Using WordPress For A Private Collaboration Site

August 9th, 2009
WordPress, WordPress FAQs, WordPress Tips

I work with a group of people in the development and production of a podcast called The PC/Mac Smackdown.  The show is going through significant changes in the near future and we decided it would be great to have some type of collaborative site for us to share ideas, files, schedules, etc.

Rather than use commercial services like Google Docs, Google Groups or Multiply we thought it would be much more functional to build our own site and customize it to our preferences. I volunteered to get that site up and running and I was actually able to have something online overnight that met our needs.  It really proved just how flexible WordPress is and how talented the plug-in developer community is to be able to provide such a wide range of functionality with plug-ins.

After getting our domain registered I got the latest version of WordPress (2.8.3) uploaded and installed. If you have ever set up a brand new WordPress site then you know how easy and quick the 5 minute install is.

After spending some time tweaking all the everyday settings for the blog I started off with a search for a theme that would support the mix of PC and Mac people that were  involved. The one I finally settled on is iBlog2 by Andrew Powers.  I picked it because the layout is very clean and it is compatible with popular browsers on both the Windows and Mac operating systems.

The next thing I went in search for was a calendar/event plug-in that we could use to keep track of upcoming shows, meeting coordination, travel schedules and other events for the show.  I must have tried 3 or 4 plug-ins before I finally settled on the Event Calendar 3 by Alex Tingle (91,000 downloads). This plug-in also utilizes the Event Calendar Widget by Darrell Schulte which provides the sidebar calendar widget that interfaces with the Event Calendar 3 plug-in. This plug-in creates an additional editing box at the very bottom of the Post Page that lets you select a start and end date/time for an event. 

Here is what that Event Editor box looks like:


Then you put the subject line as the event name and type any further details in the post. What you get then is a positing that looks like this:


And that in turn shows up on the sidebar calendar widget as a highlighted day in red and if you hover over the date you will see the event in a small pop-up box:


The next thing we wanted to be able to do was share files on the site and I immediately went for a plug-in I am already familiar with and grabbed the WordPress Download Monitor plug-in by Mike Jolley which I use on my website to host a selection of Windows 7 Themes. It is another very simple to use plug-in that has great functionality, flexibility as well as stats tracking for all downloadable files. It has been downloaded 95,000 times so it is also in wide use and obviously popular.

That wrapped up the bulk of the functionality we needed within the site – the next thing was to lock it down for our own private use. After trying a few plug-ins I found many were either dated in their development or not able to meet our needs.  It was then that I happened upon the Absolute Privacy plug-in by John Kolbert.  This is a fairly new plug-in that has only been available since Feb 2009 and with just over 3,300 downloads to its name.

However, don’t let that low number lull you into thinking it is not well made and good at its intended use.

This plug-in has one main option – to either enable or disable the plug-in:


It gives you a new user category – Unapproved User – and this is assigned to anyone who signs up for an account so an Admin can approve or disapprove someone’s access to the site.  Once they are approved you can assign them to whatever level of access they need. At that point their access to the site functions like it would on any other WordPress site except they must be signed in to see/access the entries, admin panel, etc.


Using this plug-in your site is locked down quite well and even the RSS feeds are inaccessible unless your logged in.

So there you have it – with an idea, a handful of plug-ins and some time you can also build your own personal and private collaboration site with WordPress.

So for discussion – what is the most unique, non-traditional site you have ever built with WordPress?




  1. Hilmy (2 comments.) says:

    Glad that I stumbled upon this post as it is giving me some good ideas how to really secure a private site. Thanks for sharing..

  2. WindowsObserver (55 comments.) says:

    I am glad it proved helpful – good luck with the site.

  3. Magnus (1 comments.) says:

    Great tip but is it right to call Google Docs and Groups “commercial”?

    • WindowsObserver (55 comments.) says:

      I guess I categorized them as businesses and therefore commercial apps compared to WordPress and the community aspect of its development.

    • David G. Johnson (1 comments.) says:

      I should say so! Google certainly intends them for commercial purposes… whether we’re talking about the ad-supported side of things or the fact that they’re working to achieve market dominance!

  4. Chris (29 comments.) says:

    WindowsObserver, you indicated you site is for collaboration, so I’m curious- why didn’t you use the P2 theme from Automattic? Did it not meet your needs?

    • WindowsObserver (55 comments.) says:

      Actually did not consider P2 as it did not come up in my searches for collaboration type stuff – in fact not much did in the area of themes. I then went off towards the compatability side of things and found iBlog2 in the process. It looked good for our purpose and so I went with it.

  5. Gary says:

    I wonder if there’s a plug-in which corrects the use of “MAC” when people should really be saying “Mac”?

  6. Rightidea (1 comments.) says:

    There is another plugin named Role Scoper which will easily allow access to different groups and individuals to specific posts or categories, but lock out everyone else. If you need different levels of access for different members of the team or want to just exclude all or most team members until you finish a post, then let them see it, you can toggle visibility (for them) easily with a couple of well-chosen check boxes.

