How to Run a Group-Authored Blog

Tehran Flickies Gathering, All of UsIndependently of each other, a small number of people have recently asked about the workflow involved in publishing a group-authored blog like ProfHacker.

Now I don’t pretend that the way we do things is the best way possible, but I’m happy to describe how we go about publishing 3 posts a day, 5 days a week.

If you’re involved in a similar project that uses a different workflow, feel free to share the details in the comments to this post.

Get a group of authors

Okay, this one is obvious. Maybe you already know people who share the same interests as you, or maybe you read a solo-authored blog that you admire. Go ahead and contact those people and propose that you all start collaborating on a blog.

Create an online forum for your authors

Here at ProfHacker, we use Google Groups. Use this forum to share ideas for posts, to send reminders about various deadlines, to ask questions of each other about anything related to the blog.

Have a focus

Okay, this one is obvious, too. Your blog should be about a recognizably coherent topic or set of topics. Ideally, you’ll be able to describe your focus in a short tagline. Ours is “tips, tutorials, and commentary on pedagogy, productivity, and technology in higher education.”

Read sites similar (and not so similar) to your own

You certainly don’t want to rip off another site’s content. However, the more your audience and your focus is different from another site’s, the more likely you’ll be able to tackle a given topic in a unique way. An easy way to keep up with other sites, of course, is to subscribe to their RSS feeds.

Determine how often you want to publish

Do you want to publish one update every Friday? Every day? Three times a day? Decide on a frequency and try to stick to it. Your readers should be able to count on getting new content from you at fairly predictable times.

Create a wiki and give all authors the ability to edit

We use PB Works to keep track of the upcoming weeks and what’s going to be published when. For example, here’s a screenshot of what the schedule looks like for a week in March. You’ll see that the week is currently wide open because we don’t plan that far ahead; we usually have about two weeks ahead completely filled in and the two weeks after that kinda-sorta scheduled. Standard posts like “Open Thread Wednesday”or “Week in Review”are always automatically included in a given week.

If an author decides to reserve a slot for a post, they replace the word “OPEN”(always rendered in red) with their name and a rough title (both rendered in black). Once they’ve written a post and it’s ready for review before being scheduled for publication, their name and the title are changed to blue. Here’s a screenshot of a week from last December where everything is blue except Friday afternoon’s post.

Set a standard deadline for posts

One method for a group-authored blog is just to trust that your authors will have everything written and published at the appointed times. However, if you have an editor/author way of organizing contributors, then it’s a good idea to have a standard deadline for the authors’ posts to be submitted and ready for publication. Otherwise, you run the risk of your editors having to be on call 24/7.

For several weeks, we’ve asked authors to have everything submitted by 6:00 p.m. (east coast time!) the night before their post is scheduled to appear. Lately, we’re trying out a system in which they need to have their posts for next week submitted by midnight on Thursday of this week.

Create categories

Try to keep your posts diverse across the different categories in a given time period. Do not, for example, publish 6 posts in a row about grading. The publishing schedule on your wiki will allow you to see whether or not you have a diverse selection of topics planned for the next couple of weeks.

Create a Facebook presence

Create a Facebook page for your blog and use RSS Graffiti to let people know when your site has published new material. Once you install the app and hook your RSS feed into it, everything happens automatically, which saves you the work of manually updating Facebook.

Create a Twitter account

You might use a plugin to automatically send a Tweet when your blog is updated, or you can use something like HootSuite to schedule your Tweets in advance.

How about you?

Any questions? Do you have a group-authored blog with a successful workflow? Let’s hear from you in the comments!

[Creative Commons-licensed flickr photo by Hamed Saber]

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