The POC21 is a five week camp where 12 open source and potentially world-bettering projects are worked on by over a hundred people to bring them to market – or better, bring them out of their creators’ basements and into living spaces everywhere to make a real-world difference.
The Live Pad Magazine aims to keep us up-to-date with POC21 ongoings – making it something like a digital camp fire.
The POC21 Team call the camp’s collaborative approach Eco Hacking. By bringing makers and mentors together in a creative and communal space, they aim to give the inventors a boost of manpower and resources to get their ideas up and running. Not everyone participating is a mad scientist or from an engineering/tech background, but everyone shares a passion for open source projects. The POC21 also aspire to be zero-waste and fossil fuel free.
The POC21 Team in action. CC-BY-SA 4.0 Alex Shure
The Open Source Way
Open source is not limited to software. To summarise and repurpose the opensource.org definition: open source products/objects can be freely used, changed, and shared by anyone. Open source products are created by many people, and distributed under licenses that comply with the Open Source Definition, often in a modified form.
To take a purist approach, it’s best practice to open up and document development during the creation process, in order to get multiple minds problem solving and advancing the concept.
The timing of the event is critical. This year the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP21 will be held in Paris from November 30 to December 11, so the POC21 event is a pre-runner to the COP21 conference.
A play on the COP acronym Conference of the Parties, the POC acronym stands for Proof of Concept – demonstrating that change requires more than talking. Naturally, the proof of concept for the event will be the state of the 12 projects at the end of the event.
The POC21 state their ultimate goal is to “Overcome our destructive consumer culture and make open-source, sustainable products the new normal”.
I the purpose of the event is fantastic, and you have to love the location. Just outside of Paris, the 16th century Chateau Millemont has been given an eco-friendly once-over and been decked out with a shower house, tent city, a food hall, and most importantly, a FAB LAB, where makers are provided with all the tools they need for rapid prototyping.
The Millemont Castle. Source: http://www.poc21.cc/newsroom/
The POC21 is now in it’s second week and I wanted to write an analysis of the POC21 Live Pad magazine that aims to keep the outside world up-to-date with what’s happening inside the camp.
For longevity of this analysis, I have stored a screenshot of the magazine.
My partner is at the camp and I’m being given updates about how well organised and inspirational the event is, but I want to see progress on the 12 projects for myself.
POC21 is an open source community, so I want to see open source in action. I’m expecting to see project updates.
Where to Look?
POC21 have a Blog, a Newsroom, and a Magazine. These all sound like the same thing, but contain different content. As a first time visitor it’s hard to find the information you need because content is spread over different pages and sub-sites. One central location would be easier to navigate.
Above the Fold
When first arriving to the page you are greeted The POC21 Magazine – Live Pad. As a site visitor, you can’t immediately see what the event is about… you need to do some hunting around the page.
The first link under the logo is (Back to Regular Homepage) which takes you to a separate site with pre-launch content. If the purpose of the magazine is to keep people updated, it’s confusing to provide this link at the top of the navigation stack.
What is helpful about the regular homepage however is the concise explanation about what the camp is:
If you want information about the 12 projects, you need to click a menu icon at the top right of the screen and a layer with a menu will be revealed:
The 12 Projects page provides a summary about each project and a link to the inventor’s website. Unfortunately there are no live updates here.
The sub navigation provides the following options:
Buzzwords: is a glossary of terms. It’s a helpful resource but it is unusual to give this section priority by making it the first link in the row. See: Buzzwords Screenshot
Weekly Recap: is a collection of videos but unfortunately only has content from the setup week, two weeks prior. See: Weekly Recap Screenshot
Leading the section with the word Archive is confusing for the user as this is a live magazine. Additionally, the mention of filmmaker Sam first up should be paired with a bio about him/her somewhere on the page.
Progress: is meant to be specifically about the projects and project teams but so far the content that is there is not about this topic. The content that is available is not in chronological order as you would expect. See: Progress Screenshot
It is not clear to the reader what the difference is between Weekly Recap and Progress.
