Check out a list of paid (or volunteer) open source jobs for the NewsCloud platform. More coming soon...
Check out a list of paid (or volunteer) open source jobs for the NewsCloud platform. More coming soon...
Update: The great folks at RackSpace are offering six months credited (a.k.a. free) services for hosting NewsCloud in the Rackspace Cloud.
NewsCloud can now be installed quickly, easily and affordably in just a few steps. Watch the video and follow the steps below:
1. Choose a server. Use an existing server or sign up for a hosting account. We recommend Rackspace's 1 GB Cloud server (configured with Linux Ubuntu 10.04) which costs $45/month (first six months can be credited, making it free). Make note of your server's IP address.
2. Point your domain name at your server. You can use an existing domain e.g. www.yoursite.com or any subdomain e.g. newscloud.yoursite.com or register a new domain. Learn more about mapping your domain name to your server.
4. Install NewsCloud. We've simplified the installation scripts to just a few lines. Note: be sure your computer is configured properly with Ruby on Rails. Also, here is a summary of the settings you'll need before you run the script.
> git clone git://github.com/newscloud/n2.git
> cd n2
> cap newscloud:run
Visit your website (e.g. www.yoursite.com) to see your fresh NewsCloud installation, then use our wizards to customize it at your administrative dashboard (e.g. www.yoursite.com/admin). This customization checklist may be helpful.
During the coming year, we will continue to make the NewsCloud platform simpler to install, customize, manage and moderate. Our work is funded through April 30, 2012 with the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Stay tuned to this blog or follow us on Twitter (see button below) for updates.
Get the code for our third stable release of the NewsCloud Ruby on Rails platform - learn more at our open source blog.
NewsCloud's open source Facebook platform can be hosted in a number of ways.
The current codebase of NewsCloud is based on Ruby on Rails (here's why). You can download the latest daily code from Github anytime or download the last stable release (Release 2 is the most recent as of this post). The code is open source primarily because the platform has been built with a generous grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Here are several different approaches to hosting that may work for you right now (we're working on some future options - see below):
1) Dedicated Linux server. You can use a dedicated Linux server configured to run Ruby on Rails. We have a dedicated server at JohnCompanies.com. The cost there is about $125/mo. This gives you complete control of the resources and environment for your application. You will need a system administrator with strong technical skills and experience with Ruby on Rails to install and host your application.
2) Amazon AWS. We also run sites in the Amazon AWS cloud. Our platform currently requires a Large 64 bit Server Instance. If you purchase a 1 year or 3 year reserved instance you can save quite a bit on hourly expenses. Our AWS reserved instance cost about $1400 and we pay about $90 monthly to host it. A support contract costs extra. AWS provides a number of advantages in your hosting environment. However, AWS also requires a very sophisticated system administrator to configure and manage.
3) Shared Virtual Server with root access. You can try running your site on a shared virtual server with Linux as long as you have root access. Virtual Linux Servers at JohnCompanies run about $40 - $60 per month. Your mileage may vary on how well this runs our application. You'll probably succeed with small sites (low traffic) but have to expand later to grow.
4) Hire NewsCloud to host the application for you. NewsCloud is glad to host, support and manage your application for you. The general cost for a fully managed application (not including editorial and community management) is about $500 per month for small to medium sized organizations. You can email us for more information. We generally tell organizations to budget between $10,000 - $12,000 for the first year of set up, training, design customization, hosting and support.
5) There is also an older version of NewsCloud based in PHP which is currently not being maintained. It is available at GitHub here.
Here are some options we're working on for the future:
1) Amazon AWS Micro Instance. Amazon's low resource Micro Instance is free for one year to new accounts. We are hoping to reconfigure our use of Ruby on Rails services and plugins to fit within the .613 GB memory footprint of the micro instance. This will allow new users to easily get started with our open source codebase, run a small site for a year and expand later if they are successful with the platform. We're also planning to provide easy to follow recipes and a pre-configured machine image to reduce the workload for users wishing to host on this platform. We expect to work on this in Q2 2011. Note: Expanding from the Micro Instance to a Large Server Instance will require some system administration work to move over the application. Update: Amazon now supports seamless switching between micro and large instances.
