Well, as it turns out, all I have to do to get started, truly started, is build a website. I'll go into the panic about why I'm doing that at all another time, and just stick to what I need to try and do in practical terms for now. The problem with the website project is that I've never built a website before and have no idea how to go about it. I think to myself constantly that is OK, I can learn, but I have to go ahead and do that now. I actually have to get the making under way.
I've really never had a problem learning things like this, so in spite of the expected steep learning curve, I know I can manage it, it's just figuring out how to begin, like standing at a rockface, studying the surface for a fingerhold and toehold to heft my body into position number one, not knowing how I'll get all the way to the top, but hoping that I'll be able to shout down to someone trusty on the ground for guidance. Jerad? He's great with simple programming. Perhaps Matt the I.T. Guy can assist along the way too.
What complicates matters is I need to build a site that will allow a lot of future flexibilitiy and creativity. I've not seen what I hope to achieve on the web before, so I only have partial models to follow.
I like sites like Metafilter which inspire earnest participation, and seem fairly light on trolling, spam and light posting about what was one television last night or what people had for dinner. This tone is set in part by the way participants join; you must pay (a nominal) $5 fee to sign up, then wait a long-seeming week in order to ask a question (and post too? I can't remember, but there is a period of forced observation before you can participate). Moderators seem to sit on the forum pretty diligently, deleting anything which derails the flow of feedback, and every member can flag posts that they think are offensive or irrelevant.
The result is that when someone asks a (sensible) question, they get dozens, sometimes hundreds of (sensible) answers. I've actually never seen a healthy flow like this on any other site. Though the setup seems somewhat draconian, it results in a fairly smoothly run community, where as long as you put some thought into your enquiry, no matter how esoteric or obscure, you don't feel that you're going to be shouted down, bullied, ignored or flamed.
I have no intention, nor realistic ability, to charge participants a fee to join, but there may have to be other hurdles implemented in order to get honest participation. Perhaps for later, and something to think about anyway - how this is achieved in practical terms. I think having a true audience of people who have come to the site with the same objectives as me will probably help, so investigating how a tone of that kind is set is also helpful.
Find web hosting.
Ask the simple question in a helpful place: "How do I get a website off the ground - one which needs to be simple at first, but will allow for creative complexity later when my own skill-set drags it's way up to my ideas and ambitions for the site?"