Pool FAQ

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What is The Pool?

A project of the University of Maine's Still Water program, The Pool is a collaborative online environment for creating art, code, and texts. In place of the single-artist, single-artwork paradigm favored by the overwhelming majority of documentation systems, The Pool stimulates and documents collaboration in a variety of forms, including multi-author, asynchronous, and cross-medium projects.

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How many Pools are there?

The Art Creation, Art Reference, Code Creation, and Code Reference Pools are currently active, with Text, Theme, Application under development. The Creation Pools (for Art, Code, Text, and Application) are all based on a genre of work in the Pool. The Reference Pools offer a way to find and rate projects outside The Pool.

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Can I get a tour?

You can take a walkthrough of the interface.

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Why should I float my project in The Pool? Why not just link to the project on my home page?

The Pool thrives on collaboration. Instead of a one-to-many model present with many developers' pages, projects in The Pool are free to work off of each other.

Say you're browsing through the Art Pool and see a really great idea ([intent for a Web site. You're a great coder, and you'd like to see the site launched. Anyone is free to use the intent to create an [approach (a method of implementing the intent) or a [release (an actual implementation). Even if the project already has a few approaches, you're free to put your own spin on it and create another approach or release.

The Pool goes well beyond implementation, though. Many people are creative, but they don't know how to program or design in order to carry out their idea. In The Pool, a person can submit an idea; anyone else in the Pool can then take that idea and either rate it or implement it. That's what distributed creativity is all about.

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How can I ask a question not on this list?

Please email us at pool DOT culture AT umit DOT maine DOT edu.

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What will I need to surf The Pool?

The Pool requires a Windows, Macintosh, or GNU/Linux computer with a screen resolution of at least 1024 x 768 pixels. If you don't have the Firefox browser, download and install it from http://getfirefox.com. (Windows Internet Explorer may be used as a last resort, but some parts of The Pool may not work correctly.)

Launch this browser and go to http://pool.newmedia.umaine.edu/. You may want to expand your screen to its full size (manually or using the button in the Options menu at top).

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What are the purposes of the different parts of the interface?

  • Left column: unrated projects.
  • Right basin: projects rated by approval (good stuff floats to the top) and recognition (more reliable ratings float to the right).
  • Top: collapsible menu, which offers
    • Filters for author and subject.
    • Title search box.
    • Graphing options to make the layout more accurate or more legible.
    • Links to other Pool features.
  • Detail panel--accessed by clicking on a floating title--which offers
    • A navigable version stream (little boxes on left).
    • Description and other information about the project.
    • Reviews of the project to date.
    • Relationships between this project and others in The Pool.

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How can I find a project in The Pool? There's a lot of fish in there!

In the Art Pool:

  • Filter on a theme, author, or rights from the collapsible menu at top of the Art Pool, or
  • Search on a title.

In the Theme Pool (to come):

  • Click on a theme from the Theme Pool and then select a title.

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What's a version stream? What is the difference between an intent, approach, and release?

  • A version stream is the sequence of variations that the project has been through to date; you can navigate this stream by clicking on the little buttons on the left-hand edge of a detail panel. A version stream can include:
  • intent: A paragraph describing your idea for a project.
  • approach: An online document or media file that fleshes out how your project would look or how it might be built. Approach types include
    • Conceptual
      • outline, proposal
    • Perceptual
      • parti, rendering, simulation, storyboard
    • Technical
      • diagram, pseudocode
  • release: A working prototype or public version that others can debug or use.

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How do I join The Pool?

You can sign up right from the home page. And you can always log in via a button in the Options menu at the top of the Pool interface.

After you join the Pool, in the future you will be able to select My Account from the top menu to add some information about yourself. (Content in this panel will fill up once you add some projects and reviews.)

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How do I add an intent?

From the Options menu at top, select add art creation and click on each field in the tabs, completing the form each time:

  • Intent: Put the project title here.
  • Attribution: Add yourself.
  • Description: A paragraph or two.
  • Behaviors: Click on each behavior to see a definition at left, then check off all that apply; for example, a Web site might be encoded, networked, interactive, and duplicated. (These medium-independent behaviors will help future re-creators build releases for your idea, possibly in mediums you might not have anticipated. For more on behaviors, visit http://variablemedia.net and navigate to terms > behaviors.)
  • Subject: You can select multiple themes by clicking the plus. If instructed to do so, include the name of your class, eg nmd306-2009. For a list of current themes, visit http://newmedia.umaine.edu/pool/themes.html.

