Collaborative Web Writing


This is a material I once prepared for a Collaborative/Individual Web Writing Workshop. I first presented this research for Sahara Safaris, with the aim of enhancing and giving more exposure to Sahara Safaris websites, while helping it realize its goals, on top of which is raising awareness, effectively, about the true riches of the Egyptian societies and cultural heritage, with a particular focus on  Sinai Bedouins.

Table of Content :

  1. Introduction to creative writing
  2. How to conduct successful Fieldwork?
  3. How to run exclusive and effective interviews?
  4. How to write premium biographies?
  5. Exploring Web 2.0 features and discussing methods to make the best out of them.
  6. How Content can serve or tarnish the reputation of Sahara Safaris and the image of the Egyptian Communities, whether at the local or international level
  7. How to develop effective wording in a way that would best serve your intended goals?
  8. Simple Guidelines on Ethical Journalism and Respect for Copyrights
  9. Exploring the Wiki method and how SS practices it
  10. Ways to secure better SEO ranking (Search Engine Optimization).
  11. Explaining methods for driving more traffic to Sahara Safaris’ website.
  12. Tips on Web searching and ways to spot required information
  13. Photography workshop
  14. Practice and Exercises (To be handled and checked by instructors)

Workshop Schedule:

* First Day:

  1. Guidelines on conducting effective Fieldwork.
  2. Guidelines on conducting successful interviews.
  3. Exploring Web 2.0 features and ways to make the best out of them.

* Second Day:

  1. How Content can serve or tarnish an entity’s reputation.
  2. Introduction to developing effective wording.
  3. Simple guidelines on Ethical Journalism and respect for copyrights.
  4. Tips on Web searching and ways to spot required information.

* Third Day:

  1. Exploring the Wiki method and how to practices it.
  2. Ways to secure better SEO ranking (Search Engine Optimization).
  3. Explaining methods for driving more traffic to Sahara Safaris’ website.
  4. Practice and Exercises (To be handled and checked by instructors).

* Fourth Day:

–  Photography workshop.

* Fifth Day:

–  Further exercises.
– Open discussion/ Inquiries/Suggestions.
– Browsing through documents to be provided to all attendees.
– Workshop evaluation questionnaire.

References and Key Web Sources:

1. Egypt Heritage

2. The Killer Web Content (Book authored by Gerry McGovern)

3. The Egyptian Cultural Heritage Organisation:

4. Desert Research Center

5. Egypt Tourist Attraction

6. ABC of Hiking

1- Introduction to creative writing

  • Effective steps to start a new article;
  1. Brainstorm.
  2. Jot down main points you’ll need to discuss.
  3. Make sure the subject you’re about to tackle is not already discussed in previous articles on SaharaSafaris.Org
  4. Decide on what’s going to be your focal theme.
  5. Be specific and don’t expand your thesis into unnecessarily generic issues.
  6. Avoid using sentence structures or words you’re not quite familiar with, this may water down the good parts of your article. Better use simple language and words you excel using.
  7. Try to make sure that each paragraph includes one major idea/point or two connected ideas/points, while the rest of the paragraph is dedicated to developing the ideas well, and supporting them by elaboration, giving examples, details etc
  8. Research a lot, and use relevant keywords to tap into resourceful pages discussing your subject with loads of relevant information, this will provide you with a rich material to depend on.
  9. Make up your mind whether you’ll author your article individually or collaboratively, this will decide how you’ll approach the topic.
  10. Start laying down an outline plan of your article.
  11. Your draft plan should include:

i. Headline
ii. Abstract or brief (the paragraph that’s going to link to your article from SS homepage and will also be indexed on search
engines along with the headline)
iii. Introductory paragraph summing up your thesis.
iv. Two or three paragraphs accurately organized to cover all topics discussed
v. Conclusion

12.  Prepare first draft.
13.  Proofread.
14.  Edit.( by checking the following weaknesses in grammar, syntax, vocabulary use, spelling and typos, cohesive devices, punctuation, the transition from one idea or paragraph to the next, inconsistencies, redundancies etc)

15.  You may need to add more lines to each paragraph, and adjust the rest of the paragraphs accordingly.
16.  You may as well need to add extra paragraph or two to cover new sides of the subject.(Do that as long as it is in synchronized with the rest of the article and does not represent an unnecessary digression. Always give yourself some room for changes and creativity)
17.  Make sure you have an inclusive, cohesive article covering all topics related to the thesis the way you planned to present it.

