Describe the project you are proposing as clearly as possible in just five sentences.
We propose to bring Creative Commons and other open content systems into the era of the real-time Web through the creation of feeds, widgets and an aggregation website. Other sites, such as alltop.com, successfully use a “river of news” model to assemble easy-to-scan listings of the most recent news, posts, updates and media uploads broken down by category (eg., Science, Education, Cooking). We want to use the same underlying concept – pull in relevant, high-quality content by topic through the use of RSS feeds – but extend it so that readers can use the content and not merely consume it.
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 have registered the domain name CommonsWire.org after running the idea past Mike Linksvayer of Creative Commons. We propose to build a site on WordPress.org that contains the following elements: (1) nicely displayed feeds of content headlines and opening sentences, divided into 20 to 30 categories at the outset and 100+ categories at the project's conclusion – while the headlines and thumbnail images would reside on CommonsWire.org, the full content would live on the originating site; (2) a “Grab this widget” functionality that enables users to display the feeds on their own site; (3) a “Learn more” area of the site that provides information about Creative Commons and other open content platforms; (4) in phase 2, a widget at the top of the page that displays current breaking news from CC sources. This will be an ad-free noncommercial site.
Describe the community you are targeting. How would the project benefit the community?
The targeted community consists of (1) educators in specific fields who currently have a difficult challenge in identifying sharable content – especially new materials – in their specialties; (2) independent web publishers and thought leaders in niche areas – for example, human rights, labor issues, peace activists, education reform – who currently have no reliable way of displaying relevant targeted content feeds on their sites and blogs; (3) traditional publications would likely be eager to display widgets of vetted content feeds on their own sites as well as to make use of CC-BY, CC-ND and CC-SA licensed articles in an era of increasingly shrinking editorial budgets; (4) hundreds of millions of users in the general Internet community who still are not familiar with Creative Commons or the value of open content.br />
J.D. Lasica was co-founder of Ourmedia.org, the first free media hosting and sharing site (launched a month before YouTube but with a nonprofit model); members of its Advisory Board included Lawrence Lessig, Charles Nesson, James Boyle, David Bollier, Doc Searls, Dan Gillmor and other supporters of open media. In June 2009 Lasica launched Socialbrite.org, a learning hub and sharing community that brings together top experts in social media, social causes and online philanthropy. It has won widespread admiration from the nonprofit community as the go-to place to learn how to use social media and grassroots media to advance the mission of cause organizations. Lasica was an early “Commoner of the Month” and was named one of the top 100 media bloggers in the world by CNET. More background at http://www.jdlasica.com/about/
Lasica and developer David Davis, a U.S. citizen living in Manila, are spending the month of July building out Socialbrite's free Sharing Center, consisting of hundreds of tutorials and articles licensed under CC-BY licenses. Lasica and Davis propose to team up to build CommonsWire.org on a relatively small budget. Lasica continues to work with the open source and open content communities; most recently, he gave a Mobilize Your Cause bootcamp to 50 participants at Personal Democracy Forum in June 2010.
How will you measure and evaluate your project’s impact - on your main participants? Other contributors? On the larger community?
It will be easy to determine our impact, through metrics assessing our traffic and referral logs and the uptake of widgets on other sites. We plan to be proactive in spreading the word throughout the open content, education and open source communities and in evangelizing CommonsWire (and continuing to evangelize Creative Commons) in our workshops, bootcamps and writings.
How many participants do you expect to be involved in your project? How will you seek and sustain their involvement?
Fortunately, CommonsWire requires only a small team to successfully plan and launch this effort: a project manager (Lasica) to oversee the project's development, to create wireframes and to manage its timeline; a skilled developer in Manila (Davis) working at below-market rates; and a researcher in Manila (we have one in mind) who can identify the high-value open content sources and map the sites and feed urls on a spreadsheet. There will be no issue with maintaining their involvement in and passion for this project.
Describe how your project will benefit Creative Commons' mission to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons".
As the Web continues to evolve toward a “real-time Web” model, we believe Creative Commons needs to embrace tools that enable and reward this new dynamic. Too many people are still too baffled about how to find CC-licensed content through obscure interfaces on Yahoo and Google. We believe CommonsWire will play an important role in making CC-licensed content “news that comes to you,” instead of content that you have to hunt and peck for. This is a clear way to engender increased creation of and use of CC content, and we're frankly surprised no one has done this already!
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 plan to use a WordPress.org installation, WordPress plug-ins, a PHP/Java framework and plan to build the widgets in open-source code that we will share with the community at SourceForge or an appropriate repository. Davis is a top-flight developer who runs DCGWS Internet Solutions. We have all the resources required to successfully build CommonsWire.org as a site and web service.
What challenges do you expect to face, and how do you plan to overcome them?
The main challenge we see is researching and manually identifying the best-of-breed content in dozens of discrete categories. We plan to roll this out as a beta with clear asks on the site for the community to contribute pointers to other relevant content feeds. In fact, this will be one of the initial marketing angles: Help us build the content feeds of CommonsWire.org.
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?
After the 6-month project ends, we anticipate only modest ongoing maintenance costs (if indeed CC plans to pay for hosting) involving site upkeep and adding additional feeds. Those costs are sufficiently modest that we can absorb them through our day jobs.
How can this project be scalable, or have a scalable impact?
CommonsWire has the potential to bring the concept of Creative Commons and the real-time Web to dozens of countries in different languages. We will make the code available to anyone to replicate and will provide a Forum on the CommonsWire site to discuss installation, adaptation and customization issues.
What resources and support do you expect Creative Commons to provide to your project to ensure its success (if any)?
We require no resources from Creative Commons. However, once the site is launched, showcasing it on the CC site would be immensely valuable in spreading word about the site and service to the CC and open content communities.
Describe how your organization currently communicates with its community members and network partners. (100 words)
We regularly engage in conversations with our community members via comments on Socialbrite.org, through participation in social good mailing lists, blogs and forums, and through outreach to the nonprofit and social change communities with an ongoing series of meetups and workshops. For example, Lasica hosts the bimonthly Net Tuesday event at TechSoup in San Francisco, which regularly draws 40-60 attendees, and he is working with the members of FreeSpeechTV, Mother Jones and other nonprofits on a new media project.