WordPress Multilingual Multisite

I had a great meeting this afternoon with the good folks at Middlebury (Amy Collier, Sonja Burrows, Evelyn Helminen) to talk about a project they have with their School of Hebrew. They are looking to create a Community of Practice for their faculty where much of the content is in English, but there is also a forum that would allow them to write in Hebrew.

Multi languages can be tricky for a number of reasons, but a good thing about WordPress is that they’ve really focused on internationalizing the platform. This means you can install it in 162 different languages (including Hebrew) as of the date of this post..

There are several plugin solutions that can be helpful. For instance, some allow you to write various languages side-by-side, or tag a post a specific language and allow the end-user to choose between other translation, while others utilize engines to autogenerate translations.

But many of these are focused on end-user and not necessarily authoring. For example, when writing a comment in Hebrew, you want to be considerate of the change in orientation from left > right to right > left. WordPress itself has a very good article that talks about the different options, tools, and complexities ofmultilingual wordpress.

So I’ve been trying to think of how one site can serve multiple languages and will lay out below the approach I recommend: a multisite installation. Multisite will allow you to easily manage a similar look in feel as you share resources such as themes and plugins across the network, but will allow you to customize different aspects of your site(s) depending on their specific needs.

One other neat feature of WordPress is that you can do a multisite installation and each subsite can be a different language. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to setup different sites under a multisite with separate languages:

First, I’m going to use Installatron to make a fresh multisite install. The main thing here is opt-in to multi-site. I’m going to call this Dual Lingo (not to be confused with a similarly titled, massively popular language learning website!)

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For this installation, I’ve kept in English.

Now I’m going to go to Network Sites and check out my sites to add a new site.

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Where my main site is adam.middcreate.net/duallingo, the new site will be adam.middcreate.net/duallingo/hebrew. In this dialogue box, I’ll also select Hebrew as the site language.

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So here’s my new Hebrew site:

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As I mentioned, Middlebury wants to have a Hebrew forum so I’m going to install a few plugins that allow 1.) visitors to generate a user account 2.) the forum itself and 3.) a single sign-on plugin so you can register for the account on the English site but still use those credentials on the Hebrew site. I’m going to install BuddyPress for registration, BBPress for the forum, and WP Multisite SSO for single sign-on. Once you’ve done so, make sure they are activated across the network.

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Now I’m going to navigate into my Network Settings to allow users to be registered.

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BuddyPress is going to tell me I need to setup the pages for registering and activating an account. So I’ll do that next.

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To do this, navigate to from your network settings to your main site settings and publish the pages. I’m going to simple call them “Activate” and “Register.” You want to leave the dialogue boxes blank. As I navigate to “All Pages” you’ll notice that BuddyPress generated a couple pages (activity, members) that you may or may not use.

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Next I’m going to go BACK to network settings and make match these pages to their respective templates.

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Last thing I’ll do on the Registration side is add a link to the Register page on the main sites menu and make its location the Primary Menu.

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Alright, now let’s setup our Hebrew forum. This can be tricky, of course, because we are in a different language. I’m going to generate a simple test forum so then we can test out all of the site functionality.

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The last thing I’m going to do is add on my main English site a link to the forum and then a registration and login links on Hebrew site menu. Since we are doing registration on the main site, I’m going to grab that specific link as I don’t want to duplicate the signup process (http://adam.middcreate.net/duallingo/register). So I’m going to add a custom link to the Menu.

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Since we initially installed the SSO plugin, when a user logins, they will now login to the entire network.

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And we’re taken care of! We can now register across the network and then type in the proper orientation.

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A couple of things I would strongly recommend to further expand this. Consider installing a Google CAPTCHA plugin for any BuddyPress site to thwart spam(In fact, I use one called Google Captcha reCAPTCHA for the regular signup page and another specifically for BuddyPress registration called BuddyPress NoCAPTCHA). Additionally, you can Remove Dashboard Access for non-admins with a plugin as well.

So that’s a super niche use case but it really shows you the flexibility of WordPress multi-site! Let me know below in the comments if you’ve similarly used WordPress multi-site to do something a little out-of-the-box.

Featured image: flickr photo shared by neilfein under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

How is MiddCreate different from hosted blog environments?

I am sometimes asked the following questions about Middlebury’s MiddCreate project: What is it? How is it different from our hosted blog environment, sites.middlebury or sites.miis? and Why do this MiddCreate project at Middlebury?

