Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Housekeeping: Future of OAN

Now that Gavin has departed, and my time is still occupied with other OA work, what will become of Open Access News?

To understand my answer, first allow me to recap a little history.  When Gavin came aboard two years ago, there was already more OA news than one person could cover alone, and with his help we made a substantial gain on adequacy.  But soon there was too much news for two people to cover together. 

If the problem was to cover the news comprehensively, one solution was to add more people.  But it was clear that OAN was already too long.  We couldn't capture everything, but what we did capture was too much for people to read.  The rapid growth of the OA movement made both problems worse because it made the inadequacy and volume of the blog grow at the same time.  (That's why I had to keep reminding myself that this was a side effect of success.) 

So there were two problems to solve --enlarge the scope and reduce the volume.  To solve both at once I decided that we needed a very different kind of alert service, and launched the OA tracking project (OATP) as a scalable alternative.  OATP is more comprehensive than a large blog because it is crowdsourced and distributes the labor to all who want to take part.  It's leaner than a large blog because most of its news alerts are just citations, links, and brief descriptions. 

I could look for other news bloggers to do what Gavin and I had been doing.  But that would replicate one or both of the problems that plagued OAN. 

You knew I was going to say this:  the future of OAN is OATP. 

I'll continue to blog, but only sporadically.  OAN will continue to exist, but its output will be greatly reduced.  Meantime, OATP is a daily, comprehensive source of OA-related news.  OATP's austere format doesn't do what good blogs do.  But it supports good bloggers in doing what good bloggers do.  Bloggers can be selective in what they cover in depth, knowing that OATP is taking care of breadth.  And when they do cover the news in depth, OATP itself will point us to their coverage.

OATP is still in Phase 1, with relatively few taggers and most of them using just one tag (the one official project tag,  In Phase 2, which I hope to roll out later this year, we'll have more taggers, more of them will use "subtopic tags", it will be easier for taggers to avoid adding duplicates to the project feed, it will be easier for taggers to use convergent rather than divergent tags, and it will be easier for users to subscribe to versions of the feed covering just the subtopics they care to follow.

As I note in the sidebar to the right,

You can read the OATP feed on a blog-like web page or subscribe to it by RSS, email, or Twitter.  You can also help build the feed by tagging new developments you encounter.

Please take part, as a reader, a tagger, or both. 

If you've had a widget on your blog running the headlines from OAN, please replace it with a widget running the headlines from the OATP.

Am I deliberately steering readers away from my blog?  Not exactly.  I'll keep blogging, at a low level, and will appreciate any eyeballs that linger here.  But I am deliberately recommending another news source over my own.  I'm doing it to be useful:  it's a better way to track new developments.  It's not a better way to comment thoughtfully on new developments.  But it doesn't interfere with any of the existing ways to comment thoughtfully on new developments, and it will helps all of us find the thoughtful comments people are moved to make.