Grants/MOSCAR: Museum Open Source Code and Application Repository
Describe the project you are proposing as clearly as possible in just five sentences.
Liberty Science Center's (LSC) MOSCAR project is a web initiative that attempts to promote collaboration and access of open source code, frameworks, applications, and technology information amongst museums, science centers, and the like-minded community. On a basic level, the project will act as an exchange and hub for free software, scripts, tutorials/links, and documentation that will be both supplied by and targeted to various developers, designers, and those with technology-related needs and interests, regardless of technical proficiency or background. A website will be set-up that is part wiki (for documentation) and part version control/ticketing system for software and application uploads and feedback. A social-media campaign and outreach effort will strive to provide the initial content and user base. LSC staff will host, manage, and contribute to the project, but the focus is to provide a centralized location for sharing, discussion, and the overall spread of ergonomic technology focused on the museum community.
Detail the tangible project output (e.g., paper, blog post, written materials, video/film, etc.; this would be in addition to the final written report that successful grant recipients will be expected to deliver to CC at the conclusion of the project).
1. A stable, fully managed OSI (Open Source Initiative) and CC0 licensed website (powered by the Trac project - http://trac.edgewall.org/) that will host downloadable code, applications, tutorials, and documentation, making its contents usable to beginners and experienced technologists alike.
2. An official social and media-driven push to build an initial audience of users and content providers. We will reach out to museums, science centers, educational institutions, open technology-related companies, and interest groups. The social and collaborative aspects of this project will be documented and open for discourse on a separate blog/networking website.
Describe the community you are targeting. How would the project benefit the community?
Our target audience will consist of individuals and organizations affiliated with museums, science centers, or related institutions, particularly those seeking help, examples, and new technological avenues for the creation of better content and applications; this will in turn benefit their respective audiences, which include educators, families and students. The community itself will benefit from the cross-pollination that will occur, furthering museum networking and co-opt projects, and lessening the reliance on outside sources that provide technological services at expensive premiums.br />
Our organization, Liberty Science Center, is a member of the targeted community, officially chartered as a 501(c)(3) institution, and a member of both ASTC (Association of Science and Technology Centers) and AAM (American Association of Museums), and our goal is as follows: to cross museum boundaries and enable a path for sharing and constant communication through collaborative technology. Liberty Science Center aspires to take the lead on such projects because of our ties and appeal to both museum-centric and science/technology groups, and to support our mission to strengthen communities.
The Center has spearheaded various interactive, allied, and socially transparent projects: for example, the upcoming “Cooking” exhibition (2011) has shared its curative and decision-making processes with the general public via a Ning networking site (http://cookingexhibitchefs.ning.com/); our Electronic Field Trip and Live From educational programs have extended the classroom to students in other states and countries via engaging videoconferencing lessons; SNSE, an NSF funded project comprised of members from a mix of organizations, has given mobile devices the ability to act as informational aids and a platform for content creation; finally, the LSC-piloted Exhibit Commons serves as a framework that enables users of all kinds to generate content for existing and future exhibitions.
How will you measure and evaluate your project’s impact - on your main participants? Other contributors? On the larger community?
Metrics for evaluating this project will include basic web analytics for the main website/repository, (i.e. views, bounce rate, downloads, comments, and the amount of content uploaded). Additionally, we will document implementations of the content made available—applications, scripts, systems in action—and the various affiliates, museum-based or otherwise, who support and contribute to the initiative.
The blog/networking website will also act as a means for measurement by allowing user feedback, polling with reference to specific topics, and general creative discussion to tailor and refine the project’s scope.
How many participants do you expect to be involved in your project? How will you seek and sustain their involvement?
To manage the proposed project, including its social outreach, technological setup, programming, and initial population, three staff members (Russell de Moose – Associate Director of Technology, Zeeshan Lakhani – Web Developer, Liana Eagle - Programmer) will be primarily responsible. Two of the three work full-time at Liberty Science Center; the third is an intern at the Center whose work the grant will help to fund; this grant will serve as the inceptive backing for the project and allow us to move through phase one.
