questions about multi-sites in regard to users

I have PatriotStarNews.us set up as the main site.

I created a fake user account (george) to test it out, and they have to confirm email and are sent a password which is dandy.

1. In the dashboard, I see there is dashboard and profile links. That’s it. Am I right to assume that the user level of ‘george’ is subscriber? Meaning, he can read posts by others and make comments to those posts, and edit his profile, but nothing else, right?

2. Let’s say that I might like ‘george’ so much that I’d want him to be an contributor (meaning he can write articles to post to the site). But I don’t know george (or ringo or starr) personally and so I’d need for there to be a way for him to let me know he wants to be a contributing writer. Is there a plugin that allows that, and waits for me to approve it? Or, perhaps adding on a blogging plugin (not sure which one), to allow blogging, either automatically or as an upgrade to contributor or to blogger or perhaps I need to create a form for him to sign up to be upgraded and then review it manually. Ideally, there’d be some posts by him as a blogger, that I could review to see if he writes well enough to have an upgraded and recognized status?

2b. Likewise, I’m going to need an editor for the /mi-olivet/ site. Let’s say I don’t know anyone who I’d choose and I advertise the position, and Ringo wants the job. What is the most logical, steps for Ringo to sign up to my site as a subscriber, then apply for the editor position, and what are the corresponding plugins.

Thing is, I am trying to make this as seemless as possible for a complete stranger to come to the site, sign up at a basic level, be able to demonstrate their writing ability on the site (without creating a separate site for them), have them apply for upgraded responsibility, and be reviewed/approved.

I get confused by the terms, blog in the manual. Sometimes it seems it refers to allowing someone to post articles within a site, at other times, it seems as if the term blog means allowing the person to create their own site. I don’t want people to create their own sites, their posts must be within one of the sites.

3. If george signs up for </mi-olivet> site, is he allowed to make posts to the other sites? Or to the parent site? Is there a way for the admin or editor to permit it and/or disallow it? Or perhaps an editor to have a way to pull (or push) an article from a local town to the main site?

4. Is there a way to make george’s dashboard not so “wordpressy” looking and more intuitive and user friendly. And perhaps allow network adimin and/or site admin and site editor to post announcements (to what degree would that be customizable)?