Proposal

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Mission

S.O.A.P.. (Student Online Art Portfolios) is a free online service [and open-source software project] which enables students to showcase their artistic work. From audio to video and from image to text, S.O.A.P.. facilitates interdisciplinary dialogue and encourages collaboration. This service provides students with an organized way to present their artistic work to a community of peers and the public.

Market

Our intial target market is college students at Brown and RISD, but since the site has two functions, essentially, the service caters to two separate user groups. The first are users who submit work to the site. These users would include artists who work in all media at both Brown and RISD and create and/or display their work digitally. The second group are those who visit the site to view other students' work. This could be any student on either campus, but likely to be artistically and technologically inclined.

The Brown undergraduate community consists of approximately 6,000 people, Out of the 6,000 Brown students, we estimate 10% produce relevant material and then out of these people, we estimate that 10% would submit to our site. Therefore, we expect approximately 60 Brown students to provide material to S.O.A.P...

RISD's undergraduate programs are populated by approximately 2,200 people. Given that 75% of RISD students produce relevant material, and and of that percentage, an estimated 10% submit work, a potential 165 students would submit.

The platform for the market research conducted attempted to answer the following questions regarding the service: "what problems does the project solves?", "how does it solves them?", and "who does it serves?". The services and websites we analyzed fall under the following categories: social networks, art communities, video sharing services, podcasting forums and traditional media sharing sites.

"Uspot" (www.uspot.com) currently offers space to share photos, video, audio, and a social networking function that is not limited to, but geared towards college students. It gives student users an opportunity to connect with their classmates on campus, thus giving the site a local and global feel.

"Friendster" (www.friendster.com) is a social networking site where registered users create a profile and interact with other registered users via comments and direct emails from users to user. Friendster possesses a wide range media sharing features, but many of them go unused. Friender's target market is extremely wide and not specific to one group.

"The Facebook" (www.facebook.com) is another social networking site where only current high school and college students or alumni with affiliated email addresses can register and interact with each other. Although it does not offer advanced media hosting features (only a photo uploading service is provided), it does have an intense community usership. Despite user limitations, the Facebook has still become widely popular and highly used.

"Rhizome" (www.rhizome.org) is an online art community specific to new media art. It has an archival feature, but it is not organized in a portfolio fashion. The quality of work is ensured through a submission process and because of this, Rhizome's audience and talent pool is more dedicated, and in turn, significantly smaller than that of other art communities or social networks.

"DeviantArt" (www.deviantart.com) is an online art community where any user can upload and post content. Despite the fact that the lack of regulation seems to encourage a lack of quality in the site, the purpose of the site is primarily for downloading and sharing popular work. It hosts a wide range of media, including traditional as well as digital media. The mild social networking aspects through forums and chats also give DeviantArt a broader appeal than competing arts sites such as Rhizome.

"Google Video" (video.google.com) is a searchable archive of member-uploaded video content. Content is organized into a searchable database and is reviewed by a governing body before it is posted to the site. The viewable content is not at all art oriented and all content is available to the public. With such a large pool of material and a high site population, a sense of community or user-identity is impossible to realize. The scale of the site also makes what its market is or who its target audience is extremely unclear, but given the abundance of immature humor on the site, one could assume that the site is geared toward a younger demographic.

"Dropbox.com" (www.dropbox.com) is video uploading service where content is kept private for the user and content is only shared by invitation. It boasts an easy uploading interface, which implies that it's target audience is an older market that is less familiar with computers.

"Ourmedia" (www.ourmedia.com) is a media sharing hub much like Uspot, but appears to be geared more towards a publisher than a simple viewing user. Despite this obvious discrepancy, Ourmedia does not go as far as to define itself as an art community.

"Purevolume" (www.purevolume.com) is the premiere site for free, streaming and downloadable music. Any user can register as an artist and upload content for download (or stream, purely at the discretion of the artist) and users can create their own streams of music from various artists in the form of a veritable "radio station". There is a high level of organization, which is evident in the mutlifaceted search engines that the site possesses.

The versatility that Uspot.com provides is appealing, as is its college-oriented social networking functions. However, Uspot.com fails to establish a more artistic community. We feel that one way to achieve this is to limit the scope of the site. That is, Uspot.com can be used by non-college users and therefore is flooded with commercial content. We feel that one step towards limiting the presence of commercial content is to limit the size of the submitting usership. This will not solve the problem entirely, but with a smaller group comes greater accountability.

Friendster.com unites media sharing and social networking but like Uspot.com, it does so on a very large scale in comparison to S.O.A.P.'s aims. Facebook.com provides an interesting model, but the service does not have a developed media sharing program. To date, it is capable of supporting image and text but both are structured to be used in a social rather than artistic capacity.

