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Simple Station, Mediacore, and the Engine Behind Indie Music for Haiti

Simple Station HQ in Victoria, BC

We at Simple Station are really excited to have partnered with ServInt and Asparagus Media on the Indie Music for Haiti (IMFH) project. It was an great opportunity for us to help the cause in a way that fit a core principle of our business: design for social impact.

In the first team meeting, it was clear we wanted to be able to start dialog around music and videos. Not only was it important to us to be able to post music and allow users to comment, but users should also be able to submit their own music for consideration. In order for the best content to float to the top, users need to be able to rate content, and the number times each song was played had to be tracked as well. To manage all this data would require a robust administrative back-end that was still simple and painless to use, so Fritz and his team at Asparagus Media could manage the whole operation without any trouble..

We chose to base the whole project around the MediaCore Open Source Audio/Video CMS. We built MediaCore over the last year, and have been using it in production for a number of different client projects. It’s got a really sleek and very configurable presentation to the user and, for administrators, it is pretty much a dream management tool. It is built on top of Python and uses the TurboGears2 and Pylons frameworks for the heavy lifting. We deployed it on a CentOS, Apache and MySQL stack in just an hour. We did have to spend some time in customizing the platform to allow Youtube and Vimeo URL’s to be submitted, but that was something that we had been wanting to do for a while, so it fit right in with our development schedule. The really fun part was customizing the whole thing to fit the visual theme our team wanted to promote.

From a design perspective we wanted to keep things pretty simple and minimal, while allowing the words and the music to do the talking. We chose a raw, hand-drawn typeface for the official logo, and selected a palette based on earth-tones to convey the grassroots feeling we were looking for. You’ll notice photos from the kind folks at Voice for Haiti in the background, which we posterized and worked in gently. One thing we really wanted to avoid was screaming at users, or conveying really graphical pictures of the gravity of the situation in Haiti. While we didn’t want to make light of the situation, we also didn’t want to twist any arms in forcing donations by putting people in desperate need on display. The mission of the site should speak to the need for donations, people know what happened in Haiti, and we hope that the design conveys a sense of peace and unity in a way other sites perhaps are missing. Imagine the concept of a site for Indie artists whose music is inspiring people to donate to people in need. Innovative concepts like this one should inspire and illumine thought, not depress it.


The whole project was officially launched last week. ServInt generously has provided the hosting, their team has been great to work with, and I can’t say enough good things about Fritz and his team over at Asparagus Media. Fritz single-handedly worked his way through a lot of the content issues on the site, and when we caught a few legal issues, he reached out to a few of his contacts and managed to get some great legal advice pulled together for the Terms of Service for free at the last moment. Great job all round and a resounding applause for the Indie Music for Haiti team.

Interested in using MediaCore for your project?

MediaCore is free and open source under the GPLv3 license! Try the demo and download the complete source.

We are planning a major release (0.8) with a vastly improved frontend, more flexible file management and improved accessibility for disabled users. The release is planned for mid-April, and if you’re interested you can sign up for email release notifications.

If you are a developer or designer feel free to get in touch with us, and we’d be happy to work with you in getting MediaCore rolling for you.

We’re also looking for volunteers to contribute to the MediaCore Open Source project. We are looking for help with marketing, promotion, and development. If you are interested please email jobs@simplestation.com.

Stuart Bowness is the Founder, Creative Director, and Lead Interface Designer for Simple Station.

Fearlessness: 25 Years of dotcom and ServInt’s 10,000th Turn-Up

On Being Fearless

When ServInt was founded in 1995, there were less than 18,000 dotcoms in the world.

That fact, according to an article on CNN.com yesterday, is pretty jarring when you think about it. It truly emphasizes just how much of a frontier the Internet was for entrepreneurs. How so many companies, in the shadow of the giants (at the time) at Netscape, AOL, and others, got started by refusing to believe that innovation was purely a numbers game.

Nearly everyday there are seismic shifts in how we do business online. While the Internet certainly shrunk our world by opening up new, relatively inexpensive lines of communication internationally, it arguably also did the opposite in many ways. The Internet expanded, exponentially, the size and scope of the planet from an intellectual and communicative standpoint. No longer were we limited by continents and language, we were free to do and say as we pleased in a new network of ideas. New markets sparked by young ambition sprang out of tiny packets of 1′s and 0′s traveling at the speed of light. Borders became more and more irrelevant and a new kind of global technologically-centered culture began to flourish.

Yesterday, the dotcom Top Level Domain turned 25 years old. ServInt also recently completed our 10,000th turn-up. These are two very different events with very different scopes, of course, but they’re noteworthy for the exact same reasons.

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ServInt, 15 Years In the Making

Elegant Complexity

15 years ago, I founded ServInt.

The odds were very much against us at the outset.  I was 19 and I didn’t have any connections to the industry, much less the capital that would be necessary to start a company of our scope today.  What I lacked in funding, I made up for with sheer, unadulterated passion for building a rock solid business on the web.  In my mind, the only things we needed to be successful were a coherent vision and geek cred, and ServInt would have both in spades.

From the beginning, the difference between ServInt and the competition has always been our level of accountability.  We wanted businesses of all shapes and sizes to be able to trust us to ensure they stayed up and running.  The things that many folks take for granted, such as 24/7 support, were things we had to develop from the ground up…and when I say ground up, I mean me waking up at 3 am to update someone’s server in the next room. Ah, simpler times indeed.

Today, we have staff all over the U.S. serving customers from all over the world.  More than 30% of our customers are in Asia, and we continue to have a dominating presence in North America and Europe, we are a truly global company.  From our Managed Services Team in Virginia, to our network engineering teams in Washington, D.C., Virginia, and California, all the way to our Enterprise Sales teams in Michigan, it shows just how far we’ve come from the early days in ServInt’s infancy.

We’re a healthier, smarter, and faster company now than we’ve ever been, and these last 15 years have been a blast.

This year, we have a lot of really exciting projects we’re working on.  In the coming months, we’ll have new products competing in new markets, paving the way for a future that further enables businesses to grow, and keep growing, with ServInt.

Traditionally, a 15th anniversary is represented by a gift of crystal or a watch.  Both are symbols of longevity, rigidity, strength, and transparency.  Like a crystal, ServInt has a clear focus that has been shaped and refined by our experiences in this industry.  Like a watch, we have stood the test of time, and our product has an elegant complexity shaped by a combination of open source expertise and the attention to detail only true craftsmen could supply.

I think that image is fitting, and I want to personally thank all of you for trusting us with your business.  You are, and will continue to be, an integral part of our success.

Here’s to another 15 years.

2009: The Year of ServInt. Happy New Year!

Should Auld Acquaintance be forgot...

This has been an incredible year for ServInt. Despite one of the messiest economic downturns in history, we’ve been able to grow bigger, stronger, and more global, all the while maintaining the quality of service our customers have come to expect from us.

This isn’t always easy. Staying competitive in this industry requires a tremendous understanding of just how to properly create, build, promote, and launch a product or solution. Judging by the number of fly-by-night companies that started, and ended, in 2009; it serves as a powerful reminder that a good network, copious experience and open accountability are the most important aspects of any business and they are especially important to ServInt.

Here is a quick recap detailing a few of the biggest events this year for ServInt!

More after the jump…

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