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We need a working indymedia site
Email: bostonimcshouldwork (nospam) hotmail.com
04 Oct 2011
Almost daily there are marches leaving from Occupied Dewey Square. There are interesting political actions happening and being planned every single day in Boston. Summits, workshops, film screenings, civil disobedience, and direct actions, why aren't they being reported and announced on this website? Why does indymedia work so well in other parts of the world, while it flounders here?
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This is 2011, indymedia was on the cutting edge when it started in 1999. Fast forward 11 years and Boston Indymedia is a broken website that doesn't meet the needs of activists. Boston IMC is not the serving the purpose for which it was created and it is my belief that this can mostly be solved by fixing the technical problems with the site. This website needs a total overhaul.
The get more specific, the problem with Boston IMC is three fold:
+ existing Boston IMC functionality does not work
+ Boston IMC has not kept up with modern web tools and trends
+ People are not using this site. There are not enough news-makers and news-consumers using the website.
Let's break this down.
Problem: Broken functionality
Here's a list of some of the things that look like they would work, but don't:
+ Commenting does not work
+ It is difficult to post stories
+ Local news feeds don't really work well
+ HTML story writing does not work (need a WYSIWYG editor for non-techies)
+ Images don't show up well
+ Categories don't work as people expect they ought to. (like tags do on most blogs)
+ uploading files is unpredictable
Problem: Boston IMC is behind the times
Boston IMC is not keeping up with web trends
When indymedia started, blogs were not a thing. Being able to publish news to a website was new, innovative and radical. It is not anymore.
+ What about sharing stories?
+ Facebook integration
+ Twitter trends?
+ Use maps like google maps.
+ Video sharing? Video sharing has created REVOLUTIONS in the Middle East. Why can't we have an elegant way to do that on Boston IMC?
+ Mobile integration. Lots of people have smart phones now. Why aren't we having live feeds of our protests? Or at least have a space for people to send text or email updates from an action?
+ Intelligent featuring. It doesn't just have to be a mod featuring stories. You can let people vote up articles to deteremine what's on the front page. If you want to avoid the 9/11 truthers from always promoting their stories, make it a combination of human moderation and intelligent featuring.
Take a look at the tools used by the G20 protest people, those tools harness the media that people are already using, twitter, etc.
You don't need to do everything to make Boston IMC work, but at least the basic functionality should work. If mobile integration is too much work, don't bother, but at least commenting should work. The solution to these technical problems could be very easy: install drupal or wordpress. You don't need to build a custom content management system. Just drop in a piece of blog software, install some plugins to allow open posting, disable IP recording and that there is some minor moderation. Tada.
Problem: People aren't using Boston IMC
The problem of not enough people using Boston IMC is more complicated, but I am willing to bet that much of it stems from the fact that the website does not work. It is easier for people to share their activist news and get their activist news from other sources. If the Boston IMC website worked properly, it may very well re-emerge as a central hub for Boston activism news.
Towards a solution
Boston is the intellectual capitol of the country. There are likely dozens of computer science PhDs or other geeks who would be more than happy to nuke Boston IMC and rebuild it. It would probably only take a weekend to make it. Do it. It may not immediately make people more willing to use it, but it will do a lot to retain new users and get more news and announcements flowing through the site. Start there.
NOTE: I wrote a similar piece about this a few months ago, but when I submitted it the Boston IMC website crashed and it lost my submission. I was so frustrated that I ditched it. I hope the tone of this is not too sassy. IMC can play an important role in opposition movements, but I believe the construction of this site is actually hindering us because it is so broken.
This work is in the public domain