  • Tips on how to organize an attractive article:
  1. It’s good to break your thesis into several points and arrange them according to their importance and relevance to the focal topic. Another interesting way is to start it off by a quote that is relevant to your topic or which might get people thinking about it.
  2. Include as much practical information relevant to your thesis as possible.
  3. Starting off your introductory paragraph with a question is a creative and quite attractive way to win your readers’ attention and interest and get them to read the rest of the article.
  4. It’s important to be clear and raise your in the first paragraph to give the reader a clue on what your article is going to discuss and it also helps getting better SEO ranking, yet don’t present all facts and explanations at the early stages of your article; leave the juicy parts for the body, otherwise the reader won’t be tempted to read on.
  5. Have a sizzling, catchy and may be a bit ambiguous headline, one which doesn’t manifest your stance from the topic, but is quite relevant to the topic discussed (again for this is how articles get indexed on Google search).
  6. Clear this ambiguity as much as you can in the abstract and the introductory paragraph of your article.
  7. Exaggerating ambiguity whether in the headline or the abstract may negatively affect the quality of your article.
  • Tips on creative writing:
  1. Avoid first person voice. It’s a clear indicator that what the reader is being fed throughout the entire article is merely your personal opinion, even if this is indirectly understood.
    So instead of saying:  “I found Katrina Mountain to be one of the best I ever visited”,You may say: “it is one of the best hiking spots you may want to explore…”
  2. Web readers are impatient, so try to deliver your message as fast and effectively as possible, too much maneuvering won’t get your message delivered as intended, for your readers may not make it till the end of the article, so make sure you feed them what you want at the early paragraphs (but not the introduction).
  3. Follow your intuition, and listen carefully to what your spirit dictates you, this is the only way you’ll learn about the best fields you can write about and specialize in. This will also lead you to the best topic you feel inclined to tackle.
    Or if something piques your interest, read up about it or visit the place and see where that will take you.
  4. Keep your article short and give it a web-professional look by using short sentences. (700- 1000 words per article is a convenient length)- Lengthy articles and embedded sentences are old fashion that don’t fascinate web-readers anymore.
  5. Organize your article in a way that would best attract its intended audience, for instance if your article is aimed at clearing certain misconception, start it off with presenting that misconception, leading the reader to the right understanding awaiting him in the body of your article.
  6. Use examples to help illustrate your point.
  7. If you’re raising a very specific subject and you’re depending on a particular source for your information, you’ll need to include footnote listing your main sources.
  8. If you ever faced a writer’s block (reaching a dead end and being unable to come up with new ideas), leave your article for an hour or two, turn off your screen and get your attention focused on something else, then get back to it.
  9. Set your first draft outline as quickly as possible, even if you end up with loads of crap, the first draft will give you a much clearer idea of what you want to write, and being done with the first draft in a relatively short period of time will give you a good push to carry on.
  10. Whenever new ideas pop into your mind, even if they’re irrelevant to the part you’re writing, put them down in a separate document on your computer.
  11. Don’t wait for ideas to visit you, it’s your job to chase them. You can do that by typing whatever short sentences and words that come to your mind, then group them and see which fit well with your thesis and which are irrelevant. Jotting down whatever ideas that come to your mind is the best warm-up practice.
  12. Whilst on your daily excursions even if it is just a social outing, make sure you always have a small notepad with you and a pen, you will be surprised by what you might observe once you open up your senses (social changes, behavioral patterns of particular groups, a scene, a building that is being pulled down with interesting architecture, street names etc) it might seem something mundane to others, but to you it will trigger off a line of thought that will end up to being a full fledged article. Please remember, nothing is too trivial to be noticed and written about, it all depends on how you tackle and present the issue. Try always to notice, truly see and make connections.
  • How to enhance your writing skills?
  1. Read a lot.
  2. Freewrite everyday, or at least once every two days.
  3. Browse through news headlines everyday.
  4. Listen attentively to people as they talk.
  5. Expand your vocabulary and use new words as much as you can even with friends.
  6. Whenever a new word occurs to you, write it down while reading and look it up in the dictionary later on in your free time.
  7. Join creative writing groups, whether on Facebook or elsewhere on the Web, to get exposed to more quality and fresh writings.
  8. Set an ultimate goal and purpose for having the best writing skills, like serving and promoting certain ideas or defending some cause. This will help you put more effort while giving your writing a unique taste and style.
  9. Read articles discussing creative writing skills on WikiHow and like sites.

2- How to Conduct Successful Fieldwork?

  • Guidelines:
  1. Always use clear and credible maps depicting destinations in Egypt.
  2. First you should pay a survey visit to the place/tenement you intend to explore, then lay out a plan for the purpose of your fieldwork and the source of information you shall be relying on, whether web sources, or human resources from the same place.
  3. If you plan to use a fellow writer or a writing partner in carrying out the assessment of the place you’re visiting, then you’ll need to arrange tasks before starting off your mission.
  4. Mark out the place you visited on the map to ensure reaching it easily the next time you go to complete your job.
  5. Your next visit should be solely dedicated to obtaining information, analyzing and organizing all accounts gathered.
  6. You should communicate the purpose of your survey or analysis with those you extract information from (such as Bedouins, pedestrians, storekeepers in the place, or the ones who happen to look after a tenement or building you’re tackling- whether a street, temple, church, mosque … Etc).
  7. Make sure you provide an accurate geographic description of the destination/ place you present. as well as, an atmospheric description that is trying to capture and conjure up the spirit of the place through words, its quintessential essence if there is such a thing, which is usually garnered through the tiny details of a place. You may need to refer to a relevant institution for further information.
  • What you need to carry with you while conducting your fieldwork?

