Web based alternative to commercial publishing
I’m thinking through a way to use the Internet as alternative to commercial publishing and distribution of Christian resources. For years the open source community has created and maintained software that has rivaled the offerings of companies like Microsoft. Currently I’m using OpenOffice to type this post, I browse the web with Firefox and use Linux for servers and firewalls. The software community caught on to the idea of collaborating and sharing for the common good. Why can’t Christians?
Today the Internet is used to bring people together and work on the same project. Sourceforge.net enables programmers from around the world to collaboratively develop great software.
I’m thinking through a web site that would work much like sourceforge but instead of making software we work together to create things like sermons, bible study materials, music, course curriculum, and even books.
Say for example Joe Pastor wants to share his sermon online. He goes to the website and creates new “project”. The project is identified a sermon. The project is listed on the “most recent new projects” page. Joe tags his project with several key words like “faith”, “grace” and “salvation”. Other users will be able to read the sermon and rate the quality of Joe Pastor’s work.
Reverend Kelly likes Joe Pastors sermon but has a great illustration to put in and wouldn’t mind putting an Anglican spin on part of it. Rev. Kelly creates a “child project” based on Joe’s sermon. He does his or her edits and posts it. Just as Joe’s project was rated so is Kelly’s. Whenever people see either project in the system they can view the “parent” or the “child”.
When people click on an author’s profile they can see a history of all their projects and their average rating.
Say Joe Pastor now wants to write some Sunday School material. He feels the need to stress teaching on faithfulness so he starts a team project. He is looking for people to work with to create a series of studies on faithfulness. His project is listed on the “team projects” page where people can find out about his project and join his team. Different team members can have different functions. One person might do research and prepare a draft study while someone else might edit style and grammar. The project creator can choose to maintain as much control over the project as they wish. He or she can invite or ban team members, undo changes etc…
Each member of the online community has a profile page with assorted background information. Authors will be able to list any denominational or theological affiliation and link to the profiles of their favourite other members in the system. Different reports can show all the members in a specific geographic area or denomination. The system would make it easy for people to find each other.
I can see three types of licenses used with the content. Public domain which opens up the creative to work to anyone and everyone to do whatever they wish. A creative commons license could be used which would restrict some uses but would allow people to create derivative works. Finally there would be the standard Copyright license. With this people could pay the creators directly through a Paypal setup.
One of the problems with self-publishing books or other materials online is marketing. The traditional publishing industry reaches more people. However with a central web location, an effective rating system and a lot of traffic it could make self-publishing or collaborative publishing a much more effective. People could write books or even prepare music and sell them directly to consumers.
The project would only be sustainable if it generated revenue. It would be easy enough to see money coming in through ads. I can see other revenue generated through a month fee for hosting commercial projects or perhaps collect a percentage of any sale through the system.
I’m thinking of starting this project using the LAMP stack. Linux/Apache/Mysql/Php. I’m traditionally a windows/iis/coldfusion/mssql kind of guy but I’m afraid the project would get very expensive if it had to scale. I’ve always used a free scaled back version of Sql Server which is great for my moderate demands. It gets much more expensive when you have to upgrade. LAMP is free regardless of how many servers you use. Bandwidth is also an issue if the system started hosting any amount of audio, video or animation. We could use bit torrent though if it became a problem.
What do you think of the idea?
Any ides to throw in the mix? Potential pitfalls?