Pulling together a new project team can be done quickly, even if your team members are spread across the entire world. But putting effective collaboration tools in place tends to take a little more time. However, there is a way to do so quickly using simple blogging tools that lets you get to work with your team, without having to wait on organizational bureaucracy or corporate IT to set up something on the internal network.
The approach I’ll outline below relies on using hosted blogging software, such as Blogger, Typepad or WordPress.com (please see disclosure at the bottom of the post – Ed.), so it may not be a perfect solution if you need to guarantee security. Not that hosted blogging tools aren’t secure, but the best way to keep information under your own control is to keep it on your own servers.
Using Blogs for Collaboration
Once you’ve set up an account with your blogging platform of choice, you can create a new blog. The sites of all of the hosted blogging platforms walk you through the process, making it very manageable. During the new blog creation process, you may be asked whether you want to make your blog private. If not, you’ll need to change the blog’s settings to “private” after you’ve finished creating it. The privacy settings can usually be found in the “Settings” menu on your blogging platform (check with the documentation if you can’t find it).
If you use WordPress.com, you’ll find that there’s a theme called P2 that’s especially suited for turning your new blog into a collaboration tool. It can be applied to your blog by selecting the “Appearances” menu and then the “Theme” menu. From there, you’ll be able to search for the P2 themes to apply to your blog. On Blogger and Typepad, you’ll likely find that you’ll need to use less customized themes.
Bringing in Your Team Members
Once your collaboration site is set up and marked as private, the next step is making it accessible specifically to those team members who will be working on your project. On Blogger, you’ll find your access settings on the “Permissions” menu, underneath the “Settings” menu. You can add blog authors as well as blog readers there. On TypePad, you can invite people to contribute to your blog over email in the “Authors” page under the “Edit Configuration” menu. Similarly, on a WordPress.com blog, you have the ability to add more people to the site. You’ll be asked for their name and email address, as well as to choose a role. Because of the way that different user roles work within WordPress, you’ll likely want to make most of your team members either Editors or Authors; Administrators can change anything about your collaboration site, Editors can add, edit or remove any content and Authors can only add, change or remove their own content.
Once the blog is set up, it’s just a matter of sharing updates and attaching any files you need the rest of your team to see.
The Benefits of Using Blogging Software
One of the key benefits of this approach is that you can literally establish a new collaboration site that’s very easy-to-use in a matter of minutes. You can choose your team members and be communicating on a private site without waiting on anyone else.
If you want a more private (not hosted) solution and have easy access to a server, you can set up something similar by installing WordPress from WordPress.org, using Moveable Type. You can add security measures and other controls that way, like keeping the site behind a firewall, although the entire process will take a little longer to set up. There are also a variety of third party themes out there, along with plugins, that allow you to customize a blog-based collaboration site if you’re running it on your own server.
Disclosure: Automattic, maker of WordPress.com, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.