For close to three years, the ABC, in collaboration with RMIT, has been ‘beta-testing’ its Pool service: an online community where users can post content, such as music, audio, text, photographs and video, to their accounts for other users to view, critique and sometimes ‘remix’ and alter under Creative Commons licenses.
I’ve been a member for less than a year, but in that year I’ve seen all sorts of impressive work by the ‘Poolies’, from collaborative mixed-media efforts, to engaging journalistic endeavours, to beautiful images and captivating music. Some of these have been in heartbreaking relation to real-world events — for example, one of my songs was used as the background music for a touching monologue by a woman impacted by the recent floods — while others have amply demonstrated their creators’ raw talent, such that is certain to impact the mainstream Australian-media landscape in the not-too-distant future.
In short: Pool was a damn good idea!
A great idea, however, hindered by not-so-great website design. For the casual observer, finding the best of Pool contributions happened almost at happenstance, through a random selection displayed on the home page, and a short list of recent contributions. The search facility was not that precise, and difficult to use (a few weeks back, I tried to use it to research another editorial I was writing and did not have much luck, although I’m dead certain the content I was looking for does exist); the forums and groups were clunky, disjointed and disorganised.
But now, the promise of a brand-new age!
No more will there be appeals to cull content in the name of saving disc space (a disheartening idea I’m sure the Pool staff regretted resorting to); no more shall Pool’s automated media processor reject PDF files or .M4A’s (I hope)! Engaging with content creators will be much easier, since their works will be displayed in less of a showreel, but more of a social-media context. Members of the community will be able to ‘feature’ other members’ content on the home page, and the collective will be able to promote prominent work to prominence on the site — and perhaps to the broader media.
There’s a great deal of opportunity for collaboration and commentary to improve and elevate the potential shown by the Pool, both as individual members and as a collective of a whole. The improvements ought to also allow mainstream producers and journalists to utilise the content provided for use on their platforms — web, television and radio (I should note here that ABC Radio National has apparently already aired Pool musical content — thank you!) — much more easily, and give wondrous opportunities to those Poolies who may go on to successful careers in the media, or who just want to know people all across Australia have shared in a few of their most-cherished experiences.
Currently, the Pool is ‘frozen’ whilst the assets are migrated to the new platform, but on February 21st there will be a thaw, and a brand-new fixture in the Australian media landscape will be unveiled. You might imagine that this excites me — of course it does! Not only am I looking forward to greater engagement with my fellow contributors, but also greater exposure for my own work, and the hopeful refinement and polish to my output that will come from the interaction by other Pool users and content-creators. The old Pool has been a godsend for my own unabashed self-promotion, and I thank it a great deal for a number of excellent opportunities that have come my way in result, but it could — and will — be so much more.
The promise it holds simply boggles my mind.
So, here’s a cheer to the new Pool. May it glisten and sparkle with its collective talent, and foster creative engagement and social interaction with its ongoing aim to permit the ‘ordinary’ Australian individual the ability to have an artistic voice, to have an audience, to share their stories, thoughts and feelings with the ‘mainstream’ that would have otherwise never known they even existed.