1. A clear map of destinations in Egypt.
2. Two or three pens.
3. Notebook.
4. Any recording device.
5. Camera.

  • How to organize the outcome of your fieldwork and prepare your write-up?
  1. You first need to just jot down all the ideas you have running through your mind about why you carried out this fieldwork.
  2. Write down all info gathered.
  3. Outline a plan for your article that would include headline, brief (the part that will show up on the homepage and get indexed by search engines), introduction, body of the article, and conclusion summing up the entire purpose of the article presented.
  4. You should also add a resource box at the end of the article.
  5. Begin your article with presenting a brief historical and geographical background of the place.
  6. After you fill in all sections of your article, take a break before you review it, this will make spotting your mistakes much easier and accurate.
  7. When you get back to your article, reread it and see if it needs any fine-tuning, whether language, sentence structure, style, more info to be added…
  8. Run your own spell check (don’t blindly trust MS Word)
  9. You have to communicate your personal opinion of the place and expose the feelings and thoughts it aroused in you. Remember that the reader is not reading a book, but reading your own review of the place.
  10. You may include a short paragraph explaining the historical or social connotations or the place you’re describing and why did you choose it as the spotlight of your review.
  11. Avoid and try always to skip irrelevant parts of your article that you’re not quite sure if they fit well within the context of your article or you feel they don’t add much value to it.
  12. As a general rule, what doesn’t add value to your article definitely waters down the good parts of it.
  13. Avoid general statements such as “it’s the best place… the most beautiful, the only on that…Etc”… Leave that to the reader.
  14. Your choice of a relevant and proper headline comes last after you’re done with your article and have made up your mind what will be the dominant stance from the subject/place.
  15. Also selecting the image you shall be using comes last, after you’re done with the headline, brief, and body of the article.
  16. Images are meant to add value to the article and the meaning of the headline and sometimes are used to further explain the subject of the article in case your headline has a special twist.
  17. Accurately format your article before submitting it for publication.

Note: Check further tips and guidelines in “Introduction to Effective Writing Section”.

3- How to run exclusive and effective interviews?

  • Guidelines:

– Bear in mind that successful interviews with the right personalities are an effective way to better spread your message. Just makes sure you run effective interviews and you get all the info you need from the interviewee.
– Start the interview with chatting up your interviewee before jumping into the core issues you wish to tackle.
– Once you decide to interview a certain personality you need to start researching and gathering as much information as possible about the person, institution or community he represents, including historical facts, media reports, facts, figures, misconceptions if any …Etc.
– Pay strict attention to what might seem to be unnecessary or minute details of what the interviewee is saying.
– So you need to learn as much as you can about the interviewee and his background, then evaluate your own knowledge about him/her so as to not tackle an issue with limited level of understanding without being aware of that- This might greatly dishearten the interviewee. However this doesn’t mean you have to fully know everything about the personality you’re interviewing or the topics you’re about to discuss, but you should be aware of your level of knowledge and never exaggerate it during the interview. It’s ok to let the interviewee lead the interview for a few minutes.
– You need to be calm and relaxed, leaving room for the interviewee to speak more.
– When the interview says something you don’t feel you’ve fully grasped, it’s totally ok to repeat the question or ask him/her to repeat a particular part again.
– Try to arouse the main issues and the more relevant points you wish to discuss at the beginning of the interview, when the interviewee’s willingness to give you time is still ripe.
– Make sure you have a notebook, pen, a recording device + a spare one.
– Be tactful, yet polite, pleasant and warm with your interviewee. Drop a courteous remark every now and then during the interview to encourage him give you the best he can. Funny comments and cheerful remarks work best in successful interviews.
– Don’t be prompt or quick in commenting on what the interviewee is saying, give yourself the time to fully comprehend his point and give him the chance to elaborate.
– If you found the interviewee slow in responding to your question, don’t interrupt his/her silence, for this silence merely means he’s thinking deep to give you the better answer, and it’s a proof that he’s not just giving you wrong facts that are made up at the moment.
– Taking time to recall details is the best proof the interviewee is trying to give you the most accurate answer.
– Don’t show extravagant and irrelevant professionalism and sophistication during the interview, especially if you’re not meeting with top dignitaries, you get the interviewee scared off and eventually tense and nervous.
– Use the interviewee’s name as much as you can during the interview as a show of respect and care.
– Use eye contact as much as you can to keep the interviewee’s enthusiasm and interest ripe.
– Always remember to keep a smile on your face, also your voice should be warm and friendly.
– Bear in mind that the interview is a two way street, meaning that the interviewee might also want to ask you questions about the reason of the interview and your understanding of the issues raised to be able to give you the answers you expect.
– Keep your comments concise to give the interviewee more time to talk.

  • You should go to the interview with a pre-hand knowledge of the following:
  1. The reason you’re conducting this interview.
  2. The name of the interviewee.
  3. The social background of the interviewee (if you seek personal information), or some basic facts about the culture, community or organization he represents (if you’re meeting with this personality just to discuss particular matters, like Bedouins’ lifestyle of morals)
  4. The agenda and time schedule of the interview.
  5. The exact information you need to extract from the interviewee. (you should have them written down in brief and clear bullet points.)
  6. The exact place and location where you will run your interview.
  7. How long do you expect the interview to last and how many breaks do you plan to have.

– Bottom line you should have an outline plan what you need to ask and what topics do you need to cover to have a superb effective interview. And don’t forget to contact the person you plan to meet with at least 10 days ahead of the interview.

  • Body Language Tips:

–       Don’t cross your arms while listening to the interviewee, it’s an offending posture indicating a defensive attitude and sends a disheartening signal.

Know that the interviewee is tactfully watching the movement and position of your hands, so best thing is to rest them loosely on your lap- this is a neutral posture that will make him focus on the answers he’s providing you with.

–       Keep direct eye contact, it keeps the interviewee interested in the discussion and willing to give you more time. Also be aware of your looks, for eyes are a good and effective transmitter of your inner thoughts, whether negative or positive.

