I just completed and submitted my applciation for a Shutteworth Foundation Fellowship. I’ve been using the Flash Grant I recieved from Shuttleworth over the Summer to build Reclaim Hosting, fund ds106 development, and bring folks like Alan Levine, Audrey Watters, Kin Lane, and David Wiley to Fredericksburg so we could imagine what a project that enabled folks to take control over their online presence might look like. This proposal is in many ways a result of those conversations, projects, and more. I try and layout the idea for this fellowship as clearly as possible in the above video (which I am currently editing down to five minutes) as well buttres the vision in more detail in the application. Take the jump to view the application, and here’s to hoping!
Essay questions: Please provide responses to the essay questions below. The responses to the questions should not exceed 2 typed pages in total. Please think about how your idea relates to technology, knowledge and learning and how your idea relates to openness when answering each section.
Describe the world as it is. (A description of the status quo and context in which you will be working)
The web remains the single most powerful space for connecting people and providing a global context to the way we live and learn, for the last twenty years it has defined a moment and spawned a culture heretofore unimaginable. That said, one of the greatest issues we face with the web—and as time goes by it will only get greater—is the difficulty for the average person to manage and control their online data. More often than not, our data is controlled by third party services that often feel no long-term obligation to provide us access to our digital life bits. In other words, we’re headed for a crisis of online coherence wherein the images we took, the videos we made, the posts we wrote, the links we saved, etc. are not easily integrated, archived, and shared between and, more importantly, beyond any one social media service/silo.
What change do you want to make? (A description of what you want to change about the status quo, in the world, your personal vision for this area)
I want to create an open source API marketplace that enables the everyday web user to take control, duplicate, and archive their data online. An approach that does not advocate people abandoning third party social networking services that connect them with friends, family, and strangers (for in many ways that is the life’s blood of the web), but rather provide a simple and powerful open source, web-based application (and ultimately service) for preserving their data and its context across a wide variety of social networking services in a space that they control.
What do you want to explore? (A description of the innovations or questions you would like to explore during the fellowship year)
I want to explore how we can design and build an application that will allow the average web user to start reclaiming and controlling their data from various web services (such as Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.). In my mind this starts with exploring how both a syndication framework using open formats (such as really simple syndication, or RSS) alongside a robust service specific API marketplace that can provide aggregation-based personal hubs that enable the average user to control, manage, and preserve their data across a wide range of online services. What’s more, such a framework has both immediate and long term implications for the preservation of an ocean of data that an entire generation of web users will want to preserve moving forward. For almost two decades of personal and cultural memories have been captured digitally; as a broader, global culture it is crucial that we work together to begin exploring how we both archive and make this memory accessible on both a personal and global scale moving forward. Reclaim your Domain is an open experiment that will both educate and setup best practices, as well as build an open source web-based tool to aggregate, share, and archive our online identities, essentially providing a way to personally future-proof our individual (and by extension cultural) legacies on the web. Such an approach to managing and controlling the digital fragments of our online life has a very definite business application for those who wish to pursue that side of things—providing hosted solutions for personal digital archiving of our life on the web will be a huge, emerging market sometime very soon. And while the idea here is focused specifically on what we can do now to educate and provide a service for best practices and possibilities for harvesting, controlling, and preserving one’s online data, I believe the world will be just a bit better if we can empower as many people as possible to take control over their own digital legacy.
What are you going to do to get there? (A description of what you actually plan to do during the year)
For the last nine years I have been wrestling with this question on my personal blog (http:/) and as part of the work I do as both a professor and director of Teaching and Learning Technologies at the University of Mary Washington. If given the opportunity, I would spend the next year working on a project that a few of us (including Kin Lane and Audrey Watters) began imagining at a Hackathon at M.I.T. hosted by Philipp Schmidt and jointly sponsored by M.I.T. and U.C. Irvine’s Digital Media Learning Labs. We called the project Reclaim Your Domain, and the idea was that we would develop an application (and eventually a service) that would help people reclaim their digital life by walking them through setting up their own domain name and webhosting account. As well as demonstrating how they can install the open source software we develop to both push and pull their work from the various services they belong to into a more centralized, name specific space online that they control. And while they wouldn’t be getting rid of their various third party services (such as Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, etc.), they would be both synchronizing and archiving the work they do on those various spaces on their own web space seamlessly through syndication and site specific APIs. In fact, their domain becomes an aggregation point for their online identity that can then be archived for the long term.