Participants will be comprised mainly of those using, discussing, and populating the contents of the website. Based on other Liberty Science Center open and related initiatives (e.g. Cooking-Ning network – currently at 603 joined members), the goal is to reach approximately 100 contributing members by the culmination of phase one. Total users (i.e. those who download and reap the benefits of MOSCAR as contributors or anonymously) may range from hundreds to thousands.
Seeking and sustaining participant involvement will occur through generating enough beneficial software, content, and interaction to extend participants’ engagement and promote the cycle of information exchange (users acting as beneficiaries and contributors). Additional connections will be made and supported via social campaigning, as well as by demonstrating the open nature of the project and its community impact.
Describe how your project will benefit Creative Commons' mission to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons".
The crux of MOSCAR is to provide a centralized, recursive, “pay it forward” system that enables technologists and technology users to access, modify, and ultimately improve others’ work under the umbrella of creative museum applications. Collective input and shared learning will only expand the boundaries of public creativity, as the project’s foundation lies in a reusable, freely distributable catalog.
Describe what technologies and tools your project will use. What kinds of technical skills and expertise do you bring to the project? What are your technical needs?
In order to bring this project to fruition, infrastructural steps include securing, allocating space to (via SAN), and maintaining the project web server. Housing content and the repository, the main website will be built on the Trac framework (http://trac.edgewall.org/), using git (http://git-scm.com/) as a version control system. Additionally, all code, scripts, and application materials will be extended to the collaborative development site github (https://github.com/) to further public interest. The blog/networking site will be built on the wordpress.org engine (http://wordpress.org), and we will drive social-media campaigns through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Kickstarter, and other avenues.
What challenges do you expect to face, and how do you plan to overcome them?
Initially, the main challenge will involve coordinating and attracting individuals and institutions to the project. Through social campaigns and incessant web interaction and confabulation, we plan to grow the active database and roll of participants and contributors. Furthermore, we plan to solve the omnipresent issue of sustained funding by responsibly designing our system, namely a design that is relatively autonomous and without significant long-term cost implications, even as usage and demand increases. Understanding that even the best-designed projects will still require some funding, we plan to address this issue as is detailed below.
How do you plan to sustain your project after the Creative Commons funding has ended? Detail specific plans. How do you plan to raise revenue to continue your efforts in the future?
The CC Catalyst Grant will fund the project through phase one and provide continued management and upkeep. For phase two and beyond, we plan to keep the project afloat with ancillary grant opportunities, like the IMLS Museums for America Grants (http://imls.gov/), which can range from five to one-hundred thousand dollars over a three-year period. Moreover, we plan to raise additional funds with an all or nothing Kickstarter campaign (http://www.kickstarter.com) and will continue to seek out other forms of sponsorship and donation-based models as the initiative reaches more users and institutions.
How can this project be scalable, or have a scalable impact?
Scalability is implicit in the project’s concept; user interaction and subsequent iterations to the repository contribute to a constantly changing, user-centric body of work. Our decision to use the Trac and git frameworks emerged from these considerations.
What resources and support do you expect Creative Commons to provide to your project to ensure its success (if any)?
Affiliation with CC (CC0 project licensing and the CC name itself) and OSI (software licensing) carries an inherently positive message, one that will provide a impetus for a response and support network that will form new partnerships and less borders. Any awareness of MOSCAR as a result of these partnerships will be extremely helpful. In addition to the requested funding, link exchanges, cross-promotion, and eventual organizational affiliation with CC will greatly contribute to the success of this project.
Describe how your organization currently communicates with its community members and network partners. (100 words)
As an institution nested in a series of communities, Liberty Science Center has a myriad of networking platforms: ASTC, AAM, and topic-specific conferences provide an outlet for engaging the museum body; professional development, NJEA (New Jersey Education Association) conventions, focus groups, and web surveys broaden Liberty Science Center’s outreach to educators and strengthen university partnerships; a suite of onsite and offsite educational programs reach hundreds of thousands of children annually; web resources, social media tools, and newly launched blogs support a diverse online portfolio, of which this project will become an integral piece.