Group Blog Intstruction, Brainstorm, And GuidelinesSeptember 13, 2007
Ok- A few threads down I posted my idea for turning the Chamber into a group blog comprised of diverse authors, and so far I’ve gotten some pretty positive feedback, so I think I’m going to go forward with this concept.
Like I stated in the other thread, I have a few people on the short list already, but if you are interested in becoming an author here I need you to do a couple of things…
1) I need your email addy so that I can contact you. Since I have a thing about posting email addys publicly, what you can do is post a comment in this thread and fill out the email that you want to use in the blank. That way, it will be hidden from everyone but me.
2) You will need to set up an account with WordPress (if you don’t already have one). So go to WordPress.com and register. You don’t need to set up your own blog if you don’t want to, but you will need to get a username and password. Once you’ve done that, go ahead and log in (“enter the chamber” or “login” in the sidebar) and post a comment in this thread. From there, I should be able to add you to the author list (to add people, all I need is the username and the email addy you used to register. Once I do my thing, the system should allow you access here, so you can come in and play around with the format. If you have any questions problems, post it here. But for the record, this is the WordPress.com FAQ. It’s helpful.)
Phew! OK. Now some other things to get out of the way…
Unfortunately, the particular “theme” I chose for this blog does not put “posted by” info for each thread (many themes don’t). Since it’s important on a group blog to know who posted a thread, we need to get around this little problem. The original idea I had was to simply use a “tag” (or “category”) to identify who posted. For example, if you look in my sidebar you will see a list of tags I’ve used and a couple of them are “posted by _____”. This works pretty slick because visitors can click on that tag and view all the posts by that author (as long as the appropriate tag was used). It’s the simplest way, so I’m sticking with it. However, as I’ve already posted 200+ threads to this blog, I’m not going to go back and add a “posted by ChenZhen” tag to each one. So, if the thread is missing a “posted by” tag…it’s me. I can add the tag for all authors, but you have to remember to check the box before you publish the post (along with any other tags, like “politics”, “Bush”, “religion” etc.).
In addition, another idea I had was to paste your avatar to the end of each post. Like so:
This would flow pretty well since your avatar shows up in the comments automatically. For more on WordPress avatars, go here (you’ll want one anyway). Since this may be more of a pain in the butt to do for each post, I’m open to other ideas on this one. I guess the important thing is that no one confuses who posted what, so consistency is a plus.
Now we segue into the next subject, with is the “list of contributors”…
Most group blogs will prominently display a list of authors right in the sidebar, and they usually include a link to an “about” page that gives a little background on them (for example, here’s mine). You don’t have to have an “about” page, but it would be nice to have something in there, so I’d encourage everyone to think of a little blurb or whatever (you could send it to me in an email and I’d just post it to a page and create the link). It can be as simple or as detailed as you wish. Serious, silly, creative…whatever. Anyway, my idea would be to simply create a section in the sidebar that lists everyone’s usernames right next to their avatar. Just seems logical to me.
Another thing I’d add to the sidebar would be some text or a message to visitors about the blog in general, just so that there’s no confusion and think that…well…that I have multiple personalities or something. LOL. It’d have to be towards the top, so I’d just replace the “ChenZhen says” section with that. Easy.
There…that’s the boring and difficult housekeeping stuff. Once that is done, we can get to the actual blogging part….For that, I have very little rules. My original thought was a very lax system. I figured that if we had like 10 people, and everyone posted just one thing a week it would be enough to keep things pretty entertaining around here. I guess we won’t know until we actually try it, but I have a feeling that if one person is trying to dominate the blog by posting a lot more than others I might have to come up with some more rigid guidelines. On the other hand, that scenario might encourage others to post more and swing things back into balance. Or, it could scare people away. I guess my hope is that a balance would be achieved, and we could start seeing a “lefty” viewpoint one day and a “righty” viewpoint the next, each featuring plenty of arguments and counter-arguments in the comments section. I really don’t have any guidelines on the subject matter though. Anyone who has seen enough of my posts knows that I usually just post my thoughts on whatever, whether it be something in the news, an experience or discussion I’ve had on another blog that I felt I should expand on, or even revisiting old topics that I happened to want to post my opinion on just for the sake of putting my opinion out there. Again…whatever. I guess the only thing I would discourage is simply posting links to news stories without expanding on it or offering at least some sort of comment or opinion (it’s considered poor form in the the poli-blog world). You don’t have to write a thesis, but it’s nice to have something there to kick off a discussion or prompt someone to respond to what you said.
The only other thing I wouldn’t tolerate would be a breakdown in etiquette in the comments section. If we all could accept the premise that if you resort to name-calling or personal attacks you have officially lost the argument, I think we’ll be fine. Instead, pick apart the argument. Tear it to shreds with logic and facts. Or, simply state that you have a different opinion or you think that they’re wrong.
Anyway, that’s all I have for now and I’m open to other ideas and feedback, so go ahead and post them in here.
Update: Another thing I’d like to know, I suppose, is how familiar everyone is with HTML. The WP user interface is pretty user-friendly, and it’s certainly easy enough to post threads on here, but I’d have to say that at least a basic knowledge of how HTML works can come in handy when posting stuff on blogs and being visually presentable. Luckily, the system allows you to practice and preview to make sure that your post won’t look like a mess before you actually publish it, and I can go in and clean up anything that gets screwed up if needed. What I’ve discovered so far is that most of the problems happen when you copy/paste text from another page into your post because it has a tendency to drag any extra code along with it. So it helps to know what’s going on there. Here’s a good link to keep handy: Allowed HTML tags/what they do