Describe the project you are proposing as clearly as possible in just five sentences.
Eleversion aims to aims to provide a platform for content + metadata hosting and collaborative development, tailored to the needs of decentralized collaborators working within the Creative Commons ecosystem. Off-the-shelf open source tools (Drupal, Plone/Zope, Bit Torrent, Wordpress, Joomla) will be evaluated, with an eye toward extending/integrating existing tools rather than building from scratch. If existing tools will not suffice, we will write our own open source lightweight collaboration platform. Rather than creating a collaboration portal (such as GitHub), we aim to provide these tools and methodologies to the community in the form of usable tools for their own installations (likely to be more in line with projects such as Buddypress).
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).
The project will present a working tool set for digital collaborators that is CC-optimized and DIY-focused. Depending on the results of our discovery phase, that tool set might be: a set of extensions for existing software, a distribution of integrated existing software, or a new lightweight collaboration software product.
Describe the community you are targeting. How would the project benefit the community?
Round Narrative is building a non-profit artist community centered around works that are shared via Creative Commons licensed content, and we expect that our needs as digital collaborators are similar to the needs of many other collaborating groups. Many projects (ccMixter, Wikimedia Commons) already exist that wish to share a central store of content with collaborators--we seek to enable much deeper collaboration by giving collaborators their own "run-anywhere," media-focused collaboration system.br />
Round Narrative is an effort to build an artist community that is rooted in the sharing a central story and content to collaborators across many disciplines and art forms. Our organization's inaugural board consists of three artists who are passionate about Creative Commons and the future of collaboration, each member bringing to the table experience in content management, web design, programming, system administration, advertising, non-profit fund raising, and project management. We are all artists and musicians, rapidly attracting additional resources to Round Narrative. Regarding our work with similar projects, Tim Ireland is a web designer and Drupal integrator in his position at SankyNet, a fund raising operation tailored toward non-profits. Kevin Peckham is a project manager at GlobalWorks, an software company that develops multilingual content management products. Karl Ward is lead system administrator for Hunter College, where he maintains servers and clusters while integrating system management tools. He is also the initial developer and maintainer of the Perl Net::MAC software module, and has a history of evaluating existing software for suitability for content management and other applications.
How will you measure and evaluate your project’s impact - on your main participants? Other contributors? On the larger community?
The first set of benchmarks will be the development milestones, derived from the spec phase (see "What challenges do you expect to face?" below for more detail). Milestones will be integration of P2P/decentralized storage, integration of versioning, integration of metadata model, integration of threaded conversations, and development of version management.
The first measure of the project's impact on our participants will be the first the existence of cross pollinated projects within Round Narrative, and then the number of those projects that end up releasing a finished product released publicly or in one of our release parties (see "Describe how your organization currently communicates" below for release party details).
Assuming the most likely case--that Eleversion is implemented as a set of extensions to existing popular platforms--the popularity of those extensions within the extension download mechanism (e.g. Wordpress plugin popularity) will provide some metric. Of course, an active developer and user community for Eleversion is the desired end state, and the final gauge of the project's success.
How many participants do you expect to be involved in your project? How will you seek and sustain their involvement?
At a minimum, we expect 5-10 people to be involved in the specification, design, development, and testing. Once Eleversion is ready for initial production use, we expect 50-100 active collaborators who will assist in testing and feedback. We have already attracted interested programmers to assist in spec through testing on a volunteer basis. However, funding would allow us to secure these or other programmers on a contract basis, with defined time frames, for our most key development needs. We intend to continue attracting programmer and user resources through release of all code through typical open source distribution channels, and publicizing this code through various developer resources and blogs.
Describe how your project will benefit Creative Commons' mission to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons".
Just as Wordpress jumpstarted the blog revolution with its run-anywhere ethos, we aim to do the same with digital collaboration. Anyone should be able to run their own simple collaboration platform, where shareable content is understood by that platform as a project instead of a collection of files. That shareable content should have appropriate license metadata built-in. That shareable content should be accessible through decentralized content distribution, not just as a point-to-point download from an expensive server on an expensive network pipe.
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 intend to evaluate existing content management platforms (Drupal, Plone/Zope, Wordpress, Buddypress, Joomla), existing file sharing systems (Bit Torrent, content delivery networks, open source alternatives to Amazon S3), existing metadata systems (RDF, Ogg, CC REL), and existing versioning systems (Git, Mercurial, Subversion). The languages to be considered are the languages of the major open source content management platforms--primarily PHP, Python, and Ruby.
