I know this has been written about some here, but I'm still seeing some confusion. Just the other day I was explaining to someone about how I used to believe it was talking down to people to repeat the same things over and over again, but later realized that my students could benefit from hearing me say the same thing multiple times, sometimes from multiple perspectives. I think I have this down, but if anyone feels as though I'm missing anything, feel free to let me know.
So I'm going to take a stab at explaining what groups are on DK4 and how they work.
First, there are basically four things you can do with respect to a group. Follow, contribute, edit and administer.
I'll take each of these in turn.
So let's say you want to create a group. For the sake of this discussion we'll call it "The Best Group Ever Created," or "TBGEC" for short.
I'll get to how you create it, but I want to go in reverse order-- I'll explain why in a moment.
Let's say you've read a piece from TBGEC and like it and you want to know when more pieces come through TBGEC.
All you have to do to get those pieces is to click on the little heart next to the group's name to follow it. This is how you become a follower of the group. From what I understand, at this point the system treats pieces posted in the group the exact same way it treats people whom you follow. I.e., if you are a follower of Frankenoid, you'll see her pieces in your stream just as you would any pieces from TBGEC.
And that's all there is to following a group.
Contributor (this was originally called "member").
A Contributor is someone who wants to write for the group or suggest pieces for other groups. If you're a contributor to TBGEC, you can take any piece on Kos, including your own and "republish" it to the group. For your own pieces, you can choose to send directly to your group. I.e., when you hit publish, you have three options-- one is to publish to a group. So you choose publish to, and choose TBGEC from the list.
Here's the caveat-- if you want to control when your piece gets published, you have to publish it yourself and then republish it to a group. If you don't care when it goes live, and want everything to go live when it goes to the group, you just publish it directly to TBGEC and you're good to go. You may also leave notes for the editors, such as "can you please put this up between 8am and 11am EST, as that's when I'll be around to participate" or "Feel free to throw this up whenever is best for you."
Editors (I think that's still called "BlogEditor")
Editors can do everything the contributor can do but one more important task. They can schedule pieces in the queue. I.e., if you contribute something to TBGEC, and I, for this moment playing the role of editor, sees that there are already four pieces in the queue, I can look at them and decide which should get published first, set an exact time for them, and control the timing of everything. I can also reject an item as inappropriate, decide that it's better suited for an evening audience, or contact you and ask you to flesh it out in a different fashion, add detail, etc..
I'm also told, though I have not tried this, that multiple editors in the same group can edit a piece together. I.e., take turns looking over a piece, adding content, etc. before making it live.
People who administer a group can do anything that the others can do and they can control membership. They can invite people, reject people. They can affect anything about the group's membership save for removing the group's creator from the group. Even the creator doesn't seem to be able to do that, though a creator can reduce their permissions to "member" and not have to deal with all the messages about who has been added to a group and who has accepted membership.
Administrators can also upload a group logo, change the name of the group, and do anything to enhance the group in whatever way they see fit. In other words, choose your administrators wisely.
I don't need to explain the creator of the group-- it's been covered in the admin section-- the creator is simply the person who first created the group.
Another question came up of "why groups?"
What's the value of them.
I'll explain why I think they're worthwhile and let others argue or agree as they see fit.
Let's say that we don't think we need TBGEC as a group because we can just use it as a tag and people can follow that. This is true. They can follow that tag, but there are no restrictions on who can use what tag where and when. Having a group to control the flow of information through a central source helps keep the topic from getting oversaturated with multiple pieces presenting the exact same information posted at the same time. It helps us give people time with their work highlighted in front. Getting away from TBGEC, I'll give an example of the phototography group.
We have a lot of very talented photographers here. My work can be considerably different from most of the others. The bird photography is not unique, but I don't see anyone else posting pieces about night photography of the sort that I do.
So, depending on the content I'm producing, I may look at the other photo diaries and say "oh, there's one from Haole in Hawaii. I think I'll hold off on my own bird piece until that's been up there for awhile, because, really, who would want to compete with that?" But I might look and see that the only recent piece on the photography group was published the day before and it was all close up macro work and think "okay, bird diary will produce something new and different to go on the page."
A lot of what I've done with organized groups here in the past (DK Greenroots, Dawn Chorus) etc. involved a bunch of behind the scenes conversation for scheduling everything. Now, if I have something ready to go for Dawn Chorus I can just stick it in the queue and tell lineatus "This is ready to go if you don't have a Dawn Chorus for next week, but if you've got one, just queue it for later." I can still e-mail her just because she's awesome, but it centralizes the communication into one location and simplifies things.
Similarly, last Summer when she took a break from Dawn Chorus we did a lot of convoluted stuff to keep it going on schedule that will be much simpler now.
So... those are my thoughts on the value of groups, as well as what is theoretically a decent walkthrough of how they work.Updated by Julie Waters at Sat Feb 19, 2011, 12:41:39 PM
From the comments:
In our Baja AZ Kossacks group, e.g., where... everyone is an admin we use the internal messaging for threads about local events of interest, etc., without having to have the material, time, or energy for a real diary
Thanks for the tip-- I didn't realize this. Only admins and editors can use group messaging.
Updated by Julie Waters at Sun Feb 20, 2011, 02:18:04 PM
One more quick note-- I can see that this piece has been reposted in a quite a few different groups. I just want to be clear that I have no problem with that. I wrote it for everyone's benefit, and the more people understand how the site works the better.
I, however, don't want to be seen as supporting or endorsing a given group's mission simply because this has been reposted there.
Updated by Julie Waters at Mon Feb 21, 2011, 03:04:34 AM
One more nice tip, also from the comments:
...you can invite many people at once, just separate their names with a comma like tags, hit search and it does the rest.
once your whole list is up you just select everyone and then you only have to add your message once....
That would have saved me a lot of trouble early on.