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The Innovators - Nicholas Reville of The Participatory Culture Foundation
Benjamin J. Higginbotham
The Technology Evangelist team recently had a chance to sit down with Nicholas Reville from the Participatory Culture Foundation, creators of Democracy Player. In the first of this three part series we get the basics behind the Democracy Platform and how it got started.

See the full power of Democracy Player. Subscribe to our high-quality, high-resolution torrent feed by clicking the button below. Sound complicated? Democracy makes it simple and what better way to kick off your Democracy Player use than a video about the Democracy Player itself? Click away and find out...

Democracy: Internet TV

Below you'll find a low-resolution Flash version of the interview, in case you're just looking for a quick Nicholas fix.

Love Democracy? Hate it? Have a better platform? Lets keep the comments rolling in!
Full transcript after the jump...

What is Democracy?

We look at Democracy as a platform of services that all support each other, and at the center of that is Democracy Player, which is our flagship product. It's what most of our users experience. And it's where everything comes together. Democracy Player lets you watch video feeds, organize your videos, everything like that. But you need a way to find channels that you want to watch, video feeds that you want to watch and a way to share those with friends, and you need a way to publish those. We try to address all those needs.

The Channel Guide is built into Democracy Player, and it lists, now, over 600 channels you can subscribe to. You can search for them by tags, popularity; all those kinds of things you'd expect, and subscribe with a single click.

Video Bomb is the sharing component of the service. And when you email a video to someone you go through Video Bomb. And if you want to create a feed of your favorites and share that feed with somebody else; basically your own edited channel of what you like, you can do that with Video Bomb, and you can also add things to that list from within Democracy Player.

Broadcast Machine is a web app kind of like a Wordpress for video that you can install on your website and helps you publish videos into a compatible video RSS feed. The most unique thing about Broadcast Machine is that it really simplifies the creation of torrents for most people, and that can save you a lot of bandwidth.

What started the project?

I think the motivation for the Participatory Culture Foundation came out of an understanding that we had for a while that the mainstream media is extremely limited, and only the richest companies and richest individuals have a chance of getting their message out through that form. And that's something that for a lot of practical reasons was just kind of the way things are. It's expensive to do, and someways that was the way the world worked. I think the vision that we had which a lot of other people were having at the same time was that this - the Internet - was getting to the point where it could supplement and eventually replace those traditional modes of broadcast. As so, we felt like we had a vision for a piece of software and a system that was both realistic to build, open source, open standards, and fit well with the way the Internet works currently, where everything is linkable, everything can communication with each other. Feeds that work in Democracy Player also work in any other compatible RSS application.

How did you get involved?

I studied public policy at Brown University and that's where I got my Bachelor's degree. I was really involved in political activism throughout college, after college. I worked on anti-sweatshop efforts there and after school environmental stuff, health care stuff. I had always been interested in technology but hadn't been really involved with the Internet very much. A friend of mine and I started a project about four years ago around online music, talking about independent artists and the opportunities that the Internet was creating for people that decentralize and change the music industry. And that really opened our eyes to how much power the Internet has for changing media, changing systems of distribution of media in the country, and really reducing the incredibly centralized power that corporations have in our culture. We started off seeing what kind of amazing reach you could get with a webpage: how many people you could reach for such a small amount of money. And then we started to realize that building tools can extend that even further. And that's when we started thinking about video, started thinking about TV, and launched this project.

Who funds the Participatory Culture Foundation?

We're a non-profit organization and we've been funded for the past year and a half by grants from foundations and individuals who support our mission. in the long run we're hoping to move in the direction of a company like Mozilla, that is a non-profit but also generates some revenue in a way that doesn't interfere with their mission. If there are ways that we can have sponsored video search in the application or provide services to companies that want their own branded version of the player to show their content. Things like that that let us focus on our mission and don't interfere with the user experience. It would be great to have an income stream of our own and be self-sustaining that way. Until then, we have a lot of generous donors who care about the mission and think we're on the right track and are supporting the organization.

The Innovators

Music by Speedplay


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1. Posted by: Lee Odden on October 19, 2006 6:53 AM:

This is some quality work guys. These kinds of video tools and resources are changing the web as we speak, er, write!

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