Rhizome.org provides another interesting model for ensuring the quality of the work on the site. Rhizome.org uses a moderator, which filters the content that is displayed on the site. Unlike S.O.A.P., Rhizome's attention is placed on the work as opposed to the artist. Through a portfolio and artist focus, S.O.A.P. will become a tool not only for art viewers but artists as well.

Deviantart.com is not limited to college students and therefore can be considered unfocused. It does however provide a model for traditional art sharing.

Google Video has established a clear system for sharing video content. Much like Uspot.com, Google Video's audience is very broad and expansive. However, it doesn't have any social networking features. Though S.O.A.P. seeks to have many of the organizational features Google Video possesses, we feel our artists' portfolios will create a sense of identity and community which do not exist within Google Video's expansiveness.

Dropbox.com is an effective private media sharing model, but also demonstrates that the seclusiveness deters possible audiences. Users typically access their own media or are referred elsewhere by other users. By hosting a myriad of privacy settings available to users, we hope to be able to combine the regulation of a private system with the exposure of a public system, which would provide an epicenter of activity as well as community throughout.

Ourmedia.com is unique in that, unlike other media sharing sites such as Uspot.com, its front page was equally focused on users who upload content as well as users who use the site to view content. Despite the fact that Ourmedia.com does not have a specific artistic focus, the site is geared more towards the uploader (in S.O.A.P.'s case, the "artist"), which is something we hope to build on.

Purevolume.com is a creative model for audio sharing because it allows any user to submit material and make it available for download (or stream, decisions which are left to the user). It does seem more geared to musical audio projects where as S.O.A.P. has a much broader focus.

As a result of our market research, we believe that S.O.A.P. would fulfill the unmet need of students not having an online platform to display their artwork. Throughout this process, we have not found any similar websites that provides the ideal service in its entirety (including feedback mechanisms, community speficitity, and availability for students, teachers, and the community at large). It's clear that this is a niche market that S.O.A.P. is attempting to capitalize on through amassing these services into a convienient, user-friendly, communal atmosphere geared towards college students.

Student Survey: The online survey:http://websurveyor.net/wsb.dll/58225/MC75.htm

Product

Introduction

Below is a detailed description of the the free online service [and open-source software project] which enables students to showcase their artistic work. The main goal of the project is to provide students the option to share their work to their with the community at large. This is done by allowing students to upload files and create online portfolios containing media ranging from audio to video and from image to text. Additional features described below will facilitate interdisciplinary dialogue and encourage collaboration.

Functional/Customizable Features

  • For submitting users:

Uploading Media

The site allows student artists to upload any artistic work that can be displayed digitally. For an audio display of art work, this would include music, sound art or other audio recordings, e.g. poetry, book or play readings. Qualifications for video would include films, documentations of plays, performances, animation and video art. Still images would include illustration, photography, drawing, painting, graphic design, comics, graphic novels, sculpture, et al. Interactive media would include net art, hypertext, Flash animations, Java applets, software, Web sites (as archive and/or URL). Text would include poems, plays, short stories, lyrics, novels, displayed in a digitized format (such as .pdf or .doc).

Limitations could arise with regard to the storage space available for video and audio per user. The users' work is organized in a manner so that each piece of work uploaded will have its own page that is linked from the user's portfolio page, via thumbnails of images or video on the page.

Privacy Settings

  • When users upload their work, they will be given the choice to limit the ready availability of their work. If users choose to make their work public, it their uploaded work wil available to all the site's visitors, regardless of their affiliation. If users elect to make their work private, it will be viewable only to users who are affiliated with S.O.A.P. or "friends" of the user's choosing. Individuals not affiliated with S.O.A.P. can be given invitations to view work from it's creator.

Accounts/Profiles

The profile page stands to provide vitals or basic contact information for each artist. Initially, students will be required to have a university e-mail address to register with S.O.A.P.. Upon registering, the artist will be asked to fill out certain fields pertaining to themself. Within that is the opportunity to create an identity (nickname) within S.O.A.P.. In general, the required fields will provide basic contact information for each user and aid the moderators in monitoring the site.

The Portfolio

A portfolio page will be created for each user when they register with S.O.A.P.. This page will be the destination for all content uploaded to the site by that user. The organization of the content is the the user's responsibility and the product of their creativity. By using a folksonomies and tagging systems, popular modes of description that are provided by the user as opposed to a set group of genres can be instituted, thus giving S.O.A.P. a much more involved feel. Since each work has its own page, the portfolio is essentially a collection of links and thumbnails that serves as a hub for each artist. In addition to housing comments posted about the artist's work, the portfolio page will also allow the artists to provide context for their pieces.

