The panelists are:
- Sarah Gilbert and Asha Dornfest of UrbanMamas.com
- Sheena (age 15) and Iris (Age 16) of SmashCast.org.
This is a summer honors program for math and science for high school students. More info on the program at: lpfi.org/education/smash.shtml
- Mandy Moore from knitting blog yarnageddon
Q: How to maintain content standards across multiple contributors?
Sarah: it’s a challenge. We started with five women who are close friends, and already had a common passion and interest. Wanted to provide more resources for local moms. Nothing was meeting the needs without being really commercial. We wanted to come at it from a content standard. We had a common goal. We’ve added bloggers since then, and we try to find people who share the vision.
Asha: I found them and was enthusiastic and emailed them. When I post there, I internalize the voice that was already there and use that voice accordingly. I try to respect what they started as founders.
Q: How do you manage releasing multiple posts a day – a few hours apart? How do you give time to each post to be commented on?
Sarah: Urbanmamas does not do a schedule. We blog whenever we have time. We do have multiple posts going up around the same time. We try to encourage commenting on each others posts, but we don’t have a policy on it. We are friends and we want to talk about these things. Some of the other blogs I participate in do have a schedule, for example, every hour during the weekdays. It’s hard to incent someone to comment. We’ve never had rules on “you have to comment”. You get comments if you spur discussion, and that’s motivation for you.
Q: How do you get your posters to reliably post? How do you keep them encouraged?
Sarah: A question for the ages! I’ve tried different things. Letting them go, sending them an email, sometimes encouragement is all it takes. I don’t have quotas on any of the blogs. I do have expectations. No one is doing this out of a contract or responsibility for UrbanMamas. We feel responsible to our readers, and giving them content has given us great benefits.
Asha: I have been an MIA poster. I think it helps for there to be a committed core of posters, and then a sattelite group that injects a fresh voice.
Q: I’ve got the reverse, with an overenthusiastic poster, who is making it look like its her blog.
Sarah: I focus on encouraging the lesser posting people to post. But another idea is to come up with a quota for maximum as well as minimum.
Q: What if the content is not quality? Do you edit?
Sarah: On UrbanMamas, we are struggling with a poster who seems to be out to promote their own business more than the site itself. The more that people post on one theme, the fringe posters will get the idea of what the theme is. We might say go post that on your own site because it’s clear that your trying to build that community.
Q: For the high school girls, how do you work together given that one of you lives in CA and one in KY
A: We are in a summer program in the Bay Area. We all share the same interests in science, math and technology. We started this blog based on podcast. They get together twice a month and make podcasts about their interests, and I moved recently, but we would do phone conferences and web cam and students from our program would get us all connected.
Q: What are the communities and how do you define them? Who are your audiences and how do they find you?
A: Our audiences are teens like us because we create podcasts and put it on our web site, and whoever wants to hear can listen.
Q: Do you ever hear back from the audience?
A: Our podcasts are by 2, 3, or 4 people. We organize our ideas, pick a topic and talk about it. People our age reach for it and we get to share what we know. We want to tell them they can do the same thing we do.
A: The knit blogging community… There are a lot of group projects that happen, so it’s like a group blog, but spread over thousands of blogs. Charity initiatives. People donate money or knit stuff to donate somewhere or to send somewhere. One of them has raised over $117,000 for Doctors without Borders. There are also knit-alongs where people all work on the same pattern at the same time.
Q: is the knit blogging community international?
A: yes, totally international.
Sheena: To add to that, when we created our podcast, a group from Agua Calientes, Mexico responded to us with another podcast.
Sarah: A commonality of these communities is that they are inclusive and supportive. There’s not flame wars. There’s something special about the organic nature of these groups that keeps people from getting into these judgemental situations.
Asha: Although parenting can be controverisal, for Urban Mamas because it’s local, people are accountable because we’re going to come across each other on the playground or at the pool.
Mandy: In Knitting, there can be bitchiness.
Sarah: I think in knitting, there’s accountability because people are artists. With a knit-along, there is accountablility because you want to make your friends proud. That keeps everyone supporting each other.
Q: Do you think that accountability is if you don’t do the right thing then you won’t have any comments?
