Logistics, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Yesterday, I closed with this set of questions:

But how will the illustrations, audio, video, and additional stories become part of the project? And is it really true that anyone will be able to contribute? If so, how can we possibly ensure the accuracy and quality of submissions?

Today, as promised, I hope to answer those questions, which will also require us to take a brief look at some surprisingly literal implications of our central value of Ownership.  We’ll continue this logistical conversation in tomorrow’s post.

Until now, when we’ve talked about Ownership in the Tres Columnae system, it’s been rather metaphorical. We discussed Ownership of Learning, for example, in a series of posts like this one, contrasting Tres Columnae’s “subject-centered” approach to our discipline with the “teacher-centered” approach that often dominates schools, and pointing out how our “workshop” model is different from the “factory” model upon which most schools operate.

But in addition to the metaphorical sense, Ownership obviously has a literal meaning. Who owns – and therefore controls – the stories, images, audio, and video that make up the Tres Columnae project? Who can access them, and under what conditions? And, whenever we talk about Ownership, we usually have to talk about Money, too. What are the financial implications of something like the Tres Columnae project?

In a “perfect world,” I would want the whole project to be freely available to everyone, without any cost to anyone and without any external advertising. Unfortunately, Tres Columnae’s hosting provider doesn’t live in that perfect world; they naturally expect to be paid for the bandwidth they provide us. A perfect world would also have abundant numbers of excellent Latinists, all vying with each other to contribute their expertise to the project – again without any financial compensation. If you know any, please send them our way! 🙂 But in our current world, such editors’ time has monetary value. (That’s obvious, down the road, if and when they’re working full-time on the project, but it’s also true now, when they’re “squeezing us in” among other commitments.) Our goal is to provide the best experience possible for all our users, and to do so at the most reasonable price that we can.

With these considerations, here is our current vision for the economic side of the Tres Columnae project:

  • First, a lot of “stuff” is, and will always be, free. You’ve been reading stories and looking at other things on this blog for months now, and they’ll continue to be available here. As the project grows, final versions of stories, illustrations, and audio will be freely available, without charge, on our website at www.TresColumnae.com. We think that video will be freely available, too, if our participants use an external site like YouTube or TeacherTube to host it. The free content (and there will be a lot of it!) is our gift back to the world, and to Latin learners, and to the profession of Classics. Without you, none of this would be possible! So, if you’d like to read, listen, or view things online for free, please go ahead.
  • We hope that many of our “free” viewers will choose to register, again for free, at www.TresColumnae.com. When you register, you also gain the ability to make comments on stories, to make your own internal Tres Columnae blog, and to participate in the Continuing Virtual Seminars which we’ve discussed in posts like this one.
  • After you’ve registered, we hope that many of you will choose to upgrade to a Basic Annual subscription, which will give you access to the interactive grammar explanations, quizzes, and exercises. Since we’ll be tracking your scores, and giving you the ability to submit them to your teacher (or to see your students’ results), we’ll encounter some additional costs for webspace, bandwidth, software development, and maintaining databases. We anticipate that a Basic Annual subscription will cost about $10 – 20 per year for an individual; if there’s sufficient interest, we may be able to offer a discount for classes and schools. Since the exercises are self-correcting and offer immediate feedback to learners, we think they’re a much better value (both for students and for teachers) than the “traditional” approach of workbooks, worksheets, and the like, which have to be collected, graded, and (in the case of worksheets) often created and certainly photocopied by the already-busy teacher. With Tres Columnae, there’s no need to copy anything, and the student can’t “lose the book” on the way home from school!

If you’re a Registered participant, or if you have a Basic Annual subscription, you’ll be able to contribute stories, pictures, audio, and video to the project, but we’ll ask you to pay a small fee per item to cover our editing costs. If you’ve ever looked at students’ writing – even their writing in English – you know that it can frequently benefit from polishing and revision! We’ll leave that revision and polishing in the participants’ hands, where we feel it rightfully belongs, but we’ll make specific suggestions about the improvements that need to be made. (“Your story has real promise, but you used the nominative singular forms for all nouns, including the ones that clearly weren’t!”)

Not only will the fees cover the cost of our time and our hosting costs, but we think they’ll also encourage participants to submit higher-quality work.  We may also be able to provide discounts, over time, for participants who consistently submit high-quality work … and we hope to offer discounts to classes and schools where teachers are willing to take on some of the editing for their students’ work.

We also want to know what you think about some alternatives for editing charges. We had considered the following options:

  • a flat rate per item submitted, whether that item is a story, an illustration, an audio clip, or a video
  • different rates for different types of content (illustrations require less editing, for example, than audio. Audio just needs to be listened to once. Stories may require multiple drafts; videos may need to be re-edited and re-submitted.)
  • a lower charge if the item is “perfect” (or almost perfect) the first time it’s submitted
  • discounts for participants who, over time, submit work that’s uniformly high in quality and requires minimal editing.

What do you think? And what do you think would be a reasonable per-item rate for editing?

  • If you know you’ll be contributing a lot, and doing so on a regular basis, we’ll encourage you to upgrade to a Standard Monthly subscription, which will include a certain number of contributions per month at no additional charge. If you “go over the limit,” you’ll be able to pay a per-item charge for the extra contributions.
  • If you know you’ll be contributing vast amounts, we may make a Premium Monthly subscription available. It would include unlimited contributions but, naturally, would cost a bit more.

Tune in next time for more about Ownership, including the rewards that we plan to offer for particularly outstanding contributions, and the royalties we plan to pay to participants whose submissions are reused in … stuff that we’ll talk about tomorrow.  And, in the meantime, please keep those comments and emails coming.

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