–       Be aware of the movement of your lips, no pursing, twisting or biting of lips, it sends wrong signals of anger and disapproval of what the interviewee has to say.

–       Don’t look down, it sends wrong signals that you’re not sure of what you’re saying, but at the same time don’t keep your head upright all the time, as it makes the interviewee feel tense and  uncomfortable.

Instead tilt your head a bit towards the interviewee every once in a while as a show of friendliness and interest in what he’s saying. The angle of the body in general is an influential aspect to play around with, so be conscious of your body movement and posture, it’s a very clear indicator of your stance from what’s being said.

–       Legs postures are another element that gives the interviewee powerful clues on your level of acceptance of him and what he’s saying. Having your legs slightly open is a relaxed position and neutral posture. You may gently hold your knees together as a show of respect and confidence. Crossed legs, on the other hand, are indicative of tense and nervous attitude.

4- How to write premium biographies?

  • Guidelines:
  1. Brainstorm;
    Brainstorm to identify the personality or actually the place that will be the focus of your profile or biography.
  2. Approach;
    It’s important to set your approach in tackling the personality or the place that will be spotlighted before you start writing, this will shape up your style in tackling that figure’s life and the way you describe the place.
  3. Develop a goal;
    Set a goal for writing about this particular person or place, like what is the main idea you’re trying to promote, or are you using this person to break some stereotype or clear any misconception?
  4. Catchy headline and abstract;
    Even if you’re writing a biography, you need a sizzling headline to grasp the reader’s attention, telling him that there’s something more than just normal facts he already knows awaiting him inside your article.
  5. Eyewitness information;
    It’s better to visit the place you’re about to describe in your biography and rely on eyewitness information more than any other source. And it’s equally important to speak to the personality you’re about to spotlight in your article, so as to have something unique to present, not just basic information that’s been used in previous biographies written by others.
  6. Researching;
    Do as much researching as possible (you can’t rely 100% on your own assessment of the place you visited or the person you met with) and compare facts to check their authenticity.
  7. References;
    Always mention the source of statistics you use as references.
  8. No beautification;
    Don’t try to beautify the person or the place you’re spotlighting, yet your biography shouldn’t be neutral or mere repetition of what’s been written before. However, you may direct the reader to join your stance in a tactful and indirect manner, like focusing more on the facts you feel need to be highlighted than others…
  9. Read biographies;
    You should read at least 2 to 5 biographies before attempting to write one. Just read simple and short biographies, they don’t have to be entire books.
  10. Be unique;
    Make sure when you’re done with your write up to read the biography as if you were the audience, if you don’t feel it has something unique, then you’re just presenting a mimic of what’s been written about the person/place you tackled.
  • How to write and organize a good biography?
  1. Introduction;
    Start by introducing basic facts about the person or place that is the focus of your article, such as date/place of birth, profession (if you’re describing a particular person), or the historical background and geographical location and description  if you’re tackling a place.  Always check your facts and make sure you use the most commonly used dates and figures.  If you have to rely on a main source, include it in the footnote of references at the end of your article.
  2. Theme;
    Even though you’re writing a biography, you should have a main theme dominating all over the article. You shouldn’t reduce the biography to just listing facts.
  3. Organize information you gathered;
    After you’re done with the introductory paragraph where you put down all basic facts about the person/place you’re tackling, start organizing the details and information you have, whether those you searched for or where the outcome of your fieldwork.
  4. Start writing;
    Start writing your first draft, following the same structure of normal articles (check “Introduction to Creative Writing” section in this document). Your biography should, like any normal write up, have an introduction, body and conclusion.
    Your biography should be set in a very organized manner, not mere recitation of events or happenings, whether in a person’slife or involving a particular place.
  5. Include commentaries;
    You should stop every once in a while to add a comment, not in a first person voice though.
    Example “Probably it was another attempt by (A) to learn more about himself and the essence of life….”
  6. Influence readers’ emotions;
    It’s ok to try to direct readers’ emotions- making them feel in a particular way (again indirectly), like evoking in them feelings of respect, empathy, or disgust in certain instances in your biography. By the time they reach the end of your biography they’ll feel they’ve been through an intense and quite unique experience, and shall value your article hugely.
  7. Present new aspects of person/place;
    In an attempt to present a unique, premium biography, try to touch on aspects related to the person/place you’re spotlighting that were never brought up before. Uncovering sides of the person/place that would serve your intended goals.(ex: breaking stereotypes).  
  8. Be informative;
    Your biography shouldn’t be reduced to mere storytelling, but it should present good chunk of information as well.
  9. Proofread and Edit;
    (check “Introduction to Creative Writing” section in this document).  
  10. Conclusion;
    You should end up your write up with a careful conclusion. The conclusion should act as an emphasis to your stance from the person/place you tackled yet be ware not to send the audience wrong signal, by making them doubt the neutrality of the biography presented.
  • Tips:
  1. Use descriptive words in tackling a character, place, or event.
  2. You may include a video (prepared by you) to best describe the spotlight person/place. It will also add a professional taste to your biography.
  3. Set a list of chronological questions that may cover all life stages of the person you’re describing before you actually start gathering information. This will ensure covering his life inclusively.
  4. You may include images depicting the person’s house, places he likes to visit, or pictures depicting his/her childhood.
  5. Ask the person you’re about to write his biography about:
    – His ultimate goal in life and what he aspires for.
    – Events that impacted him most or may be changed the course of his life.
    – Quotes or proverbs that touch him most or he truly believes in.
    – Learn about the generation or the community he presents.
    – What empowers and motivates him?
    – What saddens him most?
    – What makes him happy?