Perhaps the most difficult question to answer about MiddCreate is, “How is MiddCreate different than sites.middlebury or sites.miis? Why do we have two versions of the same thing?”

On the surface it may look as though MiddCreate offers exactly what our hosted blog environments (sites.middlebury and sites.miis — from now on, I’ll refer to them together as sitesDOT) offer, but dig a little deeper and you will see how they differ.

Let’s start with their similarities. Both MiddCreate and sitesDOT offer WordPress for building websites, course resources, project portfolios, and a multitude of other things you can do with WordPress. Both allow users to create and manage digital content through WordPress. Both expect that users will abide by Middlebury’s Web Policies.

Here are some differences: SitesDOT is a campus blog network, meaning that we have one central WordPress installation that multiple people or groups can use. The big benefit is that it’s very easy to get started and to get support for SitesDOT. It is hosted internally and supported by the ITS help desk. It is very stable because ITS vets and manages any add-on content and updates for its WordPress installation. It can easily be provisioned for a class from the Course Hub. A challenge that some people face with SitesDOT is that, because the infrastructure is centrally managed and controlled, users do not have as much freedom to customize, add plug-ins and themes, and control their site.

What makes MiddCreate different are the following:

  1. MiddCreate offers more than just WordPress. It has a suite of tools that users can install and use for their purposes. MiddCreate gives users the flexibility to create as many sites as they want on whatever content management system they like (such as WordPress, drupal, Scalar, Omeka, MediaWiki, to name a few) as well as have full creative control over a site’s appearance. In addition to providing content management tools, MiddCreate offers other tools that a user can install on a domain, such a file management tools, project management tools, and survey tools. You can see on Evelyn’s MiddCreate site (evelynhelminen.middcreate.net) that she has installed Docuwiki (a wiki environment), Collabtive (project management), ExtCalendar (calendar application), LimeSurvey (a survey tool), Known (a ), WordPress, and more.
  2. MiddCreate is founded on the idea that people should have spaces for their own control and agency on the web. We provide workshops, training, and resources to help users learn how to be agents of their own domain. Support is provided via the email address support@middcreate.net, but there is no help desk for MiddCreate. We will work with users to help them figure out what they need to know to create the spaces they want.
  3. MiddCreate is pretty easy for users to take with them when they leave Middlebury. Middlebury’s MiddCreate environment is hosted with an organization called Reclaim Hosting. When users leave, they can easily migrate their MiddCreate space to an individual account with Reclaim Hosting. Alternately, they can move to another hosting provider of their choice. All of the tools available on MiddCreate are open source, so users do not need to worry about shifting accounts or buying licenses.
  4. MiddCreate allows users to work with other interesting tools, like Jekyll, APIs, and more. Some people have started calling MiddCreate “the digital Old Stone Mill,” referring to the space and tools it provides for creativity and building from new ideas.

You might be wondering how people are using all of the affordances of MiddCreate. Well, lucky for you Clarissa Stewart from the DLC, who has been helping with MiddCreate since early 2016, created this really cool infographic. Take a look at the cool stuff people are doing!

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Next blog post, I will talk a little more about the reasons why we have MiddCreate at Middlebury and what the future of MiddCreate might look like.