Mandy: I don’t think so. A lot of bloggers that are popular are quite opinionated. In the sex blogging panel, it came up that if you censor yourself too much then you won’t sound sincere and people won’t come back. You’ll find people who want to hear what you have to say.
Iris: Our audience never says we don’t like what you’re saying or doing. We do have controversy within the group to agree on our topic. I thought I wasn’t getting into this top school because of my last name because I had the grades and everything. This guy just kept saying maybe they don’t have space. We had a controversy. Let’s hear the podcast.
Q: For knitting, is the controversy around crochet vs knitting?
Mandy: Yes, crochet can be a bad word for knitters, but I do both. Anyway that people can find to make cultural divides, they do.
Sarah: On UrbanMamas, we have cultural divides with East versus West
Q: Can you give suggestions on the best way to find people to blog on the site? Approach people who are already blogging?
Sarah: I find that it’s a good idea to approach those who are already blogging. You have to evaluate how busy they already are. If they are a popular blogger, they can be an asset to your traffic, but if they are too busy, it won’t work. Don’t start with top names. They might come to you later when
Asha: On ParentHacks, I am the only poster, but much of my content comes from people sending me content. The first place I would look is the commenters on my web site. We already have a relationship and I feel like those people already respect the culture of my blog.
How many bloggers do you think is good for a core group?
There are five in Portland Urban mamas, which I think is a really good number.
Michelle from MomSquak, for new and expecting mothers. We have 5 core bloggers. We are struggling with a diversity, a conservative homeschooler, a breastfeeding babywearing advocate. Those two have conflicts and I can’t help but wonder if that’s going to turn off readers. How do we celebrate diversity without conflict?
Sarah: On Blogging Baby, we ask people to get into it in the comments. Do you want to broadcast to the world that you like to fight? Or just that you can express your opinion?
Asha: If you are setting up a group blog, you want to start with your core bloggers to agree upon a mission statement. Set up an email back channel.
Jillian from Redbook Magazine oversees group blogs. We allow the participants to take their shots, but we are struggling with how to coach the commenters on how to talk to each other.
Asha: I’m a fan of written policies. Put out there to people what your expectations about what their discourse on your site will be. As a leader of a site, you have a responsibility to take it back to a respectful place. People won’t feel safe getting involved if you don’t protect it.
Whitney from RookieMoms: On my site, I work with one other person. This helps relieve some of the pressure to produce new content. Some of the challenges are maintaining a consistent editorial voice. Our solution has been to come up with a checklist of qualities that each post must have.
Iris: How can blogging help under resourced communities?
Mandy: Do you have a blog?
Iris: Yes, I have MySpace, but their interests are not the same. They talk about music or movies, but not a real connection like you get if you have your own blog.
Audience: When I was looking for a knitting group, I searched on Yahoo! groups, and you can also look at Meet Up to find people with interests like you have with Math, Science, Technology.
Smash program mentor: The challenge for Iris is that Teen Geeks of Color are not a group with a strong identity that has been claimed. We look, but we’re not going to find anything by searching. We have found a few groups but they are in other countries.
Sarah: Start it yourself and people will come. They will find you. Start it on Google or MySpace.
Women Matter: We have such a wide diversity of issues, that it doesn’t reflect one niche.
Asha: Maybe find a lead blogger for each topic. There’s a wonderful book about designing for communities by Derek Powazek.
Jill: When we started Silicon Valley Moms Blog, we thought we would find tons of people to join and contribute. We now have over 40 writers, but starting out, when we searched, we didn’t find anything. I suggest that for the teens, they start by looking for a couple of like-minded people and start there, it will grow.
I have a daughter who’s thirteen, and I have a passion for girls becoming geeks. I admire what you’re doing, because I would like to see the bar raised for girls, for the Internet to be more than just My Space to them.
Terry: I’ve been doing a team blog for 10 months. I have made some mistakes, but also some good things. When you are the blog administrator, what’s the best way to part ways with one of your contributors?
Sarah: Keep it short. Say I think we are going in different directions.
Jill: Set up really strict guidelines on how you expect posts to be constructed.
Q: Do you think a real-life proximity is important so that you can resolve conflicts with the group?
Sarah: Email can actually be great for conflict resolution because you think before you send an email.
Sheena: For Smashbox, our dedication came through in arranging physical meetings.