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Tips and Plugins to Make a Multi-Author Blog More Manageable

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Running a multi-author blog is no mean feat. Managing content, ensuring timely publishing, maintaining schedules, ensuring proper communication with your authors, ensuring that the posts stick to some predefined guidelines and tracking changes to a post are just some of the tasks that you have to take care of while running a blog. In this post I will share some tips and useful plugins that you can use to make your job a tad bit easier.


Managing Communication

In a multi-author blog setup, proper and timely communication is very important. Lack of proper communication can result in delayed posts, below quality content and frustration. You may choose any platform like email, IRC, Twitter, Facebook Groups, Google Groups or even a private blog.

Tip: Choose one platform which suits everyone and stick to it. Using multiple channels at once will only cause confusion.

If you want to go via the blog route, you should check out the P2 Theme. It can be easily used as a private blog where discussions on any topic can be done on the same page and it provides a good visual platform for discussion. Many of WP's core developer blogs are hosted using this setup. You can install plugins like Private Messages for WordPress and P2 Check In and you can have your own private social network hosted from your site. Whichever platform you choose, stick to it and be available for your authors at all times so that they feel that someone is there to address their issues and concerns.


Managing Posts

If not done in an organised manner, managing posts can become a big nightmare. A post goes through many processes from the time of submission to its final publishing that if you loose track of things midway it can impact its final output. Depending on your workflow, you need to decide how a post will move from the author to the frontpage. WordPress offers several plugins you can use to ease your job.

The best plugin for doing such a job has to be Edit Flow. This plugin alone handles lots of things which you would need several plugins for.

  • It displays all posts in a drag / drop type calendar format so that you can schedule your posts just by dragging and dropping and can ensure your blog never runs dry.
  • You can set custom statuses for your posts apart from 'Pending Review' and 'Draft' so that you and your authors can track which stage a post is at.
  • Authors can get automatic notifications if the status of their post changes.
  • Authors can leave notes on the post edit page so that they can discuss about the post with each other. Email notifications are available for the same.
  • You can also set custom metadata for each post which your authors can fill out.

You may need to combine the Edit Flow plugin with something that will help you manage post assignments i.e. which posts will be taken up by whom. Unfortunately the plugins that used to offer such functionality are either broken or left abandoned by their developers. So the only choice here is to use a non-WordPress solution like Basecamp which can be of big help in managing post assignments.

Managing posts is not only about their workflow but how they are structured as well. A post should satisfy some basic requirements which you might have in mind. Make sure these are well communicated to your authors. For example their formatting, how to style them and ensuring correct spelling and grammar are just some of the basic requirements that every post should fulfill. You can use the Metadata feature of the Edit Flow Plugin so that an author fills in the details on how they have fulfilled all the requirements of the post.


Managing Authors

To begin with your blog must have a section dedicated to those who want to join your blog as an author. This page should highlight all the things you are looking for, the kind of content you want for your blog and all the terms and conditions which you want the authors to fulfill. You may also want your authors to sign an agreement in writing over terms and coniditons under which they will write/work for your blog. For smaller blogs this may sound like an overkill but in the long run such things can be helpful.

There are people who are not vell versed with WordPress but can write well. You can either help them in using WordPress or just take their posts via mail and publish them yourself under their name. Sometimes you can go that extra mile and create a self help tutorial for those who are not vell versed with WordPress and the publishing aspect. Normally WordPress offers enough help via its help menus. But if you want to add something extra for your authors you can use the WP Help plugin to add your own help sections for your authors.


Adding Help Menus using WP Help Plugin

WordPress by default provides some default usergroups (Roles) like 'Editors' and 'Contributors'. But you may want to edit those groups or add your own to obtain finer control over what your authors see and what they do not. You can use the User Role Editor or Members plugins to achieve the same result. The Members plugin will help you do more than just role editing. It can help you in setting up a private blog accessible just to some people. You can use it in conjunction with the P2 Theme to setup a private blog just for your authors as I suggested before.

Not only can you limit access to various sections of the Dashboard, but with plugins like Adminimize or Advanced Access Manager you can trim down the menu items or meta boxes on various pages you think your authors won't need. This can be really beneficial if most of your authors are not comfortable with WordPress. They will see only those things which are required for posting.


Using Adminimize Plugin to trim down the Edit Post Page

Promoting Your Authors

There is no bigger reward for your authors than getting due credit and exposure for their work. Giving them exposure can eventually motivate them to write better and more often. To start with, choose a theme which lists authors' names under every post heading and on the single post pages. If your theme is missing these tags, you can add them by using the get_the_author() tag.

If your posts are written by more than one author then you must check out Co-Authors Plus. It allows you to add more than one author to a post and list them accordingly using proper template tags.

Also you should make sure your theme has an author box beneath each post which lists the author's name, their bio, link to their recent posts and also link to their website. For this, ensure that all authors have filled the complete profile and have set a gravatar for themselves. Most themes now come with their own author box but if your theme doesn't have one you can use the Author Box After Posts plugin. Check our author box by hovering your mouse over my name beneath this post. You should also make use of the Author Template feature of WordPress which allows each author to have their own dedicated page with all their posts on it. You can follow our tutorial on Author Templates to create your own if your theme doesn't come with one.

You can also help get your authors featured in Google Search Results as well. If you are using the WordPress SEO Plugin, just ask your users to fill their Google+ field in the Profile menu. Then the following tag will appear in the head section of the single post page.

<link rel="author" href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/105601606991796913303"/>

Google will then pull their name, photo and link to their Google+ profile page whenever a post appears in it. It's a nice way to give your authors extra exposure. If you are not using WordPress SEO then you can add this functionality by using the following code snippet as a plugin. Save the following code into a file called googleplusheader.php and put it in your wp-content/plugins directory and activate it. Now all your authors have to do is fill the Google+ Profile field and then this link will be added to their post pages.

<?php
/*
Plugin Name: Author Header Tag Plugin
Description: This plugin adds a link to your Google+ Profile in your header tag. Enter your Google+ Link on your Profile page first.
Author: Navjot Singh
Version: 1.0
*/
function wptuts_googleplus_contactmethod( $contactmethods ) {
	if ( ! isset( $contactmethods['googleplus'] ) )
		$contactmethods['googleplus'] = 'Google+';
	return $contactmethods;
}
add_filter( 'user_contactmethods', 'wptuts_googleplus_contactmethod' );
add_action( 'wp_head', 'wptuts_googleplus_header' );
function wptuts_googleplus_header() {
	if ( is_singular() ) {
		$gplus_link = get_the_author_meta( 'googleplus', get_current_user_id() );
		if ( $gplus_link )
			echo '<link rel="author" href="' . $gplus_link . '" />';
	}
}
?>

Conclusion

These are just some of the tips that one could use for a multi-author blog. In the end, every blog is different and it's up to you how you handle things. So, how do you manage your blog? Share with me in the comments.

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