Best solution for group members to ask each other questions online?
March 17, 2017 1:53 PM   Subscribe

My org would like to develop some kind of online platform for members around the world to ask each other specific legal questions. We're not sure what the best way to make this work would be. More details:

The basic concept here is that our members, who are a growing network of defense lawyers from around the world, would be able to easily submit questions about aspects of law in other countries, to be answered by members from those countries. For example, a lawyer in Egypt whose client is a refugee from Syria and needs to know some aspect of Syrian law, or a member of one country's bar association who wants ask members of another country's bar association about some specific legal aid project they're implementing.

These questions will be reviewed by moderators before they're shared with the relevant members. They may also include attachments, like word docs or PDFs.

We're not sure of the best way to set this system up. One proposal was a forum, but that doesn't seem like a great solution, given the things we want this to be useful for - that would require the question-answerers to regularly check the site, which doesn't seem optimal. Another option we discussed were targeted mailing lists, where members from one country would receive the questions by email - but given the number of countries involved, that doesn't seem like a perfect solution either, because someone would have to manage all those mailings.

Having given it some thought, what I'm imagining is a site where:
-A user submits a question for moderation.
-The question is reviewed and posted, along with any relevant attachments.
-Once the post is live, members from the relevant country receive an automatic notification by email.
-Those members can then go to the site and post their answers to the question.

Here's the problem: we need at least a basic outline for how we plan to implement this system, in order to make pitches to the donors we would like to fund it. (We only need to be able to describe the platform(s) we want to use and the basic structure of the site, we don't need to get SUPER technical at this stage.) But no one here is tech-savvy at all. I'm the only person who knows enough about the internet to even ask this question at this level of detail, and clearly I'm out of my depth.

(Once this project is funded, we will hire someone to build out the site/manage the back end who knows what the heck they're doing.)

Ideally, we do not want to have a platform purpose-built for this. We want it to be based on an existing platform or tool, because it will be easier to maintain and update over time, and most likely cheaper.

I'd love to hear any thoughts on this! Even a very general idea, though if you can propose specific tools that would also be great.
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Slack might be what you want. Very customizable, ability to attach files of various kinds, ability to create hierarchies for permissions.
posted by crunchy potato at 2:17 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]

I'm not going to say it's the best solution, but Bugzilla would accomplish this. The initial email upon creation of a "bug" could go to a moderators list, and then with moderator approval, it could be assigned to a country list, sending an email to the country list email. It allows attachments, and also for tagging of sorts, which might be useful for other members wanting to search.

Signed, someone who uses bugzilla slightly unconventionally.
posted by freezer cake at 2:38 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

I can imagine doing this in a Wordpress blog.

Let's say you set up a mailing list for the moderators; anyone can mail a question to the mods, then they discuss it and post it to to the blog. Other members will then be able to comment on the post. One nice thing about this approach is that the question and answers live in the same place, and should be easier to search through than an old e-mail archive.

Tagging will be critical. Your moderators would tag the question with all the jurisdictions the post relates to, areas of law (if that's also a thing you care about), etc.

In order to handle notifications to members: Members will be invited to subscribe to the tags that interest them, either in the form of an RSS feed or e-mail. Anyone can subscribe via RSS using the format; there are a number of options for converting an RSS feed to e-mail.

You'd probably need to set up a page showing all of the tags you plan to use with buttons for subscribing to RSS/e-mail feeds to make life simpler for your participants.
posted by adamrice at 2:45 PM on March 17

You could probably do this with Tumblr, actually.
posted by Jairus at 4:49 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

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