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Digital Public Library of America

Announcing Our Interim Technical Development Team

We recently held a small technical working meeting in Cambridge that brought together a group of talented colleagues from libraries and non-profits with excellent technical minds working on commercial products to collectively brainstorm a rough outline for a generative DPLA platform. Coming out of this productive meeting, we are pleased to say that the initial development phase of the common core platform (between now and April 2012) will be led by an interim development team drawn from existing Harvard Library and Berkman Center staff, in regular consultation with the Steering Committee and Technical Aspects workstream.

Interim Development Team

The initial group includes David Weinberger, Paul Deschner, and Matt Phillips from the Harvard Library system and Daniel Collis-Puro and Sebastian Diaz from the Berkman Center. In addition to their experience and development expertise, this multi-talented group has many strengths, including their pre-existing working relationship with one another; their proximity to and regular engagement with the Steering Committee, DPLA Secretariat, and DPLA Technical Aspects workstream; and, important in practical terms, their ability to begin working immediately on a very tight timetable. By acting as the primary drivers of the interim technical tasks (described in more detail below), they are well-positioned to get immediate traction. Consistent with the technical principles we adopted in June 2011, this group will pursue an open and consultative process, while still making rapid progress on these ambitious tasks.

At the same time, we will begin drafting job descriptions for longer-term development roles within the DPLA. The members of this interim team may compete with others for the longer-term role; they may also roll off to other projects after the April 2012 DPLA plenary meeting in San Francisco. In this interim period, we have tasked them with the following deliverables:

  1. Develop an initial draft technical specification for the DPLA platform, to be released for public comment in early 2012. This draft will undergo multiple revisions, based on public feedback, before the April 2012 plenary meeting.
  2. Begin development of the initial elements of the platform. The team will iterate rapidly and openly, with the goal of providing interested developers with tools and services they can use to create value around existing content and metadata. The platform will include open APIs for testing by the Beta Sprinters and other developers.
  3. Work with the Technical Aspects Workstream co-chairs and conveners to come up with the job descriptions for longer-term development and design staff for the DPLA, consistent with the ways the initiative evolves over that time.
  4. We are looking to immediately expand this group with a digital library consultant with deep knowledge of existing United States digital library infrastructure and standards. We will send out more information on this search later this month, along with information on available positions within the full development team for the period April 2012-April 2013.


    Throughout this effort, the Technical Aspects workstream will advise the development team on key policy and technical framing issues. This workstream, led by Chris Freeland of the Missouri Botanical Garden and Martin Kalfatovic of the Smithsonian Institute, will continue to serve as a channel for public input into the development process, providing community guidance and feedback to the development team and helping to surface key technical questions and considerations. We are deeply grateful to these volunteers who continue to provide excellent and timely guidance on the project’s development.

    We have also invited input from Beta Sprinters who wish to continue develop around the DPLA platform. We have asked these sprinters to continue giving us guidance on the APIs they would find most useful, but also to advise us on the types and levels of funding and/or staffing they might need to be able to improve what they’ve started. While we may make a series of modest subawards, we cannot and do not plan to fund these projects fully; rather, we seek to foster a collaborative environment in which we can help to encourage interested funders to support related efforts directly.

    We are excited to begin technical development efforts in earnest and look forward to the release of the draft technical specification and first platform elements in early 2012. We are grateful to the members of this interim team, who are willing to drop other things to come together for the next several months to get things going, and to all who continue to advise this process.



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