5-    Exploring Web 2.0 features and methods to make the best out of them:

  • Introduction

This section delves deep into the influences and the methods adopted by the new World Wide Web Trends, including E-Communities, Collaboratively created articles, Forums, Weblogs, and the likes, shedding light on their real potential as an effective media sphere that grants effective outreach for individuals and knowledge, let alone the long-desired platform they provided to those who seek communicating and expressing all sorts of views.

Web 2.0 features are aimed to provide internet users with a better and rich experience, real tools to communicate properly with the outside world, not to mention the ability to participate, availability of rich content and information, as well as openness and freedom of expression- Elements all pursued and greatly desired by Sahara Safaris Community.
The aggressive development of E-Communities, Forums, Blogs, Vlogs, and other features that were introduced with the inception of Web 2.0 trend changed the face of web destinations, turning them from traditional publications loaded with content created by in-house-editors to vast platforms ready to receive contribution from whoever is interested in sharing knowledge, experience and whatever posts available, as long as they fit well within the context of each website- i.e. turning content from being created by each publications’ editors to being collaboratively created, edited and discussed among participants and internet users, presenting by that more than one view point and creating positive interaction that would benefit any topic or subject discussed.

  • What is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is basically a new trend of web usability that entails giving up control over content and setting it free to share and redistribute and uses online destination as global platforms for better connection between communities.

So Web 2.0 is not a new technology introduced in recent years, but rather an attitude and usability methods encouraging more interaction and communication among internet users, in a way that ensures making knowledge and global information available to all.

Web 2.0 is best represented in websites that encourage users post their own content and have it open to others, to share, comment on and redistribute, removing boundaries between communities and linking them into one, well woven network of participants aiming to share knowledge and make the best out of their experiences.

Web 2.0 features are best exemplified in social-networking sites like wikis and folksonomies; such as Flickr and, two popular sites displaying user generated content.

The term Web 2.0 was first introduced by Tim O’Reilly, the official founder of O’Reilly Media.

Benefiting from the experience of most global online entities, Sahara Safaris aspires to apply the WEB 2.0 features and trend as much as possible, as it would majorly help it fast achieve its intended mission which includes, raising people’s awareness about the true dimensions of Egypt’s riches and that through promoting collaborative attitude among the site visitors, enhancing their creative abilities, and above all, encouraging information sharing among them which will fasten the pace of realizing its goals as discussed extensively elsewhere in this document.

•            Web 2.0 Features’ Functionality and Effectiveness:

Web 2.0 trend represents a number of web tools and methods used to grant users more effective knowledge sharing and communication.

Such trend is best manifested in E-Communities, Web Forums, Websites using the Wiki method in editing their content, and Blogspheres where users engage in real information collaboration and interaction.

So Web 2.0 features are not some new technological changes to the World Wide Web original tools but, as explained by Tim O’Reilly, they’re the “business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.”

E-Communities, and interactive Forums and Blogs in all their forms are now becoming increasingly effective.

E-Communities, Blogs and Forums, started off and developed to become rich mine of information, linking internet users across the globe, making any message intended to reach far destinations unbelievably fast spread- This is what Sahara Safaris aspires for and seeks to achieve.

The growing trend and rising need to share knowledge and information impacted an increasing number of people who decided to follow the suit and started actually competing, each trying to present and make available his own experience and share of knowledge.

Jorn Barger, a writer, a user interface consultant and web designer, introduced what’s called ‘wee Blog’ on the homepage of the Blog he launched, which later on developed into the term presently used; ‘Blog’.

It was the beginning of 1999 that the world started sensing the emergence of companies specialized in producing softwares that allow internet users to launch and regularly update their Blog pages without exerting much time, effort, or have sophisticated technological know-how.

And soon, as mentioned by Jeff Jarvis, a news Blogger and director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, weblogs developed into “the easiest, cheapest, fastest publishing tool ever invented,” providing people with the perfect medium for freely expressing and sharing views and knowledge without being forced to conform to a particular code or style, like traditional journalism.

Not long after their initial introduction, E-Communities, Forums and Blog spheres began moving aggressively towards becoming a more effective and contributive medium using several features that grant both users and knowledge more exposure, and far outreach.

•            What motivates users to have constant and effective presence in Online Communities and Forums?

-The following aspects are what majorly encouraged and still tempts people to participate in E-communities of all sorts and engage in collaborative activities online:

  1. Linking like-minded people, providing them with the long desired communication platforms and channels.
  2. Allowing and actually encouraging genuine cultural interaction.
  3. Giving room and providing the needed medium for exchanging knowledge- Proper communication with others, giving room for genuine collaboration between visitors, which eventually develops into online networking wherein users and groups engage in effective interaction in the same sphere of interest.
  4. Providing people with unlimited access to knowledge and all needed tools to share and manage it.
  5. Providing junior and even Non-Journalists with a golden opportunity to publish their writings and get read by a huge audience.
  6. The fact that those tools stand as a trusted indicator of the level and extent of change and development of nations’ thinking trends, and thus as a bridge between cultures.
  7. Granting people genuine freedom of expression, away from traditional media censorship and restrictions.
  8. Boosting users’ ego, as they feel achieved by contributing to the worldwide knowledge society, one of the great merits introduced with the inception of Web 2.0 trend.
  9. The fact that e-communities and web forums are becoming increasingly effective, impacting and influencing a wide range of audience which makes them pursued by reputable organizations and world bodies.
  10. Online Communities, Blogs, and Web Forums do encourage honest criticism and effective interaction.
  • WEB 2.0 Features are best presented in:

1- E-Communities:
– Most web destination now provide a space for varying types of groups of people who share similar interests to interact and share their knowledge. And usually communities are set for a particular agenda, like judging the development of certain industry, certain nation, or the prevailing stance from a particular issue, policy, product, personality, a sect, and sometimes to measure the understanding and perception of certain matters.

