Describe the project you are proposing as clearly as possible in just five sentences.
Metblogs is the oldest and largest network of local media blogs. Over the last 7 years our volunteer driven blogs have proven to be powerful forces for their communities. We currently have blogs in close to 60 cities around the world but have not had much luck reaching the middle east. We'd like to use a CC catalyst grant to reach out and jump start a blog in a single key middle eastern city and try to use that as both a prototype and a spark to expand to the others.
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).
We aim to establish a Metblog site based in Beirut with at least 10 regular and active contributors. This will be in the style of our new individually branded sites. We hope the blog will cover topics of interest and importance to the residents of Beirut as well as expats and visitors to the city.
Describe the community you are targeting. How would the project benefit the community?
Beirut currently has no central online media resource and we have made some connections with bloggers and creative commons activists who we think would make a good starting team. The community we're targeting is both tech savvy local enthusiasts and residents of the city who are just looking for a stronger sense of connection to those around them. We feel this project will benefit the community in a similar way that our Karachi blog did, by giving the locals a big public voice that they never had, which allows them to join together on issues and empower themselves.br />
Our relationship with this community in Beirut is very new and still growing. We've already built the worlds largest network of local blogs, and have been focusing on local media longer than anyone else in the space. We feel there is no better brand to lead the project, and giving that kind of weight to a new site in a new city we believe will be incredibly powerful and inspiring. We've built close to 60 other city blogs around the world so we feel we have the experience needed to do this right.
How will you measure and evaluate your project’s impact - on your main participants? Other contributors? On the larger community?
We plan to work closely with the contributors to the site and get as much feedback from them as possible. Additionally we'll be monitoring the other local media to see how they react and if they begin to use our site as a trusted source. Via the comments we'll be able to gauge if the readers feel empowered and if they like what we're doing. We also plan to do quarterly surveys to stay on top of the needs of the community and make sure we're putting attention where it's needed most. One benefit we think we have to offer is that since the site will be hosted outside of Lebanon we can provide a stable backbone that might not have been possible for 100% Beirut based sites in the past. Most importantly this puts the sites owners and servers out of the reach and influence of local pressures.
How many participants do you expect to be involved in your project? How will you seek and sustain their involvement?
We will start with a core of 3 authors, 2 of which we'll give the title of Captain, and aim to find 10 regular authors within the first 6 months. Using lessons we've learned in the past on some of our other sites, we plan to give the authors the tools, both technical and financial to reach out to their community which will become a healthy and self sustaining site.
Describe how your project will benefit Creative Commons' mission to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons".
Since our inception all of the posts and images on Metblogs have been licensed using Creative Commons and we are firm believers in the value of this kind of sharing. We feel that having a prominent blog in Beirut and publishing all works via creative commons will only continue to bring value to the community and inspire others to do the same. Using Karachi as the model again, before us there was no online media about the city, now there are hundreds of sites all of which use CC to help spread their message.
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?
We use the open source blogging platform Wordpress with a suite of custom plugins. We are also in the process of customizing the open source Ushahidi crowd source mapping project to allow contributors to build up to date maps of problem areas in their cities based on on the ground updates from readers. The technical needs are minor as, at least in the near short term, the sites will be sharing hosting with our other Metblogs sites. We have several years of experience customizing open source technologies to meet the needs of the authors allowing them to get the message to their readers in a timely and technologically relevant manner.
What challenges do you expect to face, and how do you plan to overcome them?
We have not had much luck reaching out to the middle east in the past - cultural and language barriers have made those expansions near impossible for outsiders to round up volunteers. This time we'll be using locals who are already passionate about our goals and plan to give them a budget to recruit and build a team. We feel that this inside out approach will the biggest problem we've faced with the sites previously.
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?
From the launch of the site we'll be soliciting local advertising and sponsors. By using a self serve ad platform combined with agency sold network ads we feel that it will be self sufficient within the first year after launching.
How can this project be scalable, or have a scalable impact?
Two ways - On our end if this site works out we feel it will be a foot in the door to the middle east and give us the information and connections we need to launch more sites in that region. Secondly, we hope the site will inspire others to launch their own blogs talking about local issues and giving their communities something to rally around. If our site inspires others to help their communities online then we feel that is a successful and scalable impact.
What resources and support do you expect Creative Commons to provide to your project to ensure its success (if any)?
Links and announcements to Creative Commons supporters in the area would be fantastic, as well as any introductions to sites that CC is aware of that might be interested in republishing our content to help us reach a larger audience.
Describe how your organization currently communicates with its community members and network partners. (100 words)
We currently use a combination of an internal message board for all the contributors, Skype calls combined with individual mailing lists for each city and twitter accounts for the authors and the sites.