Archive for Functionality

On Downtime and a New Podcasting Plugin

Hello all,

First of all, I’d like to apologize for the recent downtime. The issue was not with onMason but with an impossible-to-anticipate server hardware fault.

The problem was within the server’s RAID, which is a set of redundant hard drives designed to automatically duplicate file systems and spread out data to minimize loss. That set of HDDs is governed by their own set of hardware and software and I believe it was the governing mechanisms which were experiencing issues. Because the method by which the HDDs are accessed has been malfunctioning, there was a problem keeping them active or reaching them in order to transfer the data. However, the server host transfered onMason to an entirely new set of hardware.

The server seems to be working fine now. However, due to frequent problems with the current host and communications issues, the Office of Student Media is now in the process of seeking out a new server host.

Now, on to the good news! podPress, the best podcasting plugin out there, has finally upgraded to work with the latest version of WordPress. We are very very happy to install this as an option to activate as a plugin. If you are already using the Blubrry plugin, we’d recommend you carefully consider what would happen when you switch and make sure that all the info is properly ported over. If you are not using any of the plugins but are intrested in making a podcast, podPress makes it easy, so activate it in your plugin page today!

onMason Admin

Upgrades and Improvements

Hello onMason users,

We’ve spend the time over the break thinking up new ways to improve onMason and considering how to make the platform better than ever.

We know that there has been some confusion with system downtime last semester and we have reviewed the problems and we do not anticipate them happening again. However, we are constantly testing and reviewing and we hope soon to take measures to make onMason even faster. In addition, we’re talking with ITU and DoIT to create a monitoring system for the site as well as insure that your support questions will always make their way to us.

If you’d like to help support onMason, don’t forget to tell folks about the platform, how you use it, and its importance. Pass along the info to DoIT, your department, your professors or your friends so that we can all work together to make onMason better.

As you may have noticed, some of our functionality is still down after the last update, we’re working on getting everything back in tip-top shape, but in case we don’t know, don’t forget to report all errors that you encounter. Keep an eye on this blog, we’ll be creating a page to document known issues and solutions soon.

Stay tuned to this blog to hear about more upgrades and further progress.

– The onMason Team

ALERT: WordPress 2.8 Upgrade

The onMason platform has been upgraded to WPMU2.8+. At this time we are seeing some plugin issues which are undergoing repair. We anticipate full functionality returning to the site by the end of the week.

If you experience any problems, it appears our Support plugin is currently malfunctioning. Please leave a comment on this post and we will respond to you as soon as we can.

EDIT: The Support plugin is now working. Please direct any questions or bug reports to that area in your backend.

New onMason Features and ScholarPress

The following new features have been added to onMason via plugins:

  • Use aggr to embed RSS feeds in your posts.
  • Create footnotes.[1.Using the FD Footnotes plugin, like this]
  • Private WP allows you to lock down your blog to make it invisible.
  • Publish2 is a link journalism tool. It has been auto-activated over all blogs as part of the testing process. If it is interfering with your blog, you can now turn it off from your plugin panel.
  • Riffly Video/Audio comments has been activated over all blogs. It gives all onMason blogs audio and video commenting systems by default. You can turn it off, or replace the commenting system using DISQUS
  • VodPod integration: VodPod is a site that allows you to collect and bookmark videos from any number of websites. You can now activate the VodPod plugins and display your VodPod gallery using a widget or by typing [Insert Video Gallery] into your post.
  • You can activate threaded comments from the plugin page.
  • You can now activate a Flickr widget to display your Flickr stream on your blog.
  • You can now go to your widget page and activate a widget to display your delicious stream.
  • You can display your Twitter stream using a new built-in widget. (Issues with Twitter’s API may cause tweets not to show up.)
  • You can create polls using the PollDaddy Polls plugin, made by the creators of WordPress.
  • Trackback and Comments RSS feeds are now available through the Subscribe to Comments page.
  • Users can now subscribe to your blog via e-mail when you activate the Subscribe2 plugin.

We have also launched support for ScholarPress, a set of plugins developed by Mason’s own Center for History and New Media. The first plugin is WPBook, which allows you to generate a Facebook app that will allow others to add your blog to their Facebook pages or profiles. The second plugin is called Courseware and allows you to manage a class using your onMason blog. You can use Courseware to “add and edit a schedule, create a bibliography and assignments, and manage general course information.”

Please report any problems or issues you have with the new plugins.

Uploads Now Working

All media uploads should once again be working as normal.

Help Now Helpful

You may have noticed the Help menu pull-down on the top of your administrative dashboard. Previously, this was filled with non-specific content that applied to all WordPress users and systems.

The Help pull-down now contains solutions and help files relevent to onMason along with some more general content.

Hopefully this will better serve onMason users.

Repairs: Logout, Avatar Echo, Uploads

Today onMason administrators have completed the following essential system repairs.

  1. You can now logout without any error from the site front page (
  2. You can now upload media to your site and link it without encountering any errors.
  3. Your User Avatar (if assigned) will now properly echo on the onMason front page when you sign in. This means that your user avatar will be visible on sign-in.

Now in 36 Languages

Today onMason has initiated support for 36 languages within the blogging system.

Users can select a language when they create their account. If you already have an account or would like to change your language at some future date, the option can be accessed in your dashboard under the Settings tab from the General link.

Anti-Spam Powers Increased

Users may have noticed the significant increase in spam comments on onMason blogs over the past few days. This issue has been brought to our attention and we have taken steps to solve the solution.

As of today, non-users and users alike will face a significant barrier to spam comments or trackbacks. onMason now has a four step solution to blocking spammers.

Our core system is TypePad Anti-Spam, a plug-in based on WordPress’s Akismet anti-spam system but with a greater compatibility with MU. This system allows a networked ability to catch spam. Posts on any blog with the plugin active and marked as spam will be marked as spam in the future for any blog deploying the plugin. This is a significant advantage over the default system.

We will be filtering Trackback spam using the Simple Trackback Validation Plugin. Follow the link to see just how the Trackback Validation works. Essentially this system will check to make sure trackbacks are linked from a legitimate site and are actually tracking back to you.

The Simple Spam Filter will be checking all comments for certain patterns and an excess of links and blocking any comment that falls into those patterns (as documented on the linked site).

The Anti-Spam Image plugin generates a CAPTCHA that all non-users are required to fill, in order to prevent bots from massively spamming the onMason network.

Thanks also to which distributes many of these plugins together in one package.

It should be noted that if you are using an advanced commenting system such as DISQUS or BackType (both of which are available from your plugin tab), some of these precautions may be bypassed and you will instead be reliant on the anti-spam systems that those services require.

Note: Though all these systems should work as expected, there may be errors. Please tell us if you encounter any problems.

Share Your onMason Content

We’ve activated universal content sharing functionality accross all current and future onMason blogs.

Using the ShareThis button users and their readers can share onMason content with their friends on a huge number of services, including Facebook, MySpace, Digg, Twitter, Delicious, FriendFeed, Live, Diigo and Current.

You can also sign up at ShareThis and use their ShareBox to connect with the people who are interested in it.