Last week I headed up to Edinburgh for Open Repositories 2012 and I took RedFeather along with me. While I didn’t have my own session or PechaKucha, my contacts in the EPrints community allowed me to get a short presentation as part of the EPrints user groups. This allowed me to talk about RedFeather as a way to introduce new users to the concept of repositories and allow them to discover the value of such systems. The eventual idea being to set them up with a full scale repository afterwards (I think of it as a gateway drug into repository platform addiction!). While the presentation was only short, it did give me a chance to talk about it afterwards with the user group members. I got some interesting feedback about how it might fit into the repository ecosystem.
My main mission, however, was to gratuitously talk about RedFeather as much as possible to anyone who would listen throughout the entire duration of the conference. I thought the best way to do this would be to enter the dev challenge and integrate RedFeather into my entry somehow. After bouncing some ideas off the other developers I eventually came up with a novel idea, Splinter Repositories, which utilised RedFeather without including any of the use cases RedFeather was originally intended for (it’s generally bad form to enter an existing project into the dev challenge).
A Splinter Repository is an offshoot of a larger repository that acts on its behalf, while still being an independent entity. Like its namesake, a Splinter Cell, it can later be reabsorbed into its progenitor or – if it was unsuccessful – simply disposed of. This makes it ideal for situations such as a conference or workshop, where there are a large number of unregistered, inexperienced or untrusted users who wish to contribute to a repository. Instead of unleashing them on your precious main repository, you can simply spawn a Splinter Repository to cater for this group. This reduces the administration overhead from supporting new users as well as acting as insulation between them and your existing content.
All a user has to do to join the Splinter Repository is visit a special page on the main site which allows them to spawn their own private instance of RedFeather. This microrepository instance (thanks to Mahendra Mahey for coining the term) will be automatically registered as part of the Splinter Repository and can be accessed via a special index. The allows it to act as a pseudopublic workspace – externally visible, but not part of the archive content. After the Splinter Repository has reached the end of its lifecycle, the repository admin then has the option to selectively absorb any of the content in the microrepository swarm into the main archive using SWORD. The entire Splinter Repository can then be trivially discarded or deleted without affecting the main repo.
Sadly, I didn’t win any prizes this year, but I feel it did introduce some interesting new concepts that might not have been considered before. Maybe next time…