Distraction Free Writing on WordPress.com

As you may know, I support some sites on WordPress.com, e.g. the AAUW Tar Heel Branch. (And I just threw out a Facebook comment that maybe it’s time to start an AAUW Facebook group of volunteers devoted to supporting the branch/state sites that are using WordPress, whether WordPress.org or WordPress.com.)

I don’t usually comment on WordPress upgrades here, but the latest upgrade on WordPress.com is of particular interest — and I just got back from WordCamp Raleigh, so such issues are, perhaps, more top of mind than usual. (The upgrade is a preview of what’s coming in WordPress 3.2 for WordPress.org users.)

The WordPress team has done a fabulous job, as usual, but there’s one feature I’d like to write about – partly to help me understand it better.

This version of the software has changed the “full screen edit” mode to one that supports “distraction free writing” (again, see either the WordPress.com or WordPress.org discussion of the upgrade).

Well, I can see the point for blogs, and I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually. But since I’m always distracted when writing — and posts are often short enough that often I don’t bother to open the full-screen editor, the new environment seems a bit too stripped down for me. In particular – what happened to the toolbar?? Who decided to delete most of the buttons and go to keyboard shortcut based formatting? Yes, if you click the “Help” icon you get an actually helpful table of keyboard shortcuts, e.g.

Alt+Shift+Letter Action
n Check Spelling
j Justify Text
d Strikethrough
u o List
o 1. List
q Quote
g Full Screen
p Insert Page Break tag
e Switch to HTML mode

How many people expect real help to be behind such an icon? How does this change my elevator speech, “If you can send an email message with an attachment you can write a blog post since the edit screen looks so familiar.”? Of course, some people will never find the full-screen edit button and others may welcome the keyboard shortcuts. Is this a subtle push to keep the style sheet in control of the formatting? That may very well be a good thing (as you see, I’m writing to come to an understanding), but it’s still an odd cultural shift.

And, yes, the full screen editing for HTML mode is fabulous! (For me, anyway — for my users, not such a big deal.)

Side note:

There was a question in the final session today about WordPress as a CMS vs. a Blogging Platform. The answer was, as I recall, the equivalent of “yes.” Of course WordPress is very flexible and it’s both, but the “blogging” roots and mindset are pretty deeply embedded. It’s still the best for my applications, and I’m willing to fight through some oddities and annoyances even if I’ve got more complicated information architecture and access control issues than a typical “blog”. Just hoping I can bring along my friends.


AAUW NC social media history

[This is another post whose original version went to the webmgrs list at AAUW.]

AAUW NC has had

  • a mailing list open to all members since 1997 or so with more specialized lists (for branch presidents, state leaders) for several years. These are set up as “discussion lists” but only a few people ever post.
  • an RSS feed since about 2005  aauwnc.org/feed, which (theoretically) offers a way to subscribe to the news
  • a twitter account since 2007 or so (originally set up as a to retweet web site posts marked as “announcements” and encouraging folks to “subscribe via your phone”), twitter.com/aauwnc
  • and a Facebook page since ?? (maybe late 2008 or sometime in 2009). facebook.com/aauwnc

These are integrated in the following ways

  • Major news items are posted on the web site.
  • Twitter is used to tweet the titles of the web posts and is used for some “extra” news that doesn’t make it onto the web site.
  • Facebook pulls in the full text of the web posts via RSS. Most of the auxiliary twitter posts are also posted there along with, sometimes, more explanations and context
  • closing the loop, the web site pulls in the facebook news feed on www.aauwnc.org/news
  • every once in a great while the web site (and some Facebook) “headlines” are summarized in an e-newsletter to the all-members mailing list.


  • twitterfeed.com used to read the RSS feed from the web site and repost to twitter
  • ping.fm used to post items to Facebook and Twitter at the same time
  • tweetree used to read/post as @nes49  – a browser based client that doesn’t have the advanced “listening” features of something like tweetdeck or hootsuite but does have “real names” and threaded discussions which really help me understand the messages.
  • twirl used to manage “organization” twitter accounts, making it easy to be both @aauwnc and @ncwu
  • The website posts are imported to Facebook using the notes application — doesn’t always work correctly (and seems to be particularly problematic today, sigh).

