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

Amy Collier

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