Join Indymedia.be's tech team!
Join Indymedia.be's tech team!
Indymedia.be is calling web developers, sysadmins & other hackers to rock www.indymedia.be.
Indymedia.be, the belgian chapter of the global Indymedia network, is forming a tech volunteer team to work on their website. The goal is to build an advanced participatory news website, based on Drupal. Features will include: an on line newsroom, sub websites to allow local and thematic groups to operate their own part of the site, automated video transcoding, and much more. If you're interested in helping out and being part of a group of highly motivated tech people, read on below and get in touch.
Indymedia.be is an independent news website, reporting on all things happening in society through the eyes of social movements. Indymedia.be is also a network of 120+ volunteers doing interviews, making written/photo/video reports, organising events, ... We operate a media centre in Brussels where people can meet & work, organise media workshops and produce media watch & analysis.
2) Why build a tech team around www.indymedia.be & how can you benefit from it?
We want more people to be involved with the technical development of www.indymedia.be. Apart from the obvious practical advantage this offers (more hands to write code), we also want more people to think about & reflect on www.indymedia.be from a technical standpoint. We want your ideas and remarks as much as your programming skills. You can help with coding, testing or giving support; but also by offering analysis, advice or feedback. It's all welcome.
We believe we have something to offer as well, as we've built considerable expertise in the technologies we use to run www.indymedia.be (Drupal, Debian, ...). In short: we see this tech team thing as a way to collaborate and to improve the development of our site, as much as a way to share and exchange technical knowlegde.
3) Which technologies do we use at Indymedia.be?
We're a free & open source software (FOSS) minded organisation: we use FOSS wherever we can. Here's a list of the main technologies that are currently being used at Indymedia.be:
- The site currently runs on Drupal 5, requiring PHP and MySQL.
- We currently run Debian GNU/Linux on our web and backup servers.
- The workstations in our media centre currently run Ubuntu Linux.
- Perl is used for migration and other scripts.
4) Where can you help?
In a lot of places.
Below is a brief listing of ideas we have concerning www.indymedia.be. Since there are without doubt tons of ideas that we didn't even think of, you are invited to throw your own ideas, suggestions, ... at us in the most direct way possible (for ways to get in touch, see the end of this call).
To put it perhaps somewhat ambitiously, we want to build an independent participatory news website that holds within it elements from Facebook, Flickr and YouTube/Vimeo. We consider it a problem that most (if not all?) big web 2.0 sites are corporate projects that, in many cases, don't mind taking away users' rights to their own content: people trust their personal data (which is often used later for marketing purposes), their photos, their videos, ... to these organisations, without asking (m)any questions. A well written analysis of this problem can be found at http://london.indymedia.org.uk/articles/203. We think it is important to build a non profit alternative for these sites, even though this may look like a daunting task.
On the one hand, www.indymedia.be is/will be a news website: it should present Indymedia.be's news content as clearly and user friendly as possible. Data should be easily distributable, so that it isn't 'contained' on www.indymedia.be, but can find its way across the internet. On the other hand, www.indymedia.be will be a community website, allowing our network of media-activists to publish content easily, to connect with each other and get organised.
If any of the projects below looks interesting to you and you want to join in, make sure to get in touch. Even if you don't have time to help out, you're still most welcome to follow our work (ways to do so are listed below as well).
4.1) News website
www.indymedia.be is a news website. Every day, 5.000+ users rely on www.indymedia.be for their news and information. We believe they can be served better and, by improving our website, that we can get more people to read & watch our news and to participate in Indymedia.be.
One of the main areas of improvement is out site's architecture: people often find it difficult to find the information they're looking for. Ideas to improve this include:
- The creation of subsites (sections) where information is grouped together according to theme, location, ... There is also a community aspect to this: it would be great if we could involve volunteers in the management of these sections. This system of subsites should also lead to content getting a proper place on the site, instead of getting lost in between other content: in order to give Indymedia.be volunteers' work the place it deserves.
- Improving the site lay-out: we often get the reaction that people don't find what they look for due to the lay-out & design of our website. It's not clear what's important on a page (eg. on the homepage), where people should look, ... They're lost.
- Better search/archive functionalities: Indymedia.be's archive is hardly searchable. One of the key features of a good news website is its archive: it has to be eaily seachable. We installed ApacheSolr in order to fix this problem, but work remains to be done concerning configuration, search results page design, performance, ...
4.2) Community site
We want www.indymedia.be also to be a community site, where the belgian media-activist movement meets and can get organised. We've been thinking about:
- An on line newsroom where volunteers can hook up and form teams to go out to report; where they can give feedback on each others work, behind the scenes; where they can talk to each other via the site; ...
- User configurable profiles (as in: Facebook-like profile pages, where users can change the lay-out of their page, pull in content from other sources), ...
Even though the architecture and implementation remain open, there are several resources available: in 2007, a group of the CMD students of the KHLimburg (a communications & multimedia college in Genk, Belgium) crafted a concept to develop a community section on www.indymedia.be - for the most part, this remains to be implemented. It's downloadable at http://docs.indymedia.be/node/10 (Dutch only).
4.3) Improving the publication process on www.indymedia.be
While it's currently possible to publish written articles, photo, video and audio reports on www.indymedia.be, these functionalities should be improved - a lot. Some example issues:
- Posting content to our site is not as simple as it could be. We need a decent workflow, not the unappealing forms that we have now - those forms work, but haven't been given much thought, nor have they received much usability love.
- We currently manually transcode video reports to Flash video. This causes some time to pass (as in: days) before videos are transcoded, and some videos are never transcoded at all. While the tools to set up automatic transcoding are available (eg: http://drupal.org/project/media_mover), it will take some work to find and set up the needed infrastructure and to test everything properly.
More problems like this exits: issues that complicate posting content to the site, issues that stand in the way of efficiently publishing content on our site, ... This project is about making publishing on www.indymedia.be as easy as possible. It's about offering volunteers a great experience while contributing to our site.
We want our site to offer ways to help spread the word about Indymedia.be. Newsletters, downloadable items (banners, templates to print out articles, ...), ... are ways to promote Indymedia.be with a minimum effort.
Our server infrastructure needs a serious revision. The current set-up has its limitations, both in terms of performance/scaling and flexibility. There are some ideas floating around already, and we would like to start working on implementing them.
5) Get in touch!
Here are some ways to contact us:
- email@example.com (web developer at www.indymedia.be)
- firstname.lastname@example.org: the tech team's mailing list (info page)
- most of the time, you can find us on irc.indymedia.org, in #be
- http://track.indymedia.be: issue tracking site - used to keep track of issues, problems, bugs, ... Also a good way to follow the work we do.
- You can come by at one of the Indymedia.be events (eg. Ubuntu release parties), they're always announced on www.indymedia.be.
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