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  • Exchange Redistribution Strawman 1 - v0.2

This wiki space contains archival documentation of Project Bamboo, April 2008 - March 2013.

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This is an outline for a possible 7-10 year vision for the Bamboo Community. The purpose of this document is to provide information to institutions and organizations participating in the Bamboo Planning Process so that they can help determine (1) the long term future of Bamboo and (2) define what activities Bamboo will carry out in its first, 3 year Implementation Phase (from 2010-2012). This document is designed to solicit community input, and is a draft in progress. It is not yet a commitment to carry out all or any of this work.

Please note that we are updating this document frequently based on wide ranging input from the Bamboo community. These updates will occur about every 7-10 days and are indicated as ".1", ".2", ".3", etc updates. In addition, we will occasionally make major document revisions. These are noted as "1.X", "2.X", and so forth. Between major document revisions there may be some inconsistencies in language used between the sections of the document.

The redistribution could look something like this: Every use of a Bamboo member institution's service, tool, or content resource by another Bamboo member would be tracked and tallied. At the end of the quarter, the exchange rate between uses and actual dollars would be set, and funds would flow to the institutions which provided more content, tools, and services than they themselves consumed. Appropriate limits should be set on this redistribution to make sure that no single institution collects more than X% of the available resources. The funding for this would come from the community itself. Half of the contribution from institutions would be allocated to cover "overhead" -- although it deserves a more appealing word - essentially the costs of leading and running the community. Half of it would be set aside, and redistributed on a quarterly basis, based on the consumption and production of resources and on participation in the community.

The advantages of this system include the fact that it simultaneously limits risk for institutions (you cannot lose more than you put in to the system), while giving smaller institutions an opportunity to access some of the resources of larger institutions and vice versa. It provides a mechanism for building sustainability, a benefit to service providers, tool maintainers, content databases, and digitization efforts.

The disadvantages of this system are that it creates a legal and auditing burden for its ongoing operation. Governance will be key - like anything market-based, there will inevitably be flaws in the regulatory environment which will need to be corrected from time to time.

The challenges for implementing this system include explaining it appropriately, developing fair standards for what constitutes "use", and getting the whole thing rolling - securing collaboration from enough content/tool/service partners and support from enough institutions.

There are distinct risks to the Bamboo project as a whole if we do not adopt an approach which takes into account the fundamental financial questions involved, and the failures of past registry efforts. These include a lack of energetic participation due to the absence of any visible rewards, a tendency for single institutions to dominate or to try to do their own thing, a sense from the community that the project is not sufficiently focused on the realities of their scholarly working conditions, etc.


Imagine the contribution is $5000/institution, and we have 200 member institutions. That puts $500,000 into the pot, or $125,000 per quarter. The exchange rate would be set by dividing $125,000 by the overall number of quantifiable uses during that period. Of that amount, some institutions would see sufficient use of their resources to make back their full investment, while some would not.

The Twain Archive might receive enough to fund a bit more RAM for their servers and offset the data center fees, the Women Writer's Project might cover a graduate student for the summer, etc. An institution which seeks to earn back some portion of their investment but does not have content, tool or service capabilities might aggressively market and package its other capabilities (consulting, conservation, data center, editing, visualization, project management) to respond to the contract needs of other institutions.

There are any number of tweaks we might make to this - large institutions might be asked to contribute a bit more, or we might allow in-kind contributions from some number of partners. The outlay cap might need to be adjusted over time.

Winners & Losers

Certainly any institution whose resources are widely used and who might therefore take home a nice share of the funding would consider itself a winner under this scenario. In many cases, the prestige factor associated with broad adoption would outweigh the value of the dollars being exchanged. Tallying usage would allow for extensive reporting and analysis, providing a means for expressing the recognized value and utility of a given resource.

Some institutions will likely consume so much that the redistribution does not provide them with any funding - under this scenario, the "worst case" is that they've purchased access for their faculty into all of the discovery and collaboration opportunities Bamboo provides (a powerful tool for recruitment and retention in and of itself). Reporting tools could provide them valuable insight into the way that their campus uses resources, and the collections of narratives and recipes would serve as reference materials and models for any projects they might choose to pursue.

What about institutions which are not Bamboo members but still use member resources - the "free riders"? In those cases, access to resources would be subject to the policies of the resource-holder, which is no different than the current situation. By not opting to participate in Bamboo, the free-rider institution would be closing itself off from all the resources offered as part of the community overhead portion of the membership fee, as well as their chance at contractual work and any rewards for participation. Friendly peer pressure seems to be fairly effective for encouraging the payment of member dues for other projects; the same dynamic could exist with Bamboo.

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