How To: is also a resource section where you can find “step-by-step tutorials from bean roasting to 3D printing”. See: How To Screenshot
Deep Dive: is dedicated to the philosophical concepts around the event, such as organisational hierarchy, and provides an area for anyone at the camp to provide “ideas of our micro-castle-society can be translated to the real world”. See: Deep Dive Screenshot
While the ideas contained in these sections are important to the philosophy of POC21, the content itself is fairly static and there isn’t too much project related content.
These are a few of the usability issues I had:
- The layout of the page is in a Pinterest-style format, which works well for images but can be hard to orientate for multiple chunks of text.
- The bold and sporadic use of orange and navy make it hard to focus on one section on the page… each fights with another for attention. Colour coding and/or consistency in use of colour would better help the reader navigate the content.
- The author name is listed before the headline, but is not linked. This is an unusual hierarchy of information.
- In terms of readability, the headlines are a mix of different size fonts, with no intuitive reason as to why that is.
- Words are broken over two lines making reading difficult.
- The headlines of articles are not links, you must click on an image to access the page. Both should be linked.
- Articles don’t have a date, so it’s hard to follow progress sequentially.
- The links in the footer are outdated: Join the Adventure takes you to a page that speaks about the planning of the event.
- In the footer, About POC21 and Connect both link to the magazine homepage.
- The POC21 logo (top left) keeps you on your current page when clicked. It should return you to the magazine homepage.
- In the Ups and Downs module, the word Bike Sharing is linked but Flight Emissions is not, which is not intuitive for the user. This is also a new page that isn’t linked anywhere else in the site
Headlines are difficult to read and links not consistent.
The POC21 Facebook and Twitter pages are updated often. For this reason, the links to social media should be top of the page, under the magazine logo. This way, if the POC21 Team run out of time to update the magazine, readers can still find this content quickly.
Instagram photos are a great way to be kept in the loop, especially when the POC21 have such lush surroundings. At the bottom of the page there is a large Instagram grid for images tagged #poc21. When you click on a thumbnail it is enlarged, but not in the standard Instagram pop-up window. Annoyingly the image opens in the same window and you need to use the back button of your browser to go back to the magazine. I like the thinking behind not using Instagram’s branded window, but if you opt to use a custom version, it needs to work properly. Additionally, the Instagram widget means that you can read comments posted with the photo, giving it context.
Twitter is highly visible on the right side of the page. Unlike the Instagram offering, Twitter is shown in a branded widget.
The Facebook page is active, but you can’t see the content in the magazine which is a shame because as there’s a lot of new content. It’s difficult to find the Facebook page because there is only a small fb/poc21 link in the footer. Again, I like the thinking behind POC21 not using social media logos, but as a user I’m lost and have no idea where to find Facebook content.
The footer content is not clearly labelled, has broken links, and uses crosses as separators which means ‘close the page’
There is a link to the Flickr account shown in the regular homepage footer but not here in the magazine. The POC21 Flickr account contains content that doesn’t seem to be on their Facebook or Twitter offerings, so the reader misses out.
The Vimeo account also contains POC21 videos that are not shown in the magazine.
On Flickr and Facebook there are photos without open source attribution. Instead they are CC-BY-NC-SA (where the NC stands for non-commercial) and by the Open Source Initiative definition these photos are not open source. Here is one example.
Photos with non commercial attribution cannot be published by websites that generate revenue (with advertising or subscription models), so they cannot be shared by news websites. This is surely not what the POC21 intended.
The idea of the Live Pad magazine is good, but it isn’t a live hub of POC21 events.
POC21 is promoted as eventually providing Proof of Concept for 12 sustainable projects but there is very little information about the status of the projects or discussions with the inventors. This is a missed opportunity to communicate their open source approach.
As an outsider, I want to be involved via content on this page but I’m not able to do that because the content isn’t organised in a cohesive way. Providing social media links in the header would provide a suitable alternative if the magazine is not kept up-to-date.
Castle life: many people, many shoes. CC-BY-SA 4.0 Alex Shure