Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Letting other people write in your blog

This article describes the ways that you can allow other people to write and publish on your blog.  It looks at and the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

Comments vs blog-posts, the case for team-blogs

There are two main ways that content can be put into your blog: comments and posts.

Blogger is designed, around the idea that initial discussions about new topics are started by you, and put into posts.   Readers interact with you by commenting on your posts - although, yes,  there are ongoing problems with readers not being able to comments, it seems mainly because of their security settings.

But there may be some people who you want to be able to do more than just comment.  Increasingly people want to do more with their comments - they want to include links (eg to pictures that show what they mean), or they want to integrate comments with their social networks (for example, as shown in the ways that James from JS Blogstop has integrated Facebook and Twitter comments with his blog-comments.

And some groups of people want to work together to make a blog that they all write posts for, and are prepared to make and follow their own rules/guidelines (which aren't enforced by Blogger) to make this successful.

Team organisation vs Blogger tools

There are many ways to organise a team of bloggers.
  • Some blogs are run by one person (the owner or manager), who recruits people to write for them (either for payment, or as volunteers).
  • Some belong to a company, and are operated by an employee according to their job description. 
  • Some blogs are owned by a committee, who delegate one person to do all the work on them. 
  • Some have a team of writers who and designers, who all contribute equally and who make collective decisions about how things are done. 
And there are many more options in between.

Unfortunately Blogger cannot set up permissions for all the different ways that real-world teams work - there are just too many options. Instead, you need to design the way your team works, using the options that Blogger does provide.   So - what are these?

Have posts emailed to you

Email icon crystal This is the simplest way to let other people write for your blog:  authors write their content in the tool of their choice, and email it to you. You load it to Blogger, do any formatting or editing and hit the publish button.

  • Authors don't need to learn Blogger software
  • You have total control over what's published, and when, and how it looks

  • Time:  You need to put time into converting each submission
  • Conversion problems:  Some formats don't convert well (eg Microsoft Word can only sometimes be successfully converted to blogger - and should never be copy-and-pasted)
  • Wasted time - and risk of mistakes:
    If an author has put a lot of effort into layout (headings, bold, italics, tables, footnotes, etc) you may need to recreate it all yourself - and some features, eg tables, may not be well-supported by Blogger.
  • Managing attached files:If a post includes a lot of graphics or videos, you need to receive these files too, and load them to Picasa (or an appropriate file-host for non-image files), and link to them from the post: your author will not be able to set up the links. Alternatively if your author has linked to pictures that are hosted somewhere, you lose control over whether these will continue to work in the future.  And there won't be a thumbnail picture for the post if none of the pictures are stored in Picasa-we or Google + albums.

How to make receiving posts by email less painful

If you end up using this option because none of them others are suitable, you could ask your writers to send you  HTML instead of a custom document format like Word.

Or ask them to work in Google Docs, which you can copy-and-paste from.

Or  send PDF files: host these  in a place that provides embed code (eg Scribd), and you keep their formatting by putting the embed code into your posts.

Have posts emailed to your blog

Blogger has the "mail2Post" feature, which lets you set up your blog to receive posts that are emailed to a "secret" address that you have set up.

You need to choose whether mail2Post submissions are automatically published or set to draft, and the "secret words" part of the mail2Post email address.

Then you need to tell the people who you want to post how to do so, ie what email address to send their contributions too, and how to handle things like pictures or videos that they want to include.

  • Saves you time
  • Lets people post even if you aren't available to Publish
  • Writers can work in a familar tool, and only need to be on-line while they're sending their content

  • Attached photos don't always work, your writers don't control where in the post they are put, and you don't control where the picture files are saved
  • There is no way to automatically add Labels to posts (you need to add them manually later)
  • Content that you don't want may be put on your blog if a hacker guesses your secret-words-address
  • There are no guarantees about formatting (bold, italics, bullet-pointed lists) being shown correctly: a lot depends on the writer's email client settings
  • You cannot tell who the post-author was from the Blogger dashboard
  • If you set incoming posts to draft, Blogger has no way of notifying you that there are new posts waiting for you  r approval - you need to notice that they're there.