Search Function

S.O.A.P.'s search engine will reflect the privacy choices of each user. Works tagged as private by a user will be listed as such and viewable only to a select group, whereas public works will be listed as such and will be available to the entire network.

Audiences Defined

Default Audience

S.O.A.P.'s default audience is the network of registered an connected users displaying work. The secondary audience includes users within S.O.A.P. and other entities specifically invited by the student. "Other entities" is taken to mean non-network users who are granted access to the student's files via an invitation. "Other entities" would not have permission to take part in S.O.A.P. activities except for those granted by a registered user.

Student's displaying work have ultimate control over who has access to their work. This control, however, does not apply to administrators of this project or moderators of the site.

Searches

Taking into account the privacy features defined above, search and view features will be available to all users. The site will provide searches that range from general key word searches to more in depth and customizable searches.

Keyword searches

The folksonomy described above comes into play through keyword searches. Users have the ability to describe their work with keywords or "tags" they feel are appropriate. These tags then become searchable for the rest of the S.O.A.P. community. Any "private" works which as user has been granted access to would be displayed upon a search. Conversely, any work a user has not been granted access to, due to privacy options or being blocked, would be displayed but locked.

Customized Searches

In addition to keyword searches, users will be able to perform more specific searches, whereby they can search within categories or subfields. For example users can search for specific words, content, or descriptoins but parameters the user sets (i.e. video-only searches, audio-only searches, text-only searches, etc). The privacy settings remain intact with the advanced search functions as well.

Popular Assessment of Work(s)

In terms of ratings and commenting, users will be able to dictate what users, if any, may rate or comment on work, and such decisions will be made on an item-by-item basis. If a user chooses to allow ratings, their work would be included into categories such as 'most viewed' and 'top rated' and displayed on the S.O.A.P. community main page. If the user choose to allow comments, a link with the active discussion of the work would appear under each piece, so that users will be able to monitor the progress of the community dialogue. This system allows users to exchange feedback and receive credit for the work they produce.

Social Networking

A level deeper than commenting exists the social networking function, which focuses, primarily, on the interpersonal communication. Users will be able to "befriend" other users who share similar taste in style, medium, or personal interest. These users will also be able to send each other e-mails through S.O.A.P., instant messages, and other forms of interpersonal communication.

Site Features

Festivals/Curated Shows

The site will also host periodic events, whether they be contests or exhibitions, the principle goal of which will be to attract the submissions and attention. Curated shows will focus more on reorganized content that is already on the site, but may also include new work. S.O.A.P. will have a periodic organization of the submitted work into curated shows, where work would be chosen by a specific guest curator of the time or work would be chosen based on a particular theme of the show. Users are given the opportunity to create their own curated shows on a smaller scale. That is, within their own work, they will be able to organize their work accordingly into a gallery and notify other users that they have put up their own show. The festivals will be organized and administered by a moderative body of the site and could be organized on a repeating or random basis.

Related media

Podcasts can exist to deliver interesting work via RSS feeds to users with iPods. With this feature, aspects of the site can be obtained while away from a laptop or desktop.

Organization

S.O.A.P. is a six member team advised by Professor Mark Tribe. We are split into two groups with Krystal Lie, Matt Vascellero and Jhon Clavijo overseeing the project proposal / presentation, and Jason Rodriguez, Kris Udekwu and Elliot Breece working on the technical aspect on the project.

Two possible organizational structures exist with regard to the future of S.O.A.P.: a student group and a project to be carried out by the MC75 class held in the Fall of 2006. It is distinctly possible that the project could exist amorphically, taking on multiple forms. The ideal final structure would be a student organization, because of its longevity outside the MC75 class, fiscal support from the university, and its ability to reach students outisde the class who will have a vested interest in furthering S.O.A.P.'s progres. In the short run, we see advantages of both a student group and extention into MC75's class project next semester. The class project guarantees a set group of students who will dediciate class time towards the development of the project. On the other hand, the student group allows for passionate people outside the immediate circle of MC75 students and alumni to participate by taking the initiative to join the group.

S.O.A.P. Constitution

Development

After our presentation, we hope to:

  • create beta while alpha is functional (possibly asking CS classes for technical input)
  • increase number of users
  • move to another platform from livejournal.com
  • find sponsors
  • develop student organization
  • advertise the website to a market outside of Brown and RISD

The development of S.O.A.P. is divided into three phases, namely goals for the end of Spring semester '06, plans for promotion and growth, and expansion of audience:

The first phase involves a presentation of our project and a functional site, an "alpha", which will be completed by the end of the semester. The alpha is based on LiveJournal.com, and we will be inviting users to submit their work to the alpha after our presentation on May 2, 2006. In line with the development of alpha and the presentation, we will be founding a student organization to raise awareness of S.O.A.P. in the Brown community, and then spread to the RISD community, both of which are our target audiences at the present. We can hope to experience an increase in the number of S.O.A.P. users and thus provides us a head start for the development of S.O.A.P. in the next academic year.