Background information: Please provide responses to the background information questions and demographic data below. The responses to the questions should not exceed 2 typed pages in total. Some of the questions may not be applicable to your circumstances. If that is the case please indicate that.
Have you started implementation of the idea? If so, please provide details on organisational structure, life cycle and progress.
I started work on this idea with Kin Lane and Audrey Watters at an MIT Hackathon organized by Philipp Schmidt in April 2013. Over the Summer, thanks to a Shuttleworth Flash Grant, I worked with my partner Tim Owens to build out the hosting service Reclaim Hosting (http://reclaimhosting.com) that has enabled hundreds of faculty and students to take control of their digital identities. This model was based on the project we created at the University of Mary Washington (UMW), Domain of One’s Own (http://umwdomains.com), that will give every student, staff, and faculty member their own domain and web hosting. This is a project that has caught on with universities like Duke, Stanford, Penn State, and the Virginia Community College System expressing serious interest, and Reclaim Hosting is a way to provide these universities with a scalable model for doing this at their campus. In 2010 I started ds106 (http://ds106.us), an online course that is designed around a syndication-rich model for building and scale online learning around individuals at the course level. What’s more, all these individual setup and manage their own domain and web hosting and then aggregate it into a community/course hub. A portion of the Shuttleworth Flash Grant I received have been used to fund Alan Levine’s development of an open source theme for WordPress that abstracts out the Assignment Bank concept (http://assignments.ds106.us) so that anyone can freely experiment with this popular feature of ds106. The Reclaim Your Domain part of all this becomes the open source software that faculty, students, and staff install and manage to understand this space as somewhere they can manage their distributed online presences to take back some control and provide a layer of coherence to the web without capitulating its defining principle of decentralization. I brought Kin Lane, Audrey Watters, Alan Levine, and David Wiley to Fredericksburg, Virginia in order to sit down and frame out this model more definitively in regards to the specific need for it, how it intersects with open educational communities, and what it will looks like as an actual open source application. At this point, Kin Lane, Audrey Watters, and Tim Owens are all prepared to work with me to make this vision a reality.
How have you funded your initiative in the past?
In addition to using a portion of the Flash Grant to build Reclaim Hosting, I continue to invest my own money and resources in that project. Additionally, I have funded development for the various features of ds106 and convened a group of thinkers to imagine the next steps of Reclaim Your Domain. Additionally, ds106 was awarded $2000 for winning the Innovation Contest from Reclaim Open Learning. The award is meant to honor projects that embody principles of open education and participatory learning which will be used to further abstract out elements of ds106 to enable this distributed/hub model for course to be easier and more readily available to anyone for free. Other than that, it’s all been duct tape and ball bearings.
Who are your current or potential key partners?
Tim Owens (http://timmmmyboy.com), Kin Lane (http://apievangelist.com), Audrey Watters (http://hackeducation.com), David Wiley (http://opentcontent.org), Alan Levine (http://cogdogblog.com) and Philipp Schmidt (http://p2pu.org)
Do you intend to implement the idea as a for-profit or not-for-profit initiative in the future?
Reclaim your Domain will be a not-for-profit utility and framework for people to install on their server and utilize.
Where will you be based during a potential fellowship?
As of now either Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA or Trento, Italy
Do you have an online presence? Please provide links.
Does the idea/project have an online presence? Please provide links.
- You can find Reclaim Hosting here: http://reclaimhosting.com.
- ds106, the open, online Digital Storytelling course here: http://ds106.us
- The basic shell of Reclaim Your Domain we spent a weekend on as an idea is here: http://reclaimyourdomain.org/
- And that will be the future home of the project. Also, I wrote up my reflections after the M.I.T. Hackathon here: http://bavatuesdays.com/reclaim-open-learning/
- Kin Lane has written his ideas about the project here: http://www.apievangelist.com/2013/04/14/reclaim-your-domain/
- Audrey Watters has wrote up the context and larger need for the project here: http://hackeducation.com/2013/04/11/reclaim-your-domain/
- Finally, I summarized our previous discussion in Fredericskburg here: http://bavatuesdays.com/reclaim-your-domain-honing-the-vision/
How did you hear about the Shuttleworth Foundation Fellowship Programme? Philipp Schmidt and David Wiley.
3. Demographic Data
The Foundation collects demographics that are used to compile aggregate data for public reporting purposes. Your individual specific data is not made public and unless you are selected for a Fellowship will be deleted once reporting for an application cycle has been completed.
- Gender: Male
- Age: 42
- Nationalities: U.S.A. (though my wife is Italian and my kids are dual citizens)