Editing Your Portfolio

Your portfolio is the central source of information about you on MLA Commons. You may have set it up when you joined the site. But did you know there are many details that you can add?

On every Commons page, you’ll see a statement in the upper right corner welcoming you. Click on that link to see your portfolio. It will look something like this:


Your name is the least amount of information you could have on your MLA Commons portfolio. Jennifer Lake, for example, still has the image that the Commons automatically assigned her, and she has not filled in additional details about herself. But you can upload a photo and add details to your portfolio.

Let’s start with changing your portfolio picture, called an “avatar.” When you click on the image assigned to your portfolio, you’ll be given the option to upload a picture:


From here, click Choose File, select the picture you want to upload from your computer, and then click Upload Image. If the picture you’ve uploaded isn’t square, you’ll be asked to crop it:

Portfolio-crop avatar

Drag the corners of the square until you see the cropping you want, then click Crop Image. That’s all you need to do—now you have a picture. If you don’t like the picture or don’t like the way it’s cropped, you can repeat this until you’re happy with it.

Next, you can add information by clicking Edit on the right side of the screen. What you’ll see is this:


Above, you see a number of fields that you can fill out. Since your portfolio page introduces you to MLA Commons users, you may want to at least fill out the Title and Institutional or Other Affiliation fields that appear below your image. Click on any + button to add a new section to your portfolio. You can also rearrange the sections by dragging the striped bar on the left side of the field:


When filling out the field Academic Interests, separate your interests with commas or semicolons and use short phrases of no more than six words. Your interests will automatically be transformed into links in order to help you connect with other users who share them. For example, Jennifer Lake’s academic interests, “French literature, Proust, time,” are likely to connect her with users interested in those three topics, but an interest that states “I am interested in the literary exploration of time among French novelists such as Proust” will not, because the syntax is too specific.

Portfolio-field-academic interests

If you have a blog (including one on MLA Commons) or a Web site that you’d like to link to your portfolio, click the + Blog button. Then, type in its URL, starting with the protocol http://. (If you don’t, you will not be able to save the added link and you will be asked to enter a valid URL.)


If you have a Twitter account that you’d like to link to MLA Commons, enter it by clicking + Twitter User Name. Type in your Twitter user name without the @ symbol.


One more thing: underneath all the fields, you’ll see text that says “This field can be seen by: Everyone,” with a Change link (on all but your name). If you’d like personal data to be hidden from some members of MLA Commons, click Change. Here are the options you will see:


By default, everyone can see everything. But you can hide information from everyone but yourself, everyone who is not a contact, or everyone who is not a member of MLA Commons. Click Close when you have the settings as you’d like them.

When you’re done, click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the page. Here’s Jennifer Lake now:


That’s all there is to editing your portfolio. Please send us an e-mail if you have any questions.

Sharing Content on MLA Commons

When you have something you’d like to share with fellow MLA members, there are several ways to post it on MLA Commons. Which way is best? It depends on your goals.

Reaching a large audience. If you’re looking to reach a large audience to start a discussion or circulate news like a call for papers, information about an upcoming conference or event, or submission details about an award, you may want to create a new topic in a relevant group’s forum. The forum is a suitable place to post something because forums allow users to ask questions and discuss topics. The forum is also the first page that people see when accessing the group, so material posted there is likely to be widely visible. You cannot, however, attach files to the post.

Items of general interest. If the announcement or material is of general interest, you may want to post an update on your profile. While the profile update will not generate an e-mail notification to members, it will be visible to all MLA Commons users on the Activity page. Users will also see your most recent update when they view your profile.

Uploading files. If you’d like to share a PDF, PowerPoint slide, or other material with members of a group, consider uploading a file (please note that files cannot be edited within the Commons). If you’d like to solicit feedback on a file, consider creating a forum thread with a link to the file so that group members may share their comments and questions.

Creating collaborative documents. If you’d like to create something collaboratively, you might consider using Docs, which allow group members to edit and read the text online. Docs are great for working together on shared material. If you’re working on a session for the 2015 convention, you might create a collaborative document to share with your fellow presenters to outline the main points, structure, and key discussion questions for the session. (Note that you’ll need to create a group for the session first.)

Blog posts. Does your group have a blog? If so, you might want to share reflections or materials by writing a post on your group blog. You will need to have access to write, manage, and publish posts; the privacy settings can be adjusted so that the content is visible to the public. Talk to the group’s administrator if you’d like to contribute a blog post and don’t have the necessary permissions.

