By Jamie Oberdick
After a successful initial release, Information Technology Services (ITS) continues to develop LionShare, a peer-to-peer (P2P) technology that enhances academic collaboration by enabling efficient and secure file sharing.
ITS developers released the LionShare 1.0 version at the Internet2 member meeting September 20, 2005 in Philadelphia. The release of LionShare 1.0 marks the culmination of more than two years of Mellon-funded research and development by ITS, Internet2, and Simon Fraser University in Canada.
LionShare enables users to exchange academic and research-oriented files of all types and sizes, including text, audio, image, and video. Michael Halm, LionShare project director at Penn State, said that LionShare is extremely useful as a research and partnership tool. "LionShare securely connects faculty, researchers, and students to each other through a closed P2P network that allows the sharing of photos, course materials, research, personal collections, and other types of materials that typically aren't accessible using current technology," Halm said.
"LionShare's P2P technology also optimizes bandwidth consumption, which makes it ideal for sharing extremely large files," Halm added. "Faculty from any discipline can send large files such as video, data, and images to their peers in a matter of minutes."
LionShare users at Penn State are giving it high marks. During the summer and fall 2005 semesters, Penn State students from several sections of English 202C, an upper-level technical writing course, tested and evaluated the LionShare software in classroom usability studies for undergraduate populations. Abram Anders, a Sparks Fellow and instructor of English 202C who is now very familiar with LionShare software, finds the restricted access and authentication features extremely useful for faculty. "With LionShare you can choose, down to the individual, who can and cannot access your material," Abrams said. "The authentication and authorization processes built into LionShare, which other typical P2P technology does not provide, allow individuals on the network to control access to their files in addition to promoting responsible sharing by network users."
Along with access control, LionShare's organizational tools also include automatic "metadata" features to assist in storing and quick retrieval of file contents. Metadata is descriptive information such as file names or file descriptions that search functions can use to easily find a certain type of file such as audio or video, or a file regarding a certain subject. Along with the automatic metadata feature, users can also add their own metadata information such as course numbers.
Other LionShare capabilities allow users to search a variety of external academic and research databases for access to an even greater source of files. These external repositories and databases include SMETE, RDN, Ariadne, EdNA, CiteSeer, and many others, providing access to literally hundreds of thousands of files covering a wide variety of subjects.
Along with file sharing and organization, LionShare facilitates collaboration through chat and instant messaging capabilities. For example, after finding and downloading a shared file, a faculty member can send an instant message to a colleague alerting them of the find, or send one to the file's originator to find out more information.
LionShare version 1.1 will be released later this spring. The new release will include enhanced file organizing tools and a LionShare chat room to allow users to create custom chat groups for direct interaction within a course or research group. LionShare technology will not be limited to Penn State, but will allow universities worldwide to collaborate through use of its file sharing and communication tools. Along with providing access to current external academic repositories, the LionShare team is currently working with Oxford University to help them build their own LionShare P2P network.
Back at Penn State, this semester the College of Arts and Architecture is working on a project with LionShare. The college is scanning a variety of images into LionShare to build a comprehensive repository, ready for sharing by current and future LionShare users.
More information, including how to download LionShare, can be found at http://lionshare.its.psu.edu/main/.