2) Heroku Cloud. We're hoping to also configure our application to run in the Heroku Cloud as a 1 dyno - this would allow you to run the basic site at no cost in the Heroku cloud (for very low testing usage). However, this will be a great environment for testing your application and then expanding expenses and resources to fit your requirements. Again, we'll try to provide easy installation recipes to reduce the complexity for adoption in this environment. A baseline application for public usage will probably cost about $180 per month at Heroku. Note: The free Heroku account will not provide support for background tasks (delivering notifications, importing newswire feeds) unless they are run as CRON jobs separately. The advantage of Heroku is that it's more easily expandable as your community grows than the Amazon Micro Instance.
We're often asked if you can run our platform on your own server or a shared server. We generally can't answer questions about your individual hosting environment but a good guideline is that you need root access to the server, you need significant memory ~ 1 GB and knowledge of installing and maintaining Ruby on Rails applications.
If you have more questions, please visit http://support.newscloud.com
Read the next post in this series: Choosing between a Facebook Application and a Facebook Connect Website.
Yeah us! And thanks to the generosity of the Knight Foundation who supports our open source work! Our second major open source release of the NewsCloud Facebook platform is now available.
If you have an innovative media technology idea, you might be able to get funding from the Knight News Challenge contest.
Run by the Knight Foundation, the grant competition awards up to $5 million annually for innovative projects that use digital technology to transform the way communities send, receive and make use of news and information.
More info can be found here: http://newschallenge.org. The site includes application information, as well as details about past winners.
This year’s application deadline is December 1. The News Challenge is looking for applications in four categories: mobile, authenticity, sustainability and community. All projects must make use of digital technology to distribute news in the public interest.
The contest is open to anyone in the world.
A simple description of the project is all you need to apply. Submit a brief pitch to http://newschallenge.org. If the reviewers like it, you’ll be asked to submit a full proposal later.
If you have questions you can a) reference the FAQ:http://www.newschallenge.org/frequently-asked-questions, or; b) check the archived chat transcript here: http://www.newschallenge.org/1026-live (another live chat will be held 1:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at newschallenge.org)
You can follow Knight Foundation at http://twitter.com/knightfdn. The News Challenge Twitter hashtag is #knc
I thought it might be useful to post some of our most popular and frequently visited pages from our blog:
We use a variety of tools to execute our grant and we'll summarize these for you in three categories: Software Development, Communication and Outreach, Financials and Legal Resources.
Software Development Tools
We host all our code at Github which offers free accounts for open source projects. Github is an excellent source code management system which allows our team to work together remotely and allows other developers to fork our code and add new features to be re-integrated with our main tree. It also allows users to download any release or even unstable (latest) code from our project at any time. Github facilitates the transparency and open source nature of our grant software development efforts.
Lighthouse is a bug/ticket management service which we use to track defects and feature requests and organize our work across milestones. It's a critical resource for our project management work.
Lighthouse is also integrated with TenderApp which we use for NewsCloud's online support and feedback. So, if a use reports a problem, we can easily create a new defect ticket in Lighthouse or attach it to an existing one. TenderApp has become a critical service for interfacing with our grant partners. It also offers free accounts for open source projects and has great t-shirts!
As a Mac user, I am (lowly) part of the cult of Textmate, a great editor for software developers on OS X. I've also recently begun using Balsamiq, an interesting AIR-based mock-up tool e.g. I created this mock up of our future topics page with Balsamiq.
We get a ton of bug reports about the incompatibilities caused by the pathetic non-standard versions of Internet Explorer 7 and 8 (nightmare!) so we fire up Parallels Desktop to reproduce these. We're thankful Facebook has begun encouraging IE 7 users to upgrade.
When we're co-working, we use a Sprint Overdrive modem for Internet access. It works well in some locations, not well in others. It is not as reliable a device as my old Verizon USB modem, but it provides router capability for multiple users. I recommend waiting for version 2.0.
Communication & Research Tools
We choose to issue biweekly status updates via email to our foundation contacts, our team and other stakeholders. Here is an example status report from February 27, 2009. These reports are not required by the foundation but help us organize our work, get help with risk areas and open issues, highlight our achievements and keep everyone on the team plugged in.