To submit or cancel your input, click on intent and select the appropriate button.

After input you will return to the Art Pool, where your intent should be visible in the "unrated" column at left. It will be easier to find using the tools in the collapsible menu (accessible via a tab at upper right).

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How do I add an approach?

Click on the title of an intent floating in the Art Pool to open its detail panel; then select its intent (the first box at left) and click + Add approach. Then fill out all the fields.

If you're not sure what the options mean, click the help icon (?) to learn more.

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What types of approaches can I add?
  • Parti
    A single image that serves as conceptual point of departure or evocation.
  • Rendering
    An audio or visual impression of the imagined look of the final project.
  • Outline
    A hierarchic list of bullet points, especially as preparation for a text to be written.
  • Diagram
    A flowchart or other visual representation of the code structure.
  • Simulation
    An interactive mockup of the project, typically in a medium other than the final intended medium.
  • Proposal
    A textual or media-based proposal for the project, typically including budget and timeline.
  • Storyboard
    A sequence of cartoonish screenshots that shows how a linear or branching sequence of the project would unfold.
  • Pseudocode
    A shorthand "English translation" of programming code.
  • Direct Implementation
    None of the above--the creators just went directly from intent to release.

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More questions about approaches
  • For Type, what would you call a Web site?
    Probably a Proposal or Simulation. A proposal is a text-based documentation/business plan for the project. A simulation actually tries to show what your hypothetical project would be like to use, screen by screen.
  • What's the difference between url and source url?
    "url" is for the primary approach Web site. "source url" is for a page of links to source files such as .psd or .fla that you used to make the approach. It's an optional field, but it's useful in case you want someone to take your idea and develop / remix it under a "source license."
  • What is the description, and how long should it be?
    Doesn't have to be terribly long--maybe 2-4 sentences. It should summarize what direction this approach takes--what you decided to do with the intent.
  • What do I put in the attribution fields?
    Whoever worked on it, and what role they played. Contributors can play more than one role.
  • What do the little icons next to attribution mean?
    The roles each person played: perceptual (lightbulb), perceptual (eye), technical (gear), and/or utility (saw).
  • What do I do when I'm done?
    Just click the submit button in the final tab.
  • How can I revise an approach if I mess it up?
    Navigate to the approach again and click "edit approach" from the detail panel.

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How do I add a release?

Find an intent in the Art Pool, click to open its detail panel. Click on the version boxes at left to decide which approach (if there are more than one) you'd like to add a release for, then click on + Add release for that approach. The rest of the process is similar to adding an approach.

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How do I delete a version (intent, approach, or release)?

You shouldn't have to. One of the purposes of The Pool is to document the stages of the creative process, which include dead-ends and first drafts. Rather than try to delete one of these, just add a new approach (after selecting the intent ) or release (after selecting the latest approach). Reviewers will skip the older version and review your new one.

If you really want to retract something embarrassing, you could edit and delete the content of that version (adding the phrase "Content deleted"). But that won't change its past reviews--and other viewers may not understand why you got the reviews you did if they can't see what your approach looked like at that time.

If you feel your idea needs to be changed drastically, you can add a new intent and add more approaches or releases to that. If you do, make sure you add a relationship (via the Project Panel) to indicate that your older project is a predecessor for your new project.

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How do I add a reference?

Choose Add Reference from the Options menu at top, then input information on the reference to the Add Art Reference panel. This will require a teensy bit of research--fill in as many fields as you can:

  • The author.
  • A url (for the work or documentation on it, eg in Wikipedia).
  • The date it was published/created (check Wikipedia--a year is sufficient).

Submit, open your project panel/s, and cite the reference as predecessor or whatever.

You can find more detailed instructions for adding a reference to the Pool Walkthrough, also accessible via a button in the top menu.

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How can I edit the details of a reference?

Suppose you incorrectly described Pac-Man as a game designed for the Atari 2600, when in fact it was designed as an arcade console for Japan in 1979, three years before it was available in the US. (How embarrassing!)

