15 August 2007

The (Uncommon) Fedora Commons

When I first heard about Fedora Commons I naively assumed it had something to do with the Linux distro Fedora, but I was wrong:

Fedora Commons is a non-profit organization providing sustainable technologies to create, manage, publish, share and preserve digital content as a basis for intellectual, organizational, scientific and cultural heritage by bringing two communities together.

Communities of practice that include scholars, artists, educators, Web innovators, publishers, scientists, librarians, archivists, publishers, records managers, museum curators or anyone who presents, accesses, or preserves digital content.

Software developers who work on the cutting edge of open source Web and enterprise content technologies to ensure that collaboratively created knowledge is available now and in the future.

Fedora Commons is the home of the unique Fedora open source software, a robust integrated repository-centered platform that enables the storage, access and management of virtually any kind of digital content.

So not only is Fedora an organisation - recently funded to the tune of $4.9 million by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation - aiming to create a commons of "intellectual, organizational, scientific and cultural heritage", but it is also a piece of code:

Institutions and organizations face increasing demands to deliver rich digital content. A scan of the web reveals complex multi-media content that combines text, images, audio, and video. Much of this content is produced dynamically through the use of servlet technology and distributed web services.

Delivery of rich content is possible through a variety of technologies. But, delivery is only one aspect of a suite of content management tasks. Content needs to be created, ingested, and stored. It needs to be aggregated and organized in collections. It must be described with metadata. It must be available for reuse and refactoring. And, finally, it must be preserved.

Without some form of standardization, the costs of such management tasks become prohibitive. Content managers find themselves jury-rigging tasks onto each new form of digital content. In the end, they are faced with a maze of specialized tools, repositories, formats, and services that must be upgraded and integrated over time.

Content managers need a flexible content repository system that allows them to uniformly store, manage, and deliver all their existing content and that will accommodate new forms that will inevitably arise in the future.

Fedora is an open source digital repository system that meets these challenges.

In fact, Fedora is nothing less than "Flexible Extensible Digital Object Repository Architecture". So the name is logical - pity it's so confusing in the context of open source.

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