    You can even leave the blog visible to the world and make only specific categories available to a select few for viewing, editing and such.

    This is a very impressive plugin with extensive role management capabilities!

  7. JRS (1 comments.) says:

    I use .httaccess to isolate private use applications. Seems to work well for me.


  8. Classified Script (1 comments.) says:

    Very interesting.

    To what extent can approved members then post, participate or even edit the collaborative content at that one site?

  9. Sara (2 comments.) says:

    I love using WordPress for sites that are more (or other) than just blogs.

    My client is an e-commerce website where each post is a unique item for sale; we’re using a custom plugin that adds fields for price etc., and a third-party e-commerce site to record online transactions securely.

    My client uses WPMU for publishing consumer guides for health insurance. There is a blog on the site for promoting breaking news, but the WPMU installation is entirely used with Pages and a hierarchical organization scheme to reproduce print-based guides. Longer-term we hope to “co-brand” these pages for our content partners/large donors, so a link for instance to will see a custom header and footer for yourorg. I haven’t yet found a plugin to manage that, maybe someone out there knows of one?

    My client runs several WordPress-based mini-sites; two are for her creative writing, which is presented in book-like format, so you start at the beginning on your first visit and then go FORWARD through the story. One is for a writing contest where we accept and reprint short-short stories from contest entrants on a particular topic (right now the topic is “Beauty” — you can check it out at ). This has been a really fun and challenging work-in-progress, and WordPress has been a real boon to our ability to manage the content and play with the presentation.

    I have, in the past, created a password-protected collaboration site for a client, but that was over a year ago so the Absolute Privacy plugin wasn’t out there — it’s easy to protect the website pages themselves on your own, but I think we failed to protect the RSS feed, and so I think it’s great to have a plugin that offers better hiding of content. In our case, it was a low-security website so it wasn’t much of an issue.

    Thanks for the references! I’ve used most of these plugins and loved them. I am a big Lester Chan fan too, his plugins work great for me. WordPress has an awesome developer community.

  10. yair (1 comments.) says:

    Great plug-in. As a newbiew I searched for such a tool.
    I am definitely going to try to build your a private collaboration WP website through this tool.
    And to answer you poll: My most unique, non-traditional site you have ever built with WordPress was a Safari one, website about predator.

  11. B2B Wholesale Suppliers (1 comments.) says:

    Great stuff! Thanks for sharing.

  12. Hicham Maged (36 comments.) says:

    I always feel glad to read about new user expirence for using WordPress. Welcome to the planet of WP users :D

  13. Doug Smith (17 comments.) says:

    I’ve done quite a few non-traditional sites using WordPress.

    Some of those have been internal intranet sites so I can’t show you. One in particular that I liked was an internal document repository where a company stored articles, letters, and testimonials for possible use on Web sites and print pieces. Each article was a WordPress post. Internal users could vote with a star rating to help the best content bubble to the top. I also installed a plugin to allow users to add tags to help articles be found easier. And they used commenting to keep notes, record when an article was used, or just to have a discussion about that article.

    I built a local bi-lingual, yellow pages guide type site for one client. Each company listing in the guide was a WordPress post. The template was designed so it looked like a seamless listing of businesses with their address, rather than a series of posts. Clicking on that business went to the single page template where they listed additional information, a map, coupons, etc. Categories and tags were used to divide the listing into business sectors.

    For another company I built a template for custom product sales pages. The template is highly customized to pull information from a product database by the item number, grab the image from the post, generate the links and buttons automatically, and fill in some other details from custom fields.

    I’ll leave you with my most famous site, This was a fake product site done as a joke. I used WordPress as an easy way to allow visitors to play along with the joke by leaving product “testimonials” using the commenting features.

  14. Owen Peery (1 comments.) says:

    I have installed most of these plug ins and and the site is working great. Does anyone know how to configure the Download manager to send an email to all the collaborators when a new document is uploaded. When anyone adds a document all of us would like to receive an email so we know there is something new to look at. I looked at the general settings in WordPress and can only find a way to alert collaborators when a new comment appears. Ideally, any change on the site, we would like to all receive an email, any change at all, any ideas on how to do this?

  15. Richard Hay (32 comments.) says:

    I know the download manager that was used does not have the feature – most likely you would need a 3rd party plugin or get the download plugin coder to code that feature.

  16. brian says:

    Thanks for the informtion. I am setting up a page to take the place of a google group. the main thing we used the group for was sharing files and sending emails. We aslo set up some pages. The event calendar, and download monitor work well. The absolute Prvacy definately works but it logs them in to the Admin page. I have them set up as Admin because the other settings won’t allow them to post files. Any Sugestions? Also any sugeetions for email. I dowloaded buddypress, very cool but not what I was looking for. I just want something that will email them a new post and that they can respond to that email and it will update the post and the group. Thanks for taking the time to put up this page it was a big blesing to me!


  1. seombg (SEOM) (1 comments.) says:

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