Every Stack Exchange site starts with a Q&A site, made up of three pieces that help bring the whole community together:
- bicycles.stackexchange.com, the main Q&A site
- meta.bicycles.stackexchange.com, questions about community and administrative matters
- chat.bicycles.stackexchange.com, the third place for real-time collaborations
But wait, there's more?
A couple months ago, the Super User community took it upon themselves to create a blog run by the community. This effort has been so successful that a couple other communities floated the idea amongst themselves. Internally, we recognized this as an opportunity many of our communities might be interested in and brought the operation in-house.
We are happy to announce that with Blog Overflow, Stack Exchange communities are able to run a community blog. Several communities have already begun blogging: Super User and Gaming. A blog for your community can be an excellent form of community engagement.
So how does my site get a community blog?
Starting a blog is easy. Keeping up a blog, contributing to it regularly is difficult. Blogs are hard work. Wanting a blog is obviously the first step, but there are a few things that the community needs to discuss in order to get a blog going.
- Raise the idea on the child meta. A community blog needs the involvement of community members. These blogs don’t exist to be the personal blog of a community member. They are both for and run by the community. It needs to be something the community collectively wants and will cultivate.
- Define the scope and purpose of the blog. Is the blog about the site? Is it about the site’s topic? Is it about the industry around the topic? Keep in mind the audience of your community and their interests. Another generic blog about may not be all that interesting. A community blog should be interesting to both current members and potential new members.
- Recruit contributors. Who will write entries for the blog? Starting a blog is a bit like going through the buffet line. Be realistic – don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach. Think seriously about if and how often you will be able to contribute a blog post, including research/prep time. The more contributors there are, the less frequently each contributor needs to post. One post a month is a much easier to stomach than a couple posts every week.
- Plan a schedule. Given the results of steps #2 and #3, think about a rough idea of a schedule for the blog. Will there be one post a week, posted Mondays? Will there be posts on Tuesdays and posts on Fridays? You don’t need to be pushing out posts daily, but you should post at least once a week.
But we don’t have anything to write about.
Sure you do! If there was nothing to write about, your Stack Exchange site wouldn’t exist! Stack Exchange sites trick you into writing.
- Interview top users. Just who is that user who is shooting up the reputation leagues?
- Highlight top content. What great question was posted on the site recently? Recognize it! Don’t just copy the question and its answers to the blog, blog about the question and its answers. A fine line there, eh? Delve deeper into the question or an answer. Add more context. Compare or analyze answers against each other. There is a lot to work with here.
- Review a product. Reviews don’t fit the Q&A nature of the sites, but these rules don’t apply on the blog! Between a review written by a random person on the internet and a review written by a user on the site who consistently gets a lot of upvotes, which review would you trust more?
- Tell us an interesting story. Did you go on an incredible cycling trip? Play a really interesting game? Read a great book on math? All it takes to get started is a set of pictures or screenshots you can share with some narrative stitching it together. So long as it's topical and you're excited about it, others in the community would probably enjoy sharing your experience!
- Explore hot topics. Is there a topic on your site that keeps getting asked about over and over? Maybe some tips or a closer look at the topic would interest the community.
- Keep up with current events. What is making news for your community? What interests the community?
Got any tips?
- Have someone holding the reins. This person doesn’t need to be the one writing all the posts, just someone that helps coordinate who is writing what and when it is getting posted.
- Pick a posting schedule and stick to it. It is easier to simply keep up from the get go than catch up if you fall behind. Have a couple draft posts stashed away for a rainy day, ready to go that can be published if there is a lull.
- Don’t be intimidated. If you can contribute a post to your Q&A site that gets an upvote, you are able to successfully communicate. Posting to the blog is no different!
- Plan and manage, don’t wing it. Set up a Google Doc, or something similar, that lets you keep track of ideas for posts, who is writing what, etc.
- Peer review each other. The easiest way to do this is using the built-in WordPress permissions. Not everyone should be an admin on the blog. Set up a simple hierarchy. Have editors that review pending posts and schedule/post them. This frees most people up to write instead of trying to coordinate with a group of people.
There is a chat room set up where you can bounce ideas off other people, or ask for suggestions/tips from users that have been blogging.
When a new blog is setup for a community, it will go through a beta phase much like the Q&A site. Initially, the blog will be hosted on our .blogoverflow.com network. As the blog matures, grows, and continues to be contributed to regularly, we will move the blog over to our blog..stackexchange.com network and replace the blog link on the Q&A site to the official community blog for the site.
So what are you waiting for? Head on over to your meta and see if there's interest in a community blog. Be sure to check out the Blog Overflow homepage, which lists recent posts from all the blogs in our network. Happy blogging!