Introducing Help.WordPress.ncsu.edu!

WordPress usage on campus has dramatically increased, both through OIT Design’s services and with the help of groups like ITECS and Web Communications. In a university community with lots of expertise and lots of beginners learning the basics, we haven’t always done a great job of sharing knowledge across groups or experience levels.

We’d like to change that, and begin building a more collaborative culture around WordPress services at NC State. To that end, I’d like to announce the launch of Help.WordPress.ncsu.edu.

What is it?

Help.WordPress.ncsu.edu is a question-and-answer forum for the NC State WordPress community. In order to post a question, you must log in with your Unity ID and password.

For our initial launch, the forum is divided into four subcategories: Basics of WordPress, OIT Design’s free WordPress Blogs service, OIT Design’s premium Hosted WordPress service, and Advanced WordPress Topics. Depending on how it’s used, we may expand the forum to include more categories relating to how WordPress is used at NC State.

What else is it?

Help.WordPress.ncsu.edu is also a hub of resources for campus WordPress users, with links to documentation, IT support staff, and information for developers. If there’s something you use regularly that you think the rest of us would benefit from—or if there’s something you’ve been looking for and you think should be included—post about it in the forums or email us at oitdesign@ncsu.edu.

Doesn’t NC State already have a Help Desk?

Yes, and they do a fantastic job! But this is a little different.

If you have a problem with your WordPress site, you should absolutely continue to contact the Help Desk at help@ncsu.edu or 919.515.HELP (4357). That’s still the best way to get help when your site goes down, your users get locked out, you’ve got an error message you don’t understand, or something else has gone wrong.

But if you have a question, or if you’re looking for a way to add a new function to your website, or if you’re just curious about how something works, Help.WordPress.ncsu.edu is the place for you. Chances are, someone else at NC State either already has a solution, or will benefit when you find the answer. This is an opportunity to share knowledge and support one another.

Who maintains this site?

Help.WordPress.ncsu.edu is hosted as a part of our free WordPress Blogs service and is managed by us a OIT Design. OIT Design staff (me, Jen, David, and our new interns Thi and Will) will be monitoring the questions posted and responding in a timely manner.

But this isn’t just OIT Design answering questions. We’d like you—yes, you!—to be involved. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned multisite administrator, the whole campus community will benefit from your perspective and experience.

This sounds great! How do I get started?

Head over to Help.WordPress.ncsu.edu to start asking your questions and answering the questions posted by your NC State colleagues!

We’re growing!

Good news everyone

Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth

Good news, everyone! OIT Design is growing!

Today we were able to post our new full-time position — check it out! We’re very excited to be able to bring another full-time position into our group to help us manage both our on-going support of campus and all of our clients. Keep an eye on here for an introduction to our new person in the coming months!

Were also happy to announce that our interns started this week! Thi and Will are rising seniors in the College of Management and we’re excited to put them to work. We’ll be introducing them to the wonderful world of WordPress, plus using them to help with troubleshooting and support of campus and our client base. You can be sure one of their assignments will be to write fascinating blog posts for this site so be sure to check back for fascinating blog posts.

OIT Design Services, By The Numbers

The current fiscal year ends on June 30, and we’ve been hard at work closing out projects and preparing for a wave of new work starting July 1. This seems like a good time to share some numbers.

  • 29 – Sites in our Hosted Drupal service. We’re discontinuing Hosted Drupal in the coming fiscal year, so most of these clients are already in the process of transitioning to another service.
  • 40+ – Sites in our Hosted WordPress service. The exact number is a little bit in flux, but the number of sites in Hosted WordPress has more than doubled in the last year.
  • 690+ – Sites in our WordPress Blogs environment. The exact number changes on a day-to-day basis, but the number of sites in this service has more than doubled as well– there were about 340 sites this time last year.
  • 140 – Web hosting accounts through OIT, separate from the services listed above. We have maintenance and design clients with many of these sites as well.
  • 60+ – Number of sites in the DASA WordPress multisite. Jen wrote about that project last week, and we’re eager to use the multisite model with some of our other large clients.

Looking ahead to the next fiscal year, we have some big projects coming up, plus some exciting internal changes: new WordPress themes, new staff, and interns!

Project Profile: DASA

One of our biggest clients has always been the Division of Academic and Student Affairs (in all their past name variations) and their units. In case you’re not aware, there are a LOT of things that fall under DASA, probably more than you think. Years ago we first partnered with their Director of Technology Services, Leslie Dare, and a very rich – and busy! – partnership was born.

Leslie has always endeavored to provide her unit with excellent web options and support and over the years she’s worked with us through several solutions, most notably Drupal, and now WordPress. Late in 2014 Leslie and her colleague (co-conspirator) Justin Hammond, the Director of Marketing and Communications for DASA, started the bid process to get designs for a new DASA WordPress theme. Once those came in, and were vetted by Campus Communications, we took the designs and built them a theme. At the same time we worked on getting them set up in a multisite environment. Since Leslie had so many sites, with so many domains and sub-domains it was truly a challenge to untangle everything and get both the WordPress environment and the cPanel backend to resolve everything correctly. It was an excellent learning experience for all concerned.

Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 1.02.19 PMAfter many months of development, testing, troubleshooting, configuring, documenting, and training we are entering the final(-ish) phase of transition. The main DASA site launched February 27th and other sites began to transition into the environment with a child version of the main theme. Sites continue being moved; Leslie and Justin are assisting the various DASA units with questions and training them on WordPress generally and the DASA theme specifically. They have provided best practices for guidance and have their own “office hours” for people to come and ask questions as they finish migrating their site content and prepare for each “go-live.”

To date, DASA has more than 60 sites in their new environment, all with a shared repository of plugins and a consistent look-and-feel made possible by a branded and compliant theme. It’s been a great project and hopefully will be a model for similar consistency in other campus colleges and departments. It’s been such a delight to team up with Leslie and Justin for this project and we look forward to many more years of collaboration!

Start Blogging Today!

Next Wednesday, I will be teaching the first of our two Basics of WordPress classes for the summer session. Both classes’ waitlists are already full, so watch this space for announcements about our fall classes. And you’re always welcome to drop by at our WordPress Office Hours.

In our classes, we guide users through creating their own website through our free WordPress Blogs environment at wordpress.ncsu.edu. It’s a great introduction to the platform, and a safe space that many users use to experiment and get to know the tools that they will be using in another place. After all, it’s better to make mistakes on Brian’s Test Site than on a live site for your department, research group, or other campus unit.

But the WordPress Blogs service is available for more than just tinkering and training. It’s a robust platform for self-publication and self-promotion– especially at a major research institution like NC State.

Below, I’d like to make the case that not only is OIT Design’s WordPress Blogs environment a service you can use, it’s a service you should use. Every member of the NC State community owes it to themselves to start blogging today!

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