Image from Flickr user Maira Fornazza, CC BY-SA 2.0

Resources

Beneath the cobblestones: A domain of one’s own – Audrey Watters

The web we need to give to students – Audrey Watters

A personal cyberinfrastructure – Gardner Campbell

BYU’s bold plan to give students control of their data – Marguerite McNeal

An annotated domain of one’s own – Jeremy Dean

Who’s afraid of domain of one’s own? – Debra Schleef

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HowToCollege

In March, I had the opportunity to host the IndieEdTech gathering with Eddie Maloney of Georgetown and Kristen Eschelman at her place at Davidson College. As I wrote then, the gathering was focused on a design sprint in small teams around personal APIs. Led by the nudging of Audrey Watters, my team’s idea focused around how do we focus on a redistribution of power to students by giving them an online community guided and nurtured by students; a space where a student could ask both what seemed like common knowledge to community insiders as well as some of life’s more complex questions. This sparked Erika Bullock, a English junior at Georgetown College, to sketch out an idea of a community platform focused around both giving and receiving. Profile.jpg I think it’s safe to say that we were all proud of the idea and thought it could really add some value to any institutional community. Quite honestly, I think we all also felt relieved to come up with anything after struggling for most of the idea to articulate much of anything. I left Davidson with an itch to try to flesh out the idea a little further but with no real expectation of having the time or space to do so. Luckily, Kristen and Eddie are both incredibly supportive individuals and Eddie has a very motivated student in Erika. Eddie opened up both his office and team as resources for working on a prototype that we could start to put in front of students to gather some feedback. That led to this week where Kristen and I came up to DC to work Marie Selvanadin, Bill Garr, and Yong Lee, three of the developers in Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS). One of the highlights of this week was getting to work with the CNDLS team + Kristen as it’s a real privilege to see how other similar organizations work in action, particularly one like CNDLS which has been built and nurtured over the last fifteen-or-so years and works on a number of projects that are particularly intriguiging. I was thankful for both the developers and the other team members (Yianna Vovides, Brian Boston, Maggie Debelius, Randy Bass) who joined us as well for conversations on both this idea and Domain of One’s Own initiatives. After spending Tuesday chatting about several different angles of the platform, I spent Wednesday morning in the Georgetown library to work on a landing page mockup in Photoshop. While I still get to teach PS, I actually rarely touch it less and less as my role becomes increasingly administrative. So easing back into Photoshop felt like putting on an old jacket you found packed away. IMG_2151.JPG No matter what title I stick after my name, I still wear the “artist” moniker quite proudly. At my core, I love getting the opportunity to create art and much of this kind of work fortunately still feels like it. When I was still in high school, I built a website with a guy in my town who was most likely ten years my senior. I remember asking him why he didn’t do web development for living and he gave me the advice of never making my hobby my primary occupation. I am still unsure as to whether that was necessarily good or bad advice, but I certainly respected it enough at the time to spend college and beyond struggling with the tension of professionalizing myself. Inevitably, I studied advertising and journalism as it seemed to offer a little of both. All of that is to say I enjoy injecting a few creative ventures into my life every once in awhile. As Louis Armstrong said, “Musicians don’t retire; they stop when there’s no more music in them,” and I believe there’s still music in me. Anyway, so there I am sitting in a suspiciously empty library. I had already decided that I would use Bootstrap as a common framework that we could do both design and development. I remembered that I had been really impressed with the Flat UI kit from Designmodo that I used for OU Create to bring the login box to the landing page. I grabbed the free version of the UI kit and began to design what had come to my head based of the conversations the team had the last day. Here’s a look at the where that design is as of today: imacweb2.jpg Working title “HowToGeorgetown”: the idea is that this page is focused primarily on getting students questions the opportunity to ask questions as quickly as possible. A big question box is calling their name out, as well as a way for them to tag questions, indicate the question’s difficulty (more on that later), ask it anonymous, and a request a “meetup” if they feel there question better suits an “offline” dialogue, which is a large part of the platform; how can we create a space that allows students to ask/answer questions efficiently online as well as encourages one-on-one conversations. A fully filled out home page might look like this: imacweb.jpg I also mocked up a couple other pages including a single question page and a profile page: single.jpg profile.jpg From our initial round of feedback, the difficulty indicator seems to really throw students off so I’m not quite sure how long that will stay. But the purpose it was to decipher what may require a student-to-student meetup with the thought that we would see ultimate success of an application being peer mentorship. One of the main focuses of this project was to create something small that could run on a Domain of One’s Own server, so I’m hopeful that whatever gets created continues to be openly documented, discussed, and shared. I’ll end with noting that there are the majority of open questions lie beyond the technology:
  • Does the notion of learning the “hacks” of your institution work if the institution hosts the application or is that fundamentally going to detract users?
  • How do you build the appropriate culture (self-governing, self-moderating)?
  • What (if anything) needs to be in place when self governance breaks down?
  • Are we just creating things that already exist (Quora, Reddit) and slapping an edu face on it?
  • Are we doing too much by focusing on a web app instead of a mobile app or texting service?
And these don’t even get into even foundational questions like how something like this would get off the ground or could even be sustainable. These, and several other questions, are certainly worth exploring further in the event that students even want to use it. Luckily, Kristen is going to be contributing by having a class at Davidson run a prototype user testing this fall, and hopefully we’ll be able to learn a lot there. But before we go too far down the rabbit hole of how something like this becomes a real thing, I should say that I’m not quite sure that’s the most important topic. Currently, I am highly more interested in thought experiments than I am in startups. And, personally speaking, spending a week walking through this process has been highly valuable for me. It’s helped me build empathy to both the needs of users and to developers of technology. Putting clothes on a concept is awfully taxing work. Opening up your concept to potential users is also quite nerve racking. Publicly publishing about one’s doodles (meaning writing this post) is even moreso nerve racking knowing that there’s a broader opportunity for criticism on which is mostly conceptual but appears real because one can see a physical manifiestions of that concept. But nonetheless I’d encourage folks that may exist in team frameworks like mine to further explore these design thinking approaches if only to get yourself asking both the smallest details (UI) and broadest questions (For us: What would nurture a healthy community? Is technology even necessary?). You might even ask it on a HowToCollege platform someday. :-)

What is MiddCreate?