If you open the 'add reference' panel and search for the reference, it should appear in the dropdown box. If you select the title out of that dropdown and do not type anything in the title field just below it, you will edit the old reference. You will still need to complete the rest of the reference panel normally, but the reference will be revised.

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What rights can I retain over my approaches and releases?

When you add an approach or release, you can choose to retain any of the following rights. Permission for reuse is then automatically granted under those conditions. Uses outside of these restrictions may be directly negotiated with the creators. Note also that the restrictions creators place on their artifacts may be overridden by Fair Use conventions, but that these vary from country to country.

Attribution: The original credits must be incorporated verbatim into the artifact produced by the reuse. For example, the composer of a song with this restriction must be listed in the credits of a video if that song is used as its sound track.

Noncommercial: The reuse is not for profit. For example, an audio file with this restriction could be used as the sound track for an educational video available for the cost of shipping and handling, but not as the soundtrack for a BMW commercial.

Registration: Any reuse must be registered in a particular community network. For example, someone who reuses a script from one of the Creation Pools would need to add a reference to their derivative work in one of the Reference Pools, with a relationship (such as Transforms or Uses In Combination) back to the original script.

View Source: The source file/s for the work must remain accessible to the public. For example, a song created with a music editor like Fruityloops must be released in both its final (mp3) and source (.flp) formats. (The Combinations and Transformations rights dictate whether reuse includes the right to modify such source file/s.)

Combinations allowed: The work can be combined with other material to create a new work; for example, a JavaScript could be used to make a Web site.

Sharealike Combinations: Whatever license terms restrict the original artifact must restrict other works combined with it in the future. For example, if a composer makes her song freely available for noncommercial purposes, then a video incorporating that song must also be available under the same terms. Also called "copyleft".

No Combinations: The artifact must be presented as is, without its incorporation into or combination with other artifacts in the same or other media. For example, a song with this restriction must be played alone and cannot be edited or incorporated into another song or video.

Transformations allowed: The work can be changed to create a new work; for example, a song could be speeded up, re-orchestrated, or remixed.

Sharealike Transformations: Whatever license terms restrict the original artifact must restrict reuses as well. For example, if a composer makes her song freely available for noncommercial purposes, then a remix of that song must also be available under the same terms. Also called "copyleft".

No Transformations: The artifact cannot be distorted or re-edited in its original medium. As long as the creator hasn't selected 'no combinations,' it may still be combined with other artifacts provided its original form remains intact. A song with these conditions may be reused as the soundtrack of a video if aspects like tempo, pitch, and instrumentation aren't modified.

Custom: A sentence or paragraph indicating special license terms not reducible to a combination of the yes-or-no choices listed on this form. Example: This song can be remixed by anyone not currently employed by Walt Disney Corporation. (max 255 characters)

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Can I use any combinations of rights?

Yes, except for these constraints:

  • ShareAlike is incompatible with No Combinations.
  • No Combinations implies No Transformations.

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Can I make money off a work and share it at the same time?

Yes! Distribute your work with a Noncommercial provision. That way, if anyone wants to commercialize your product, they have to contact you to negotiate a special agreement. (The licenses in The Pool, like those of Creative Commons or the Free Software Foundation, only say what others can do by default without your permission. If they want to negotiate another kind of use with you individually, you can do that independently of the default license you offer the general public.)

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What do you mean by share responsibly?

To encourage the ethic of sharing behind The Pool, we ask that everyone who makes a work derived from an idea in The Pool 1) credit the original author and 2) re-register their re-use back in The Pool by adding a relationship to the new project.

We don't want to control how you distribute your stuff; you've got lots of choices in the license terms by which you share your individual bits of music, code, and so forth. But many people have worked hard on the projects they share via The Pool; at a minimum, we are just asking you to let them know they inspired you.

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What rights should I give a reference?

If the reference doesn't already include a copyright or "Terms and Conditions" notice, assume the author wants "all rights reserved."

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How do I review a project?

Find an intent in the Art Pool, click to open its detail panel, and select which stage of the version stream you plan to review. (This is important, because an earlier stage might stink while a later one might have been improved.) Then click + Add review and fill out the form.

10 is best, 1 is worst, and N/A means you cannot evaluate this aspect--either because you do not feel qualified or for technical reasons. Choose N/A for an aspect that is irrelevant to the current format; for example, there is rarely any point to giving a static image a technical rating.

