A while back I was excited to tinker with CommentPress, a WordPress template geared towards a format for online papers — see CommentPressing NMC Paper on Evolution of Communication.

Developed by the Institute for the Future of the Book, what CP offers is the feature for site visitors to attach comments at the paragraph level– this is all riding on a blog platform, but produces something rather not blog-like… well, sort of blog like.

We did a trial for this at NMC for a white paper we had released in November; the first iteration of the online paper was via drupal on our main web site, where each chapter was done inside a drupal book content, so that each chapter was commentable. It works, but… as a CommentPress version, the comments can be more granular in context of the paper, and we picked up a lot of good comment activity in this second version.

But then the folks at the office said, “Let’s do more in this format!” which is great, but…. I sure as heck don’t want to create a new WP site for each paper.

Then I said, Eureka! This is the perfect job for WordPress MU (Multi-user), not to be a blog farm, and more technically, to be a multiblog site from one WP codebase.

But argggh, the current version of WPMu was equivalent to WP 2.3 and the current version of CommentPress was only compatible with WP 2.1. James Farmer was kind enough to share the CommentPress template his crew had tweaked to make work at edublogs, but it would not render article correctly on my site.

But yay! Tonight I just checked, and the CommentPress template was updated to 2.3 equivalence and it all works.

That’s a lot of quasi techi mumbo jumbo to get to this part; I know have the Evolution of Communication running in WPMu at http://wp.nmc.org/communication and a second CP site on the same site, Co-Evolution of Technology, Media and Collective Action at http://wp.nmc.org/coevolution.

This is not a paper per se, it is the keynote presentation by Howard Rheingold delivered in Second Life at the December 3-5 2007 NMC Symposium on the Evolution of Communication, so what you have is the video of the entire presentation, and then the text of it (transcribed for us from the video) is available for commenting:


These sites dont take long to assemble once you have the text of a paper; the major decision making is how to chunk it into sections (each blog post becomes a “Chapter”).

I am just tickled to now have a WPMu site like my cool technobuds at University of Mary Washington, though my scale is much smaller and simpler. For now…

I still need to tinker with the main entry site, there’s nothing really to see now.

And what would be really cool is if I can figure out how to serve the other 4 or 5 NMC WordPress sites I have running on different domains.

But this is good enough for now.

It must be as Grand Text Auto has their whole site now in CommentPress format (the blog skin version).. and jealous! They have tinkered with the CSS.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. This is welcome news indeed! The necessity to have yet another WP installation to deal with multiple docs was a bit of a killer that I’d always assumed there was some workaround for. This seems like the real ticket.

  2. Well, this is totally awesome, and a great write-up of the journey so far. The trick will be for us in schools to capture the best possible use of these technologies. Interesting isn’t it!

  3. You the man now dog,

    This is a beautifully conceived space for thinking about the future of publishing and commentary , and CommentPress is a great way to frame many of these discussions. In fact, your good friend the Chronicle just published an article about using CommentPress as a means test the value of blog comments versus traditional peer review on the Grand text Auto blog:

    I am still tinkering with getting several sites to load effectively with the proper file structure on one WPMu with different domains. Hopefully, I can blog it shortly, but it is doable and I may ultimately come here to the dog pound to find out how given the rate at which you move :)

  4. I’ve been using CommentPress with my <AP English Language classes having students annotate and discuss texts. CommentPress provides an awesome opportunity to openly collaborate in textual analysis–to analyze and evaluate the choices an author makes and to spark a debate among students about the author’s ideas. My biggest concern has been copyright issues. I’ve been choosing excerpts from larger texts. Where is the legal line for what and how much of a text I can legally publish online for my students to read and annotate?

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