2- Forums:
– They are basically platforms allowing, promoting and encouraging knowledge sharing among its members and usually a forum is focused on one particular industry or subject: such as fashion, banking, sports, entertainment, religion, or politics.

3- Blogs:
– A web page or website, in most cases maintained by one individual and sometimes by a group of people or members of the same organization, with the aim of communicating information and content related to a certain field or various fields, depending on the purpose of the Blog.

Blogspheres began with the introduction of Jorn Barger’ “What’s New?” page in 1997 which used to publicize for and link to the latest websites and Marc Andreessen’s “What’s New?” page at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

Weblogs, now considered the fastest spreading trend in World Wide Web. They have developed to become the most effective media platform providing perfect medium for sharing knowledge and real interaction.

4- Vlogs:
In other words video blogging, or Blogs dedicated to sharing videos.

6- How Effective can be effective, both positively or negatively to Communities:

Among the many influential aspects of Web Content or Online Journalism is the chance to have your voice far reaching and effective.

Think of the days when writers had to wait for days and sometimes weeks to get their articles published and then wait for a few more weeks to sense their impact then judge those articles’ efficiency. Now a web editor/writer can publish an article, have it read and actually see viewers’ response in less than an hour.

Those who have ultimate goals or messages they seek to reach out to communities and cultures, it requires them to adapt to the non-stop changes the world faces as well as delving deep into people’s perceptions and mentalities which would help them in setting the best way to present their message and make it as far reaching as possible and as effective and influential as intended.

Sahara Safaris has assigned itself the task of providing the well- needed virtual platform or e-community to share knowledge about the Egyptian Natural and Social Heritage and present the real image of the Egyptian culture. It’s not just about Hiking, but Hiking will always remain a focal point in discussions.

SS attempts, primarily through its website, to encourage the well educated Egyptians and the Egyptian Hikers, to rise up and take their place within the broader community of global internet and hikers community, seizing the chance to introduce the true image of their culture and share credible and valuable knowledge about various topics ranging from hiking destinations in Egypt, the social and natural heritage of the country, and act as the mouth speakers of their own culture.

Among Sahara Safaris’ highest goals is making sure the voice of the Egyptian open minded community, those who got a good share of education and exposure to the outer world, to reach far and wide and act as a real representative of the Egyptian social makeup. SS, on the other hand, seeks to stress and develop national dignity among Egyptians and boost their self esteem by providing them with a web platform to best manifest and communicated their knowledge, aspiration and making their voice a far outreach. Achieving all this needs good content and proper language and quality material to be presented through SS Safaris Website, that’s how the idea of SS Web Writing Workshop evolved.

It goes without saying that Web Content now stands as the king that has the upper hand when in influencing minds and communities, also in spreading and promoting certain perception and fighting stereotypes.
It takes readers a click of a mouse to tap into what you want to feed their minds and easily grasp it.

  • Length of Article/Post:

But what Web Editors need to always bear in mind, is that online readers have zero willingness to read lengthy material. They need to read something brief and inclusive that delivers the intended message instantly.

This doesn’t mean that articles, whether individually or collaboratively authored, shouldn’t exceed 400 words. You can have up till 1000 words article, depending on the subject tackled, and the way the subject is brought up.

  • Language

The language must be attractive and captivating to keep the user on your page for the longest period of time possible. This will tie him more to the site and give him a good reason to always return and check what’s new.

  • Content is your product

Web editor should always try ways to promote site content and make it visible and accessible as if promoting a particular product. Content is your product that you’re trying to sell.

SS also needs to be unique. For similar information might be made available on several other websites and portals. SS Editors should focus on what makes the site stand out from similar ones and take up position of a unique source of knowledge about Hiking, Egyptian Heritage…..

Also SS articles need to be presented in a visible way that would make them available for their intended users and target audience.

Another important factor: the methodology or the way the articles are being archived majorly impacts chances of exposure.

The usage of keywords is what determines whether a website or a web portal will stand as a primarily or secondary source specialized in the particular type of info it’s presenting.

  • Impact of having a well-organized and effective Homepage

Editors will always need to promote new content on SS Homepage, it’s a way of keeping the site fresh and give it the image of being constantly updated, even if that’s not the case sometimes.

Keywords used in articles’ headlines and brief should be strictly related and accurately relevant to SS field of interest, hiking, Egypt, Sinai… etc. This will definitely facilitate for others who seek information related to those areas to easily access SS website.

So there’s no need for ambiguous expressions, and if needed in the headline, then ambiguity should be cleared in the brief.

This will make SS site much more accessible and available for researchers and internet users looking for information about the Egyptian Hikers Community.

