Friday, July 16, 2010

Higher Ed Institutional Blogging Server Usage Guidelines

This was one of those projects that I thought would take half a day and ended up taking a week. If I’m going to sink that much work into it, I might as well share what I’ve learned.

I started out looking for lists of higher ed blogs. I didn’t realize at the time that I’d be documenting the process so I didn’t save the lists I ended up using. Those playing along at home can Google it. Once I found my lists, I looked for blogs that lived on a .edu top level domain. Then I looked for any links that mentioned usage guidelines or policies, went to the home page and performed site searches, played around with the wording, and whatever else I could come up with to locate the sort of info I was hunting for. Sometimes the leads I found would be walled up inside an intranet, which is understandable if not a little disappointing. I ended up with around a dozen promising leads.

From those links, I collected about 60 phrases from 7 different schools (in no particular order).

  1. Brandeis
  2. Stanford
  3. Vanderbilt
  4. Tufts
  5. University of Florida
  6. Yale
  7. Harvard

I grouped those phrases under common themes and came up with these 9 common elements.

  1. The stuff you publish here is visible to the entire internet and could be cached by search engines or archiving services for a very long time.
  2. This server/service exists to support the mission of the institution, if your intended purpose is at odds with this then there are many freely available blogging services available to you elsewhere.
  3. Content, including comment moderation, is your responsibility (and liability), not the institution’s.
  4. Don’t do anything stupid or illegal.
  5. We can re-purpose your content (from RSS feeds to marketing campaigns).
  6. We can delete your stuff, up to and including your entire blog/account.
  7. We provide a certain level of technical service/support but there are limits. (Varies widely from one institution to the next)
  8. We can change our minds about any of this with or without notice.
  9. Explanation of process for obtaining an account.

Not every school covered all those points. Not surprisingly, Harvard Law has one of the most thorough documents and they’ve been nice enough to license their terms under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. If you need to put together some guidelines in a hurry I recommend starting there and adjusting the wording to meet the needs of your particular institution.


Unknown said...

Thanks for including my post in your list! It wasn't intended to be a set of guidelines, but we do have those posted at

Good luck in your research!

Derek said...

Ooh, that's very good. Covers all the important stuff using very user friendly language.

I didn't know at the time exactly what I was looking for. Your post was the first promising lead I found. I ended up collecting links into various groups. Usage guidelines/policies was just one of those groups. I've got another list (and likely another post someday) on tutorials/resources. Your content probably belongs there as well.