An  earlier part of the conversation mentioned using Facebook to reach college/university populations. AAUW NC uses it to reach Facebook members in general, and doesn’t gear it for C/U communication in particular. There are many nonmember fans of the page, but few of those are on campuses. They are mostly friends of fans or come from connections through our allied organizations.

None of these communication avenues have a broad reach, and I don’t spend much time on analytics. From anecdotal evidence, I have to believe that the Facebook page is doing a better job of reaching our members. On the other hand, since we’ve set up the page we’ve cut back on our “e-newsletter” publications, and I’m sure we’re missing some people who haven’t “liked” the page, don’t use Facebook at all, and never check the News page on the web site. So we’re going back to basics and looking at better use of a mailing list, which is still the way many people prefer to get their news.  As for nonmembers — twitter and Facebook both reach folks who might not have heard about us otherwise — but we’ve not been  as intentional about the outreach as we might have been.

For more on the general topic of setting up a marketing plan and using new (and old) media, I’d recommend Kivi Leroux Miller’s new book “The Nonprofit Marketing Guide”  (amazon link). It has a number of practical tips, some of which are aimed at larger organizations. But I found it useful to read in the context of a branch/state marketing plan, most of which fall into her “marketing department of one” target audience. See www.nonprofitmarketingguide.com for more. [I’m rereading it now — let me know if you’re interested in a virtual book discussion.]

See also www.aauwnc.org/subscribe.

Facebook for a small organization

[The original version of this was a post to the AAUW webmanagers listserve, a mailing list that’s about to celebrate its 11th anniversary. If you want more info on that list, please let me know.]

I’ve seen three different ways branches and states start their presence on Facebook:

  • Profile. Someone uses an e-mail address and registers the branch/state as an “individual” in Facebook. That entity has “friends”, posts show up on friends’ walls, and in general it behaves like anyone else on Facebook.
  • Group. Someone creates a Group in the branch/state’s name and becomes the “administrator”. The Group has “members” who can see each others names. It can be configured with places for discussions, wall posts, uploading photos, etc. The Group administrator’s posts show up as coming from their “real” name.
  • Page. Someone creates a Facebook Page in the branch/state’s name. The Page has “fans” who have said they “like” the Page. Fans can see a few other fans, but can’t browse through them all. The administrator’s posts show up as coming from the Page, not the individual. The Page can be configured to allow fans to post — or not.

I’d recommend against using a Profile for a branch/state Facebook presence. While this may no longer be explicitly counter to Facebook’s terms and conditions, there are just too many places where Facebook assumes that a Profile is for a “person.” It gets confusing to publicize a branch/state with a Profile. For instance, when you (as the branch Profile account) ask someone to be a friend, who, exactly, is doing the ask? Would you be apt to respond to such a request without being able to “see” the real person?

So should you use a group or a page? It depends –

  • Pages are better for reaching out to new people and posting public information (say things that appear on your web site — or would appear there if you had a web site). “Liking” a Page is a low risk action for new people: they aren’t giving the Page any additional access to their Profile. However, it does mean that information posted on the page will get into the news stream that they see when they login to Facebook. They will also get messages from the Page — but these will go to the “updates” section, not the “normal” Facebook inbox.
  • Groups are better for sharing information with a committed group of people who will “go” to the Group periodically to see what’s new. Group administrators can send messages to the Group members and these will go directly to the main Facebook “inbox” as coming from the Group. You may see your friends’ activities as they post to the Group, but, in general, things posted to the Group stay in the Group.  It’s possible to control access to a Group so that only those with an invitation can join — so a Group could be used as, for example, a virtual yearbook where only members of the branch are allowed access.

So just as you wouldn’t set up a web site when you really need an e-mail list or vice versa, Pages and Groups can have very different niches in your social media strategy. You may want one or the other or you might have reasons to set up both. Multiple people can be named administrators of either: check them out and see how they can improve your AAUW communications both to the public and to current members.

AAUW Webmanagers’ 10th annivesary gathering

The AAUW webmanagers’ listserve was established after the 1999 convention (where I did a workshop with the first AAUW webmanager — see June 1999 entry.)

It looks as if this group will get together in St. Louis for lunch, on Friday, June 26.

For details, twitter to “d nes49” or check the Facebook group for the convention. We’d hope to be in the official program, but one never knows…

[This conflicts with the legacy circle lunch and the Patsy Mink documentary — but hopefully, this will all be ok.]