Summer Of Content Proposal

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  • Mel Chua, One Laptop per Child (main contact)
  • Wayne Mackintosh, Commonwealth of Learning
  • SJ Klein, One Laptop per Child

Programme/Project Title

Summer of Content (SoCon)

Proposal status

Prototype stage: we are currently running a Summer of Content 2007 pilot. See more information below.

Under development: The longer-term specifics of SoCon are under construction, and plans for Southern Summer 2007 are underway. This document reflects longer-term thinking about the SoCon program and how to run it after the immediate Northern Summer 2007 trial is over. As such, comments and changes to this document are welcome.

Currently ongoing

The Commonwealth of Learning (CoL) and One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) are teaming up to coordinate a pilot Summer of Content program with several partner organizations during Northern Summer 2007, with projects running from August 10 to September 24. We are currently accepting applications for both mentor organizations and intern slots. For the pilot round, mentoring organizations will provide their own intern stipends ($500) and OLPC will act as matchmaker. For more information or to apply, see

Brief Description

Summer of Content is an initiative inspired by the structure of Google's Summer of Code Program, but reconfigured for free and open content. A brief "Northern Summer" pilot session is underway with projects running from August - September 2007, with a full run in the southern summer (December through February) focusing on interns in the southern hemisphere, and a mid-2008 session roughly parallel to the Summer of Code schedule.

Existing open-content groups sign up with the Summer of Content (SoCon) program to become mentoring organizations, posting their contact information on the SoCon website. Simultaneously, the program invites interns who meet their eligibility criteria to post applications that detail the open-content project(s) they wish to complete within the given timeframe, approximately 2.5 months. (It's important to note that unlike the Summer of Code program, interns do not apply directly to individual mentoring organizations, but instead post the projects they'd like to work on - however, interns and mentoring organizations can work together to discuss and refine the project proposals before the application deadline.)

We will try to develop a self-supporting networked ecosystem of projects. In other words, in addition to more traditional content-production projects (write a book, curate an encyclopedia, compose a piece of music, etc) there will be meta-content accessibility and documentation projects with interns whose jobs will be to publicize, disseminate, and make other SoCon projects more accessible to various populations, as well as event/testing projects with interns whose jobs will be to run Test Jams and other local free culture conferences/events to get feedback to other SoCon creators about the work they're producing. Other types of projects will also be encouraged, but the important point to note is that SoCon is not just about the creation of open content, but instead about making that content useful and accessible, and therefore used for Awesome purposes by the rest of the world.

After the application deadline passes, mentoring organizations then go through and look at all the applications and project proposals from all the potential interns, choosing the projects they'd like to sponsor and mentor. SoCon acts as a mediator and matchmaker during this process. Once the matchmaking is complete, interns and their mentors are notified, and project work begins. Applicants and projects that are not matched with organizations are directed towards a separate Open Content Bounty program (this may not be fully operational for the SoCon 2007 pilot; it will be active for the Southern Summer 2007 run and beyond).

Participating interns and their mentors are then free to complete the project in whatever way they deem best (arrangements to be made between individual interns, mentors, and mentoring organizations). SoCon centralizes donation input and the distribution of stipends to both interns and mentoring organizations contingent on satisfactory progress as determined by midterm and final progress reports filled out by project mentors. (Note: For the pilot Northern Summer 2007 run, mentoring organizations are responsible for finding and distributing stipends to their own interns.) Upon completion of the program term, SoCon supports Test Jam interns in running their events to publicize and gather feedback and development communities around the newly-created content.

Program Goals

  • Provide talented individuals with the chance to create and improve bodies of open content and promote the open content movement.
  • Provide open content organizations with a way to share recruiting and nurturing new talent in the open-content movement while getting crucial projects done.
  • Showcase brilliant content and contributors in order to raise public awareness of the open content movement and ways to contribute to it.

Background and Relevance

Open content is at a turning point. While a few big memes such as Wikipedia and Creative Commons have brought the concept of free and open content into the public's awareness, it remains unclear to many how to apply open licenses and ideas to their own work. Even the most successful open-content projects struggle to turn readers and users into contributors.

On the other hand, there is a growing demand for educational and artistic content that can be freely reused and repurposed. There is excellent infrastructure in place to support modular learning materials and lesson plans, and a growing number of schools and teachers looking to new sources for texts. And there are local authors looking for collaborators and ways to make themselves heard.

By matching potential interns and creators with mentors in organizations that can guide their work, we hope to contribute meaningfully to the pool of shared knowledge. More importantly, by creating and publicizing processes for individuals, organizations, and caretakers of knowledge repositories to get involved in the open-content movement, we hope to provide a route for others to do the same.

Program Design

The SoCon program is designed to give participants as much autonomy as possible while maintaining accountability and minimal administrative overhead. It is heavily based on the process used by Google's Summer of Code program, except for the public test (last phase), which is based on the OLPC Jam concept. Note that the intern stipends are determined by the program for each round based on the length and type of the projects, etc.

