I was recently introduced to Thane Richard, founder of Outernet, and was honored to help him think through the design of Outernet’s first edit-a-thon, held this weekend. Much like our Wikipedia Barn Raising (a year ago to the day!), Thane planned an in-person event, but also invited participation from all over the world.
Amusingly, the Wikipedia Twitter feed referred to it as a chance to “build Wikipedia” — but this was actually a different kind of edit-a-thon, designed to build Outernet, an entirely separate project to help bridge the Digital Divide. Outernet puts old satellites to use, broadcasting “bins” of data to (as of now!) the entire world — even places where the Internet doesn’t reach. It’s one-way communication — you can’t upload, or access the entire Internet through it — but once you have their $150 “Lantern,” you can receive the broadcasts for free, and share them for free on a local network.
This weekend’s event was an opportunity to learn Outernet’s procedures for creating and uploading “bins” — basically, a folder of files in a certain theme, unencumbered by restrictive copyright — for future broadcast via Outernet.
On the surface, it seemed like a cool opportunity to package up Wikipedia articles. I started creating PDFs of the articles about the watersheds of Portland, Oregon (most of which are exceptionally high quality, thanks mostly to the efforts of Wikipedia user Finetooth); however, for reasons I will explore in a followup blog post, I had some issues with providing attribution soon realized that there was no convenient way to upload these in compliance with Wikipedia’s attribution requirements (which means naming all the people who have contributed to the articles). So instead, I uploaded a small bin of articles about Open Educational Resources, and another with the music from Wired Magazine’s 2004 CD “Rip. Sample. Mash. Share.”
I uploaded them just after the end of the edit-a-thon, so I haven’t yet gotten any feedback. I hope these are useful — but it’s possible they won’t be, since in an effort to move forward and actually upload something, I mostly disregarded the guidelines about what kind of content was most desired. But even if this was just a “practice run,” I’m happy to have gotten a feel for how they Outernet is approaching their excellent work, and learn how I can contribute. I could tell from their Etherpad page that a number of people were working at it too; it was fun to work with an ad-hoc global team. I look forward to contributing more substantially to Outernet’s future efforts!