MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, 26 November 2004
Progressive technology organisations all over the world met in Cape Town to discuss the future of the free content management system – ActionApps. ActionApps is a software that makes websites easier to manage and more dynamic and facilitates the creation of portal sites, improving the visibility of civil society information.
Almost 40 developers from as far afield as Egypt, Cambodia, Spain, Peru and the Philippines debated future plans, sustainability, documentation needs and a new online campaigning action kit for activists which will come to life in 2005.
The ActionApps Camp in Cape Town, South Africa held 24-28 October 2004 gathered together 45 people, mostly from APC member organisations, but also some non-members from organisations that contributed with their knowledge and presentations to the camp programme. They were particularly: Alberto Escudero-Pascoal, who presented a Killinux project (Linux localisation to Swahili), Alaa Ahmed Fatah, of Arabdev / Egyptian Linux Group, and Sarah Catherine Kerr of Bellanet, presenting an overview of open sources (CMS) and other tools.
The camp objectives were:
1. Providing advanced ActionApps training
2. Planning ActionKit development
3. Planning future ActionApps development
4. Identifying funding sustainability model for future ActionApps development
5. Promotion of more strategic use of ActionApps by current users
The agenda of the camp was broken into two main simultaneous tracks – the training track and the developers discussions track. Approximately 25 trainees participated in the former, and about 20 participants took part in the latter one. The developers’ track was focused almost entirely on scoping out the future for ActionApps development. Two mentioned tracks occupied roughly half of the agenda sessions. The rest of the time was devoted to four separate discussion tracks, which related to various aspects of the development of ActionApps project and scoping out the ActionKit project.
Evening sessions were dedicated to presentations on various members’ projects and open ActionApps consultancy for anyone needing ActionApps assistance or clarification. The consultations were provided by ActionApps developers.
The ActionApps Camp was the first opportunity after many years to bring together ActionApps developers, users and other people affiliated with ActionApps over the years since the project started. It was necessary to take stocks of where the project is now and how it stands compared to other similar OS tools, and to plan where should it go in the future. The developers subjected the usability of ActionApps as well as the whole process of its development to thorough examination. Using also the feedback from present users, they decided to implement a new (modular) architecture of the software and carry out other works and changes that should motivate more developers to become involved in the ActionApps project. The discussions were long and sometimes wearisome, but they came up with outcomes that are likely to benefit the project development greatly.
One of the major issues discussed in relation to ActionApps future, was a newly planned campaigning tool ActionKit. The developers needed to set priorities for the design of the ActionKit and receive feedback from its future potential users, present at the camp. The ActionKit project was scoped out during several sessions dedicated to it. Further implementation of the project is one of the most urgent follow-ups of the camp.
The ActionKit Project is all about an idea to create a an online campaigning ‘ActionKit’ – a toolset for civil society support which will combine the development of new tools and materials with the integration of existing tools into a single, easy-to-use package with multi-language support. It will be based on the ActionApps technologies. The ActionKit will support campaign design and the easy development of complex, collaborative campaign sites which automate support for core campaign functions. It will include client software for off-line communication on low-bandwidth, poor-quality lines to enable people from regions with poor internet connectivity to access advanced communication services.
Providing a useful space for training ActionApps administrators was one of the central objectives of the Camp. Whilst many APC members are now developing a range of successful web spaces with ActionApps, and sourcing a significant section of their income from use of the tool, it has become clear that many administrators lack sufficient knowledge of techniques and features, to really use it to capacity. “The logic behind the training, was that by bringing existing administrators together with developers, we could work at raising the general level of skill and understanding”, says Anna Feldman, programme worker for APC who participated in the training. “In this way we also hoped to encourage more advanced users, to participate in the developers community.”
Throughout the training, participants were strongly encouraged to be aware of their responsibility as future trainers, whilst participating – to think about how they might go on to deliver the training themselves in their own work places.
More about APC ActionApps: http://www.apc.org/actionapps
Photo: Courtesy of Mikhail Bozgounov