Genderfork, a community art blog project I started a year and a half ago, has taken off. It’s running three posts a day, each one representing a different face or voice from the community, and has about 5,000 regular readers. From the outside, it seems like this would be an insane amount of work to maintain, but it’s turns out that it’s not, because I’m not doing the blogging — 10 passionate volunteers are. My job at this point is just to take care of them, and to continue making things better.
A bit about how we’ve set this up…
- Everybody who’s helping is doing so because they asked if they could. When I realized I needed help last December, I put out a post asking people to email me if they were interested. Since then, they’ve mostly just come knocking at my inbox without my asking.
- Each volunteer has their own responsibilities, and their commitment can be met with less than two hours of work a week (this usually goes for me, too).
- We separated the tasks of preparing blog posts from deciding when they should be published, so most of the volunteers can blog several weeks’ worth content in one sitting if they choose to.
- Whenever one of us has a question or get stuck, we try to run our ideas past the rest of the volunteers to get feedback on it. This has helped keep the vision for the site a collective agreement, and it creates a sense of shared responsibility — we’ve really become a team. (We’ve also started accumulating a stack of silly inside jokes — the inevitable consequence of liking each other.)
- WordPress blogging software
- A Google Groups mailing list so our volunteers can talk to each other
- Several Google Docs set up for sharing submissions between volunteers and keeping them organized
- Tweet Later for managing the content in our daily twitter feed
We’ve souped up our WordPress installation with the following uber-useful plugins:
- Contact Form 7 for our submission forms
- IntenseDebate for better conversations in the comments
- Flickr Blog This to Draft to let photo curation volunteers blog directly from Flickr without it showing up on the site immediately
- Role Manager to let me configure exactly what Contributor accounts have access to (i found this necessary for allowing volunteers to blog photos and videos)
And it’s going well. We know this because our community takes the time to tells us this over and over again, every single day. Here’s a note we received anonymously last week:
“This blog is wonderful =). Who knows you could be saving peoples lives by doing this.
“I’ve read all the archives, and when i came to the photo of the person with long hair in a brown leather jacket, a strong serious face with a beard and quite obvious breasts, it finally occurred to me, ignore the fact that i am gender queer myself, “this isn’t an exemption to some rule, or people being different – it is people, we’re alive and living, this is who we are”. It is legitimate and beautiful, no different from anything else people do. Thank you because it has taken a long while to be able to feel like that.”
And here’s a handful of the direct messages people have sent us through our twitter account:
“YAY Genderfork! -this site has been one of several things that has enabled me to explore and affirm my gender. Thanks!”
“hi, i’m more than a little forked at the moment, so it’s good to see you around here”
“the tweets are great. Some of them were how I felt when I was 13 so it’s cool that peeps can now share that and not just bottle it up”
“i went clothes shopping yesterday and felt totally confident in both the men’s & women’s sections for the 1st time.”
“Such gorgeous people, such moving words.”
“thank you for existing.”
So that’s what we’re building right now. Neat, huh?
Stick around. There’s a lot more to come.