I love used book stores! And libraries too! There is something about the smell of rotting books, I know, weird isn’t it? Anyway, one of the treasures I picked up a long time ago was a copy of Systemantics: How Systems Work and Especially How They Fail. As I began to master the many processes of software development I came to admire this book’s brilliance. John Gall provides one of the clearest explanations of how to understand and develop systems ever printed.
One of the gems Gall documents is a simple rule of thumb. You can’t develop a successful complex system without developing a successful simple system. So to start the standardization of transmedia I recommend we start simply. As mentioned in my call to action for transmedia standards, the RFC system used in the development of consensus and standards on the young Internet should prove a good guide.
The Transmedia RFC System
An RFC, for those not familiar with the concept, is (according to Wikipedia) a memorandum published describing methods, behaviors, research, or innovations applicable to the working of the Internet and Internet-connected systems. In our case, it would be for the working of transmedia and transmedia production.
The RFC allowed engineers and computer scientists to publish discourse either for peer review or simply to convey new concepts and information. Then the Inter Engineering Task Force would adopt some of the proposals published as RFCs as Internet standards.
For the transmedia community, we could mimic the function of the Internet RFC, to publish discourse either for peer review or simply to convey new concepts and information. Then an, as yet, unformed organizing task force would adopt some of the transmedia RFCs as transmedia standards.
Why the RFC? Well for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a well understood system that has been successful in obtaining consensus from a global community. Second, it is a fairly simple system. Third, it has a consistent process that ranges from the informal, using the Internet Draft, to the formal RFC, with produces outright standards.
What is needed to get started?
In terms of resources, there isn’t much technology required, but there is some, for which I have proposals. The rest of what we need for the Transmedia RFC System is process based, which means we can obtain the necessary documentation and adapt as necessary.
While there are many “free” web resources that could provide the functionality we need, I would recommend NOT using said resources. I believe it is important that community own all of the data produced through the Transmedia RFC System, therefore, the only way to ensure that is to use open source tools running on independently owned servers.
As I see it, what we need is:
- A modified set of organizing documents that establish the process for Transmedia Drafts and Transmedia RFCs. We can obtain these documents from the Internet community and then modify them for our own purposes.
- An email list or group to coordinate the communication with the transmedia community. This would be an opt-in process. There are quite a few email list servers available, any of which would provide the functionality needed.
- An IRC channel. In many of the standardization examples I mentioned in my call to action for transmedia standards, they use the Internet Relay Chat system to maintain a constant online communication channel. This channel makes the transmedia community to stay tightly linked as we progress through this transformative phase. In addition, it gives novices a place to turn to when they can’t find what they are looking for.
- A repository for the Transmedia Drafts and Transmedia RFCs. I think that wiki software provides the right set of functionality. It allows us to share an initial document and then manage changes to the document as it evolves towards consensus.
- A set of leaders that will guide the standardization process. This group will ultimately be responsible for deciding when Transmedia Drafts become Transmedia RFCs and when Transmedia RFCs become transmedia standards.