Round Narrative's board members have a decade of experience with digital music collaboration, publication, and sharing. In their capacity as members of the rock band Ghost Ghost, they successfully undertook a recent only-possible-with-the-Internet project: the writing of a ten song album in one day (collaborating remotely through Google Documents, email, and file sharing) and then immediately recording it in one week (again collaborating mostly through the Internet). They are very familiar with the tools that exist for collaboration and sharing, and the problems many of these tools face. However, they are optimistic that the right tools exist, though they lack the integration that is necessary to make them true collaboration tools.
Our technical expertise includes deep knowledge of Linux and available open source software; access to professional developers in PHP, Python, Ruby, Perl, and Java; full lifecycle experience with various content management systems including open source and proprietary systems; professional non-profit fund raising; and extensive technical project management.
Our primary technical need is developer time. Because we are attempting to spec a system that does not mandate massive bandwidth or server horsepower, we are hoping to avoid significant infrastructure cost.
What challenges do you expect to face, and how do you plan to overcome them?
1. Storage - True multimedia collaboration usually involves large media files or many collaborators, but Internet/cloud storage for such a project is cost prohibitive. We will investigate the viability of a CC-optimized collaboration system built on bandwidth and storage donation by some/all collaborators. P2P technologies such as Bit Torrent, cloud storage technologies, and content distribution networks will be considered for use, integration, or extension.
2. Metadata - In developing a collaborative piece of art, many scratch files are usually generated (e.g. working files, practice recordings, failed revisions). The filenames are rarely useful/meaningful, because they tend to be assigned ad hoc (e.g. "mix1-use-this-one.wav"), or assigned by the recording device with a cryptic name (a sound recorder might name a file "VOC00014.MP3"). At the simplest level, what is necessary is a way to tag these files with useful metadata when sharing. For a music project, metadata requirements might include which songs are contained within a file, or which version of the file is the latest/best arrangement. At the more complex end of the problem, discussion by artists of questions like these (e.g. "VOC00014.MP3 contains the best arrangement of song X") should be retained as metadata as well. Incorporating license metadata throughout is assumed essential and will further the ends of the commons and projects like CC0. Existing metadata systems such as RDF, Ogg, and CC REL will be considered for use, integration, or extension.
3. Versioning - In the source code world, versioning of all files within a project is de rigeur and well implemented. But for media files, versioning is much more difficult due to lack of a consistent metadata model, lack of dependency tools to track which files are needed/changed, and inability to do meaningful differential comparisons between versions of large media files. A suitable collaborative system should empower the artists to create "branches" and "tags" off the "trunk" of a project, and artists should be able to determine which branches/tags should be preserved/shared with with other artists. Existing version control systems such as Git, Mercurial, and Subversion will be considered for use, integration, or extension.
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 Eleversion project will continue as an open source project even without funding. Ongoing operations of the organization, which will include maintenance and development of Eleversion, will be funded by a variety of means. As an artist organization, we will continually apply for grants, fiscal sponsorship (e.g. New York Foundation for the Arts, Fractured Atlas), and we will continue to find corporate sponsorship opportunities. We have already secured one corporate sponsorship for office space, supplies, consulting, and monetary donation. We expect that crowd-sourcing (e.g. Kickstarter) will be vital in engaging the consumers of content to invest in the production of that content through support for Eleversion's continual enhancement. And of course, recruitment of resources on a volunteer basis will provide assistance at all points along the way.
How can this project be scalable, or have a scalable impact?
We intend this to be a "run-anywhere" package, meaning that it is not a centralized portal or network. Building on the philosophy of products like Wordpress, we intend to provide tools for anyone to create anything from a small single user publication of CC shared content to a large and active collaboration community. We hope that the evolution of a tool for CC-optimized publication, sharing, and collaborating will make it easier to find and "grok" CC projects and content.
What resources and support do you expect Creative Commons to provide to your project to ensure its success (if any)?
Our primary need is for dedicated developer time, which costs money. By assigning a dollar amount to each critical development milestone, we believe we can secure this talent on a contract basis with a definite time frame.
Describe how your organization currently communicates with its community members and network partners. (100 words)
Round Narrative already communicates internally and with interested partners and collaborators through email, smartphone/phone, Google Documents, Basecamp, social networking, old fashioned HTTP upload/download, and old fashioned face-to-face. Aside from the communication uses we envision for Eleversion, we are at the initial stages of organizing monthly "release parties" for the content created by Round Narrative starting in January 2011.