LibriVox is a successful experiment in how to build an open community-driven, non-software project (based on ideals and methods of the free software and open source movements) . TextoSolvo is a new weblog to talk about how we got there and why we seem to have been successful so far.

In a little over a year, the LibriVox community has recorded several thousand of hours of public domain literature, with voices of a thousand or-so volunteers world-wide. Our site is translated into eight (soon to be nine) languages, and we have audio in twenty-one different languages . We have an ambitious target to record all books in the public domain. And while we’re only about one one hundredth of the way through the Gutenberg catalog, well we’ll keep trucking.

While the project itself is wonderful (that is, a public domain audio library), there is a whole mass of administration, software development, and management that allows the LibriVox to function. This back-story is largely unseen by the public, and even by the volunteers in the project, but it is a huge undertaking: the management of these thousands of audio files is something of an administrative nightmare, but we have built a project that handles this mass of digital information very well. All on a budget of $0 (thanks in large part to free audio hosting/bandwidth at the Internet Archive and

The infrastructure has been built by about twenty people, who know each other only through the LibriVox project, and contributed their time and expertise (coding, project management, system development, web and UI design, information science, diplomacy, etc etc) simply because they wanted to. To me that is the really fascinating thing: how did the LibriVox platform get built, and built so well? How can we keep it going into the future?

And can we help others do something similar?

TextoSolvo* (inspiration for the name is discussed below) is meant to be a platform to discuss:

  • How-To Build an Open Project (for non software-geeks), The LibriVox Experience.
  • Thoughts on the Open Movement (creative commons, free software, open source, civic access) and why it is important for the world
  • A brief history of LibriVox

I am planning over the next year or so to post weekly here (some will be recycled from stuff I have written elsewhere). The long-term goal is to build a book’s worth of (I hope) useful information, not just for LibriVox aficionados, but for anyone interested in the open movement, and building open, community-based projects. I don’t have any specific plans for the “final” product, but I’d like to see it in print somehow, and of course an audio version will be made available!

Again I would like to encourage anyone from LibriVox (or anywhere for that matter) to contribute through comments, and I’ll probably be asking for some longer contributions too, if anyone is interested.

*TextoSolvo, from the “About Page”:

TextoSolvo is a bit of morphed Latin. The definitions (from William Whittaker’s Words program), are:

text.o (V) weave; plait (together); construct with elaborate care.
text.o (N) woven fabric, cloth; framework, web; atomic structure; ratio atoms/void.
solv.o (V) loosen, release, unbind, untie, free; open; set sail; scatter; pay off/back.

I like texto*solvo because it works in two ways, the idea of buidling and weaving together (texto) in a loose and free network (solvo). This is what LibriVox looks like to me: a tightly-woven community, building something elaborate and important, in a loose, free network, scattered all over the world. I haven’t gotten my head around that last bit of the texto definition: “ratio atoms/void”; but I think there is something important there too.

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