Done, But Not Gone
Oort-Cloud.org began in 2007 as an experiment in Social Publishing and Open Lit that grew out of a thought-piece on Corante's "Many to Many" blog (Social Publishing). We hoped it would be a long-term project, but there was always going to be a day when we gave it a proper close. We’ve taken our time in making this final post, waiting to see if the community would transition into something else, but instead, the online world has moved on, and we could not be happier to see that.
Some Reflections About Oort-Cloud.org
Oort-Cloud.org brought together an eclectic selection of writers and peers who not only added their own material but also thoughtfully read and commented on others’ works as well. Paul and Rick may have started with rather ambiguous goals, but the community stepped up and thanks to them, Oort-Cloud.org enjoyed a gratifying start.
(That start also gave Paul and Rick a few days of pleasant terror after the site was mentioned in quick succession by Howard Rheingold, Boing Boing, and Lawrence Lessig ( Oort-Cloud Inspires ) when we barely had content on the site to show anyone. All learning experiences are good, but some are more frantic than others.)
After Oort-Cloud.org had been running for a little while Rick and Paul were able to begin identifying patterns in the activity. At first, we discussed these new possibilities among ourselves, but then we took the discussion to others. Universities and independent researchers of all types were happy to hear from us. (Here are a few links.)
- Indiana University, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, (Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom)
Monday, October 15, 2007 (Special Session, Series on New Commons)
- Institute of Creative Technologies, University of Leicester, (Bruce Mason and Sue Thomas)
- Nottingham Peer Production Workshop, Trent University, (Michel Bauwens)
- The slides from the talks above are archived on Slideshare:
One of our expectations had been that Oort-Cloud.org would see an increasing use of serialization, as writers made it easier to complete ambitious projects by breaking them up into smaller pieces. This approach allowed them to remain in the community’s consciousness while they worked on long-term efforts. We were surprised, though, to see how far that went. We hesitate to single out anyone specifically because Oort-Cloud had several dedicated members who contributed many wonderful stories and comments. But we have to make an exception in one case, Oort-Cloud.org’s longest single work, "The Last Hamlet," by John "Cougary" Yates. You can read here what made this work particularly memorable for us.
As Oort-Cloud.org continued, the internet evolved new technologies for interaction. We saw the rise of Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms for sharing and collaboration. Each new interface fostered some forms of creation and inhibited others, but people found ways to “story” them all. Facebook is full of human stories, and they emerge on a daily basis. Authors have even used twitter for stories, using the 140-character limit in new and innovative ways.
The broader worlds of media publishing, including eBooks and film, continued to evolve as well. Some of these evolutions include:
- The rise of ebooks and popular e-book readers
- The proliferation of free and open digital libraries and related projects (the Internet Archive, HathiTrust, the Baen Free Library, the Humble Ebook Bundle, etc.)
- Major upheavals among traditional publishing houses
- The re-definition of "self-publishing" in the age of the World Wide Web and social media
More and more authors are making digital versions of their works available, sometimes for free. Often these works are back-catalogs of no longer purchasable items. Hollywood too has gotten the “shared worlds” bug, as the recent success of the film The Avengers demonstrates, drawing as it does on a previously disconnected set of stories and films brought together into a single shared story event.
While it was never our purpose as researchers to "predict" based on Oort-Cloud.org as a single instance, we feel that much of what has occurred is in keeping with the possibilities and opportunities suggested by the principles of Open Lit and Social Publishing. When noted p2p researcher and scholar Michel Bauwens coined the phrase "publish, then select" (the reverse of "select, then publish") we had no idea how much material would become increasingly made available for us all to access. (The openness trend can even be seen in the rise of "open journals" for scientific publishing and in "maker" culture in general.)
All of this really should come as no surprise. Humans are a storied people; we live storied lives. We like to share our stories. It is our belief that wherever and whenever new technologies continue to evolve, people and stories will find a way to be there too.
Done But Not Gone
The first thing that must be said is that we are tremendously grateful to everyone who participated, the many writers and commenters who shared their stories and thoughts with everyone. Oort-Cloud.org will always be about them and their creativity, and Paul and Rick were honored to be able to provide them with a place to share their thoughts and ideas.
The second thing is that we have no intention of taking Oort-Cloud.org down. We intend to keep it right where it is. But, as of 2013, we will be closing the new accounts feature. All content on Oort-Cloud.org has always been open and accessible to everyone, so this will not present an obstacle to anyone. It will, however, allow us to make the existing site more secure, and ensure its continued existence online. But we will still be reachable, and always happy to talk to anyone interested in Oort-Cloud.org or its values.
The final word is that Oort-Cloud.org was a delightful experiment, and it provoked a lot of thoughtful discussion among future-oriented thinkers and writers. In that, it completely fulfilled it's purpose. If we have learned anything from the great Oort-Cloud.org experiment and the ensuing discussion, it's that sharing and openness allow us all to "make less more." And that is where Rick and Paul are headed next.