It's very important to receive constructive feedback in an environment like The Pool. Instead of e-mailing the project author(s), you can review the project right on the site. You can give a description of what you think of the project technically (how it was actually implemented), perceptually (how it looks), and conceptually (how good the idea is). Note that not all stages of the version stream can be rated on all criteria. Intents, for example, are just paragraph descriptions, so you can only review their conceptual merit.


Type a brief, non-evaluative explanation of the stage you are reviewing. This is useful because all of the projects described in The Pool live out on the Internet, where sites are born and die with some frequency. If you can supply this, you will help future surfers imagine projects that might have been quite worthwhile but that have succumbed to technological obsolescence or some other form of digital oblivion.

You don't have to rehash the intent for approaches and releases--just explain what was different about the new version.

Don't include opinions of the work here--enter them in the fields below.


Rate the idea, including its coherence, relevance, originality, and interest.


Rate the look and feel of the project, including color, font, sound, layout, and other perceivable design elements. (Art Pool only)


Rate the way the version functions, either as code, hardware, or performance. Try to weigh both positives and negatives; you might an ambitious but slightly buggy programming effort higher than a simplistic but bug-free version.


Rate how useful this version is, especially in practical, real-world applications. (Code Pool only)

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How do I add a relationship between projects?

Click on a floating project title to open its detail panel, then choose Add Relationship. (This option is available at the project level rather than at the level of an individual version.)

To see if someone has already added a reference that you'll be using in your relationship, filter for it in the appropriate Reference Pool. Or just click on the Add Relationship link in the project's detail panel, and type the first three letters of the title to see if the reference is there already.

If the reference is already in The Pool, fill out the Add Reference fields and submit. If not, add the reference first, then the relationship.

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What sorts of relationships can be established between projects?


This project uses another project as one of its components, without altering it. For example, a video could use an mp3 as its soundtrack, or a Web site could use a JavaScript to open new windows.


This project alters another project rather than simply using it in combination. For example, a musician could change the tempo or instrumentation of a music file, or a coder could rewrite a JavaScript.


This project refers to another project in a footnote or hyperlink. For example, a text on media could footnote Lev Manovich's book The Language of New Media.


This project was influenced by, made in reaction to, or resembles another, but the relationship is less direct than combination or transformation. Neither author need even know about the other. For example, the browser-crashing Web sites of jodi.org in 2000 have a precedent in Nam June Paik's violin-smashing performances from 1960.

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What are more examples of these relationships?

Relations within the same Pool

  • The code Tiled Window Opener uses in combination the code Client Detect to tell which browser the user is running.
  • The artwork The Unreliable Archivist transforms the artwork ada'web by recombining its parts into a new interface.
  • The artwork Ms. Pac-Man transforms the artwork Pac-Man by retelling the original story with slightly altered characters.
  • The text At the Edge of Art cites the text The Global Village in a footnote.
  • The artwork DeskSwap has a predecessor in the artwork Desktop IS because they both distribute images of the users' desktops, albeit through very different communities and techniques (peer-to-peer versus HTML meta-tag).

Relations across different Pools (Art, Code, and Text)

  • The artwork West Side Story transforms the text Romeo and Juliet by retelling the story in a different setting and time period.
  • The text "Memory, Archive, Database" cites the artwork The Unreliable Archivist by describing it in the body of the text and giving the artwork's url.
  • The artwork The Unreliable Archivist uses in combination the code Client Detect by detecting the browser type to assure compatibility.
  • The artwork The Butterfly Effect has a predecessor in the text "The Garden of Forking Paths" because the movie and story share themes of individual choice and collective destiny.

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How can I graph these relationships?

Click the Map Relationships link in the project panel.

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Who can assign these relationships?

Any logged-in user can assign a relationship between two projects, but the number and kind of such assignments affects the strength of the relationship. A relationship assigned by a descendant counts more than one assigned by an ancestor, and a relationship assigned by an ancestor counts more than one assigned by a third party.

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How can I contact the creators of The Pool?

Please email us at pool DOT culture AT umit DOT maine DOT edu.

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How can I suggest an aqueous metaphor?

We keep a list of metaphors right next to the diving board in your lounge. Coming soon, you'll be able to add your own through a project called the Aqueous Metaphor Index. Until then, read through these swimming lessons again and call us if you need a life preserver.

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