For email, we're big gmail users. No surprise there.
Recently, we've begun using Google Wave and are quite impressed with it. Wave has improved a lot over time. It offers a way for our team to collaborate together, while not losing important information from our conversations and IM chats. It also helps minimize the need for IM or phone interruptions.
Financial Management Tools
We manage our finances with Quickbooks. Quickbooks make tracking expenditures and reporting to our fiscal sponsor fast and easy. We use Microsoft Excel for sharing budget spreadsheets back and forth. We use online bill pay with our bank to send checks to contractors.
Quickbooks can take a bit of time to set up but once we configure the Chart of Accounts to match our grant budget items, it's fairly straightforward to track payments and track our spending to plan.
We turned off the sketchy (hard to cancel) eFax service last year (which we used to use to capture PDFs via local fax) and now scan any documents to PDF over WiFi with our Epson Artisan Scanner.
We actually run an extra gmail account for our grant which we CC: every contract, receipt and invoice sent to our fiscal sponsor. This helps us create an online archive of all the materials shared back and forth with them.
The Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard has been an extremely helpful resource to our team.
Please let us know if you have additions, feedback or comments!
1) Facebook: Our code provides a great base platform for running a community or news-related Facebook application but it's not dependent on Facebook. Our code simultaneously provides a Web-based solution offering Facebook Connect for authentication (or password-based login) - other authentication schemes can be added.
2) Crowdsourcing: Our code essentially provides an open source crowdsourcing toolkit for engaging readers with each other. We have features for idea gathering, Q&A, event calendars, forums, blogging and directories. Our goal is to compliment news sites with unique features that add value for readers. Read our complete feature summary.
3) Ruby: Our code is based on Ruby on Rails - so it's MVC and leverages a bunch of open source technologies and plugins such as: Facebooker, il8n, Formtastic, VoteFu, Taggable, Restful Authentication, Routing Filter, Friendly_id, Rack, Will Paginate, Cucumber, rSpec, HopToad, NewRelic, Bootstrap, HAML, SASS, Compass, 960.gs et al.
4) Journalism: Our code is part of a Knight Foundation grant to support journalism organizations. We're working with publishers such as The Charlotte Observer, KPCC radio, The Boston Globe, the Detroit Free Press, WKYC TV, MinnPost and the State Press (covering Arizona State University) to help find new ways to engage their audience and strengthen their business models.
5) International: Our code supports i18n localization so that you can run your Facebook application in any language or several! We want journalism organizations worldwide to use this code!
6) Open Source: Our code is licensed via the flexible MIT Open Source License meaning that you can re-use it liberally for your own projects - even if you're a for profit corporation.
7) Funded: Our code will continue to improve and grow with the generous funding of the Knight Foundation through April 2011. That's when our grant ends! In the meantime - and hopefully beyond, you can get involved in a super cool fun engaging high-tech open source pro-democracy journalism project with other fun folks.
Here are a few more reasons to get involved now*:
* Contributions will be judged subjectively by the NewsCloud team. You must email jeff at newscloud dot com with details when you complete one of the above tasks. Gift cards will be mailed to you.
What are you waiting for?
Did we remember to thank the great folks at TenderApp.com and GitHub for freely supporting our open source project tools? and the Knight Foundation who pay for everything else? and our partners who are on a mission to sustain great journalism?
Through April 2011, twelve news organizations will launch Facebook sites with NewsCloud's open source Facebook application technology, thanks to a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The goal of the grant is threefold:
With these goals in mind, we've launched two new sites to make collaboration easier. We're posting most of our design and development documentation for review and discussion at http://support.newscloud.com. Open source developers can follow our progress and download the code from http://opensource.newscloud.com.
While the NewsCloud Facebook application was initially developed in the PHP programming environment, this week we're releasing an alpha test version built for developers on the Ruby on Rails framework.
Media organizations interested in learning more about the grant program can also contact NewsCloud privately through the above support website.
Research results on the engagement of young people in news in Facebook from the Knight Foundation's 2008 grant to NewsCloud can be found at http://www.newscloud.com/research.