hackfoldr: Community Collaboration Organized

People are increasingly using all sorts of online tools for collaboration and community coordination, but there's no good way to organize these documents, making it especially hard for newbies to orientate in the community. Hackfoldr is a small tool that allows these heterogeneous tools to be organised and shared more easily.

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A typical modern online community or task force might be using a combination of google doc/draw, hackpad, trello, loomio to coordinate the collaboration.  These tools are productive, but can be disorienting for new users.

Here's an example of a spontaenous event when  Taiwan Congress was stormed by protesters on 3/18  (happening right now as I write this)   http://hackfoldr.org/congressoccupied
The hackfoldr contains live text report (on hackpad, and one on google doc for backup), youtube/ustream live broadcast, as well as background information about the event.  Hackfoldr makes it possible for people to share this single url containing all collaborated information with continous development.

The idea came from when we were organising a series of hackathons.  We started with a single hackpad, switched to google doc folder, and eventually we need a way for the hackathons and individual projects to choose different tools they use, but also make it available as a single url for users.

So we built this small single-page static web application that reads a list of url from an EtherCalc document, rendering it in a way similar to a google docs folder. If the document supports read-only mode, we use that by default when it is opened by the user, and provide an additional edit link.  This helps tremendously for spontaneous events where thousands of concurrent connection makes google doc un-editable.

The tool works, but mostly for techies as the editing interface is limited.  We hope to build a full-fledged tool to enable community to better use various online tools, and help new-comers become contributors more easily.

Hackfoldr is open source, and can also be customised as community portal as we did at http://hack.g0v.tw that integrates web irc, project registry and people registry.  More about this use case can be found at  http://g0v.asia/tw/#Q1.1

In ONE sentence, tell us about your project to strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation.

Enabling communities, task forces and spontaneous events to better organise their collaboration tools and making it easier for new contributors to join.

Who will benefit from what you propose? What have you observed that makes you think that?

Communities that want to attract more contributors will find hackfoldr lowering the entry barrier for new-comers, as the tools are often scattered around and require much hand-holding from experienced member. Conferences and spontaneous events can also use the tool for coordinating the uses of different collaboration tools.

What progress have you made so far?

A prototype (http://hackfoldr.org) was built for a series of hackathon events, but the current implementation and usability is very techie-centric.

What would be a successful outcome for your idea or project?

A shared folder tool on desktop/mobile/web that is usable to all online communities for organising their collaborative tools

Who is on your team, and what are their relevant experiences or skills?

clkao - open source developers (http://github.com/clkao), co-founder of the http://g0v.tw movement and hackathons.
Audrey Tang - open source developer, author of http://ethercalc.org (http://github.com/audreyt)
Jimmy Huang - runs a web design and CRM consulting company that mainly serves NGOs in Taiwan, primary author of http://fact.g0v.tw


Taipei, Taiwan


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This is a fascinating proposal, especially enabling communities, task forces and spontaneous events to better organize their collaboration tools and make it easier for new contributors to join. Can you say a bit more about how much of this is a technology challenge, an outreach challenge, and/or an Open Internet problem? Thanks!

Photo of Chia-liang

Hi Josh, thanks for the comment! For the technical part: as hackfoldr was being used by 1m+ visitors during the #CongressOccupied Sunflower movement here in Taiwan, we find it necessary to define a new way of access control - open by default with trust chain so we can still embrace open participation, but allowing community admins to ban saboteurs (and their decedents) effectively. In terms of outreach issues, as we rely on so many different collaboration tools nowadays, which can be confusing to many new-comers or the "analog-native" generation, it's what hackfoldr wants to achieve to allow less tech-savvy people to be able to participate effectively in digital communities.
I will update the original proposal this week to include some lessons we learnt from the sunflower movement.

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