  • How to Drive More Traffic for More Exposure that Would Ensure Further Outreach?

Content is what drives traffic to websites. And since traffic is what will give exposure to the site, then editors should better watch the quality of the content they add to SS website, for it shall either add a touch of glance to its message or stain it, and it would take SS quite a long time to clear such stain.

Giving particular attention to the quality of the language, info presented, and credibility issues is what will cut short SS path to the level of success it aspires to reach.

Bottom line, SS can’t compromise traffic. If SS doesn’t secure good traffic, then it doesn’t really matter how much effort editors invest in the process of content creation. It would be like murmuring in the middle of a crowded street, nobody would hear you, no matter how important what you’re saying is.

  • SS Competitive Edge

SS Editors and those who will be looking after the site should know that there are loads of websites discussing the same subjects SS is tackling, so Sahara Safaris should better have a competitive edge.

But Sahara Safaris does have a clear competitive edge- being the only website presenting credible information about Egypt’s heritage, whether natural, cultural or historic, hiking life, and above all the real dimensions of Sinai’s riches, through the eyes of well-educated English speaking Egyptians.

For Sahara Safaris, or any online entity that has a special message, to claim the position it aspires for, this means a lot of work to do, a lot of activities, and talented calibers capable of delivering the correct message and communicating it well with the targeted users.

Also the collaborative methodology of content creation and management is an added value, for it asserts the credibility and neutrality of the views presented.

7- How to develop effective wording in a way that would best serve your intended goals:

Words are your main gateway to people’s hearts and minds, so if you seek to win their hearts and minds better watch your wording, and make the best out of it.

  • Guidelines:
  1. Avoid complex syntax, instead be simple yet creative.
  2. Use common and familiar words, yet you may plug (rarely though) some unique words here and there to enrich your article and keep the reader interested.
  3. Make sure a wide range of people can understand what you’re trying to say, otherwise you’ll lose a good portion of your audience, so try not to use sophisticated terminology, assuming that people will go search for their meaning on Google, in Web life, it’s easy to just click the back button or close the browser and move on.
  4. Avoid too long sentence.
  5. Don’t overuse embedded sentences; you’ll lose your reader.
  6. Bear in mind that your audience come from different ethnicities and various social standards with different educational backgrounds even within the Egyptian Community, so there’s no need for high-sounding words for your message to be far reaching.
  7. Try as much as you can to have words that are closely relevant to the context scattered all over your article, but again if you’re using sophisticated words or terms that people might not be familiar with, explain them immediately, or use footnote.
  8. Also your choice of words makes your writing more powerful and effective, so make your wording concrete rather than abstract and generic.
  9. Try as much as you can to use vivid language, and avoid camouflaged verbs, for they fit more in fiction.
  10. Adopt a unique language style, but never overdo it by ignoring grammar rules.
  11. If you’re not 100% sure of the use of a certain word or verb in a particular way you may run a quick search using the word or verb puzzling you and see how it’s most commonly used.
  12. Don’t over use adjectives and adverbs; they harm the practical tone you are supposed to adopt.
  13. Avoid colloquial words, such as ain’t and gonna, they water down the quality of your writing. Just stick to proper English.
  14. Avoid the overuse of friendly tone, i.e. the first and second person in your writing and addressing the reader directly, it badly impacts the formality of the article and affects its credibility. Limit the use of “I” and “You”.
  15. Avoid contractions and abbreviations, they, as well, reduce the formality and the quality of your article.
  16. Among the commonly made mistakes you should avoid is starting the sentence with coordinating conjunction .
  17. Don’t exaggerate the use of clichés.
  18. Pay strict attention to repetitions and redundancy, try as much as you can to use synonyms and show your rich vocabulary.
  19. You may use some metaphors in describing scenes, but don’t overdo it.
  20. Avoid vulgarity, even if you’re attacking a negative issue.

8- Simple Guidelines on Ethical Journalism and Respect for Copyrights:

  • Avoid copying any content from any external website without first approaching its editorial desk and acquire permission.
  • Plagiarism may take various forms, not just copying word for word, but using the main thesis of an article and reproducing it is also considered plagiarism, and even if you want to use a particular idea raised in someone else’s article, then you should mention it as a reference in your footnote.
  • It doesn’t matter much whether you plagiarized accidentally or intentionally, the outcome is the same, to be on the safe side be innovative as much as you can and make your article packed with unique information.
  • Before you initiate a topic, you may run a quick search to check what’s being said about it and how it was previously approached.
  • Citing references, especially when it comes to facts and figures, protects site credibility, for it not just shows that the site editors abide by journalists’ ethics, but also in case those facts and figures raised are inaccurate, you eliminate any linkage to any responsibility for including improper information.
  • Never submit as your own someone else’s work, you may risk facing plagiarism charges.
  • Never use full excerpts from books unless mentioning the name of the book in footnotes.
  • Don’t use copyrighted images, or images that may be subject to copyrights, instead use images produced by you.

9- Exploring the Wiki method and how practices it:

Simply put, the Wiki method entails enabling a group of people collaboratively write and edit one article, giving them access to it anytime to reorganize, edit, or add to it, creating by that an active community online, sharing same interest and equally capable to write and enhance each others’ writings.

The term itself Wiki, is a Hawaiian word meaning fast, and this could stand for the easiness and quickness of the Wiki method and how it helps producing a full-length article in a relatively short period of time and using relatively less effort.

