Occupy the Neighborhoods Website is a Go
I went to the first organisational meeting of the Occupy Minneapolis Neighborhood Democracy Project tonight. They didn't talk about website needs for long, but they thought that my idea would work.
There weren't a lot of people at the meeting tonight but I think there was a lot of positive energy. It's a little unclear exactly how this project is going to work, other than it's going to organise groups that will function autonomously in each neighborhood, probably focusing on one or two places to start and then using what we learn there to help with further projects down the road. Most of the people there though were talking about the amount of commitments they already had and saying they didn't have much time for the actual work on the ground knocking on doors and canvasing and organising local meetings and public forums. So it's a little unclear who is going to be doing the work there, I think that problem will work itself out as more people become involved and the project begins to gel.
There's a group about this project on the Occupy Minneapolis website where you can download the meeting minutes and the outline of the proposal.
This is what they had to say about the website:
The Ideal website for a campaign such as this will likely be one involving multiple pages for each respective area. This way the individual groups can coordinate themselves independently in a de-centralized fashion. I envision contact info, PDFs for flyers, forums, map of area and other info being posted by members of each group, enabling folks to get plugged into the outreach campaign with the smallest degree of hassle possible.
I showed them a little bit of how the system I'm working on fit together and explained how user roles would work and everyone thought that it sounded pretty much exactly like what we need.
They would like the ability to show a map of each neighborhood with pins for different events happening in that neighborhood, this seems like a simple enough thing to implement. All I need to do is add an attribute for "Include on map?" and one for "Map Address" - then just do a page list with a google map view, show each point as a marker. I wonder how to do the info window, that may need to be via ajax. I'd probably have to implement a marker manager of some sort and then use that to center the view to keep it local to the neighborhood. I wonder if I could also make the page list block accept a KML file so you could draw a polygon in google earth for the neighborhood boundaries.
They would also like per-neighborhood discussion forums as well. This is certainly doable with the concrete 5 discussion add on but from what I remember of the add on scripting it would be next to impossible. You need to add a discussion page type underneath the new location page, then add a block to the location page that links to that discussion page to get it's topics. At least, it was something like that when I was working on making project pages for bikelove.org. I could automate a lot of stuff happening when you added the new project page but tying in the discussion forum was not one of the things I could do. Maybe the API has changed a lot, it's been forever since I looked at the code, actually. I even have a couple of extra copies that I've one for karma that I could assign to whatever site we set up.
Setting up the actual site for development will take some doing. I took a look at what Osha had available for hosting environment and it was pretty much FTP only access. I don't think I'm going to be able to live with that, I'd like to be setting up git and a shared repository so other people can check out the code, especially I want to have that set up if this project takes off and works really well and starts to go national to other cities, I'd want to make sure that I had everything set up so that anyone anywhere could grab a copy of the source code and start right in with their own city drawing up neighborhoods.
Or maybe I can design the system to be flexible enough that you could have multiple cities on the same domain. There's a new add on in marketplace review right now that appears to do that with sub-domains which could be very useful. I think I will try that one out. It looks like it functions much the same as the domain mapper does from the concrete 5 core team, but with one important difference. When you land on a subdomain site you stay on that subdomain, there's a modified autonav that works with the shorter links somehow. So instead of ending up with the full path from the site map once you start navigating around, it stays as if you were on that subdomain. So then you could have one shared member base for the whole country. I wonder how well a concrete 5 site that size would function. Only one way to find out, I guess :)
Anyway, I want to have a real server to work with. Something that I can ssh into and rsync files and git push and pull. I asked about some of these protocols and Osha was completely lost, I guess he doesn't really have the same background as I do. I ended up talking a little with one other guy but didn't get his name that worked on the occupyminneapolis.mn site who said that he's a big drupal user, I think in order to be a drupal user you almost have to know some command line stuff, don't you? At least, I think of skilled developers when I think of Drupal, moreso than I do with users that can install and configure wordpress. There's a world of difference between the two in setting up a working system. Maybe he can set me up with some server space on that domain. I wonder if it would be possible to make a concrete 5 / Drupal login bridge? That seems like something that could make my head break but might be very nice if you got it working.
I guesstimated about a month to put everything together and online and working, it might take closer to two, I think I might need to take a week off from work like I did with bikedate.mn in order to do everything all in one go but maybe I can just work on it in the free time I seem to have so much of. They are going to want to be doing neighborhood meetings sometime in the coming weeks so having some sort of website up is going to be key, having a place to point people to where they can get copies of local neighborhood fliers for events, see what's going on, find out where and when they can show up and be involved themselves.
It's a really ambitious project, not just the website part of it. In a lot of ways the website is the easy part here, I already have all the code working it will just take a little more configuring to get it all working in package format for wider spread appeal. I think the simple idea of trying to go out to every neighborhood in Minneapolis to knock on every door and hand people fliers and tell them about what we're doing is the real ambitious part of this. If they can pull that off then they'll have a great website because there will be lots of community support from all the people that hear the message and want in. If they don't get people out and spreading the message then there won't be people to use the website and there won't be posts and there won't be content and it will fizzle. It doesn't matter how nice of an interface I design to make it easy for people to post up blog posts with a location a date and a time on a map a calendar and a blog feed. If there's nobody there who's active and enthused and wanting to post blog posts then there will be no blog posts. It's just as simple as that. When it comes to a user-content driven site you either have user content or you don't, there's no middle ground.
It's nice to have a big project to actually work on that's going to hopefully change the world in a really profound and meaningful way. I like to think that my code could be key in creating an environment that fosters open discussion between people in a very organic way and brings together neighborhoods to fight together against our corporate oppressors towards are more free and just and equitable society for everyone.
I talked a little bit with Chad Cantrell who first commissioned the original version of user blogs and told him what I'm working on with it. Thankfully he's cool with me expanding on it and doing different stuff than it was originally intended for, and is ok with me releasing it as open source or even as a marketplace add on. So that's really cool of him, he didn't need to do that. Technically it's a work for hire, so he could have claimed 100% ownership of the code and not let me make derivative works from it.
So I guess next up is figuring out a domain name and some server space and then looking at pulling in the code. There are a few collection attributes that I need to make into part of a package probably the user blogs package. And I want to port the stuff for the expanded profiles from bikedate.mn, only with some different profile fields and essay questions. There's so much to do, I really don't know where to begin. I think finding a nice looking blog theme that will lend itself to modification is also high up on the list.