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Civic Media Project

Eric Gordon, Author
Designing Systems, page 1 of 15
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The Community Media Drupal Project (not for beta)

The Community Media Drupal Project

by Jason Daniels


In 2012 a loose coalition of community access TV stations
committed to continue to work towards the original vision of the Knight funded
Open Media Project at a summit in Austin, TX. This collaboration's aim was to
further develop the project to align the principles of open source with the
philosophy of community access. Participants challenge each other and
themselves to be more than users and invest in a shared code base that is
functional, feature rich, free and flexible. These stations committed to openly
sharing improvements, documentation, and problems with the community.


Public Access TV
stations from around the United States have been utilizing Drupal as an open
source platform since the release of Drupal 4.7 (1).  Each major release of this software has
fostered further adoption by community access TV users and a new level of
engagement with open source software.  
Drupal 5 was widely adopted as a solution for community access stations.  Drupal 6 saw further custom development for
community media specific functionality.  
What distinguishes the community media activity on Drupal 7 and CiviCRM
4.x is due in part by the effort dubbed the CMDrupal project.   This is an ongoing effort to merge the
practice of nurturing an open source software ecosystem with the philosophy of
organized community media.

The Community Media
Drupal Summit established a venue for web developers and community media
practitioners to initiate open conversations around both the idea and
implementation of a shared codebase. 
This group coalesced in March of 2012 in Austin, TX.  Stefan Wray’s invitation email:

...A small group of community media
centers’ decision makers and staff who deal with technology, along with Drupal
developers working in this field, are gathering to discuss the status of our
work in progress with the implementation of Drupal-based tools at our
facilities, ways we can collaborate and share, and what we see as our future
direction that is only limited by our imagination. The focus is to develop a
culture of collaboration. (2)

work following the Channel Austin summit in 2012 has encouraged development and
communication out in the open, establishing this project as a prerequisite to
successful collaboration.  The principles
of transparency, empowerment and education in electronic media have long been a
mainstay of the community access television philosophy.  However, the practice of software development
has not translated easily to community access television organizations  that generally cling to rigidly defined
technical roles from a pre-internet age. 

From 2012 through the
summer of 2014 three different Starter Kits, or stand alone installation
profiles are actively being developed upon Drupal 7 and CiviCRM - identified
distinctly as Easy, Moderate and Difficult Kits.  The intended workflow is to transition an
organization's website to an Easy Kit and as time and skills develop migrate to
a Moderate with CiviCRM member database, and finally work with a developer to
configure modules and features of the Difficult kit. Some of the functionality
in the Easy Kit is as follows:

Checklist to walk you through the initial

Adaptive theme that works well for mobile users

Front page Slideshow

RSS Feed driven Video on Demand Library

RSS Feed driven Airing Schedule

Legal (to manage member behavior and replace
cablecast agreements)

Manage Permissions for Staff, Members, and

Online Show Submissions (replace paper forms)

Webforms (replace other paper forms)

Captcha and Badbot to block spam (3)


Organizations who
have taken the task of investing in this software project are learning how to
collaborate openly in this space.  There
has been the ongoing challenge of investing the sweat equity required to
support an open source project and challenging small organizations and
management to have the wherewithal and discipline to contribute quantifiable
non financial support.  These new skill
sets include:

Using version control to add patches and fixes
to modules

Creating issues in the proper public queues 

Responding to issues in public forums

Fully understanding the vocabulary of open

Updating documentation 

Creating support materials and events

The organizations are no longer simply
using free software without contributing back. 
They are invested to help improve and shape the future.

For those with
financial capacity, the challenge is articulating development needs to sustain
shared development.  A Memorandum of
Understanding has been implemented so that larger organizations, such as
channel Austin, Portland Community Media and Manhattan Neighborhood Network,
can work together in this direction. 
Share early and often and follow ”The overarching principle guiding this
agreement is a maxim at the core of open source software development in
addition to a variation of core principle of Drupal development: Do no harm;
Don't hack core, but if you have to hack it. . . do it openly.”(4)   


(1) - A History of
PEG 2.0 initiatives -

(2) Stefan Wray’s email invitation to
the Community Media Drupal Summit

(3) Community Media Starterkit Easy
Features -

(4) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
revised draft as 5/5/14

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