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dmBridge & dmMonocle going open source!

By Brian Egan on September 15, 2009 5:16 PM | Permalink

What is dmBridge?

If you hadn't heard, Alex is a total badass. Over the last year or so, Alex has completely overhauled the way in which we build Digital Collections websites. The process used to be unfortunately complex, making custom updates not only difficult, but impossible to maintain over a large number of collections. In addition, the complexity drastically reduced our creative abilities for what we wanted to accomplish with our collections both aesthetically and functionally. Finally, the workflow was completely out of hand, causing web designers real headaches and setbacks during the development cycle.

Alex changed all that with dmBridge. dmBridge completely replaces the default CONTENTdm web templates. It doesn’t make minor updates to the system, it doesn’t beat around the bush, it replaces the templates. This was literally the only way to correct the systemic problems with the CONTENTdm web templates, which caused all of the above-mentioned problems. Now, custom updates are possible and easy to maintain, such as the “Search Suggestion” feature. We’re able to unleash the full capacity of our creative powers, as demonstrated by the Boomtown project (compare this to one of our non-dmBridge collections to see just how big the difference is). Finally, it makes my job much easier, giving me a sane workflow under which to operate. dmBridge does much more than what I’ve just mentioned, but this should give you a good idea as to what it is.

What is dmMonocle?

As Alex was developing dmBridge, I began to think about just how crappy the CONTENTdm image viewer is. Don’t believe me? Give it a whirl. That may seem like blunt language, but it’s almost 2010, and we should expect more from our library vendors.

Just as dmBridge replaces the CONTENTdm templates, dmMonocle replaces the image viewer. If you look at this awesome picture from the Boomtown collection, you can see what a major difference dmMonocle makes for image viewing, especially when we apply it to maps (which we’re working on!).

Now they’re Open Source!

While we haven’t officially made all of the files available for download, Alex and I are working on packaging both dmBridge and dmMonocle so that other institutions can enjoy the tremendous benefits brought about by these projects!

By releasing our code, we’re not just hoping to help other frustrated designers and developers, we’re hoping to foster a community that will drastically raise the quality of digital collections across the country (and internationally too!).

We hope to do this by:

  1. Providing dmBridge and dmMonocle on Google Code. Google Code is a repository where we can store updates to our code, and where we can allow others to make changes. This will allow the community to contribute to the code of both projects!
  2. Build a website to:
    1. Create quality documentation for our products, an important and often overlooked step in open source projects. This will make implementation of dmBridge and dmMonocle much easier for novice users.
    2. Create a Ticket-tracker, allowing anyone to submit bugs they find. This will help us reduce the errors in dmBridge and dmMonocle.
    3. Create a forum where users can ask questions, submit feature requests, and help one another.
    4. Eventually create a “theme roller,” that people can use to quickly generate high-quality templates right on the web site. This would be aimed at less advanced web designers who can install dmBridge, but might not be able to make the prettiest templates.
    5. Create a plugin repository, where people can create additions to dmBridge and dmMonocle and submit them to the wider community!
  3. Promote dmBridge and dmMonocle within the CONTENTdm community. All of these tools would be useless if we don’t get the word out there, and we’re going to!


Overall, I’m stoked by this development. We’ve been sort of keeping dmBridge and dmMonocle under wraps for a while as we worked out the licensing of the product. Now we can let the products spread their wings. If we work hard and play our cards smart, these products could really elevate the quality of CONTENTdm collections around the world. That isn’t hyperbole, that is the goal.

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