I was faced with a challenge recently: Create a forum where members of a national association can view and comment on documents. Thing is, the documents had to be private and available to association members only.
I put out a request on the social media channels for advice, but received scant feedback. I ruled out Google Docs after privacy and other concerns were raised by the association committee members. I briefly considered Evernote, but though a great application, it wasn’t the right one for this project. It was now up to WordPress.
The association had recently created a blog hosted on the WordPress platform so the tools were in place.
Here’s the process:
First, I created a page and titled it Proposed Rule X. WordPress provides the option of publishing the page as public, private or password protected. I chose password protected, assigned a password and published the page. Quick and easy so far.
However, I ran into problems when trying to add PDF documents to the page. WordPress doesn’t play well with PDF documents. You can upload it to the platform and hyperlink to it, but to view full text within the page, you’ll need to embed it using a plugin. Many of the available plugins use Google Doc Viewer which necessitates making the page and document public. Converting the PDF to text and pasting it into the page can work, but you lose the formatting. And if the document contains charts and graphs, like this one did, it’s not a useful option.
Again I scoured social media for advice and though many were helpful, no meaningful solution was offered. Since there were multiple documents that needed to be included on the Proposed Rule X discussion page, I reverted to the hyperlinks solution. PDF document were uploaded with hyperlinks provided on the discussion page. I also added a summary of the issue up for discussion and descriptive hyperlink text. Finally, I added instructions on how viewers can comment.
An email was then sent to the association members alerting them of the page and soliciting comments. The password and instructions were included. To comment, members would have to enter their name and email address.
So far, this process has been successful but it continues to be a work in progress, so if you have any other suggestions such as WordPress plugins to use, or other platforms and applications that may be more suitable for this type of project, please share.