If They Use It, They Will Fund: Life Cycle for Expert Search Portals

November 11, 2007

There is no way around it, it will take substantial effort to keep Playing History viable for the future. This is a common feature for expert search style tools. The good news is that all sorts of groups already do it, including CHNM‘s History Matters. There are substantial costs, while there are strategies for off setting those costs the bottom line is that if it is useful and used it will become something worth funding and maintaining for the future.

Cost: Links break: In the ideal situation this site links to some 3000-5000 games, these links will need to be checked and updated over the entire life of the project. There are of course some tools for automatically checking them, but often sites will also change their content, requiring at least someone to check the links on an annual or bi-annual basis.

Mitigating that Cost: It might be possible to connect with a publisher to publish editions of a dead tree version, one might be able to roll the limited money related to the books into biannual refresh of the project.

Another option: As the site becomes more of a community it will be possible to involve power users from that community to contribute content. On the most basic level, giving users the ability to flag broken links would reduce the need for checking them, beyond that power users could recommend and review games they have found and used.

Unlike an archival, or web article style project. These types of projects are often concerned with preserving their projects for the ages. At least for the time being, I am not. At least initially there really wont be that much of value to save. The site will function more as a web portal, and the content is really at the end of the link after your search on someone else’s server.

With a bit of TLC it would be very reasonable to keep such a site operational for 7 years, at which point if it was successful, lets say tens or hundreds of thousands of users, it would warrant further investment to migrate to PHP 15 or whatever were up to then. If it is not successful I am sure someone will have built a better mouse trap and the world will continue to turn.

How Much Will It Cost!

November 4, 2007

As I have thought about this project it has become apparent that there are several different levels on which it would be possible to proceed. I decided to post them here to bounce them off an audience. Below I have laid out what I would do with grants of varying sizes. Does this look like a good use of money?

Cost: Just About Nothing
This scenario would require me picking up a bit more knowledge of PHP and MySQL. I would start to catalog games in a database and then build a PHP front end for the site. It may well be that there is something ready made that I could bend to fit my purpose. ( I don’t know that much about Drupal or other CMS tools those could well be the way to go). From there I could manipulate Google’s custom engine to search the games sites directly and the contents of the site itself. Many of the more flashy features, a “Games Backpack”, a portal for games developers, integration with state standards, would all have to wait till the site received more funding. The only expense, outside of my time, would be to register the domain and host the site.

Cost $50,000
With $50,000 things would probably be very similar. Most of the money would go toward contracting out the design and site layout to a web designer/programmer. The goal here would be to build a stable and attractive site with a database backend that I could then populate with information on the games that I aggregated. Any money left over would be spent on interns, or a graduate assistant to help me aggregate the content. Hiring a designer would both improve the quality of the site and also rapidly increase the speed at which the site could be operational. By contracting out the web design I will be able to focus more on the content, improving the quality of both.

Cost 150,000
$150,000 would allow me to develop more of the features I initially laid out. Here I would consider hiring a web designer/programmer to work full time for a year, and then use the remaining money to hire interns or a graduate assistant to aggregate the content. Ideally, with this much money I could spend most of my time evangelizing the tool, working to build our user community making the project attractive enough to acquire additional funding to extend Playing History’s capabilities.

Cost 300,000
With 300K I would hire the same people that I did in the 150k scenario, but I would hire them for an additional year. This would allow us to spend much more time integrating user feedback and rolling out more of the stages I discussed earlier. In all the scenarios the goal would be to work toward acquiring additional funds to extend, expand, and add additional functionality.

Those are rough outline of how I have been thinking about funding the project. So, doe it sound feasible? Are there big things I am leaving out?