The SobekCM Community Framework
Early Development and Community Framing
SobekCM’s name is a reference to the Egyptian crocodile god, Sobek, who was a collector of lost things. SobekCM was born of collaborative projects, including the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC, www.dloc.com) and Ephemeral Cities. SobekCM’s name thus also serves to reference its ability to gather together and connect collections, materials, and communities. Development on SobekCM began with development on multiple collaborative projects, each of which was intentionally designed to connect across galleries, libraries, archives, museums, scholars, patrons or public users, and other user groups and communities. Thus, the SobekCM Digital Repository Management System was developed with librarians, scholars, application engineers, and a richly diverse user community with many others and their needs represented.
The University of Florida Libraries provided the technical leadership and primary technical development and support for SobekCM from 2000-2014. The SobekCM Open Source Software was released officially as open source in 2011, and was officially certified as Open Source by UF’s Office of Technology Licensing on Sept. 4, 2013. Initial and ongoing development is made possible by other community members continuing to actively engage with a wide variety of contributions, from technical through testing and informed feedback on local and larger community needs. With user and community engagement at such a high level developers benefit from abundant and direct insight into community needs and from the opportunities made possible by SobekCM’s socio-technical practices which engage across community ecosystems.
Current Development and Communities (December 2014)
Following the release of SobekCM as Open Source Software, the community has grown with actively engaged developers from multiple institutions. In order to support SobekCM’s ongoing development as driven and informed by user needs for multiple large and growing user communities, SobekCM is implementing a multi-tiered community framework.
Community Structure and Responsibilities
The SobekCM Partners are SobekCM’s core contributing community who both use the software and contribute to SobekCM overall. SobekCM Partners are individuals, institutions, corporations or other groups that commit to contributing to the SobekCM community. Partners use and add to the SobekCM technical framework in many ways, including: code, analysis, design, support, funding, testing, documentation, training, or other resources. SobekCM Partners collectively advance the project and the community for the benefit of all participants.
SobekCM Core Developers
Because SobekCM is Open Source, it is freely and openly available for anyone in the world to use and develop. The SobekCM Core Developers are selected by the SobekCM Steering Committee. The SobekCM Core Developers are responsible for promoting the well-being and development of SobekCM in support of and in collaboration with SobekCM Partners.
SobekCM User Groups[i]
User communities play an essential role for software development, ensuring that software meets technical, operational, functional or system design, non-functional or system quality or system architecture, community requirements, and collaborative requirements such that users can see beyond the software to define their needs, instead of being subjected to software as a limiting factor that dictates policy decisions. SobekCM was created and continues to be developed through rich collaboration with its many user communities.
SobekCM’s existing user communities include larger groupings of users who can be organized loosely into groups based on primary interests, and the feedback and support contributed:
- Patron users (e.g., providing feedback and insight on wanted features, questions, and interface needs)
- Authors, creators, and publishers (e.g., providing insight on representation, branding, rights, and interface design)
- Internal users with expertise in collections and curation in libraries, archives, and museums (e.g., providing feedback, insight, and user testing for interface design, internal tracking features, integration with other systems, user supports, and new enhancements for specific needs)
- Scholar users (e.g., providing feedback, insight, and user testing for research, teaching, service, and scholarly community needs, especially as associated with virtual scholarly communities online)
- Internal users with expertise in technologies and who are also related to other user groups (e.g., providing feedback on specific shared concerns; for instance: Research Computing groups for collaboration on scholarly research and data, technical experts on scholarly projects with concerns specific to those projects, exhibit coordinators with concerns specific to the archiving and presentation of objects in exhibits as well as online exhibits, etc.)
- New communities of users who identify as a community and provide new insights and perspectives on shared goals and needs (e.g., scholarly users identifying as part of the Digital Humanities community), helping to enhance SobekCM with their active level of engagement
- Adopter users, may be institutions, groups, or individuals who may elect to use the SobekCM software without connecting or contributing to the larger SobekCM User Communities (e.g., an institution testing with SobekCM, a research project with a limited time frame, various exploratory needs, etc.). The SobekCM Community encourages Adopters to connect with the larger community for greater benefits; however, the SobekCM Community respects and supports Adopters their choices on whether or not to connect and collaborate.
SobekCM Steering Committee: Governance and Organizational Model
The SobekCM Steering Committee coordinates project across multiple institutions and development efforts. The SobekCM Steering Committee is comprised of SobekCM Core Developers (at least 4) and SobekCM Partner Representatives (at least 3).
