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Plumi is Critical for the Commons

This post was previously published in the official Plumi blog


We are excited to write about going live after smooth cooperation between Anna Helme, Steve Anderson, Erik Loyer and The new version adds significant improvements to the overall functionality and stability of the site, plus allows easy uploading of media files and commentaries.

Critical Commons Home Page (2012)
Critical Commons Home Page (2012)

Critical commons is a video site built on Plumi. It is a collaborative online teaching tool for cinema studies, and a project designed to push the boundaries of fair use in an educational context.

Critical Commons was initiated by the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts Institute for Multimedia Literacy, and was officially launched in 2009 at the Digital Media and Learning ( and Open Video Alliance conferences. It was originally built by EngageMedia and Infinite Recursion on an earlier version of Plumi.


On Critical Commons an educator can upload clips, attach commentaries and build lectures based on these clips. Other users can add commentaries to existing clips throughout the library. Clips can be embedded in other websites and, at the same time, it serves as a media repository forScalar, an open-source media-rich scholarly publishing platform.


New features include the following:

  • easier registration for advanced users (users fill in the form and admins get informed to approve the application),
  • easier addition of media files (video, image, audio), commentaries and lectures,
  • addition of genres and browsing through genres, for media files,
  • improved search functionality,
  • all features of Plone 4.x, that make it faster, more stable and lightweight, with improved UX etc,
  • the features of Plumi 4.x, for example, the mediaelementjs HTML 5 video player with Flash fallback and the new transcoding daemon of Plumi.

Migration approach

The previous Critical Commons website was built on Plone 2.5 and a heavily customized fork of Plumi 0.2. We reimplemented all the customizations on top of the latest versions of Plone and Plumi in the form of two separate opensource components for Plumi 4.x, one for the content (criticalcommons.content) and the other for the skin (

Our goal has been to keep existing functionality, improve user experience, make one site viewable on desktops, laptops and mobile devices and migrate all previously published content. We exported all content from the old site in JSON format and then imported it on the new site.


The code has been released in the following two packages:

Critical Commons Skin:

Critical Commons Content:

Plumi also benefited from this. We made improvements to the transcode daemon, tested Plumi on mobile devices and committed code that will be contained in the upcoming Plumi 4.5 release.

Further plans

Future plans for development include the addition of user channels, better integration with social media and use of Popcorn.js to enable time-based interactive media.

We would like to thank Steve Anderson and Critical Commons for giving us the chance to participate in such an interesting and inspiring project.