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MIT student blogger Snively '11

The Mechanics of Blogging by Snively '11

How do I do it?

One of the biggest things that bugged me about MIT before I got here is not knowing what things looked like. I kept hearing about “Athena” but had never seen it. I knew MIT students had e-mail accounts but who was the provider? Where did they check their e-mail? Bloggers blogged, but through what program? Where did special discounts come from? Where on the Internet did MIT hide all of its goodies? I’d like to shed light on all of this and so I’ll begin with what’s on the forefront of several peoples’ minds: Blogging.

Whenever I get a brilliant idea and just need to put it on the internet I head to our special MIT Admissions login page.

As you can see, we use the MovableType publishing platform. Instead of being a website like blogger or livejournal, MovableType is designed to fit into a webpage that already exists, like MITAdmissions.

After logging in using my super-secret password, we are presented with the dashboard. There isn’t a whole lot here, normally I just click “Entries” and go to the next page. It is fairly cool that you can see the number of posts and how many comments there are, though.

After clicking “Entries” you are shown the page with all of the, you guessed it, entries. I’ve erased the future entry titles because I don’t want to give away any surprises, but as you can see there’s a lot of neat information here. Title, Author, Category, and Date are the biggies, but the pencil means “Under Construction” and the green check mark means “Published.” Not shown is a little blue clock which indicates a scheduled-release entry, wherein we pick when we want the entry to automatically publish and then it does all the work while we’re off not being on the computer.

Ok, so, you’ve seen all the entries, but lets say you want to write your own? Click “New Entry” and you are taken to the composition. screen. Again, all sorts of exciting goodies. Title and entry body are pretty obvious. “Primary Category” is where we choose how the entry is labeled. If you drag over all those colored boxes at the top of your screen and look at all of the options that drop down, we get to choose from those. We can also choose multiple if we’d like.

As you can see, there are no photo upload tools, no font size tools, color tools, or anything of any real use except block quote, standard text emphasis, URL, and e-mail link. Any size differences, colors, or pictures you see are all hard coded in by the bloggers. That means we crop and reduce the image sizes of all our own pictures and publish then to our server space using SFTP clients like SecureFX and WinSCP. We’re also responsible for knowing enough HTML to do all of this. Lately I’ve been experimenting with various neat HTML tricks just to see what MovableType is capable of. Next on the screen is the “Excerpt” box, which is where we write what appears on the main page. It reads HTML as well so a lot of things can be put in there (like Javascript, as I discovered the other day).

“Post Status” lets us pick “Unpublished” or “Published” or “Scheduled.” “Convert line breaks” just makes our lives easier so we don’t have to type HTML code every time we hit enter. We try to always leave the “Accept Comments” button checked unless something crazy happens. Authored on lets us pick which date our post appears to have been published on (which is why you may have seen a new post appear at the bottom of the main page, the date hadn’t been changed since they started authoring the post). “Basename” is created from the title and is what finishes off the URL of the page. The basename of this post is “the_mechanics_of_blogging.”

After that I just preview it, turn the status to “Published” and hit the save button. Voila! A brand new admissions post is on the front page for you all to read.

28 responses to “The Mechanics of Blogging”

  1. donaldGuy says:

    In a more substantive addition to my comments, I spent about 3 weeks anguishing over whether to use Movable Type or WordPress for my personal blog. I played with MT a lot, but ultimately decided that, despite meaning that I would have to re-learn if I were lucky enough to be selected here, that the wordpress system was generally faster and that the greater number of available plugins, skins, etc. made it a better choice.

    Probably the one thing I do miss from MT are the other options in that “convert line breaks” box, I found formats like Textile and Markdown to actually be relatively convenient.. you should play with them some if you haven’t, sir Snively.

    Now back to packing .. I’ll be in Cambridge (though not necessarily on campus) TOMORROW!!


  2. cristen says:

    you really know your audience. :D

    I’ve never dabbled with MovableType before, SQUEEEE this is so cool to see. Thanks for the post.

  3. Piper says:

    Yeah, I’ve never used MoveableType either. Seems straightforward, or similar to Blogspot in any case. Can you see the unpublished entries as other bloggers work on them, or just your own?

    Speaking of blogs, admissions apps are due today. Good luck everyone!

  4. Ivan says:

    @ Snively

    Great post Snively, I feel like this blog was answering 100% the last question I asked you.

    Have you ever thought of using PHP or Apache to implement you blogs: Not that it would change much, but you would be able to put cool things in the middle of your blog to make it really unique.

    I’m not sure how good you programming skills are, but if you would like to learn some quick scripts to use on blogs (html, javascript, etc), below are two good sites to learn really fast.


    Maybe this can help on your future blogs?

  5. Snively says:

    @Deferred ’12
    Decisions were released in March. If you received no mail or e-mails or communication at all then you did a good job hiding from the system, but unfortunately you will not be a member of the class of 2012.

