Understanding User Access Levels in WordPress for Toastmasters

WordPress for Toastmasters takes advantage of the standard WordPress user security levels, with a few tweaks. The creator of a club website becomes its Administrator, with broad powers over the design and content of the site, and new members are typically granted Subscriber-level accounts, which allow them to sign up for meeting roles and edit their own profiles.

This post focuses on the levels in-between, order of increasing responsibility and capability for adding and editing website content. Club webmasters may want to consider granting elevated access to club members, particularly given that Pathways includes both projects for blogging and podcasting. You can make the club website available as a platform for them to create and promote their content, and potentially get some public relations / social media marketing value for your club in the prospect. I’m doing something similar as this year’s webmaster for Toastmasters District 47, where I’m inviting participation from active members of the district.

For the Pathways blogging project, I suggest encouraging members to create a few posts relevant to the mission of Toastmasters and your club (or area or division) or showcasing what we learn in Toastmasters by example. If you video record speeches, a member might build a blog around a speech the were particularly proud of — with the video and maybe a few stills from the speech embedded in the body of the post, plus some commentary on where the idea came from, how they practiced, and so on. PowerPoint slides and other resources can be made available for download.

Contest speech videos are a potential goldmine for showcasing Toastmasters talent and dramatizing what we learn in the program.

My recommendation is that members be offered the opportunity to create blog posts on the club website but shouldn’t feel obligated to do so. The Pathways blogging project asks that they create 8 posts and then give a speech about what they learned in the process. My advice would be to do a couple of Toastmasters-appropriate posts to the club website, and a few others to a personal blog (a free account on WordPress.com or Blogger/Blogspot) or a professional forum (for example, with the LinkedIn blog/article tool). Many small businesses (and some larger ones) run their websites on WordPress, so blogging to promote the business could be productive as a way of attracting people to your business website.

I have much more to say about what to post and why, but first let me get back to my topic of security and access levels. In general, it’s good advice not to give users more privileges than they require to do their work. And the more access you grant, the more important it is to drive home the message about being careful with passwords and web security because a hacked account could do more damage.

The next step up from Subscriber is …

Contributor: An Author on Training Wheels

A Contributor can:

  • Create blog posts but not publish them. They must first be approved by someone with editing rights.
  • Preview posts as they will appear, once approved.

Some users may chafe at being asked to start off “on training wheels,” but on the other hand I find it’s common for Toastmasters to want to have some coaching and feedback before they publish their first post.

For the district blogging program I’m working on, most users will be invited in as Contributor users. Main reason: I’ve promised the district leadership I will review everything before it goes live on the site and keep us all out of trouble with the TI brand police. At the club level, I would be inclined to promote a user to Author once they have gone through the process a couple of times.

Related: Specify who should be notified when a Contributor submits a post for review.

New in the July 22, 2019 update.

Note: By default, WordPress does not allow Contributors to upload images or files. When you have the WordPress for Toastmasters software installed, they are granted that additional capability. Incorporating mages and other media is an important part of blogging.

Author: Trusted Content Creator

Making someone an Author means we’re taking the training wheels off. An author can:

  • Publish a blog without prior approval.
  • Go back and make edits to that content at any time.

This power allows an Author to make their own mistakes and learn from experience. However, the Author need not work without a net. Even if they can publish a post without having anyone else review it, they might want to share it first with a friend and/or the site’s Editor or Administrator users who can point out typos or other glitches.

One useful WordPress plugin (pre-installed but not automatically activated on toastmost.org websites) is Public Post Preview, which allows for the creation of a temporary shareable link to an unpublished post. That way, content creators can have someone else check their content prior to publication.

Editor: Rides a More Powerful Bike

An Editor can:

  • Create and edit both blog posts and web pages. Typically, blog posts are for news and feature content, and the pages of your site are for more permanent information about the club like the welcome message you put on your home page.
  • Edit content posted by other authors.
  • Approve content from contributors for publication.

WordPress for Toastmasters adds the role of Manager, which is essentially an Editor with a couple of additional capabilities related to adding and maintaining user / member accounts.

Administrator: Cop on the Beat

An Administrator can:

  • Do everything an editor can, plus …
  • Change menus and other design elements of the website
  • Activate optional software modules such as plugins. (On an independent website, as opposed to one within a network of sites such as toastmost.org, the Administrator can also install software plugins and designs/themes).
  • Edit Settings for WordPress and any plugins active on the site.
  • Edit user profiles and promote users to Contributor, Author or Administrator. Having a backup website administrator is a good practice for ensuring continuity when a webmaster leaves the club or is unavailable.
Promoting a user to Contributor

Super Administrator: God on a Motorbike

The Super Administrator role only exists on a network of WordPress websites such as toastmost.org. We also have this on our district website, where I’ve created division-level blogs that can have their own Contributor, Author, Editor, and Administrative users — who may or may not have access rights on the main district website.

A Super Administrator can:

  • Act as Administrator for any website in the network.
  • Install new plugins and themes/designs.
  • Network Activate plugins for all websites within the network.
  • Make other big-picture decisions related to the security of the network and default settings that will be applied to all websites.

Images c/o Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay (God on a motorcycle image is a composite of Pixabay images).

Training Wheels: Dottie Mae [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Bicycle Messenger: ProfDEH [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Motorcycle: Fcb981 [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

MotorCycle Cops: IowaPolitics.com [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“God rays image” PiccoloNamek [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

* This software is offered "for Toastmasters" but not is provided by or endorsed by Toastmasters International. The use of Toastmasters brand assets (with proper disclaimers) in website designs has been reviewed by the Toastmasters International brand compliance team.