I spent some time this evening hunting around for other Universities that offer blog hosting services. I just wanted to check out the other digs and see how Blog@Case, in its current form, stacks up. Obviously, I can't log on to these other systems and really check them out; but who cares about accuracy, I'm going to rank them anyways. So, here are my reviews using a scale of 1 to 5.
This is probably one of the first incarnations of weblog hosting by a University and was done by Dave Winer, father of blogging. It's based on Manila, which I have never used, so I can't comment on it. One things that immediately stands out is that the site is slooooow. But, they do have some nice tools like the directory. But, a lot of them seem disabled such as the rankings.
RSS is used abundantly. That's good.
But, no Trackback support. That's craziness. And, all of the weblogs look very similar (almost eerily). And, the permalink URLs are ugly. And, the comments are available only via pop-up. I hate pop-up contents.
But, here's the kicker (and, this one is going to be a theme). You have to use a separate account for your weblog. That's just a sign that the developers (most likely) did not do their due diligence. New applications and systems need to be integrated well. The lack of that is telling.
And, did I mention that it is slow? I mean really slow.
I give it 2.5 out of 5.
This is an externally run site. You have to request an account, and you get a vanilla Movable Type instance. Nothing above and beyond extending the MT code base. As a matter of fact, the entire site is running v2.64, which is half-a-dozen versions behind. And, it doesn't appear to have any spam countermeasures.
Again, you need a separate account.
I give it 1 out of 5.
This is another place that just offers straight-up instances of MT. It's run by their Center for Internet and Society. They don't seem to have a lot of bloggers signed on.
And, yes, again, it uses separate accounts. Don't people integrate their services?
Just like DartBlogs, I give it 1 out of 5.
Okay, this seems a little more professionally done. The front page has some nice info on what a weblog is and what RSS is. It gives links to news aggregator software. Plus, some informative links on RSS and uses of weblogs and such.
Their main page has the same kind of welcome-to-weblogging information; plus a directory of the blog users (← that won't scale nicely).
But, again, you need a separate account. C'mon MIT, whadda ya thinkin'? A whole other account and password that I need to remember? No integration points with your other services like your Courseware stuff? Man.
Lots of use of RSS, which is nice. But, no Trackback support and the URLs are ugly.
I give it 3 out of 5.
Nothing is there, yet.
University of Minnesota
Okay, now we're talking. This is really nice. It is integrated with their campus architecture i.e. no needlessly extra account. Plenty of helpful information off of their main page such as a FAQ, a guide to using Movable Type (which is the software they are using), a directory of their bloggers, and this - an "Intro into the Blogosphere." The latter seems like an indepth commentary and analysis of the whole blogging phenomenon, which looks really cool and has made it onto my ToExplore list.
But, there's more. In the FAQ, they talk about further integration of the blog service with other services:
We also hope to tie the library blog system to the MyU portal to give users easier access to their own blogs and the blogs of others.
I, also, really like their write-up on Ways to Use Your Blog at the University.
This is definitely a top crust blog hosting service based on MT. Of course, any system could always use more features and more documentation. Easier way to edit templates. Integration with directory services for blogger profiles. Automagically created group blogs for departments, and courses. Topic Arenas. Aggregation points for per-college postings. Interesting Social Networking stuff. Etc. But, they have a great thing going on.
I give it strong 4 out of 5.
University of Warwick
Well, we've hit the cream of the crop, it seems. Not only does this system use existing University credentials, but it is integrated with their Single Sign On system (something we, at Case, don't have). They have a blog directory and a "planet" site. And, if you noticed in the directory, they have blogs listed in there for courses and faculty divisions and services.
I wasn't able to play with it, but it seems they developed a piece of software called SiteBuilder (screenshot) that does all of the heavy lifting and handles the editing of a blog's templates and styles.
All and all, this is great stuff.
5 out of 5, no doubt.
Case Western Reserve University
In it's current form, 3.5 out of 5. But, we're working on it. No point in doing something unless you plan on having it be a 5.