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Community Webserver suggestion

Alaa's picture

Community Web Server

background

through our FOSS advocacy activities we introduced a bunch of NGOs to the concept of CMS systems, and explained the power, ease of use and affordability of the LAMP web application stack.

this turned out to be a killer FOSS application, our audience never saw anything like that before.

we did a couple of sessions on the Drupal CMS system, they where extremely popular and the feedback we got from the attendants (mostly web newbies with 0 GNU/Linux experience) showed that it was an empowering experience.

EGLUG is interested in anything that encourages people to adopt FOSS technologies, we're also interested in community development and initiatives to make computing more affordable and accessible using FOSS.

problem

  • very few local websites for small organizations and individuals
  • NGOs, artists, researchers etc would benefit from having websites
  • companies working on the field offer static websites most of the time
  • static is hardly useful for people who create and produce content on a regular basis
  • static does not enable the website to build a community of readers and contributors, such communities proved to be essential in producing more quality content
  • the few companies that offer dynamic websites are focused on enterprise and are too expensive for smaller organizations and individuals
  • even if an NGO can afford the price the periodic cost of hosting is typically inflated and the solutions sold tend to be custom built with little regard for usability, end result is high cost of maintenance and dependence on single vendor
  • the high cost and complexity force a model where specialists are the only people empowered to update the website
  • and easy dynamic website offers the possibility of removing all middle men and allowing content producers/authors to publish it directly and interact with their audience
  • a casual attitude towards the web and rapid edit/publish cycles have proved to be very effective tools for many organizations, the current culture around the web in Egypt prevents the use of tools like Wikis and Blogs.
  • often commercial solutions push features not really required by the clients and discard features that may be essential
  • almost all companies working o the field only understand commercial enterprises, a website to them is a marketing vehicle not a source of information or a community hub or an outlet for self expression
  • LAMP stack offers the cheapest and most reliable webapplication platform, it runs 60+% of the web according to NetCraft yet few Egyptian companies offer solutions built on top of it
  • the few companies that do offer solutions built on the LAMP stack ignore the wealth of prepackaged FOSS CMS and webtools
  • using a well supported FOSS tools means you're not tied to your original vendor, there are many channels of support and the tool adapts to emerging webtrends and technologies
  • the even fewer companies who do use CMS systems (I only know of two) do not offer customization, are not involved in the FOSS developers community and don't seem to keep updated with changes in the community/technology
  • no local commercially built website respects web-standards or accessibility guidelines
  • lack of awareness of how cheap and easy FOSS CMS systems are
  • lack of prepackaged localized web-applications make it harder to build local websites using FOSS CMSs
  • no integration, content sharing or any form of cooperation between local websites
  • little local content, few local web communities.
  • lack of visibility for local websites (this can be verified by simple Google searches, trying to search for very generic Arabic words and in many cases you'll get EGLUG on the first 10 results, EGLUG has only a handful of Arabic articles, is a low traffic website and is not extensively linked to there is no reason for it to rank high if it wasn't for the lack of other websites that match or the extremely low visibility they have)

what else

needs

for the above problem to be truly resolved a broad range of webservices providers should exist, including non for profit and volunteer based providers and providers building on all sorts of technologies and targeting all sorts of markets.

  • assure people the web is easy
  • demystify the web and its associated technologies
  • introduce new technologies
  • raise awareness of community models
  • provide a platform for local content
    • should be affordable
    • should be extremely easy to use
    • ease of use should not compromise power or flexibility
    • should be localized
    • should be well supported
    • should provide possibilities for integration and content aggregation between various websites
    • should enforce/encourage web-standards and accessibility guidelines
    • should provide good community building tools
  • encourage an attitude here the web is considered important but not a holy unapproachable entity
  • collect and transfer experience on building. maintaining and running websites and web communities
  • have a local developer community ready to help customize and adapt the platform

approach

we can contribute to solving this problem by offering people a fully localized stable, easy to use and flexible platform for web-publishing, coupled with dedicated maintainers, and support.

this platform if run by competent administrators can adapt to any new technologies and encourage content creators and publishers to adopt standards and best practices.

technical solution

EGLUG can cooperate with a partner to setup and administer a community Webserver.

  • the server will be run by volunteers from EGLUG
  • the server will be based on FOSS web technologies
  • the server will provide free or ultra cheap hosting for NGOs, artists, researchers etc.
  • will provide an integrated environment with a small set of content management system tools
  • will provide a preinstalled environment with a large amount of preconfigured modules
  • volunteer developers will be available to write any extra modules required by the content publishers
  • the EGLUG volunteers will be in touch with the developers of the CMS tools, to act as a proxy for the publishers communicating their needs and feedback
  • standards will be more or less enforced by the EGLUG volunteers, parallel training activities should explain the importance of standards to the publishers
  • EGLUG volunteers will develop portal/directory/aggregator websites covering the content published on the server to give the content more visibility
  • the portal will contain community features to encourage publishers to communicate together through it and encourage collaboration
  • server might include areas for individual Blogs so say members and employees of an organization that has a website on the server can have a personal space for their own use.
  • EGLUG volunteers will setup a central support and issue tracking public system


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