Greg Linch on CoPress

Greg Linch was interviewed by David Cohn in the past week about CoPress which is way, way cool:


As the project has been a very, uh, organic process, I thought I might clarify on a few points Greg made.

First off, it is of my humble opinion that open source content management systems are philosophically better than proprietary. The key component to this argument is that you, as the developer or end user, are allowed to edit the source code with a platform such as Drupal, WordPress, or Django, whereas with a proprietary system like College Publisher you are limited to their ideas and their development cycle. News organizations not only need to be online, but they need to be able to innovate online. On top of that, in choosing an open source CMS we’re actually hoping student news organizations will take the initiative and start experimenting with how “news” or  “journalism” is delivered. We’re different at the core because of this.

This conversation is especially timely, too. I’m in the process of drafting documents to define what the specific vision of CoPress will be for the next couple of years. Really, we’re a lot more than hosting. CoPress Hosting is an attempt to get student news organizations to be on the same platform so that they can collaborate. The core of what CoPress stands for is the network of collaboration, and we’ll be experimenting with the best tools to make this possible. In the video, Greg mentions a conversation that arose organically in our Google Group. We want to create a platform, something I’m calling a social intelligence tool, that allows those types of conversations to happen more often and to create more value. The short goal is this: the tool will connect you with the person most likely to be able to answer your question (whether it’s troubleshooting a faulty plugin or install Apache). To my knowledge, this has never been done. We’re a pretty ambitious bunch, though, and I figure we’ll give it a shot.

Greg also discusses the long-haul for the team. Personally, I never expected the project to get this big (it was originally going to be a 20% project at the Daily Emerald), so we’ve largely been making this up as we go along. We’re currently in the process of establishing six month, more formal positions, and my hope is that, if we start generating some sort of revenue stream, the core team will all be part-time positions. This is a bit different than what Greg said, but my logic is that I don’t think any of us (no offense to the team) is really qualified to do what we want to do. Part of it will be a learning experience, which will be valuable on its own, and part of it will be work, which it would be nice to be reimbursed for. 

On the plus side, we’ll be using the full genius of Joey Baker to put together a business plan and identify methods for long-term financial sustainability.


Jeremy January 22, 2009 Reply

Great video. Nice to hear more of the history and ideas behind CoPress.

Cody Brown January 22, 2009 Reply

A fluid and constant development cycle is important but it’s also by no means exclusive to open source software. Facebook is a proprietary system in manic development cycle and would not be the same, or able to exist on its scale, if it was open source. Open source can be much more challenging to manage as you are dealing with people with various skill sets and various agendas.

College Publisher is a joke to anyone who knows anything about software, a lot of the most savvy papers got off the platform a long time ago. The problem for Co Press is that your market might not know or ever really be aware of why CP sucks so much ball. Word of mouth will help but getting a great deal of these less savvy papers to switch is going to be an incredible task that might cost a lot of money.

Cody Brown January 22, 2009 Reply

The problem with Open Source is that you also can’t charge much of anything for it without an uproar from the people who contributed hours of their free time to code for you.

This is why it could be difficult to get in any situation where you would need to do a big ad campaign to get the impact you guys are looking for.

Daniel January 23, 2009 Reply

@cody, I’m pretty sure most people know that College Publisher is limiting, but I would argue that the papers that have moved off in the past are the ones that have had the resources to do so, which isn’t necessarily everyone that has wanted to.

Regarding charging for open source, I’m not entirely sure you understand what we want to do. Our plan is by no means to charge for the software, we’re charging for the support. Furthermore (and this may be a message that hasn’t been broadcast very well because different people on our team have different ideas to what the project is), making money off hosting isn’t our primary goal. It’s the first step to get student news onto platforms where they can collaborate.

Cody Brown January 23, 2009 Reply

Right, they think it’s kind of weak but they don’t have the resources to do much about it and as long as it doesn’t crash they really might not be searching for a replacement. CoPress comes along but how and why do they find you? How do you get the thousands of small colleges in the midwest to become aware of this and use it?

Yes, I know CoPress isn’t charging for the software – I brought that up because it would have been a means to raise enough money to create an ad-team and get these colleges on board in mass. If you don’t generate this flow, CoPress is at risk at becoming too niche if you don’t plan a way (perhaps you already are) to get in the face of these less savvy colleges for very little money. You won’t have much problem getting 20 or so sites, the challenge is how to get bigger from there.

Just my 2 cents.

Daniel January 23, 2009 Reply

@cody, sure, ideally that makes a lot of sense. Personally, though, I don’t think we hope to host hundreds of student news websites. Hosting is a low margin business, and there are too many players in the game to begin with. In short, we want thousands of schools in the network, but not necessarily on our hosting plan. If they on our plan, though, then we can provide interim support when they don’t have the tech talent to manage their own websites.

Thanks for the feedback, though. I definitely appreciate it.

Jeremy January 23, 2009 Reply

I’ll drop in my 2 cents and echo what Daniel said about charging for support as opposed to charging for the software. For some time, I was confused about how open source companies could be profitable in any way (even if that wasn’t their main goal). I’m less confused about that now (although it’s still not entirely clear), but I definitely know that one of the main ways they generate profit is by providing support.

To my knowledge, this generally doesn’t generate much (if any) uproar from the people who contributed to the code base.

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