  1. SoCon season announced and publicized - The SoCon program for a season is finalized, websites and materials with information and applications are created and distributed, and press releases are sent out to recruit mentors and participants.
  2. Mentoring organizations recruited - Open-content projects that want interns send an application to the SoCon coordinators. Applications must prove the open-content organization has viable potential projects and the ability to provide committed mentors.
  3. Mentoring organizations announced - SoCon and mentor/partner organizations for that round collaborate to publicize the program together on a certain date.
  4. Interns recruited - Interns sign up for the SoCon program and write project proposals for the work they'd like to do. Interns will be encouraged to collaborate with mentor organizations to design their proposals, although proposals will not be written directly to any particular mentor organization. Multi-person teams, internationalization/translation projects, non-English-speaking projects, and outreach projects will be strongly encouraged.
  5. Interns selected and announced - Mentor organizations select the project proposals and interns to accept, with SoCon acting as mediator. Interns and mentors are notified of their status.
  6. Program starts; first round intern funding - Interns receive an initial $X in funding from SoCon. T-shirts are distributed to interns and mentors, who begin project work according to their mutually agreed-upon plan.
  7. Development in progress
  8. Mid-term evaluations; second round intern funding - Mentors send in mid-term evaluations of intern projects. Interns with satisfactory mid-term evaluations are sent an additional $Y of funding.
  9. Development in progress
  10. Final evaluations and feedback - Mentors send in final evaluations of intern projects. Feedback from interns and mentors is collected; all feedback is taken into account and personally responded to by SoCon staff.
  11. Program ends; final round intern funding, mentor organization funding - Interns with satisfactory final evaluations are sent the final $Z of funding. Project work ends.
  12. Results publicized, public Test Jam - Press releases are distributed announcing the successful projects that have been completed. Coinciding with this, SoCon and Test Jam interns, in conjunction with partner organizations, will run a series of simultaneous world-wide events of long-distance and in-person testing and feedback on open content, focused on the materials generated for SoCon.

Budget line items

All items are in US Dollars.


For the summer pilot, we are aiming for 500 intern projects with mentor organizations paying their own interns' stipends of $500 for the 5-week term. This allows flexibility for groups of interns and more focus on attracting people from the developing world.

Accepted interns would receive up to $500 each:

  • An initial stipend of $100 at project start
  • $200 at mid-term check in if progress is satisfactory, as determined by progress reports
  • $200 at project end if progress is satisfactory, as determined by progress reports

Groups can apply (and indeed, are highly encouraged to apply) to share a stipend, and project proposals can contain requests for more funding (for example, if materials expenses are high for a particular project) if the applicants so desire. It is ultimately up to the mentoring organizations to decide which proposals to accept and fund.

In the long term, we'd like to keep stipends around this amount - unlike the Summer of Code program, we are not trying to match student salaries for the developed world, but rather provide a larger number of competitive stipends for contributors in the developing world.

In addition, we project

  • $50 per intern project in processing / overhead
  • $50 per intern project for t-shirts, other swag, and shipping (covered by the sponsor orgs)

There is a possibility of providing a stipend to mentoring organizations as well; this is under discussion. Please leave your thoughts on the talk page.

Other, for each round

  • $1000 marketing budget (collateral)
  • $1000 mini-grants for each Test Jam at the Summit's end (could take the form of one dedicated internship and $500 for supplies)


+  $600 x number of intern projects
+ $1000 x number of Test Jam mini-grants
+ $1000 marketing

The above numbers reflect projections for the Northern Summer 2007 pilot. We hope to involve a larger number of organizations, interns, and Test Jams for the Southern Summer 2007 run; perhaps 1000 projects and 50 Test Jams. All work being done for SoCon organization is currently 100% volunteer; it is possible that temporary staff positions or meta-internships before the start of each season may be needed as the program grows larger.


See here for more information about the initial Summer of Content 2007 Schedule.

Below is the proposed schedule for the Southern Hemisphere run in winter 2007-2008; dates are flexible and subject to change.

  1. SoCon announced and publicized - ASAP; August 15, 2007 at the latest
  2. Mentoring organizations apply - Target September 7, 2007
  3. Mentoring organizations announced - September 15, 2007
  4. Interns apply - Deadline October 15, 2007
  5. Interns selected and announced - November 1, 2007
  6. Program starts; first round intern funding - December 1, 2007
  7. Development in progress
  8. Mid-term evaluations; second round intern funding - January 10, 2008
  9. Development in progress
  10. Final evaluations and feedback - Deadline Feb 18, 2008
  11. Program ends; final round intern funding, mentor organization funding - Feb 20, 2008
  12. Results publicized, public Test Jam - Feb 25, 2008

Long term sustainability

This program is designed for long-term sustainability and scalability; quite frankly, Google's Summer of Code program has done so well we don't think it's going to be a problem to keep this going. All that is needed to expand is additional funding.

How to get involved

If you are interested in being a mentor, mentor organization, or intern for the current Summer 2007 round, go to the Summer of Content 2007 wiki.

If you are interested in being a sponsor, mentor, mentor organization, or intern for the winter 2008 (Dec-Feb, dates under discussion) or summer 2008 (May-Aug, dates tentative) organization, add your name to the Sign Up list and contact Mel Chua at mel (at) melchua dot com.