I am sometimes asked the following questions about Middlebury’s MiddCreate project: What is it? How is it different from our hosted blog environment, sites.middlebury or sites.miis? and Why do this MiddCreate project at Middlebury?

In this post, I’ll tackle the first question: What is it?

MiddCreate offers Middlebury faculty, staff, and students their own subdomain spaces (e.g., collier.middcreate.net) and easy installation of  open-source applications such as WordPress, ownCloud, MediaWiki, Drupal, Known, Scalar, and Omeka. MiddCreate users can decide what tools they want to set up on their domains and have full control over their applications. MiddCreate encourages users to take ownership of their digital identity and  work, and to develop the digital literacies that will serve them well throughout their academic and professional trajectories.

MiddCreate is one of several “Domain of One’s Own” projects happening at higher education institutions. Domain of One’s Own was started at the University of Mary Washington by Jim Groom and other members of the DTLT (a group now led by the wonderful Jesse Stommel). Jim Groom and Tim Owens went on to start Reclaim Hosting, a provider for Domain of One’s Own infrastructure (and the provider for Middlebury’s MiddCreate project).

The name “Domain of One’s Own” refers to Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own,” which issued a call to give women access to a space and tools of their own to write (Read this great piece about a deeper connection between room/domain of one’s own). Today, the call is to provide faculty, staff, and students in educational environments the places, space, and tools to create and maintain a digital identity. Too many of our interactions online happen in spaces or with tools we do not control—even in educational settings. The digital tools we use for teaching and learning often do not help students and faculty create ongoing representations of their work, manage a digital identity, or make serendipitous digital connections. These tools restrict what we can do, where we can take our work, and how we manage our own intellectual property and self-representation.

Domain of One’s Own provides an alternative approach. Domains initiatives like MiddCreate provide a suite of open source tools to users, including website development tools, project management tools, wikis, groupware, portals, and file management. They also give users backend access to their domain allowing users to become, as Gardner Campbell says, “system administrators for their own lives” if they so choose. (Gardner’s article is REALLY worth your time—go read it! Also check out Gardner’s Envisioning Middlebury talk)

The advantages to doing this are many and we will talk more about them in a future post. The key advantage, I would argue, is the opportunity for students, faculty, and staff is to have the freedom to create something that represents them, their work, in a digital place that they own and control. And they can take it with them when they leave. As Audrey Watters wrote:

And then — contrary to what happens at most schools, where a student’s work exists only inside a learning management system and cannot be accessed once the semester is over — the domain and all its content are the student’s to take with them. It is, after all, their education, their intellectual development, their work.

We talk a lot about digital literacies and digital citizenship in education these days. What does it mean to no longer be a passive consumer of the web, but a creator on the web? What does it mean to be a citizen on and of the web? Who controls the tools I use on the web and what do they do with my data? How can I be a better informed participant in discussions about the future of the web and its role in societies, political arenas, and more?

MiddCreate is intended to help us ask these questions—to give students, faculty, and staff tools to have agency in digital spaces to answer the questions for themselves.

Want more information about MiddCreate, or want to play around? Go here and click Dashboard to log in with your Midd credentials: https://middcreate.net/

At several of the institutions listed above, the domain of one’s own project is offered alongside a hosted blog/wiki environment, like sites.middlebury or sites.miis. We will talk in the next post about how these two services are different and how faculty, staff, and students can consider the best match for their goals.

We will talk about how people are using MiddCreate and other domain of one’s own initiatives in the post “Why MiddCreate?”

Image from Flickr user BoneDaddy.P7, CC BY-SA 2.0

Resources

Beneath the cobblestones: A domain of one’s own – Audrey Watters

The web we need to give to students – Audrey Watters

A personal cyberinfrastructure – Gardner Campbell

BYU’s bold plan to give students control of their data – Marguerite McNeal

An annotated domain of one’s own – Jeremy Dean

Who’s afraid of domain of one’s own? – Debra Schleef