Types of Groups
Groups are a basic feature of the Commons. On the Commons, a group can serve a set of people who are interested in a certain topic, collaborators planning an event or working on a project, a writing group, and more.
You can browse through all the public and private groups on the network by going to the Groups Directory.
There are three levels of privacy that determine who can see or join a group:
● Public groups are groups that everyone can see. A public group will have a Join Group button for any logged-in members of the network; if you click that, you can become a member.
● Private groups are groups that can be joined only by permission. If you’re not a member, you can’t see what’s in the group. There might, however, be a Request Membership button on the left side of the page. If you click that, the administrator of the group will be sent a message saying that you want to join it. If the administrator thinks that’s fine, you’ll become a member of the group. You can also become a member of a private group if an administrator of the group invites you.
● Hidden groups are even more private than private groups. They don’t appear in the Groups Directory unless you’re already a member of the hidden group. Unlike private groups, hidden groups do not allow you to request membership in them; you can only be invited to join them.
Starting Your Own Group
Creating a group is very simple in the Commons—anyone can do it. Go to the Groups Directory page by clicking Groups in the main menu.
Next, click the Create a Group button:
When you click that button, you’ll be taken to the first step in creating a group: giving it a title and description. It looks like this:
The group name is the name that your group will appear under in the Groups Directory. The group description will appear below the name. Note that when people search the Groups Directory, the results returned can also be generated from the group description. If you’d like to associate keywords that aren’t part of the name with your group, you might include them in the description of the group. When you’ve decided on the name and description, click Create Group and Continue. You’ll next be taken to the Settings page:
This page has several settings for your group, so it has been split into parts. Here, you’ll need to make a number of decisions, though these are things you can change in the future. First up are privacy options: you need to decide whether your group should be public, private, or hidden. You can consult the description of privacy levels above if you’re not sure which option to choose.
After you’ve decided your group’s privacy level, you’re asked on the same page who’s allowed to invite people to the group:
The person who runs the group is the administrator (or admin). That’s you. You can also add other people as administrators for your group later on. In some groups, an admin may appoint a moderator (or mod), who can’t control everything in the group, as an administrator can, but might, for example, decide who’s invited to the group. If this will be a busy group, you might want to appoint moderators. Read our Group Roles Guide for more information.
You’re next asked who in the group is allowed to invite new members. This choice only matters for private and hidden groups; anyone can join a public group from the Groups Directory page.
Setting up a Group Site
Then you have an option to set up a site or blog for the group.
A group can have a site, but it doesn’t need to. (And again, you can change your mind about this later.) You can also use a previously created personal site as a group site (read our Creating a Site Guide if you’d like to make a site on your own first).
If you don’t want a site, make sure that Enable Group Site is left unchecked and click Next Step to go on to the next screen.
If you do want a site, confirm that Enable Group Site is checked. Then decide whether you want to use one of your own sites or make a new one. If you use a site you’ve already made, select it from the drop-down list. If you decide to create a new site for your group, make sure that Or, create a new site is checked. For more information, see the step-by-step guide to creating a group site.
Next you want to think about who will be allowed to write on your group site. the Commons allows a variety of options. The Member Options section lets you set how your site will work.
If Enable Member Posting is checked, other people in your group will be able to write posts on your group site. If it’s not checked, you’re the only person who can write posts. Choose the setting that you’d like. Below that, you can define roles for group members using your site. You can read more about these roles here.
Click Next Step to go to the Group Discussion screen.
Now you need to decide if your group will have a discussion board. The discussion feature lets people post topics and respond to them. This feature is a good way to get responses from a group. It can also serve the function that a Listserv might, since users can receive e-mails when fellow members post to the board (see the discussion about “e-mail subscriptions”above).
If you decide that you want one, make sure the Yes, I want this group to have a discussion board box is checked; if not, uncheck it. You can change your mind later if you’re not sure. Either way, click Next Step to go on to the next screen.
Here you’re asked whether you want to have Docs for your group. Docs is a little like Google Docs; it provides a platform to easily edit text files collaboratively. You can also use docs to upload files, comment on files, and organize them into folders. You can read more in the Using Files and Docs guide. If you opt to have Docs, you can also set who’s allowed to make documents in your group; the default is that any member in your group can create them.
When you’re done, click Next Step to go on to the next screen, where you’ll be asked to pick an image for your group.
Your group has a small image attached to it that users will see in the group directory and on your group home page. It’s a good idea to update this image instead of using the generic one that is given to you automatically. To do this, drag an image file from your computer’s directory into the rectangle that says Drop your file here, or click Select your File and navigate to the image file on your computer. Then click Upload Image. Next you’ll be asked to crop your photo so that it fits into the square-shaped template of our group icons. After moving the square over a good position in your photo, simply click Crop Image and then Next Step.
Here, you need to decide who is able to upload files to your group. You can select to either allow All Group Members or Only Group’s Administrators and Moderators. Once you have decided who can upload files, click Next Step.
In addition to the photo, you will also be asked if you’d like to add a cover image to your group.
To do this, drag an image file from your computer’s directory into the rectangle that says Drop your file here, or click Select your File and navigate to the image file on your computer. Then click Upload Image. For better results, make sure to upload an image that is larger than 1250px wide, and 320px tall. Once you’ve uploaded your cover image, you can move on to the Next Step.
Finally, you’re asked to invite people to your new group.
Begin typing the names of Commons users in the search box to find and invite them. Then just click the Finish button, and your group will be created. You can always invite more members later by going to your group home page and clicking Send Invites in the menu bar.
Managing your group
After your group is created, you can further customize your group by going to the Manage page. Under Settings, you can show or hide menu items for group members. You also have the option to change the group’s landing page. Under Email Options, you can enable and compose a welcome email.