Deadline for de.indymedia (dot)org
In July only a very small number of media activists (from Hamburg,Berlin, and Nuremberg) met in Hamburg at a Germany-wide de.indymedia.org meeting. The meeting was exclusively dedicated to the purpose of discussing if and how the website could be maintained. Against the background of taking stock of the current situation, they decided that spring 2013 should be fixed as a deadline for themselves and the project. Till then, the goal is to find more activists and switch to a new CMS (or, at least, make a start). Should those two goals not be achieved, then de.indymedia.org will be deactivated and archived.
But let's talk about one thing at a time: what's happened?
Deadline for de.indymedia.org
imc-germany 09.11.2012 18:03 Themen: Indymedia
Eleven years ago, the situation was quite different. Only for those who knew somebody with sufficient knowledge about HTML it was reallypossible to publish on the internet. The media acted accordingly and in general the media scene was quite homogeneous. Indymedia was born in Seattle and took up the fight with established news providers by means of openposting. One by one, more Indymedia centres (IMCs) were founded, also in Germany. By now, Germany has two successfully operating IMCs. It is amongst the few non-commercial, political news projects. Even though there is a tendency for articles to be in the Antifa domain, de.indymedia.org is not associated with a particular group. Moderation keeps the content readable. However, we could not but note the following odd circumstance: whereas de.indymedia.org is still seen as vital source of information amongst left activists, there is a decreasing number of people who are posting articles, get involved with moderation, translation and technical maintenance etc. ... that is: people who are willing to actively engage in the network. It seems, many have forgotten that "you are Indymedia, too." Indymedia works and it must work. Full stop. User expectations of the following kinds have been cherished: "Why is there no article on ...?", "We urgently need a feature on ...!" are subjects of emails sent around on the contact mailing list on a daily basis. Of course, the internet has changed: nobody needs an IT-training to run a blog, which is why there is an innumerable set of such sites.The "crowd" has created the biggest encyclopedia of the world and keeps expanding it. OpenSource Software and Linux are not anymore things that only freaky nerds are capable of using. Rather, a big developers community makes sure that also those not so programming-savvy activists can use the software who just want to edit a film or images.Furthermore, openposting got commercialised: it is easy for anybody topost their content on video-, image-, weblog- and social network sites. Financially strong corporations guarantee the functioning of such sites. But as far as the conditions are concerned ...
What do we still need Indymedia for?
Of course, this means Indymedia lacks one particular uniqueness feature nowadays: it is hardly still possible to hush up actions these days. Rather, the main problem is that information gets lost in white noise (one of the reasons Google is amongst the biggest firms in the world). Amongst other reasons, this is why de.indymedia.org is still an important channel of communication when it comes to actions of left activists. Here you can find information by and for activists. But even more importantly: the site is run by a collective, not a shareholder. This is a feature many people do not properly appreciate. Furthermore, the stance of the network is crucial, that is, it has a political stance: Nazis, sexism, or the like are unwelcome. Readers, naturally, notice this stance and - rightly so - monitor it closely.
What's going wrong?
On the one hand, users are frustrated because certain contents do notfeature on the site anymore or because contents remain temporarilyunmoderated. Often, Nazis cause trouble for too long. As a result,people criticise the moderators and insinuate that they've intentionally omitted or allowed certain things to happen. But, de facto, there are just too few moderators. And that's the situation for about a year now. Which again leads to frustration on the part of the moderators. For at least four years now, attempts are being made to develop a new content management system (CMS), i.e., software that provides the functionality of the site. For more details, have a look at this feature from 2009.But these attempts have not succeeded so far. Many sites in theIndymedia network are being given up or are not active anymore, such as our neighbours from IMC Austria this summer. Often, though, this has nothing to do with software issues: it happens regularly that reports on actions that are supposed to appear in mainstream media outlets are designed very carefully so as not to make anybody feel offended. Indymedia is then often just provided with a copy of the respective press statement, in spite of the possibility to publish much more critically and freely written texts on the site. Many initiatives still confuse Indymedia with a leaflet rack. Here, we still experience a problem in communication.
Of course, every one of us is spoilt by the possibilities of theweb-2.0-world. Understandably, the eleven-year-old Indymedia CMS cannot keep up with the corresponding expectations anymore. The fact that many users do not upload images together with their articles anymore, but use commercial image upload platforms instead, may serve as one example. Moreover, the division into users and moderators is in fact outdated. Many users would like to get more involved in editing the site, be it to delete Nazi posts or put pieces on the Newswire, without desiring to receive full administration permissions. Many users do not want to bear the responsibility associated with such full administration permissions. With respect to this aspect, a user system that is scaled in a more sophisticated way could help to involve more people. Also, users are usually used to be able to edit and update their own published pieces, which is not possible with the current software.
Many IMCs switched to Standard-OpenSource-CMS: Drupal or HyperActive as Indymedia solution are based on Ruby on Rails. A new software development for de.indymedia.org is, however, infeasible given the current number of contributors. Currently, a couple of steadfast contributors are trying to adapt Drupal such that user moderation becomes possible. That is, so that users can vote on certain pieces and can re-edit their own submissions to the website. Drupal is a very active project with a big software developers community. Thus, the main part of the development is not left to IMC activists but to OpenSource developers. At the moment, so-called 'modules' are being tested and the CSS for de.indymedia.org is in the works (project at GitHub). Many view user moderation as key for the project to continue. It would be a deviceto involve many people on a temporary basis so that they do not have to commit inflexibly. It will then suffice to have only a few permanent contributors who attend to the core moderation.
Going commercial would be an alternative, too, wouldn't it?
Hence: a Call!
Every user should ask themselves how much importance they attach to the project. The community is faced with the question whether it still needs de.indymedia.org as a platform of publication. In the recent years, fewer and fewer people were willing to make an effort for preserving the network. Provided we cannot find more active contributors, who commit to project more than it is the case now, then de.indymedia.org will very likely dissolve in spring/summer 2013. A deadline is important for us because we want to avoid for the project to pine away and end as spam site, such as it has happened with other Indymedia projects. (See Indymedia DK for instance.) If we just acted according to the motto "may the last one turn off the lights" then it would lead to de.indymedia.org just being taken off the internet at some point due to unpaid bills. To prevent that from happening, we have decided to ideally keep de.indymedia.org running as a platform of publication after the deadline has passed or, should it pass without result, to archive the site and try in a last strenuous effort to raise funds for the purpose of paying the bills for the next couple of years. On top of that, we think it would be a shame if the popularity of de.indymedia.org would not amount to much more. Thus, we would try to convert the site into a collection of news, such that pieces from different blogs would appear automatically on the site. (Similar to BeTheMedia.org.uk)
Before entering into a wild battle of addenda, please consider signingup for firstname.lastname@example.org to take part in the discussion.That would make the whole discussion easier and clearer. (Watch out,this list can also be publicly browsed by search engines, so maybe don't use your private email address for this purpose.)
#Thanks for reading this far, from a concerned portland indymedia advocate, now let us all rise in indy unity together.
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