WordPress MU (WPMU) is a great tool.
It’s basically a fork from the main WordPress software that lets you set up and maintain potentially vast numbers of blogs from a single codebase. It’s particularly popular with universities and HE institutions, such as Harvard Law School (http://blogs.law.harvard.edu), and a range of UK universities including here at Kent.
So, why would you want to allow user registration for blogs? Mostly, blogging is all about free commenting on posts, and the onus is on the blogger to filter out dodgy comments.
If you’re like me with just a handful of comments every month, fine.
If you’re an institution like a university, this opens up the proverbial can of worms (I’ve never seen a real can of worms, but I’m sure it’s not pretty) to do with complaints, disciplinary procedures, legal stuff. Far better to force people to register before making a comment, so there’s at least a way of telling whether they’re from the institution, or a member of the public.
WordPress MU registration system is bad. Not in a cool sense of bad. It’s just terrible.
1. Confusing to users. You might want to register for MyHappyBlog because you want to comment on a blog post. The moment you register you’re sent on a multi-click process which takes you far, far away not just from the familiarity of MyHappyBlog, but from the post, and any memory of the stinging critique you were going to deliver. No comment, quite literally.
1a. …oh and by the way, just to make it even more confusing, the user will be sent an impossible-to-remember password after they’ve registered. Although this is touted as being secure (I’m sure it is), it’s just impractical. Either the user will forget the password, or they’ll forget to change it.
2. Confusing to developers. WordPress MU registration works fine so long as you follow the way it does things. If for some bizarre reason you want to change the way the registration page looks (you mad fool!), you have to change the core code. As any developer will tell you, this is generally a very stupid thing to do, and ipso facto a stupid thing to force people to do.
I should just add that it’s actually not just the registration system in WPMU. Standard WordPress has a curious login page which is very hard to change. Yes, you can get round this in part with filters and plugins and whatnot. But the point is that changing the way something looks should never, never, require a developer to hack around a bit. This is what themes are for.
My advice to anyone considering user registrations in WPMU? Don’t. The fact that the registration system is so quirky might be indicative of the relatively relaxed approach most bloggers have towards commenting. You may want to ask why it is that you absolutely must have user registrations for your institutional blogs.