Should PSU Host Blogs?

There’s been a good debate about whether or not PSU should support blogs. Who among you think this is important for PSU to invest in and support?

Blogs, or web logs, are used more and more for individuals and organizations to publish material to the web quickly and easily. Any individual can set up a blog and write until their heart's content. They can publish their thoughts to the world and with no editor, filter or moderation. If they have good ideas and can write effectively, others take notice. They may also establish a feed from your site. That means every time you post something on your blog, it is pulled to their attention.

Like so many new aspects of the web, water seeks its own level. If you are good, people take notice and your hit count increases. Some may get their 15 minutes of fame. For most, it simply brings the satisfaction of writing and publishing.

Some PSU classes use blogs. Students are required to set up a blog and post materials there as part of assignments. Some students who are less extroverted in the classroom can be more effective communicators in writing. (and vica versa)

Over the past year, PSU has been hosting a small blog server in a pilot study. Several departments have signed on to use them, along with a few individuals. The very blog you're reading now is sitting on that server. Yet we cannot continue to expand its use without investing in more equipment.

With that background, here is the issue. Should PSU host a blog site for individuals or not? Should we invest PSU resources in the hardware to host blogs in the PSU domain? It might cost around $7-8,000, plus someone’s time to maintain and upgrade it in the future. Or should we use and encourage blogs, but use any one of the many blog sites free and easy to anyone on the web. There are two camps of thought.

Camp One: PSU should not only support, but encourage blog use. We are an academic community where free exchange of ideas and thoughts is fundamental to our mission. By encouraging the use of blogs, we can bring more attention to PSU. In a Google Economy, this is muscle. It could also be a marketing boon. $7-8k in cost is nothing considering the larger cost of technologies on campus. PSU can and should invest in this rapidly expanding means of communication. It is core to what we do. Also, by hosting the blog site at PSU, we do not require students sign up for web services outside of our control.

Camp Two: PSU should encourage and support blog use for anyone interested, but why invest in hardware and support when blogs are a commodity readily and easily available on the web? Anyone can sign up for a free blog by establishing a username, password and verification of age. (, for an example) There is nothing overly personal or sensitive in that information. (If you don’t want to give your real birthdate, don’t.) There would be no cost to PSU and the same functionality would exist. Besides, given the rapid pace of change around web applications, we might want to wait this out and see if it’s a fad or a true wave of the future.

I’ve simplified the debate to this core issue. There are pros and cons to each. The crux question to you is whether or not you feel this is important to what we do at PSU? The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) engaged in this debate in their September 2006 meeting. Their recommendation was that PSU should support and host blogs.

It will be presented as a budget priority for next year. It will compete with other priorities for new funding.

What do you think? Do blogs matter to you and if so, should we host or post elsewhere? I’d love to hear from others in the campus community.
(ITS’ers and blog aficionados, let’s give others a chance to chime in first)

Wireless in Res Halls?

Many students ask about setting up wireless routers in the residence halls. Simply put, the campus housing is too densely populated for personal wireless access to work. It would be convenient, for sure, but there are a number of downsides.

More below. But the bottom line is this: PSU has expanded wireless access to public spaces (Library, HUB, Prospect) and academic buildings. By the end of this year, all common areas in residence halls will be have wireless access to the network.

What we cannot do, at least now, is bring wireless to the living areas. And, because of the inherent problems that are listed below, ITS simply doesn’t have the resources to support students who attempt to set up wireless access points in their rooms. In fact, we prefer that you don’t. Here’s why

Wireless at home vs. wireless in a densely-packed residence hall

Setting up a wireless router at home is easy. In a densely-packed resident hall, it’s something else altogether. There are a number of technical problems that arise when students hook up wireless routers in their residence hall or PSU apartment:

  • Wireless routers are set to a specific channel. If there are two or more wireless signals competing for the same channel, they’ll conflict and render each other useless.
  • Wireless routers are also impacted by some electronic equipment, like microwaves and wireless phones.
  • Unless a wireless router is configured correctly, it will allow others to connect to our network equipment that is not authorized or properly screened for viruses and operating system updates. That creates a network security hole that could negatively impact others on the residential network.

Additionally, the wireless signal provides maybe 1/10th of the capacity of a direct connection to a PSU network port. If multiple students are connecting on a single wireless access point, performance slows to a crawl.

Because of the support required, and the rapid evolution of wireless standards, ITS simply cannot provide support to those who want to install wireless hubs. It is also a security risk that we cannot condone. Consequently, and in light of the points above, we ask that you avoid using wireless hubs in the res halls and student apartments.

ITS Installing Wireless Access Points in Common Areas of Residence Halls

To help accommodate the growing demand from students to connect wirelessly, we are installing wireless access points in common areas of all the residence halls. Just like in the HUB or Lamson, you will be able to connect by logging in to the web page that pops up in your browser.

Meanwhile, if you want a little more latitude nn your room, consider a 15-25’ computer cable. You’ll have a much faster and secure connection. Cables are available for purchase at either the Lamson Learning Commons (front desk) or at the University Computer Store on Merrill St.
We’ll continue to listen to your feedback and grow our network to meet your needs.