A number of websites and publications offer a glimpse into student life at the University: anonymous confession boards, University blogs, Hermes—even Unlocked Magazine. No site, however, presents the wide range of student life coverage given by Wesleying, the student-run blog. What’s more, the new Wesleying website switch—from the Blogger platform to the WordPress platform hosted at wesleying.org—has provided greater flexibility to readers and bloggers alike.
“In the past year, there were lots of things we wanted to do with Wesleying that weren’t possible with Blogger,” said Ashik Siddique ’10. “We wanted more flexibility.”
Siddique collaborated with Beau Anderson ‘09, Justin LaSelva ’09, and Sam DeFabbia-Kane ’11 on the layout of the WordPress blog. They first began to discuss the switch in Spring 2008. In November that year, they advertised a fundraiser on their website and received about $300 of donations from alumni, parents, and current students—this then enabled them to pay the $200 for a new domain name in late January. The four students worked on the site with input from Wesleying contributors, and finally unveiled the new Wesleying on March 26.
According to Siddique, WordPress is significantly more compatible and user-friendly than Blogger.
“WordPress is extremely customizable,” said DeFabbia-Kane, who worked diligently to develop the web design. “It is a much more widely-used platform, with a lot of plug-ins already written. The event calendar plug-in, for instance, just took a search on the WordPress site to find, and then there was very little extra work to install it.”
Another new feature of the WordPress plug-ins is an automatic event submission form, which makes event information—time, location, and cost—far easier to translate into posts than the free-form email submissions used with the old platform.
Furthermore, according to Anderson, the limitless web space afforded by WordPress will allow for even more useful features to be created in the future.
“Who knows who’s coming in 2013?” Anderson said. “There may be somebody really interested in adding in a live video feed to the blog or a photo gallery. The sky’s the limit; somebody could add anything.”
Campus bloggers like Robert Alvarez ’11 and Ivy Mendersen ’11 also believe WordPress is the best available platform; the two recently launched their own WordPress blog on student lifestyle called Method Life.
“I had a personal blog with WordPress last year and WordPress just has such a better interface,”Alvarez said. “Posts are easier to put up, and you can put up poles and all kinds of smaller things that make a big difference.”
But not all the new features of WordPress were advantageous to the Wesleying staff. The content of the new default header, for example, was a topic of contention.
“We couldn’t come to a consensus on the header because not enough people responded to our e-mails,” Siddique said. “There was some pressure to choose the right design.”
Since the new WordPress-based blog was launched in late March, a rectangular clip of Zonker Harris Day 2007—with a graffiti-covered truck, musical acts on stage, and random inflatable objects hanging from the trees—has been pictured as the banner at the top of the Wesleying site.
“I’ve seen comments in the Shout Box saying that the new header puts out this image of Wesleyan being this place where we’re always getting bands and having parties and that’s what Wesleyan’s about,” Anderson said. “It’s a valid criticism but I would challenge people to come up with one image that could represent our whole campus.”
Anderson proposes creating a stock of headers that the Wesleying designers could roll out for different occasions. LaSelva added that, with so much traffic on the blog, some dispute is inevitable.
“Ultimately, we have 3000 to 4000 people looking at the site a day, and one or two negative comments, so you take it in stride,” LaSelva said.
Despite some new problems posed by the platform, DeFabbia-Kane believes the new website platform will take the blog in a positive direction.
“I would like to see more articles on the blog that explain and expose things, posts that have actual writing rather than just announcements about events,” DeFabbia-Kane said.
According to Siddique, the new flexibility afforded by WordPress will allow Wesleying to thrive in its unique role as a central student lifestyle blog on campus.
“Our major function is to stimulate discussion about whatever comes up on campus, and I think now we’ll just continue to do that even better,” Siddique said. “It’s a huge relief, and I’m very happy with how it’s turned out.”