At PodCamp Pittsburgh 3, I launched an impromptu project to build a group blog to be the voice of the city. I enlisted the help of Andy Quayle, Norm Huelsman, Brandice and others. We’re still in the process of building it, but I’ll share the starting steps.
Step 1: Choose a Domain Name
This took more time than we thought, but we got it within 30 minutes. We went to Ajaxwhois.com and used that for brainstorming. It’s a domain name finding software that works quickly, and shows you quickly (very!) which domain names are taken.
We decided on OMGPittsburgh.com, which was halfway funny, a little irreverent, and besides, it was getting late.
Step 2: Buy the Domain
We used a GoDaddy.com account to register the domain. If you’re into blogging or podcasting, more than half of your friends have affiliate codes that will get you some kind of discount. Be kind and use theirs. By the way, Ajaxwhois has links straight to GoDaddy on the site, so you can do it that way, too. (I have no relationship with the site. I just think it’s useful.)
Step 3: Point the Domain to a Host
We used Tubu. (Note: I’m an affiliate for Tubu). The reasons were: it’s $10 a year to host a WordPress install. They have a “build a WordPress blog” setup that makes it SILLY easy to set up a blog. And Tubu was a sponsor of PodCamp Pittsburgh.
Outside of those reasons, Tubu is inexpensive, we know the owner, and it was easy. Reason enough?
Step 4: Decide on the Software
We picked WordPress as our blogging platform of choice. Most of us were already users of that software. You use what makes you comfy. We launched a WordPress install on our Tubu site, which as I mentioned earlier was silly/easy to do.
Step 5: Decide on the Plugins
WordPress allows you to extend your blog by adding specific plugins to the product. I won’t tell you the details of this here, as there are no doubt better blog posts. What I find about how people decide on the plugins is that you look at sites you love, figure out (or ask) what they use, and then use those.
We haven’t loaded all our plugins, but what we wanted to do was make sure our group blog had good spam protection, good sharing buttons like ShareThis or AddThis, etc, and a few other things. Which ones do you suggest?
Step 6: Decide on a Theme
For a personal blog, I’d pick Thesis, no doubt. It’s the best WordPress theme out there, and made by Chris Pearson, a true pro.
For our group blog, we wanted something more group-friendly. We checked out what Blog Harrisburg was using, and we found it was made by Woo Themes. We started over there, thought we’d pick one of their great themes, but because this was a free/cheap project, we ended up choosing K2, which is a functional, editable theme. Not my first choice, but I think it’s a good starting point.
Step 7: Build Passport Accounts
I talk briefly about establishing passports in this post. The basic premise is this: if you’re going to use the web, you need accounts at certain places. Here’s our working list of passports you’ll need:
- Yahoo (for flickr, delicious, upcoming, stumbleupon)
- Google (for gmail, googledocs, calendar)
- Twitter (technically, Twitter’s an outpost).
- Disqus (for commenting).
- FeedBurner (which isn’t a passport, but was an account we needed.
What else should we have?
Step 8: Build Outposts
I talk about using outposts here. Essentially, build places that will help get people to know where your site is, and find people where they are instead of hoping they show up. Some outposts:
- Facebook (in this case, we’re thinking of building a fan page)
- Flickr (for group photo projects)
Step 9: Start the REAL Planning
We started a wiki where we could build out the conversation about the platform. Planning for a group blog is probably a completely different post. I’ll write about the mindset in more details later. But here’s how we started:
- Group blog to be the voice of Pittsburgh, meaning a way that outsiders will learn about the city. For people inside the city, we agree that I Heart PGH is doing a great job. So are some other sites.
- Multi-authors. The site won’t work without dozens of authors to carry the load.
- Goal of people explaining why it’s so cool to come to Pittsburgh for business. We figure there are tons of ways to talk about travel. If people talk about the city in ANY way, that’s great. But if I were focusing the efforts, I’d point it towards business, because that would have the largest impact on what a blog might do for the city.
- Administered by a few to start, until an obvious leader rises to the top (someone with passion for the direction of the site).
Beyond that, we didn’t get into the planning as much YET. I presume the wiki will be a way to start that ball rolling.
Step 10: Have Fun
From here, it’s all a learning process. Every group project is different. Dad-o-Matic launched powerfully, but what surprised me was that we had SO MANY AUTHORS right out of the gate. Dads love signing up to be part of the action. I didn’t expect that.
This step is probably worth 10 blog posts.
That’s how we got started. How have you done it in the past? What steps seem to be missing? What else would you recommend for this project flow?