The Knight Drupal Initiative proceeds apace. Last week, two additional projects were approved to be forwarded along to the Knight Foundation, and there is a third strong proposal under consideration. If you are a Drupal developer, and/or have an idea about how to combine your love of open source software with your desire to change how we communicate, get a proposal in.
We are in the midst of refining our proposal prior to submission to the Knight Foundation. It's been a useful process, as it has forced us to take a step back from our thoughts and ideas and find a method of communicating them to a general audience. This post gives a summary of what we are thinking; if you are so inclined, please leave any feedback in the comments.
Need: What journalistic or public need will the proposed project address? How was the need identified?
Schools, non-profits, community organizations, and traditional media have all struggled with how to update their approach to their mission through effective use of social media. Over the last few years, while mainstream media outlets have made forays into these areas (albeit with limited success) smaller organizations have been constrained due to financial and technical barriers. Our Local Publishing Platform seeks to eliminate the technical barriers and minimize the financial barriers.
The Aggregation Hub seeks to eliminate another issue affecting smaller organizations ranging from local papers to community-run advocacy groups around varying issues: frequently, these organizations have limited knowledge about similar work being done by other groups. The aggregation hub, at its most basic, would provide a centralized resource for groups with a common mission. Over time, the aggregation hub could serve as a springboard for greater collaboration. With services like Twitter, we have seen the power of loose connections, and how in specific circumstances these types of lightweight connections can lead to more meaningful exchanges.
These needs were identified in a variety of ways: primarily, we observed common patterns of community involvement and development as part of our own work, as we are actively involved in several different online communities. Second, countless people – from clients to other social media professionals to heads of community organizations – identified a subset of these needs as issues they were struggling within their own organizations. As we talked with different organizations doing a wide range of work – from organizing resources around School-Based Health Care, to running online magazines for K-12 students, from supporting Action Research as part of Teacher Professional Development, to developing Community Published Journalism platforms, to building out a news and services directory to support agriculture among rural communities in Southeast Asia, a set of common needs emerged: people wanted to publish easily from a variety of sources, and collect these posts in a central place. Taken individually, these are all interesting projects; taken collectively, they have the potential to shift how we view “news,” and who has a right to “make” it. While these ideas have been around for a while (depending on how you want to look at it, they can be sourced to the advent of the Social Web or, arguably, to the advent of the web browser as Tim Berners-Lee first envisioned it, the promise has yet to materialize. Sophisticated, easy to use tools remain beyond the reach of many grassroots communities. This project aims to meet that need.
Proposed Project: Briefly summarize the project for which Knight Foundation funding is requested. Relate the project to the needs identified above.
As described above, the needs can be condensed down into two discrete categories
- Local Publishing Platform: A more efficient means of communicating.
- Accepts input from web and mobile devices;
- Seamlessly handles images, audio, text, and video;
- Easy to install, maintain, and use;
- Can support simple group blogs to more structured channels or magazines;
- Can support publish-on-demand alongside community rating and editorial review.
- Low barrier to entry – participating groups do not need to make significant changes to their current procedures;
- Over time, accumulated content forms a searchable archive of information contributed by different community members and organizations;
- Provides a means of both highlighting the work of individual organizations, and amplifying the voice of loosely connected groups;
- The strength of loose ties -- shared content in the same “space” creates an initial connection that can be used as a starting point for more comprehensive collaboration.
Within both sites, various methods of “visualizing” a community can be employed. This visualization can be rendered based on geography, content, tags, users, frequency of posts, or any combination thereof.
In our proposal, we request funding to build these two resources. The Local Publishing Platform will address the needs of individuals and organizations as they communicate their message to a broader audience. This site will be available as a downloadable platform from Drupal.org, and will have a full suite of documentation describing how to install, modify and use the site. Our goal is to build a base profile that can be installed within the space of about 15 minutes (an average time of a standard Drupal install). This initial install will contain some sensible defaults to support several common publishing scenarios.
The second site, the Aggregation Hub, will be made available in the form of a site recipe. Like the Local Publishing Platform, all the code needed to build this site will be freely available for download from Drupal.org. The documentation will describe how to install and configure the site. As the expressed needs of the Aggregation Hub cover a broader range of functionality than the Local Publishing Platform, documenting the base install and additional use cases will allow us to build a tool that will be useful to a larger audience.
Both of these projects can be replicated and installed by any organization that wants to use it. To emphasize: this is not software as a service, and it is not a tool that an organization needs to rely on a third party to provide or support.