WordPress 5.9 and Full Site Editing

The Commons is now on WordPress 5.9.2. This update brings Full Site Editing (FSE) to websites using block-based themes. For an overview of FSE and how it works check out the video below (the video was produced by WordPress.com, but the FSE component will be the same on the Commons):

Full Site Editing is currently in beta, but we’ve done some experimenting with it and wanted to roll this update out with a few themes for people to check out. You’ll see Twenty Twenty-Two and Blockbase in the themes directory. FSE will only work with these two new block-based themes. The new themes do not feature “live preview” and must be activated to use. FSE is very different from the current customization experience, but offers the opportunity to fully design a site from header to footer, including the use of different templates on different pages. We recommend watching the video above before trying them out.

WordPress 5.9 was released earlier this year. We’ve done extensive testing, but inevitably we won’t find everything. If you do experience issues or your website looks strange please let us know! WPBeginner.com has a good writeup of the features, and we recommend taking some time to review the article or the video embedded above before digging in.

As always you can reach us at hello[at]hcommons.org.

CORE Migration Winter 2022

The Humanities Commons CORE repository will be undergoing maintenance starting on Friday January 28, 2022, 9am EDT. We will be migrating content to a new server, and in order to ensure all content is transferred deposits will be suspended until that migration is complete. We will update everyone when depositing can resume.

During migration deposits will be available for searching and download. Links to your deposits will remain the same. 

If you have any questions, or encounter any issues with your deposits, please contact us at hello[at]hcommons.org.

We’ve added a new theme: Reykjavik

There’s a new theme for you to use for your websites on the Commons: Reykjavik. It’s an “accessibility-ready” and responsive theme that works well with the WordPress block editor.

For information on how to use themes on your website see our guide “Changing your Site’s Appearance with Themes.” If there are free themes you’re aware of that you think would be a good addition to our library, please send us an email to hello[at]hcommons.org.

Embedded Documents in websites on the Commons

The Commons has long supported two plugins that allow users to embed PDFs and other documents within their Commons-hosted websites: PDFjs Viewer and the Google Docs Embedder. Both of these plugins are now obsolete and are being retired. We have converted embedded documents to download links.

There are cases where embedding documents may be useful, but embedding them into websites can have unintended consequences for users. Issues include:

  • Documents may not be accessible [for example, “An accessible PDF works with assistive technology software and devices, like screen magnifiers, screen readers, speech-recognition software, text-to-speech software, alternative input devices and refreshable Braille displays.” (CommonLook)]:
    • Images, graphs, and tables may not have alt-text to support visually impaired readers
    • Text size is not resizable and does not reflow as the page size changes
    • Screen magnifiers may not work on an embedded PDFs]
  • Users on mobile devices or tablets may be unable to read content as the document gets smaller on smaller devices
  • Embedded documents can be used by bad actors to spread malware, including ransomware

More on the issues with documents on websites can be found at the following sites:

In the interests of accessibility, readability, and security we’ve chosen to remove support for embedding documents in websites. We realize that they can be useful for sharing information such as forms and fliers for download. If possible, we suggest converting your documents to HTML and including a download link to the original. For more information on updating sites that have embedded documents, feel free to email us at hello[at]hcommons.org and we can discuss strategies. 

Tiwari, Ashish. “Can Screen Readers Read Pdfs?” PDF Accessibility and Compliance, CommonLook, 18 Nov. 2020, https://commonlook.com/can-screen-readers-read-pdfs/.

Updates Incoming on November 11th

The updates originally scheduled for today will be rolled out on Monday, November 15th.

Starting at 9am EST on November 11th we’ll be updating the Commons to WordPress 5.8 along with updating a number of core themes and plugins. This might cause some instability, though the site will remain up for use. If you experience some odd behavior try again later in the day. Email us at hello[at]hcommons.org if it does not resolve, or if you experience any errors after 2pm EST. 

What’s new in WordPress 5.8? 

WordPress 5.8 brings big updates to the way sites can be edited. This includes:

  • Template editing: You can now edit templates by page, similar to the way SiteOrigin and Elementor works. For those of you with existing sites, you’ll need to turn on this new functionality in settings. For new sites this will be turned on by default. 
  • Blocks as widgets: You can add blocks in widget areas and view them in the live preview through the customizer. 
  • Block patterns: If you search for blocks, WordPress will suggest existing patterns created for specific uses.

WPBeginner has a good writeup of the new features on their website along with an explainer video embedded below.

Site administrators, you may see a popup when you log into your site that looks like this:

Classic Widget popup

The “Classic Widgets” plugin is not required, and we are not enabling it on the network. Your widgets should continue to work as expected after the update. If you do run into issues please email us at hello[at]hcommons.org.

