The more people you have contributing to a local website the better it reflects local views. In Kings Cross I have about six authors who write articles for the site – three regular contributors three irregular. We all have quite different backgrounds and varying community interests. This makes the site appeal to more people and allows us to cover more stuff – it also extends our personal local networks. Having a team helps us keep the site running when people go on holiday or have less time for volunteering.
Working with us are a network of people who send us things by email that they feel we should cover on the site. This great local investigation began with one person copying me into an email about some planters.
All my fellow authors used to send me things by email regularly when I ran the site on my own. I simply asked them if they wanted to cut out the middle man and write direct on the site. I set some basic rules – keep it clean, keep it fair, legal, no religion, no party politics and put a picture in every post. And sent them an email explaining how to log in and post. After a bit of nervousness and some telephone support over their first posts they all got on fine. Some authors write frequently, some only a couple of times a year when something that interests them comes up.
When you have several people writing for you, you need a way of organising things a bit. The team behind the excellent Parwich site have a simple but clever system for handling email coming into the site – they publish one email address for people to send them things. Each author has a folder in the email account – the person who wants to write up an email sorts it into a folder in their name. This helps prevent duplicate posting.
If you aren’t sure about how someone wil get on, you can always start them off with you as the site controller having control over what they post. You can set them up as a ‘Contributor’ (in WordPress) or a Junior Author (in Typepad) – they can log in and write something, but the site controller approves it for publication.
If you run a site based on a blog platform (wordpress.com, typepad.com or blogger.com say) these work really well with up to half a dozen authors. The blog format allows people to write longer form articles when it suits them. But if there are dozens of authors the site can get a little overwhelming.
A Ning.com site lends itself to dozens of people writing, commenting or chatting. The wonderful Harringay Online has nearly 2,000 people of whom a fair percentage comment in a number of different ways.
Remember though that you will all be responsible if one of the authors writes something daft or worse, libellous or defamatory. So make sure that people behave sensibly and share your core values. You should also have a look at this easy to use guide to defamation, libel etc for websites.
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