A Blog as Association Software
Originally, I thought what I needed was a Wiki where the association’s members would all contribute to the creation of a body of technical information about the sailboats in question. I was thinking about Wikipedia, of course, as the model. I ultimately didn’t find that a wiki was the solution. Though a wiki plugin for WordPress exists, it failed the requirement of having a global search along with standard posts. Furthermore, as I canvassed the membership, I wasn’t finding a lot of people willing to get the wiki topics started but lots of continued participation in a Yahoo Groups list-serve where topics typically started as questions from one member to others.
So, mind-shift kicks in again. Why not have a blog where posts can be entered by and commented on by any member but not by John-Q Public? This actually works easily and really facilitates the global search concept. A site can be created where there can be a technical article that can either be edited by other members or perhaps just commented on by other members. I think at least initially, I will allow only comments on the article rather than total anarchy that allows people to correct other people’s work. Then, I can act as moderator to decide whether or not the new information in the comments should be incorporated into the basic article.
For a site like this which concentrates on technical information on a product that has been produced over a long period of time, this is particularly important given that changes have been made in the Catalina 380 series of sailboats over the years that can make a big difference to the advice that may be given in the article itself. For instance, some of the boats had Westerbeke auxiliary diesel engines while later models used Yanmar engines and within those there were two different engine models. If someone has heat exchanger problems, it is important to know which engine you are talking about before accepting someone else’s advice.
This then raises an interesting issue of whether the website has become much the same thing as a Yahoo Groups list-serve where questions go out to the membership and those questions are answered by email from other members. Where I see the difference is that our experience with the list-serve is that there may be a great many responses that may or may not have much relevance to the original topic. Responses may also morph into invitations to come sail in some particular region. Trying to find specific information becomes difficult simply because there is so much junk to wade through. A moderated blog approach could make the content cleaner and easier to work with and thus more useful to the membership. What I have found after a couple of months of experience with the site, is that I move selected topics from the list-serve to the website when I think there is value to having such information stored historically in a way that can be easily searched.
So we won’t have a Wiki on this site but can successfully establish a collaborative environment for members to both learn and teach. Not bad!
Has anyone out there solved the problem in the same way or have you found a better approach?