Edit 07 August 2008 Edit 07 August 2008 This proposal has been passed along to Knight Foundation for consideration. http://drupal.org/node/292587
The Internet has empowered people to share information and ideas in unprecedented ways. It has enabled people to easily and at almost no cost to be both producers and consumers of information world-wide. Nowadays, people are able to have their own channel of information, broadcasting ideas, photos, videos, etc. This is very exciting and brings many opportunities for education, research, business and entertainment. However, it brings many challenges as well.
From the consumer’s point of view, with everyone having its own channel, how are people going to find what they want amidst all this avalanche of information? The Web as it is today, as complicated as it might be to publish something, seems already overcrowded with its billions of interconnected documents. How then are people ever going to find what they want when technology easies the publishing process even further and opens hundreds of millions of hidden worlds all filled with rich personal media?
From the producer’s point of view, how will he or she broadcast his or her channel so that it reaches those to whom it is relevant without interfering with those to whom it is not? How will his or her channel stand apart from the so many others that exist? How will he or she get his or her idea across and be heard in this open and democratic medium, where everyone has gained the right and opportunity to have a voice?
The idea is to connect people with news and information that matters to them the most by letting people themselves express what matters to them at an individual level. Each individual connects with their own personal social network to receive and disseminate information. This challenges the top-down model of information-sharing and gives place to a bottom-up model, where each person has a unique voice and equal opportunity to contribute and benefit. In this way, we hope to bring people closer together to discuss common interests and share information in a more open and democratic manner.
Each individual will have their own broadcasting channels (represented in form of tag clouds). These channels are connected through a trusted network of people (represented in form of tag links). The following figure is a prototype created in jCarousel representing an individual's personal social network and their corresponding broadcasting channels:
Much like Instant Messaging, users manage their contacts list by adding people they trust and with whom they share a common interest. However, instead of just displaying the contact’s name and avatar, a tag cloud of channels for each contact is displayed as well. This promotes the awareness of news and information being created and broadcasted within the social network. If a user becomes interested in a particular channel, he or she may subscribe to this channel and add it to his/her own personalized channel.
Creating news and information is as easy as writing an instant message and in a way it resembles blogging very much. However, instead of sending this information to someone in particular or to no one at all, the information is broadcasted to a particular channel. Everyone within the personal social network that is subscribed to this channel receives this information. The advantage of this approach is that it’s non-obtrusive and yet a target public still exists. The information travels within the social network as long as it remains relevant. Who decides the relevance of the information are the people themselves.
We are currently building UFRGSWeb, UFRGS' rich-media social network. UFRGS is one of largest universities in Brazil, with over 40.000 people. Being so large, it's difficult to be aware of all the interesting research being developed at the university. Our goal is to provide students and professors with tools that will help them discover and share information with colleagues and society.
To achieve this goal, we are creating a symbioses of Orkut and YouTube from an academic perspective. We are adopting the Instant Syndicating Standards, a set of open standards for both Instant Messaging and Web-based applications to facilitate the discovery, aggregation and syndication of information.
A very early prototype of UFRGSWeb was created and may be accessed now (only in Portuguese, but it gives out a general idea of the project). The next version shall incorporate at least some of the functionalities mentioned in this proposal.
The proposal presents a bottom-up architecture for information-sharing. In this sense it promotes a much more open and democratic medium, where there is a free exchange of information and ideas that is both non-obtrusive and highly personalized.
By April, 2009: Develop ISS personal contacts list.
By June, 2009: Develop ISS personal syndication channels.
By Sept. 2009: ISS documentation completed, including video. Documentation published on the web and on Drupal.org.
By Nov. 2009: ISS Package – deliver online a package allowing anyone -- universities, organizations, businesses and individuals -- to deploy ISS and use it share news and information in a more open and democratic way
UFRGSWeb is currently being built by:
- Niccholas Rodriguez Vidal: project lead. Founder of ISS (Instant Syndicating Standards). ISS was created as part of his Master's thesis at UFRGS.
- Renato Oliveira da Silva: design lead. Undergraduate student at UFRGS. Created UFRGSWeb' original theme.
The university is currently seeking funding from various sources to continue the work and invite new people to the project.
The source code will be distributed from both Drupal.org as well as ISS.im. Hopefully other universities, as well as any other community seeking a way to help users to disseminate information, will benefit from this.
The UFRGS university will support the work by advertising the platform to all students and professors. Also, it will seek to promote the exchange of ideas among other universities in the region and in the country.
The UFRGS university has allocated servers, IT staff, and a sum of $12.500 for the development of the proposal. We are currently seeking resources to continue our work from both public and private sectors. Another sum of $25.000 would allow us to pay for management and offer scholarships for 3 students to learn and further develop the proposal. We believe the students will be able to help us create the tutorials and polish the package for easy deployment at other universities. Most importantly, while doing so, they will be able to learn and, thus, help us serve 40.000 people.