's all this") so that embedded tweet URIs are broken now, but should be fixed by midnight tonight. Let us know in the comments whether your site has broken embeds on or after 25 January 2014. WordPress has implemented a fix on their end, but we likely won't upgrade to that fixed version until the summertime, at which point we'll all join hands with WordPress and Twitter and sing a happy song.

I can't even come up with a good image for weird twitter, but maybe that's best considering many deny its existence.

Pushing WordPress

Color photograph of a woman pushing a gigantic hay rollSince we are in semester-open mode, I get to do one of the things I really like doing for ITG, which is getting out and talking with/to students and instructors in class. Nearly always — and such is the case right these days — I'm there to talk about Academic Commons.

Once upon a time, ITG had grand visions of building an aggregated source for many tools, documentation, and ideas around key educational technologies such as mapping, wikis, and robust cross-linked annotating. Alas, our eyes were bigger than the increases in our staffing budget, and as everyone knows, people are more important (and expensive, and their [our] importance is indicated in part by the expense) than software to running a good educational technology outfit. Currently, consequently, Academic Commons equates to Yale's institutional WordPress installation, used respectably across Yale College. Not surprisingly, writing-intensive disciplines and courses make the most use of it. Of these, the Department of English makes the greatest concentrated use, thanks in part to many hours of work by departed ITGer Robin Ladouceur as well as the efforts of former ITG intern Sam Gamer.

Strangely enough, though, I will only visit five class sessions in these first two weeks of classes. On the one hand, I could assume that all the other classes using WordPress sites are comfortable making their site their own in part through shared discovery. On the other, I'm a little worried that courses limit their use of the platform to what's obvious. Given that only about 25% of students in classes I visit have any experience with WordPress, and only about 50% have experience in any content management system (I ask each time), it's not unreasonable to think that there are opportunities being missed to use WordPress for something more complex than a shared editable space. (Not that that's all bad, etc. etc.)

This past term, however, an instructor used WordPress more nearly like an LMS, even assigning grades to student work in the site. This term, one instructor is doing the same, and another course (instructor + TF) will be mounting an online exhibition, following a bit along Charlotte Parker's excellent model, produced as part of her senior project in American Studies. As well, more instructors in English will use WordPress sites for workshopping texts this term. (Currently we use Digress.it for this, but CommentPress seems to have restarted development and I will be re-evaluating it.) Signs of hope, or continued outliers? I don't know, but I'm going to keep on trying to get the word out to both students and instructors about the possibilities.

[Creative Commons licensed image via Flickr user BailyRaeWeaver]

Twitter API in Academic Commons

Some time ago (in the middle of 2013), Twitter changed how external applications (such as on your mobile phone or, say, your Academic Commons WordPress site) requested and received data. Consequently, your widget may have stopped displaying your tweets. Inexcusably, we have not published a how-to for fixing this until now. The documents for how to get your tweets into your site as well as how to publish your posts out to Twitter may refer to plugins unfamiliar to you; as part of clarifying the situation, we found that at least one of the plugins previously available failed with the new Twitter rules, so we replaced it. We would prefer questions about the instructions mailed to itg@yale.edu, but comments about their content may be left on the pages themselves.

Academic Commons Update for April 8

An undergraduate student and I were discussing her senior project (an online exhibition of items at the Beinecke Library along with short critical essays on them) and noticed that we didn't have any horizontally-oriented themes for Yale Academic Commons sites. Not a problem any more, as we bought COLr from a freelance developer. I like this theme a lot and hope that some of you will find creative uses for it. Works well on multiple devices, but note that its strengths with media display could become a problem on low-bandwidth connections or could gobble up your data allocations on a cellular network.

Addendum 1: Almost in a procrustean manner, this theme resizes images on the fly to fit the available screen space. Lovely when you have big chunky images, not so great when you have something small. However, I corresponded with the developer and found out that you can prevent this from happening. It's a workaround for, at minimum, intermediate users. TO prevent resizing, add "noScale" as a style class to the desired image. You'll have to go into the HTML tab of the editor interface to make this change, and be sure that a) you add the class name to the existing style attribute of the image and b) you enter the class name exactly as written above, as it is case-sensitive.