Tag Archives: web hosting

Eduserv funds hosting for WriteToReply

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.

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Recent activity on WriteToReply

The official consultation period ended last week for the Digital Britain – Interim Report although the ongoing discussion on WriteToReply and the Digital Britain Discussion Forum remains open and welcomed by the @digitalbritain team.

We contacted the Digital Britain Team via Twitter and email about whether your comments should be delivered ‘formally’ by email. Happily, we didn’t have to do this…

…which gave us time to do other things:

If you’re reading this via a feed reader, you may have noticed a draft post accidentally slip out about ‘how you can get involved…’ This was inadvertently published in the process of setting up a new feature on WriteToReply, which will allow you to search and browse by tag and category, every section of every document that we re-publish. In addition, every tag and category has its own RSS feed, so you’ll be able to subscribe to categories of government documents, or even just set up a feed for specific tags which are of interest to you. We’re still working on it, but over time, we think it will be a really useful way of searching through and browsing the full-text of government documents that we re-publish.

Ideally, every government consultation would be published on something like WriteToReply by government workers. Until that happens, it’s down to the rest of us to get involved and help re-publish consultations on WriteToReply. In the meantime, the best way of keeping track on current government consultations is to keep an eye on Tell Them What You Think . (Exploring how WriteToReply can most effectively work with Tell Them What You Think is on our to do list!)

We’ve already had two people step up and ask for their own site. One consultation is nearly ready and another was re-published yesterday by @DJSoup. More on that below.

In addition to evolving the ‘site architecture’, we’ve been working on trying to get funding. We’ve submitted a bid to 4iP and have a bid in development for a JISC Rapid Innovation Grant. The former is a bid specifically for WriteToReply, the latter is a bid based on our work on WriteToReply (but would share benefits for WriteToReply as well as the JISC community).

We’ve also started holding weekly online meetings on IRC. Our first meeting was last week and a last minute annoucement on Twitter attracted two people to join us, who gave us technical advice and advice on registering WriteToReply as a formal entity. We realise we need to do this if we’re to accept funding and develop WriteToReply over the long-term. Our meetings will usually be every Thursday at 11am. If they are poorly attended at that time, we’ll move them to another time. Instructions on joining us are on the wiki as are the agendas and full logs of the meetings.

You may have noticed that we had some planned downtime on the site over the weekend. WriteToReply was first thought up and launched within two days using cheap, shared web hosting. As the site grew in popularity, it groaned under the strain of your comments, so to remedy that, we moved everything to a new host over the weekend which will provide a better level of service and offers us more flexibility, too.

Finally, as I mentioned above, Andrew MacKenzie re-published Lord Carter’s Straw Man, otherwise known as ‘Copyright in a Digital World. What role for a digital rights agency?’ This consultation document has grown out of the Digital Britain – Interim Report and specifically addresses the issues of copyright infringement and the protection of intellectual property in a ‘digital Britain’.  These are discussed under Action 11 and Action 12 in the Digital Britain – Interim Report. The deadline for the consultation is the 30th March. Hardly any time at all…

“Today we have published proposals in the form of a Straw Man on digital rights. That Straw Man could be torched, tolerated or a touchstone for the start point of constructive debate and design. I for one hope it is the latter.” ((From the press release))

Sounds like an invitation to comment on the document paragraph by paragraph to me 😉