Sahara Safaris promotes the Wiki method, and encourages its community to collaboratively contribute to the content of the SS.Org, in a way that would enhance the image of the site, while providing its community member with the perfect platform to best represent the Egyptian intellectual community, the well-educated, well informed section of the society and the most eligible to be the mouth speakers of their nation and its heritage.

  • 5 things you need to put in mind before attempting to add to or edit others’ work:
  1. Make sure you fully grasped the idea and the message presented in the post you’re about to contribute to.
  2. Evaluate your knowledge about the subject.
  3. Be polite and never try to belittle or ridicule what others added to the article.
  4. Remember you’re collaboratively writing or editing an article, so you should have the spirit of being a member of a team.
  5. Respect the input of what others added to the article, even if you want to dispute it, so that others respect yours. You may disagree with what’s being written, but you can do that in a diplomatic and decent manner.
  6. Don’t use your access to others’ articles just to show off your superior skills. It’s ok to display your good writing talent, but remember, you’re all one minor community representing a bigger one.
  7. Never get offended if others made any amendments to your post or disputed it.
  8. Avoid redundancy, just raise new points and touch on different sides of the issue discussed.
  9. Be creative and innovative in the points you strike.
  10. Accept constructive criticism and embrace the community spirit to enjoy the whole process, just focus on the quality of the entire article you’re contributing to and the benefits it will bring to whoever reads it.

10- Ways to secure better SEO ranking (Search Engine Optimization)

  • Tips for better SEO Ranking

1-    Paying strict attention to the relevance of keywords you use (especially those included in the headline and brief) to the field you’re tackling (ex: Hiking Sinai, Egyptian Heritage….)  Search engines care hugely about keywords in the meta and title fields, as well as keywords in the body of your website.
2-    Frequently updating content.
3-    Having fresh and premium content as much as possible. According to the behaviour of search engines, sites with more premium content rule.

  • Should you use Duplicated Content, like constant flow of RSS feeds?
    Better not rely on Duplicated Content, However using RSS feeds may be your best way to keep the site fresh with relevant news pulled from other sources.
  • Duplicated Content: Threat or a Myth?
    McGovern’s the killer Web Content, an excellent book and your best guide to effective Web Content, stresses that many factors affect the SEO and being found on search engines: the quality and the traffic are crucial factors.

Also David Scott’s “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” supports the same understanding.

And that’s why the vast majority of online publications intentionally use RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds to constantly refresh their websites. It’s an easy magnet for web traffic without having to rely on a fully fledged editorial desk to regularly update the site.

Actually top media sites encourage RSS feeds, knowing it’s the best way to score high Search Engine ranking, for search engines don’t like sites that stay static.

Staying dynamic is one of the major factors that affect SEO.

So a website may use RSS feeds pulling relevant news headlines and briefs from other sources and attributed to the original sites, so as to stay ripe and dynamic, without investing much time and effort.

11- Explaining methods for driving more traffic to Sahara Safaris’ website

  1. Frequency of updates;
    Frequently updating Sahara Safaris website whether using premium content prepared by Sahara Safaris editors, or using RSS feeds, will keep the site dynamic and get users committed to visit it more regularly, knowing they shall always find something new to read.
  2. Link to Us;
    Add a Link to Us button on all pages of SaharaSafaris.Org to get more exposure and more visitors.
  3. Premium and Unique Content;
    Having premium and exclusive content running on Sahara Safaris will win audience trust and bring them again to the site to read more of what they won’t find available elsewhere on the web.
  4. Avoid Copy and Paste;
    Avoid copying and pasting from other websites, even if you’ll mention the source, this will negatively impact the SEO ranking, sending SS down on Google search, and thus impede chances for needed exposure.
  5. Hot discussion topics;
    Arouse effective and interesting discussion topics and keep them active on forums.
  6. Quality;
    Quality check posts and comments on the site to ensure no vulgarity, offense, or poor writing, that would harm the image of SS.
  7. Get visitors spend more time;
    Try to keep visitors longer on SS website, by including E-Books, quality videos and more fresh content.
  8. Active online-discussion community;
    Other than forums, Online Discussion community can be an amazing tool to connect people together, identify their preferences, and encourage them to eventually join SS Forums, according to their fields of interest.
  9. Exchange links;
    Exchange links with other Online-Communities specialized in relevant fields.
  10. Cross linking;
    Avoid dead ends on the site, and use cross linking to link articles to one another, to Forums to discussion topics, Biographies, Events…

12- Tips on Web searching and ways to spot required information:

  • Use the search engine short cuts such as “or”, “+”, “and” to separate several options and parentheses or enclose your keyphrase or keyword within two quotation marks (Egyptian Hikers”, or “Egypt Natural Heritage”.
  • Use (find in page) before you type your keywords, it will facilitate finding your intended results.
  • Use ( ~ ) symbol in your search to get results that include relevant synonyms.
  • Use Advanced Search, it better filters search results.
  • Bookmark sites that served your searches previously, and always use annotations to remind yourself of their contents and in what way each would help.
  • Move from being Specific to being more Generic; meaning start by being very accurate in the parentheses you search for, if your search didn’t yield any good results move to more generic terms.
  • Use Vertical Search; meaning before you paste your parentheses in the search tab, specify its category, whether news, blogs, web sites or what, then try searching in Google’s categorized channels: News, Web, Images …

2 thoughts on “Collaborative Web Writing

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