Theme and Plugin Updates

We’re also rolling out updates to themes and plugins. For those of you who use SimpleMag, there may be layout challenges. We’re doing our best to mitigate them, but if you do have questions please let us know. Other themes being updated include 15Zine and Eduma.

We are updating many plugins including: CommentPress, Elementor, NinjaForms, PressForward, and TimelineJS. If you use any of those plugins and experience issues please let us know.

We’re Growing our Team

You’ll be seeing more frequent updates as we continue to grow our team. We’re currently looking for a Systems Administrator with experience in AWS. For more information and to apply visit https://careers.msu.edu/en-us/job/508452/information-technologist-ii.

We’re doing some housekeeping.

As Humanities Commons’ fifth birthday approaches (more on that in a few weeks) we’re doing a bit of housekeeping to keep everything running smoothly. We’ll continue to communicate as we move forward, but wanted to let you know about two recent changes.

Website Cleanup

There are currently just over 1,500 websites on Humanities Commons. Among them are a few hundred that were created but never used. This includes both individual and group sites. We’ve gone through and found sites that have no posts or pages that are over one year old, and we’re contacting administrators to find out if they are still planning to use them. If not, we’ll delete them for you, and if you do we’re happy to point you to guides and other information on how to move forward. Any websites with content, new or several years old, will remain active on the platform. We don’t want to remove content, just clean up sites that may never be used. We’re planning on doing a site inventory once a year to keep the platform running smoothly.

Closing Comments on Posts after Two Weeks

We’ve noticed an uptick on spammers trying to exploit the comments on old posts to increase search engine rankings. These posts sometimes contain links to malware and other unwanted content. To continue to fight this spam we’ve automatically set post comments to close after two weeks. If you run a website on the Commons you can change this setting on your site by going to the admin panel and clicking on Settings/Discussion on the left-hand side. You’ll find the setting under  “Other Comment Settings.”

If you have any questions or would like further information feel free to leave a comment here or email us at hello[at]hcommons.org.

Watch Online Communities & Social Justice on YouTube

If you missed our first CORE deposit party fear not, we’ve uploaded it to YouTube. Again, a huge thanks to all of our participants!

Held on March 30, 2021, Online Communities and Transformative Justice was an opportunity to discuss the potential for online communities to engage in anti-racist praxis, transformative justice, and ethical community engagement.

Keynote: “Harnessing Good Intentions: Online Communities and Sustained Commitment to Racial Equity & Diversity,” delivered by Dr. Jan Miyake, Associate Professor of Music Theory at Oberlin College.

Lightning Talks:

“Virtual & Digital Speaker Series: Life Saving Knowledges and Critical Frameworks to Disrupt Heteronormativity,” Ruby Mendoza, Michigan State University

“Re/Building and Recovering Comics Communities Through Wikidata @ Michigan State University,” Justin Wigard, Michigan State University

“Introspective Videos as Antiracist Praxis,” Nick Sanders, Michigan State University

Welcome: Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Michigan State University

Introducing the Online Communities and Transformative Justice Panelists

The Commons is pleased to announce the panelists for our CORE Deposit Party, Online Communities and Transformative Justice, on March 30th from 12 to 1:30pm EDT. The event will be an opportunity to discuss the potential for online communities to engage in anti-racist praxis, transformative justice, and ethical community engagement.

The event will start with three 5-7 minute lightning talks:

“Virtual & Digital Speaker Series: Life Saving Knowledges and Critical Frameworks to Disrupt Heteronormativity,” Ruby Mendoza (they/them)

This presentation explores the initiative within the MSU Writing Center, through the efforts of their Liaison to the LGBT Resource Center, to develop a digital/virtual speaker series titled “Life Saving Knowledges: Critical Frameworks to Disrupt Heteronormativity.” This speaker series utilized and centered graduate students’ intellectual knowledges and experiences to convey complex theoretical frameworks into a simplified manner for LGBTQ+ youth. In many ways, this speaker series worked in a multitude of ways, including providing students with life-saving knowledge to utilize in both academia and activism, and within their own communities outside of an educational institution. Therefore, this presentation addresses the need to understand digital community engagement as a method to empower and support emerging intersectional adults, as well as providing life saving discourses and frameworks to navigate their lives in and outside of the academy.

“Re/Building and Recovering Comics Communities Through Wikidata @ Michigan State University,” Justin Wigard (he/him)

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Comics@MSU community sought ways to not only support existing connections within the greater comics community, but build new ones virtually by making transformative use of the MSU Libraries Comics Collection. To this end, in Fall 2020 the MSU Graphic Possibilities Research Workshop hosted a two-day virtual Wikidata Edit-a-thon, using bibliographic metadata to add missing comics publishers and authors from 1929-1956 to Wikidata. This lightning talk will discuss the planning that went into the events, along with a reporting-out of both our first event in Fall 2020 and our follow-up event to be held in Spring 2021. The event brought together 50-55 participants from MSU and across the US (even some folks from Canada & the UK) into an online community. During the event, participants  worked against WikiData and Wikipedia bias, the latter being historically implicated in racial and gendered erasure other forms of bias. This lightning talk will demonstrate how, participants worked  to a) connect MSU’s comics metadata to Wikidata, b) recover PoC and women comics creators’ narratives that may have been absent from Wikidata, and c) reflect their contributions in Wikidata or correcting misattributed entries therein, thereby contributing to the Digital Humanities@MSU community.

