Loyal readers might recall that when we set up WriteToReply for the Digital Britain – Interim Report, in February, there was no business plan and no idea, really, about where this might take us. WriteToReply has so far cost us relatively little to run. We started off on cheap, shared hosting, quickly moved to a dedicated host and everything was fine for a while. More recently, as we added new documents, the site was beginning to groan a bit and it became apparent that if we were to maintain a decent service and, significantly, ensure that the documents we’d already hosted didn’t disappear from the web, we’d need to find support from someone, somewhere.
In June, we set up Public Platforms Limited, a not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee, to represent our work on WriteToReply and any other related activities we might do. Public Platforms allows us to legitimately receive financial support for what we’re doing. We decided upon the following main objective for the company:
To conduct and promote research into the use and effects of information and communication technologies in the context of the publication and dissemination of electronic documents and to disseminate the useful results of such research for the benefit of the public.
So Public Platforms won’t be opening a bar near you or paying for our vacations in Hawaii, but hopefully it will sustain our side-work around public engagement with documents on the web. We continue to work full-time at our respective universities and don’t see WriteToReply becoming a full-time job for either of us. However, if you think you can create a job for yourself out of what we’ve started, let us know.
Anyway, we’d noticed that Andy Powell, Research Programme Director at Eduserv always said nice things about WriteToReply, so we thought we’d ask if his organisation would be interested in supporting our work by covering the hosting costs. Eduserv have lots of experience with web hosting, and provide services to various organisations across the public sector, including government.
Well, we’re really pleased to announce that Eduserv have offered to support the hosting of WriteToReply for the next two-years (10/2009-09/2011). Initially, Eduserv will pay for a six-month upgrade to the hosting we currently have, doubling the server resources available to us. By April 2010, we’ll see where we are and maybe move to Eduserv’s infrastructure or continue with our current hosting arrangement. We regard this as fantastic news. Not only does it help ensure that WriteToReply remains a reliable service to you, but it also ensures the availability of hosted documents, and your comments, for the next two years.
Our own interests in WriteToReply are largely in the area of Research and Development. Most notably, we’ve been working on the JISC-funded JISCPress project, which will be completed at the end of this month and demonstrate further ways in which the platform can be used.
Remember that WriteToReply was always intended to be a community platform for anyone that wanted to re-publish a report, consultation or think-piece for comment and discussion. If you want to see more documents on WriteToReply, contact us and we’ll be happy to help you publish them yourself. Additionally, all the software we use and have developed, is open source and freely available for you to use. We encourage it and we’ll help you set up a WriteToReply-like service if that’s what you want to do. We’re not looking to become the next leading consultation platform, although we’d like to help you create it! We’re interested in thinking about (research) and testing (development) how public engagement with online documents might be improved. It’s an exciting area to be working in and as well as those before us, there have been a few significant developments since we launched the Digital Britain – Interim Report, too.
Now, thanks to Eduserv, we can continue to contribute to this area of public service for at least another two years.