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June 2, 2008 4:09 PM   Subscribe

What's the best software to start an easy-to-use community blog/wiki website? The focus is on ease of use for a wide range of users, allowing people to write articles, upload photos, sound and potentially video.

I'm totally out of touch with the modern state of blogging software and wiki software, so I'd appreciate any guidance here.

I've been charged with starting a site where a large number of (mostly middle-aged and older) family members from across the world will be able to write about their memories, tell stories and generally ramble on in an entertaining manner. They'll also need to be able to upload photos and (less importantly, but it'd be nice) other media, such as audio and video.

We don't want them to get discouraged by a complicated interface, weird markup or anything else like that. The lowest possible point of entry would be the best one. I'm considering making it totally open, without any need for a login, though that might be a bit dangerous around the spam-bots.

I've searched through the Expression Engine plugins and couldn't find anything relevant. I've also looking through some of the Movable Type one and tried to look through some Wordpress ones, but to no avail. There are tons of each, though, so I may well have missed something useful.

Actually, as I'm typing this, I just realised that something like MeFi could well be useful, especially if there was a way to easily upload and embed images into posts.

Any suggestions would be most welcome! Thanks!

Also, that's a joke URL. Honest!
posted by Magnakai to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Just had a thought - maybe a post via email system would be a good idea, as most people know how to use email. Has anyone had any experience with something like this, and are there any potential problems?
posted by Magnakai at 4:14 PM on June 2, 2008

Google Sites is really good, except the biggest hurdle is figuring out how to sign up, log on and re-log on. Not a huge hurdle, but it pretty much kills participation when the least user friendly step is the first one.
posted by Skwirl at 4:21 PM on June 2, 2008


Use WordPress Multiuser and edit the interface and STRIP OUT alot of the features.

That way you have a solid backend, the new photo gallery features are totally clutch, and you can make it as complex or as easy as you want.
posted by petethered at 5:25 PM on June 2, 2008

Over Christmas, I did the exact thing you just described for my family, using Blogspot.

First, I registered a gmail address for myself--both Blogspot and Gmail are owned by Google--then went to and used my new account to set-up a new blog. Trust me, it's dead simple: choose a name, choose a template, and you're done. You have to know exactly zero HTML.

After the blog was set up, I went back to gmail and created accounts for all the relatives likely to participate. Not exactly a fun couple of hours, but it was far from hard. Be sure to write down everyone's password!

Back to Blogspot, where I authorized these new accounts for posting and commenting. (And set it so that ONLY those accounts could comment.)

Also, under the Email setting, I created a secret blogspot email address that will post any mail sent to it on the blog. That is, if my Aunt Betty just emails this address, whatever she wrote in the email becomes a blog post from Betty.

Finally--and this was the only hard part--I wrote an email to everyone, explaining their new email addresses, how to log on and post, how to upload pictures, and so on.

The interface is really easy to use, and after a few glitches everyone has really taken to it with no problems.

I'm not trying to be corny, but it's really brought the family together in a big way. We now have a Flickr stream and a bunch of other goofy little add-ons. I created the site under pressure, but I'm really glad I did.

MeMail or email me if you decide to go this route and need a hand with setting it up.
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:48 PM on June 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hmm, Wordpress MU looks very, very capable. I assume that this is the photo gallery that you were talking about. It looks fantastic, and if it's possible to strip it down loads then it might be appropriate. I'll definitely use that at some point in the future, if not for this, then for something else.

Google Sites is very friendly and remarkably solid, but I think that it might be a bit too much. There are far too many options at any single stage of the process for the audience that I'm aiming at. Pity, as I had a lot of fun trying it out.

Ian, thank you for telling me that. I'll go have a poke around on Blogspot and see how that's going to turn out. I think that, whatever software I go with, an email based system is just going to be the easiest solution.
posted by Magnakai at 6:23 PM on June 2, 2008

Let me pop in one more time to say that, like you, when I set up the blog for my mostly middle-aged family I was sure that they'd exclusively use the Post By Email option, too. But the Blogspot posting form is so simple it's pretty much identical to sending an email anyway, and now almost all my family uses that instead.

That is, to send an email, they log onto a website using their username and password, then click New Message. They type their message into a simple text entry field (which includes simple formatting buttons like bold and italic and hyperlinks), then press Send.

What I hadn't really anticipated is that my family would be smarter than me and realize than it's just as simple to skip the email and just create a post: they log onto the website using their username and password, then click New Post. They type their message into a simple text entry field (which includes simple formatting buttons like bold and italic and hyperlinks), then press Post. It cuts out the middle-man.

Okay, I'll leave your thread alone, now, I promise! MeMail me if you need anything else.
posted by Ian A.T. at 6:39 PM on June 2, 2008

Drupal or Joomla!.
posted by PueExMachina at 11:20 PM on June 2, 2008

I've seen a lot of people creating similar communities with Movable Type. (I work with the team.) It's extremely user-friendly for both your family (no geeky terms to intimidate them, and very little clutter on-screen when writing) and for you to manage (much better security than, for example, WordPress). The free version would do everything that you've listed, and since it's a personal site, you could also pay a pretty low fee and get technical support direct from us to help you get started.
posted by anildash at 8:40 AM on June 4, 2008

If simple is what you want, avoid movabletype. Complete overkill.

I realize anildash is paid to spam espouse users with the gospel of sixapart but it's ridiculous to use movabletype for what you're describing.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 10:23 AM on June 6, 2008

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