The second phase entails the creation of a "beta", an updated version of the alpha, and the execution of advertising, promotion and expansion plans for S.O.A.P.. For the beta, we will be moving the content of the alpha from LiveJournal to another platform that we will build. This may cause technical issues for our team, as our technical prowess is limited, so there is a possibility of working in conjunction with the Computer Science Department at Brown. Within the CS deparment, we will be able to search for potential website developers and designers who are interested in the development of S.O.A.P.. The first part of our promotion plan will include attempts to increase the number of students joining our student organization. We will then publicize S.O.A.P.. through a marketing campaign that will involve advertising on campus (i.e. table slips, advertising at the post office, etc) and possibly online. Our aim is to have approximately 20-30 contributing users by the end of our promotion campaign. Once there is enough traffic on the website, we will attempt to find sponsors to support S.O.A.P., apply for a Faculty Grant and possiblity enter the annual Business Plan Competition hosted by the Brown Entrepeneurship Program, so that we will have the resources to develop our product towards its ideal state.

Ultimately, we would like to develop S.O.A.P. as an open source software project, which would be available to a wider audience beyond the Brown and RISD community. We will continue to promote and advertize S.O.A.P., beginning with other university students, and extend it to potential audiences that will include prospective students, professors and possible employers.

Budget Projections

250 MBs per user

Based on Market Research:

  • Brown 60 Students: 15000 MBs
  • RISD 160 Students: 41000 MBs (Only 1st year) <-- ?
  • 2nd year ?
  • 3rd year?

Detailed Projections

Also based on 250 MBs per user:

  • 8 portfolios first year = 2000
  • 50 portfolios second year = 12500
  • 250 portfolios third year = 62500

So, not a lot of space (at least in the beginning)

Prices

Domain name: Example www.S.O.A.P..com or www.soap.com Pricing:

  • 1 Year $9.95
  • 2 Years $19.90
  • 5 Years $49.75
  • 10 Years $99.50

Info gathered at:http://www.netnation.com/products/domains.php

Costly Alternative (Purchasing Server and Storage Space)

A possible, yet expensive, alternative exists in purchasing our own server and storage space, allowing us to forego using school server space or other options.

Prices for Servers

Sun Fire T1000 Server

  • Standard: 6 cores, 8GB memory (T10-106A-08GA1P ) - US$5,745
  • Large: 8 cores, 16 GB memory (T10-108A-16GA1P) - US$11,995

Sun Fire T2000 Server

  • Small: 4 cores, 8GB memory (T20-104A-08GA2C) - US$8,295
  • Standard: 6 cores, 8GB memory (T20-106A-08GA2C) - US$10.895
  • Medium: 8 cores, 8GB memory (T20-108A-08GA2C) -- US$13,395
  • Large: 8 cores, 16GB memory (T20-108A-16GA2C) - US$16,995

Prices for web servers from this website:

https://www.sun.com/emrkt/trycoolthreads/products.jsp

Marketing Campaign

When the time comes to market S.O.A.P., we will make decissions at that time with regard to how it will be done:

Table slips around campus (and RISD campus) posting of posters, etc.

  • 500 sheets of paper = $ 7
  • Word of Mouth $0
  • Emails $0
  • Using Facebook as marketing tool: $0 (why wait for Fortune 500 companies to do it; it's free for us!)

Technical Consulting would be taken care of if we end up purchasing the services remotely.

  • Overhead and Ad purchases
  • What kind of ads to be discussed? pop up ads? banners? - How this would be done, where we would advertise "ad purchases" has not been discussed.

    Conclusion

As far as hosted services, a lot of companies use these methods:

  • Such as the website mentioned above, alternatively, IBM, Sungard, etc. provide similar hosting services/packages, which is probably how we will at least initially.

More specific to our project:

  • Some of the services offered by IBM seem to be in line with this project:
  • An example of a solution that would suffice can be seen at this site:

http://www-03.ibm.com/servers/storage/solutions/express/storage_platform/index.html

"IBM Express Storage Platform for digital media An integrated storage platform designed to be easy to implement and use"

In this site: even the small configuration comes equipped with 1.1TB so that's probably good for a start.

From here, the next step should be a discussion of raising capital and acquiring sponsors and grants.

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