Building an online community at SJSU

The redesign for the Spartan Daily website was finally made live a week or so ago. You can read Ryan Sholin’s post to compare this version to previous iterations of the Daily website. As he points out, “there’s more to building a successful online student news site than making it look pretty.”

How then, does a school newspaper build a successful online community? The two main concerns heard most frequently about the Spartan Daily are an overall lack of quality within the paper and the lack of coverage for certain events, clubs, speakers, etc.

The first problem seems to be a lack of understanding within the school about what exactly the Spartan Daily is and does. The Spartan Daily is a class/lab meant to teach its students how to operate withing a newsroom. Each semester, new writers, photographs and editors run the paper, leading to the inevitable drop in quality during the first few weeks of the semester.

As for the problem of lack of coverage, I am not quite sure what course should be taken. I would love to have a site as polished as the community site of the Savannah Morning News. However, I am unsure if students would actively maintain blogs, group and galleries when they will be leaving in four years and already have MySpace and facebook, which they can take with them post-graduation.

I have also begun playing around with pligg, an open-source cms that operates in a similar manner to, in which users vote content onto the frontpage.

In playing with pligg, I was hoping for a community site in which clubs, teachers, A.S., sports teams, and other members of the SJSU community contributed and voted on stories. This makes the assumption that students would actively submit stories in an attempt to increase their campus exposure and would vote on each other’s stories. It also assume that students would be willing to set up their own blogs (pligg links to outside pages) and write stories.

One problem inherent in user-controlled sites such as digg and reddit (and would be with a pligg cms run Daily site) is the ability to fool voters with fake headlines and news. David Cohn of explains the problem of sites in which news articles are judged by popularity and presents NewsTrust (in which the reliability of the news source is graded by users) as a possible alternative.

What do you think?  Will a voting system such as pligg cause more problems than solutions?  What can be done to give students a voice in their campus?  How best can we build a community for a community that is constantly in flux?

6 thoughts on “Building an online community at SJSU

  1. I’m glad you are doing something like this. The Spartan Daily is a valuable resource and it’s great that it will be made more accessible to the newer more Internet savy generation of students.

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