Back in action: blogging the (im)possible dream?

Of course you all noticed. Our OCSLD blog was out of action for nearly a month. Very sorry to other users who have blogs running in the same engine. It was very frustrating for a few of us and brought home issues about what is and is not possible with skunkworks.

What is possible? An enthusiastic, agile and energetic team can build a prototype product or service very quickly, using rapid techniques.

Ten years ago, Joe Rosa, working with me in OCSLD built a WordPress multi-user (MU or mu or ) platform for the JISC Institutional Innovation Programme. We wanted to enable project teams easily to set up blogs for ad-hoc reporting. We were doing all sorts of things, then: running Elgg, Joomla, Drupal, eportfolios, and Moodle for JISC projects all outside the Institutional IT support blanket. We tested the limits of university teaching, built MOOCs and OOCs and ran three day online conferences and “Digital one-days” in Elluminate

We rolled the platform out to Oxford Brookes University more widely calling it Brookesblogs and registered the domain After an initial flurry of interest from teachers, a few people adopted the site for personal/professional blogs. OCSLD used the multi-user instance for this blog.

What is not possible? Running the prototype as a service upon which people outside the development team depend is asking for trouble. Deep inside, WordPress multi-user diverged from core WordPress. And when we updated our “ordinary” WordPress sites, we inadvertently broke WPmu. In this age of austerity we did not have the depth of resources to dig in and fix it fast. We have been lucky. The chewing gum, baling wire and duct-tape held up for 10 years. After a lot of work by Simon Llewellyn (and I am told copious WD40) he got the service unstuck.

But watch this space because now that it is fixed, we will be taking action to make sure this doesn’t happen (in this way, anyway) again. And with that, I am back in.



About the author

George Roberts

George has been at Oxford Brookes since 2000 and joined OCSLD in June 2006 as an Educational Developer (e-Learning). In his previous role he advised the Head of e-Learning and the Senior Management Team of the University on policy for off-campus e-learning and e-learning partnerships.

He leads the MA Education (Higher Education) and teaches on the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education (PCTHE) as well as conducting Course Design Intensives (CDIs) and other educational development activities: workshops and consultancies.

He leads the organisation of the annual Brookes Learning and Teaching Conference (BLTC) and is Managing Editor of the Higher Education Journal of Learning and Teaching.

George is a visiting Lecturer at Cranfield University and a Visiting Fellow of Edge Hill University.

He wrote his doctorate (July 2011) at the University of Southampton on biographical narratives of adult users of a community IT centre on a large social housing estate.

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