Following my heart felt attempt to revive my interest in writing, and having felt over and over again that the tyranny of 140 characters makes perfect sense and that some tools complement instead of replacing each other, I'm going to talk about a project I've had for quite a while, that has sort of been neglected in it's marketing and "commercial" aspect because, in all honesty, choices about time occupation and allocation needed to be made and I decided to get some code done instead of marketing it :) .

Mind you, this is not to be confused with a real, professional product page, I'll get around to doing that, but this is my introduction of Shirikisha to the world, nothing more ;)

A bit of history

Shirikisha began as a project called CIARIS for the ILO/STEP programme, where the goal began as a rework for a simple static document based website, and as talks progressed the scope also grew to an online social platform with cooperative tools namely public profiles, blogs, Workspaces - an analogy for a set of tools made available to a group of people within a context - and a Library where publicly available documents where displayed.

The work began in 2006 with myself, Beverly Trayner and Pedro Custódio, we later had the pleasure to work with David Bluestein, Rory Carter brought business experience to the team, Luis Cavaco helped on the Design front, Carla Alcobia has been with us from the beginning testing the application and administering it for STEP  and Josien Kapma and Nancy White helped us test and brainstorm.

In 2007 we launched the beta version and later, after a test period, we opened up the CIARIS site. After the launch and initial development, we had further runs with STEP and with a few outside partners where we added and improved on the platform . At this point we negotiated and got the rights to the application itself and there, Shirkisha was born.

So, why Shirikisha?

The goal for Shirikisha was to provide a set of tools - for a wide and multilingual public - that would enable both individuals and groups. As with all naming that comes after a product is made, we took a while and searched the far reaches of the Internet to find a name, until we came across a Swahili dictionary on The Kamusi Project and as we went through it we found a single word that encompassed brilliantly both the meaning and the mood we wanted to set with the project, the word was Shirikisha and here are its meanings:

  • incorporate
  • allow to participate
  • cause to participate
  • make a member of a society
  • give someone a share in something
  • coordinate

Unquestionably we had found our name, we had our Shirikisha :)

Ok, what does it do then?

When we designed the tool that would later become Shirikisha, our main focus was to provide a platform for individuals do come together, under a certain context provided by the organization who "owned" the tool, and develop documents, projects, meetings, etc. These individuals would have their own identity and the platform should facilitate the meeting of equal minded people, finally since the workspaces - who are not necessarily public or visible -  could use the platform to produce written content, the creation of a curated display of such documents was also created in the form of a "Library".

So, the platform allows an organization to have a publicly available website, with a simple content management system, people can sign up, fill their profile - which can be customized by the Organization in respects to certain fields that it should have - look up other profiles, create a personal Blog - this comes under the need to provide and empower certain individuals, but it's quite simple and not mandatory - , search the Library for  community created and published documents and most of all, create Workspaces to develop their own work.

The Workspaces provide a set of tools for groups to communicate, organize themselves and create content/documents under the privacy of the workspace. A workspace blog is provided as a public tool, so the group can communicate with the world as a way to provide updates on the work in progress. The content produced by the workspace can later be published to the curated organization Library - following metadata input and approval by the organization administrators.

In summary, as beyond my possibly not so clear text ;) , the feature list for Shirikisha is following:

  • Site wide simple Content management System
  • Platform signup with custom profiles and optional approval system
    • Individual control over visibility of profile fields (Private, Friends only, Public)
    • A "people directory" to help people find .. well , people :)
    • An optional Personal blog
    • Messaging system between platform users
    • Notification system for almost every aspect of the web site, with a choice of Email updates or RSS feed (public and "private")
  • Workspaces
    • Creation of visible or invisible Workspaces
    • Public Blog
    • Calendar with Event input
    • Threaded Discussion Forums
    • Multiple threaded Wikis (with PDF export capabilities)
    • File repository
  • Library for content produced on the Workspaces

A business?

Well, yes, we created what we think of as a very complete, awesome (pardon my bias :) ) tool that we would love to continue to grow and see what our tool can make for people. Consider this a Request for Comments, we would love to hear from you, how you feel and what your thoughts are in regards to Shirikisha, we want to harvest a few smaller projects, individuals, commercial or ONG's. I don't want this approach to be considered a beta test, or a trial run, we have quite a long road with CIARIS and a few others, but we do want to go slow and personal before evaluating and opening up to everyone, so big or small (in size or in budget), don't be shy and talk to us :)

You can contact me here, via the comments or by my Shirikisha Email : dramalho[at]shirikisha[dot]com  , in the mean time, check out the CIARIS site whether to take a look at Shirikisha or if you have an interest in Social Inclusion and want to join the Community :)