“Introspective Videos as Antiracist Praxis,” Nick Sanders (he/him)

Guided by critical antiracist (Baker-Bell; Johnson) and feminist pedagogies (Omolade; Friere), anti-deficit frameworks (Mejia et al.), and multimodal writing pedagogies (Shipka; Arola), this talk describes a reflective video assignment sequence that can support critical un/learning around whiteness and white supremacy. These video sequences story students’ identities and values and name the social forces which shape them at different points in the course. Consistent with critical race theory tenets of story and critique, these videos allow students to position themselves as embodied learners and use story as a tool of knowledge-making. This talk will also offer an assignment that invites students to draw on these reflective videos toward a larger end to track their learning goals throughout a course and to map new goals for un/learning. Ultimately, this talk will demonstrate the ways in which  introspective video sequencing might support deep critical introspection consistent with antiracist and critical whiteness pedagogies, challenges performativity in written assignments, and provides maps for students to understand their learning and development in the context of a course.

Following the panel discussions there will be a keynote, “Harnessing Good Intentions: Online Communities and Sustained Commitment to Racial Equity & Diversity,” delivered by Dr. Jan Miyake, Associate Professor of Music Theory at Oberlin College. After the program the panel will be available to answer questions and meeting attendees will be encouraged to deposit work of their own into CORE. Commons Open Repository Exchange, or CORE, is a library-quality, noncommercial repository that provides members with a permanent, open access storage facility for sharing, discovering, retrieving, and archiving scholarly output. A short video on CORE can be found on the Commons YouTube channel. Syllabi, learning materials, handouts, articles, and other works on this topic or others are welcome to be deposited.

To register visit https://forms.gle/3HdZHp8YFTeBi53W6.

Online Communities and Transformative Justice, a conversation and CORE deposit party

Join MSU Commons on March 30th from 12 to 1:30pm EDT for Online Communities and Transformative Justice, an opportunity to discuss the potential for online communities to engage in anti-racist praxis, transformative justice, and ethical community engagement. There will be a panel discussion with a series of 5-7 minute lightning talks around the subject, followed by a keynote, “Harnessing Good Intentions: Online Communities and Sustained Commitment to Racial Equity & Diversity,” delivered by Dr. Jan Miyake, Associate Professor of Music Theory at Oberlin College. 

The Humanities Commons network, of which MSU Commons is a part, is a free and open online community with an expanding reach. With over 25,000 members, Humanities Commons has become a visible place for members to share their scholarly work and connect with one another regardless of field, language, institutional affiliation, or form of employment. MSU Commons is the first institutional node on the Commons network, and is due to roll out to the full campus later this year. Dr. Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Project Director of Humanities Commons, Director of Digital Humanities and Professor of English at Michigan State University will give opening remarks.

After the program the panel will be available to answer questions and meeting attendees will be encouraged to deposit work of their own into CORE. Commons Open Repository Exchange, or CORE, is a library-quality, noncommercial repository that provides members with a permanent, open access storage facility for sharing, discovering, retrieving, and archiving scholarly output. A short video on CORE can be found on the Commons YouTube channel. Syllabi, learning materials, handouts, articles, and other works on this topic or others are welcome to be deposited. 

To register visit https://forms.gle/3HdZHp8YFTeBi53W6

More information:

Jan Miyake is associate professor of music theory at Oberlin College & Conservatory, where she chairs the music theory division and leads the curriculum and pedagogy subcommittee of the presidential initiative on racial equity and diversity. She publishes on the topics of corpus studies, Haydn’s instrumental works, Formenlehre, linear analysis, and inclusive pedagogy. After being elected Treasurer of the Society for Music Theory (2015-19), Miyake was recently appointed chair of its Committee on the Status of Women (2021-23). She is a founding member of the Composers of Color Resource Project, which uses Humanities Commons to store, organize, and publicize its resources.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick is Director of Digital Humanities and Professor of English at Michigan State University. Prior to assuming this role in 2017, she served as Associate Executive Director and Director of Scholarly Communication of the Modern Language Association. She is author of Generous Thinking: A Radical Approach to Saving the University (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), as well as Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy (NYU Press, 2011) and The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television (Vanderbilt University Press, 2006). She is project director of Humanities Commons, an open-access, open-source network serving more than 26,000 scholars and practitioners in the humanities.