The first observation you probably made when installing and configuring organic groups is the site level or “master” controls versus the node level or “group” controls. The master controls configure the settings that you can use for all groups created on your site. The group controls define what you want for that particular group within your site.
Planning an Organic Groups Site
Part of the planning process has already taken place if you have OG installed. Maybe you did a little planning when you decided what to call your content types. But you decided to go with the default settings in OG configuration so you could experiment a little. How do you decide which configuration and access setting combination is right for what you want? What is it that you want?
I propose that there are two ends of the spectrum when it comes to planning an organic group site. You have your completely open and completely private. Okay, probably obvious but it is way to start the thinking or imagining your OG site.
What purpose will OG serve on your site? Are you building a community oriented site where those who come to your site can set up a group and use your site’s OG features to communicate and share with each other as they see fit? Or are you thinking outside the box by using OG to define mini-Intranets for your organization’s departments?
Create a couple personas and place them in scenarios where they are creating groups and participating. What are they doing? What do they need to know or share? Are they coming to the group voluntarily or are they required to visit on a regular basis? This exercise helps you define your requirements and choose which configuration and access settings you need to enable. Your OG site level decisions influence how the individual groups will be configured.
Based on what your group needs, what features of OG do you need to install or make available? For example, if your members are going to be drawn to your group site from an outside influence (the boss says go here), then you might not need Messaging and Notifications for all the members of your group. But, if you want to entice people to return to the site, you might want to allow members to subscribe to email notifications that let them know something has just happened and they should come check it out.
Obviously there are many other decisions to be made for the site level but let’s briefly look at the group configuration.
Planning an Organic Group
Once you have set up your OG site, you can start creating groups, right? What is there to plan here? The content type that you assigned as the group node is where your group level controls reside. If your site level configuration and access is set to allow decisions to be made at the group level, then each time a group is created, a mini-planning process occurs. The options available on the group set up page are influenced by your role and associated permissions as well as the OG site level configuration and access settings.
If your OG site is wide open, people can create a site account (be an authenticated user), set up a private group, and build their own community within your site. If you want to manage if and when public oriented groups are set up and how, then you will need to define your site level configuration and access accordingly.
Here’s a tip for planning the site level configuration. Look at the form that creates the group (the content type designated as the group node). Ask yourself “What on here do I want an authenticated user to be able to do?” If the answer is nothing, then one of your first site level configuration decisions is to not allow authenticated users to setup groups. This is big. It means you will probably have a trusted member of your site setting up groups or you will do it as the site admin. Other configuration setting options might not have a large impact because the level of control is focused on one or two trusted users.
If you want an authenticated user to create groups, then you have to decide how much control you want the user to have over the type of group that is defined, if it is visible to the public, how someone can join, if there will private posts, and so on.
There are many configuration and access settings to choose from, each combination yielding a slightly different result. The options don’t stop with the OG module. There are several OG related contributed modules that help you shape the OG site you need. In later articles, I will explore the settings and the scenarios they might support.