  6. JWC '12 says:

    When I was adding a blog to my site (back in early 2006 IIRC), I looked at a variety of apps, including Typo (, which was developed by a guy who incorrectly noted an interview or something with a client and wound up spending his time at the coffeehouse developing the engine instead…

    Anyways, I ultimately decided on WordPress because of its popularity. I’m making a theme for it now that fits with my website’s theme and have to say that as a programmer, I’m pretty impressed with it.

    As a blogger, eh, it’s pretty good. You noted that you had to do all your images and other stuff by manually inserting the HTML. That’s more or less what I like to do. But WordPress insists on formatting things for you itself. I’ve worked my way around those limitations, though.

    But MovableType certainly looks very nice. I might give it a try some time. Thanks for the info.

  7. Omar says:

    I like the inside look into the MIT blogs. Very enlightening. Do more with the javascript! Add some jazz to your posts smile

    On a side note, I’m on campus! I was just watching Phelps swim on TV in the Simmons 7th floor lounge. So much fun =)

  8. Omar says:

    @Deferred ’12 – Haha, you are probably joking right?

  9. Laura says:

    I know Snively’s password! Mwahaha.

  10. Snively says:

    I know Laura’s password! Mwahaha.

  11. Deferred '12 says:

    Have decisions come out yet? I’ve been waiting since December.

  12. Ehsan('15?) says:

    @ Omar

    That is so mean to say!
    I actually feel awful that he/she didnt make it. Think where you would be now if you didnt get accepted. Hmmmmm??? Think how awful s/he’ll feel when s/he finally finds out and has to spend her/his in another while your enjoying a awesome physics lecture by walter lewin or some other awesome MIT prof.

    Anyways what’s there to joke about?

  13. Ehsan('15?) says:


    Sorry, my last post dosent really make sense. I was just so angry when I was typing it. GOD!!!!

  14. Omar says:

    @Ehsan – what I meant was the person must have known. You get sent a letter and you probably know that decisions come out in march. I just thought he maybe have been joking that he didn’t know. School is starting now. Sorry no harm meant.

  15. Ehsan ('15?) says:

    Snively do you know when the decisions come out for the bloggers?

  16. donaldGuy says:

    Mechanics of a first post:
    1. go to comment box
    2. Type “FIRST!!”
    3. discover you got beaten anyway


  17. Vivi '12 says:

    Mm, MoveableType. It’s been forever since I last used it, but thankfully the later versions are definitely really user-friendly (MT back in 2002 was not user-friendly in my poor 12-year-old eyes, no siree). Like Donald, though, I’ve chosen WP as my platform of choice due to the variety of plugins and skins available (although I guess I should start making my own again, hehe..)

  18. Ahana says:

    @ cabbage, how long have you been reading Snively’s blogs wink

  19. ^
    hmm .. good question

    im pretty sure i was an avid reader even before Snively became a blogger

    lol, yeah im slow

  20. is it just me, or does your do link to Play Nano War

  21. hey i just realized that most of your links in your descriptions link to somewhere interesting.


  22. Chris '12 says:


    Hey not to start anything, but I remember an incident earlier where some people got upset when people who weren’t accepted or students posted comments with the year by their name. It’s sort of a right of passage thing, so maybe just post by Ehsan. Everyone will know who you are.

  23. Ehsan says:

    @ Chris

    I’m not trying to offend anyone by that. I was trying to give everyone a look of where I’m at. But if you say I I won’t. Even though I’m super anxious to be a part of the MIT family.

  24. Ehsan says:

    @ Chris

    I’m not trying to offend anyone by that. I was trying to give everyone a look of where I’m at. But if you say I I won’t. Even though I’m super anxious to be a part of the MIT family.

  25. Piper says:

    I think it’s acceptable with a question mark by it. It indicates what year the student is applying for, which is better context for answering a question.

    I mean, really, you’re going to be ‘XX anyway, wherever you end up anyway =P. For the sake of clarity, the question mark just says you haven’t been accepted. (People from other schools name made it clear by doing “Name, School ‘XX”, which is cool too.)

    Just my opinion wink.

  26. Ann says:

    One thing I love about first comments is that they’re a tribute to this site’s popularity; There’s such a rush to get first because so many people are reading the blogs.

  27. quantum_flux says:

    Oh, I thought you were going to give the statistical mechanics of blogging wink

  28. Mikey says:

    Snivley –

    Thanks for this post man. It was a great introduction to MT for me, since I’ll probably start blogging soon on here. (For those of you who applied to be bloggers, don’t freak out – I’m an admissions staff member. The blogger results haven’t been announced yet!)

    Also: Thanks for the nano wars link. Who knew such an innocent link on “do” could lead to several hours gone by…