Making it work

The last few problems can be avoided if you use email-forwarding and mail2Post together. This also lets you add rules / filters within Gmail, so reduces the risk of automatically publishing something inappropriate, and you can set up notifications to yourself about posts waiting your review.

Grant Author rights inside Blogger

Each blog can have one or more administrators (who can do anything), and or more authors, who can only write new posts, and edit their own existing posts. Authors and administrators are considered to be members of a team blog, and each blog can invite up to 100 people to be members.
  • It's fairly easy to make someone into an author
  • The writer can use Blogger's tools for formatting their post, and for adding pictures and videos.
  • Labels can be applied before a post is publihsed
  • Posts can be scheduled into the future
  • It's easy for authors to format links nicely (eg "this article on Blogger-HAT" instead of "www.blogger-hints-and-tips.blogspot.com/XXX")

  • You cannot force writers to always let you review posts before they're published: you can ask them to save posts as draft, but there's nothing to guarantee that they will do so
  • You cannot guarantee that authors will always use your preferred styles and formats
  • Authors need to learn to use Blogger: we all know it's not that hard - but I will guarantee that some people think it is!
  • You cannot stop writers from editing their earlier posts
  • Authors can only edit their own earlier posts, and not those of other wrtiers. (This  could be a problem later if some authors move on you have new-team members: only administrators can edit the work of now-departed authors.)
  • You cannot control where your writers host pictures and videos: the post-editor lets them link to any location. this means that an author keeps all their photos in Flickr will write posts that don't have a thumbnail picture (because these pictures must be stored in Picasa-web-albums

Making it work:

Members of your team need to be very clear about how you work together, and what the consequences are if someone breaks the rules.

Grant Administrator rights inside Blogger

A blog administrator has full rights over a blog: they can change the template, delete the blog, add other administrators, set up mail2Post, delete posts, etc - just like you can. Giving someone administrator right is the ultimate step in letting them write for your blog.

  • This has the same advantages as giving someone author rights - and granting administrator rights is just a small extra step once someone is an author
  • And administrators can edit the work of other authors too, which may be an advantage or disadvantage depending on your circumstances.
  • Having a 2nd administrator can be a good safety precaution, in case you become sick or lost access to your account.

  • Someone with administrator rights has full control over the template and posts in your blog: they can do everything you can do.
  • They can also remove other administrators - meaning they could remove your admin rights!

Making it work:
You need very clear rules about who is responsible for what - and  a very trusting relationship with the other administrators.


Petes Candy Store Realistically, if your blog has a number of team members, possibly including guest-posters, then you will probably use a mix-and-match approach to giving rights to other people.

This means you will need to make choices about who can do what - and why.

For example:
  • New / prospective guest-posters may be invited to email posts to you
  • Established guest-posters may be set up with mail2Blog, or even as authors inside Blogger
  • Regular writers may be set up as authors
  • Core team members will probably all be administrators - and you will have a range of measures (including regular backups and password change rules) to make sure that you are all honest with each other.

What are your experiences

I am keen to hear more about how people have made team-blogs work in practice:   how did you decide what rules to follow, how did you sort out arguments, and prevent team-members from hi-jacking the blog?    What other problems did you face?

Related Articles

Making someone into an author on your blog

Making someone into an administrator on your blog

Setting up mail2Post / Post to profile on your blog

mail2Post: knowing who posted what

Using tables to show data in your blog

Converting from MS Word to Blogger - via Google Docs

File hosts:  places where you can keep files that are used on your blog

How is the thumbnail picture for each post chosen

Share this Article


HTML link code:

BB (forum) link code:

Subscribe to Blogger-hints-and-tips

FeedBurner will send a confirmation message. Click the verify link in it to start your subscription.

Follow Me on Pinterest Subscribe to Blogger-HAT on Google + RSS subscription icon Follow BloggerHAT on Twitter

1 comment:

  1. I want other writers to post their articles in my blog and i also want to display the names of the respective post-authors.. but i also want to be able to approve the article before letting them publish without giving them any administrative rights.Which option should i prefer?