- SobekCM Core Developers: are a small core of proven developers who have demonstrated technical excellence and commitment to the SobekCM Community. The SobekCM Core Developers provide technical leadership and vision, and contribute the majority of code for SobekCM or a disproportionately favorable quantity, quality, and value of code.
- SobekCM Partner Representatives: are representatives from SobekCM Partners who are charged with and have confirmed their commitment to represent the needs of their home institution as well as the needs of other SobekCM Partners and the SobekCM Community.
- Decisions in the Steering Committee shall be made by consensus; in the event that consensus cannot be reached, decisions shall be reached by majority rule.
- To join the Steering Committee, an individual must be approved by a majority vote of Steering Committee. Steering Committee members can resign at any time with notification to the other members of the Steering Committee. Steering Committee members can be removed by a majority vote of the other members.
- Additional procedures, best practices, and bylaws can be set out and modified at any time by a majority vote of Steering Committee.
SobekCM Community Standards and Anti-Harassment Policy
In all its activities, the SobekCM Community shall remain sensitive to the principles of diversity, inclusivity, and transparency. The SobekCM Community is dedicated to providing a harassment-free experience for everyone. SobekCM has flourished because of the shared community commitment to openness and transparency, which includes and requires helpful and respectful communication.
Harassment is unacceptable in the SobekCM Community. In the event that it occurs, members of the SobekCM Community should report any harassment to members of the Steering Committee to stop the harassing behavior immediately by taking action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender, expulsion from the meeting or other community channels, or contacting a higher authority such as a representative from the offender's institution.
The SobekCM Community is dedicated to growing community and capacity, which requires fostering a supportive, collegial, and collaborative environment. To foster this environment, the SobekCM Community employs agendas of empathy, which are especially important with an international and multi-lingual community where language and other misunderstandings occur.
[i] As explained in “Six things to know about successful open-source software” from the Knight Lab at Northwestern University (July 2013), open-source software projects succeed and flourish when developers are also users of the software. Similarly, Charlie Edwards in “The Digital Humanities and Its Users”[i] explains the importance of users, explaining that success for open source software is defined by its user community and relies on the user community for testing and feedback for ongoing improvement. Similarly the authors of the 2013 report Searching for Sustainability: Strategies from Eight Digitized Special Collections[i] noted the importance of “Developing the value proposition through understanding the audience” and noted an example where the system display and operations for digital collection software directly benefitted from user input with “iterative design as feedback rolls in from users” (22). The report also emphasized the importance of engagement with the user community for sustainability and longevity: “the ability to attract devoted users and other stakeholders and the ability to attract resources that will permit the resource to grow over time” (16). Devoted users and stakeholders can greatly add value for digital collections in terms of the collection contents, technologies, and new possibilities. Also, as explained by the authors of the report: “The best online “versions” of the physical collections do not just translate them to the web; they transform and enhance them, making them potentially even more useful than their physical counterparts” (29). Audiences and users can have critical insights into collections because they are uniquely informed on the collections and can bring that expertise into collaborative opportunities that support the technologically-enabled enhancing and transformation of collections.
SobekCM has grown with and from many communities, notably the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC). Academic research and cultural heritage institutions in the Caribbean—spanning over one million square miles of water, with hundreds of islands, many countries, and a multiplicity of languages and cultures—have longstanding collaborative relationships for preservation, access, and supporting scholarly research and teaching. The real-world complexities of the Caribbean ecosystem led to collaborative creation of the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC, www.dloc.com). The variety, complexity, and diversity of needs across dLOC’s many partners directly supported the development of the SobekCM Open Source Software (http://sobekrepository.org). Being parallel to and intertwined with the development of dLOC, the SobekCM software relies on user-focused development. SobekCM has developed in collaboration with dLOC’s institutional, scholarly, publishing, and other communities, as well as in collaboration with other groups and systems. The dLOC and SobekCM communities continue to expand and evolve with new technologies and communities to meet data needs. dLOC is a collaborative digital library with 37 international partner institutions, affiliated partners, publishers, scholars, and other community members who contribute materials and expertise to the shared repository using the SobekCM Open Source software. dLOC partners contribute to and rely on the SobekCM software. dLOC's strong voice in the technical development flows from dLOC’s inclusive and equitable partner structure. dLOC is a collaborative community with institutional partners who defined the shared governance model to support partner needs as well as the shared needs of many related and diverse communities, including scholarly and publisher communities. Created both as a repository and a community for building capacity, dLOC celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2014, and its already major achievements and ongoing activities with high levels of growth and development in the community, shared collaborative capacity, and technologies. dLOC and SobekCM’s mutually informing and supporting development represents the normal process for SobekCM’s practices that connect and activate collaboration and community with human and technical systems.