Innovations Lab: Built by Stations, for Stations


One of the most important, and sometimes painful, lessons I picked up during my years at a station is that a website is heavily influenced by two factors: budget and resources.  Budget was almost always non-existent. And resources, well, we've all heard the tale of the "one-man shop." So, a website's development was generally limited by what free tools you could find on the web and the skill level of the person building it.

For the most part, we thrive in this environment. We adapt to its sometimes cold, harsh landscape. We hunt; we gather; we build; we deploy. Then, it's on to the next project or request in the queue.  For me, scrounging open source foundries, kit sites and script libraries became a daily ritual. Whether for lack of time or talent, these sites became my hunting grounds. These finds would go a long way towards building a rich site. The tools I always found most useful were the ones provided by PBS via Station Remote Control. They were specifically built to satisfy a station need and be deployed in station environments.

However, as I've come to learn, PBS is limited in resources as well, and as the Internet grows, it's not always easy to keep up with new tool needs. So, how do we solve the problem? On one hand we have a infinite trove of tools that are not always useful, and on the other, we have a highly useful set of tools that isn't as abundant.

At the Integrated Media Conference this year, we announced the creation of virtual innovations lab that we hope will be able to address this dilemma. The idea behind the lab is to create an online space where stations can share ideas, needs, code and resources to build tools collaboratively that benefit the system. In a sense we would be creating the type of environment that fosters building a multitude of tools, but with a specific focus on station needs . . . the best of both worlds.   

In its early stages, the lab is designed to give stations the ability to communicate one-on-one, and then offer available resources at varying skill levels to quickly build and deploy tools. Eventually, the idea is to create an online environment of freely exchanged ideas and efforts to create more and more tools as they are needed - Built by stations, for stations.

Click the thumbnail to enlarge.

RedLab WhiteLab Incubation Lab iFarm
 redlab.jpg  whitelab.jpg  incubation.jpg  ifarm.jpg

First, in true collaborative nature, we would like to give you the chance to give this new project a name. Above are four potential names for the virtual lab, as well as branding for each. Take a look and then vote for your favorite in the poll below. The name and logo receiving the most votes will be the winner.

Thanks for taking the time to vote. Stay tuned for future updates. Our aim is to identify a project for the community to begin working on by the end of the PBS fiscal year in June.  If you are interested in becoming a part of collaboration, send an email to pbsi_stationservices@pbs.org and let us know any specific ways you would like to participate.

2 Comments

  1. Posted May 8, 2009 at 12:12 PM | Permalink | Reply

    Ah, Max. It's as if you've been looking over my shoulder (you haven't been looking over my shoulder, have you?). Yes, we hunt for tools, code, anything we can find for free (or at least nearly free) to make our sites robust, so the potential to share these sort or resources has great potential for us as a system.

    Maybe you've got a great tool for live chat, or maybe you've got a good tool for live chat that you've tweaked to make a great tool that works great for public media. Suppose I need to get a live chat up and running RIGHT NOW (we've all been there). How great would be to have a place where I could go to find something that has already been used by stations for the needs of stations?

    We've all gotten pretty good at building better mouse traps. Let's share some of them and really plow thru some mice.

    (note, no mice were harmed in the crafting of this comment).

  2. Posted May 15, 2009 at 8:52 PM | Permalink | Reply

    What a great idea. I look forward to participating. By the way, you have to love the messages we get for our web "department" and specifically to the head of our web "team." I'm it guys--graphics, coding, content, you name it.

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