So I've had this kooky idea for a while to set up a sort clearinghouse/repository for GFDL and other open source style knitting patterns. The idea would be that a community of knitters could probably do a pretty good job of maintaining a collection of frameworks that would be really useful for people who want to get in and do design work, teach classes, and so forth. The truth is that most knitting patterns follow only a handful of different models, and there are only so many ways to actually knit a particular shape, so we're stuck recreating the wheel time and time again, rather than creating new things.

Furthermore, because we're always working from scratch, we're more likely to make silly errors. We may know that we always do sleeve decreases on every third row, but if we write on the 4th row, the chances of you or a tech editor catching it is probably pretty slim. Linus Torvalds' (or someone similar) suggest that one of the benefits of open source is that "with enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." And I think this is also true of knitting patterns. If enough people read through a pattern, the bugs will get sorted out, and the patterns can be of a consistently higher quality. Which is a reputation and a strength that can be transferred to any manner of derivative works.

It seems like a great idea. Even after a number of weeks since I wrote the initial series of TealArt entries on the subject, I still feel like it's a great idea.

The problem is, I have no idea of how to organize it.

I mean, I think I know how to work with people to have it done, there are organizational and logistical concerns that I don't have the foggiest idea about how to organize it. My notion is to set up a framework, and seed a collection of publicly liscenced patterns, and then work to build a community around this. The ish is that I haven't a clue as to the kind of framework and standards to set up in the beginning to make sure that it makes sense.

I fear I'm starting too in the middle for this to make sense. I sketched out some rough ideas on the subject that are still up at the knitting section of TealArt, for starters. The kinds of framework that I'm up in the air about are:

  • how do we categorize and sort patterns so that they make sense to both the contributors and to the people who might be using the repository?
  • what format do we write patterns in? What kind of stylistic standards do we establish?
  • when is a pattern completed, and when is a pattern considered still in progress?

Thankfully there are plenty of really powerful community tools that allow for the right kind of collaboration, and I think that I can--with time--get it together so that it makes sense for people, the issue is more of a data structure problem.

I think that KnitML will answer a lot of these questions at least in terms of the formating and style (which is the hardest issue.) We're still a ways away on this, but there's progress and I don't think I'm much closer than KnitML to getting the project off the ground, so that's safe. The second group of issues, relating to simply organizing the patterns, I'm thinking less is probably more here, the fewer categories there are the less there is that will make me/us say "wtf" in six months...

Anyway, I've blathered long enough, I'm going to go visit theBoy and maybe get some reading done. We'll see. Here's to more productivity in the future!