Receiving feedback. If you’re looking for thorough feedback on something, consider setting up a blog that enables CommentPress. CommentPress is an innovative tool that allows members to comment in the margins of the document in a more granular way than blogs typically permit. You can see an example of CommentPress on Literary Studies in the Digital Age, where the editors of the anthology have invited members to participate in the volume’s development by offering feedback on the essays.

As you can see, there are a number of options available to share information, and we encourage you to continue exploring the resources offered by MLA Commons. If you still have questions about which option to use for a particular purpose, don’t hesitate to contact us.

How to Start a Group Blog

If you are an administrator of an MLA Commons group, creating a blog is a great way to share information with group members as well as with other readers. For instance, the MLA International Bibliography group maintains a Web site, mlabib.mla.hcommons.org, to share tutorials and to highlight materials that readers might find interesting.

This post will walk you through the steps of creating a blog for your group. (You’ll see “site” and “blog” used interchangeably on MLA Commons. A blog refers to a type of Web site that lists posts in reverse chronological order.) Please note that you’ll need to be logged in to make the changes described here.

  1. Click Admin on the left menu of your group’s page to access the administrative settings for your group:
  2. On the Admin page, click Group Blog to activate your group’s site and control its settings:group-blog_4
  3. This takes you to the screen pictured below, where you’ll check the box beside Enable Group Blog. Next, click the circle beside the option that allows you to create a new blog. Then, enter a title in the Blog Title field. I’ve called my blog “Katherine’s Practice Blog.” Finally, enter the Blog Address field. This is the text that appears in front of “.mla.hcommons.org” in the blog’s URL, and it can be different from the blog’s title. Using my site’s full title, “katherinespracticeblog,” in the blog’s URL would be a little unwieldy. Instead, I’d like the blog’s URL to be kblog.mla.hcommons.org, so I’ll enter “kblog” in this field.

    There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting your blog address. First, the blog address can’t contain spaces or punctuation (except for hyphens). Second, the blog address has to be unique. Third, you cannot change the blog address later, so choose it carefully!group-blog_5
  4. Decide on your site’s privacy settings. Your blog will be visible to the public unless you select one of the options shown below. Although you can restrict your blog to registered users of MLA Commons, to registered users of the group, or to the site’s administrators, most blogs on MLA Commons are publicly visible.group-blog_6
  5. Scroll down to Member Options. If Enable Member Blog Posting is checked, other people in your group will be able to write posts on your group blog. If it’s not checked, you’re the only person in the group who can write posts. Read more about the different member roles and responsibilities for maintaining the group blog.

Remember to click Save Changes, and you’re done! Now that your group has a blog, you might want to check out the guide to using the WordPress dashboard.

More resources on creating a site are available in our posts on how to create a personal blog and how to create a group blog while you set up your group.

Building Engagement within a Group

Now that you’ve created a group and assigned user roles, you may be wondering how to increase the activity level of your group members. Groups are an easy way for people to exchange ideas, collaborate on projects, and post notifications. If you want your group to have greater visibility and activity, there are a number of things you can do to encourage livelier member engagement.

  1. Change your group’s default avatar to something relevant and recognizable. To do this, scroll down to “Manage” in the left sidebar on the group’s page, click “Photo,” and upload a suitable image.
  2. Promote your group in other channels. That could mean publicizing your group in an electronic discussion list, encouraging members to invite other people to join, or posting information about your group on blogs, Web sites, social networks, and bulletins.
  3. Announce the group in other areas of MLA Commons. For example, if you create a new group on the writing of David Foster Wallace, you might want to announce that group in the Twentieth-Century American Literature group. If the topic is relevant to a number of groups, you may decide to cross-post the announcement in more than one group.
  4. Start a new topic of conversation in the forum and invite members to respond. Creating a topic is a useful way to initiate discussion, whether you’re sharing an article, posting news, or asking a question.
  5. Add more features to your group by creating a blog. Your group’s blog can be a helpful platform for circulating information, promoting your scholarly endeavors, and posting longer reflections or research related to your group’s focus. A blog is also a great way to extend the reach of your group, providing it with a public face beyond the MLA.

Please let us know if you have any other ideas to increase group engagement. We look forward to seeing the innovative ways members use and promote groups.

Using Groups: A Video Walk-Through

This video walk-through will help you get started using groups on MLA Commons.

In the video, Katina Rogers shows you how to find, join, and participate in groups. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Please note: This video refers to an earlier version of MLA Commons. The appearance and some features in the current version may differ from the content of the video.