Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The open access tracking project (OATP)

I've started to tag new OA developments at Connotea.  Over time I'd like to recruit others to do the same.  If we work together, we'll notice many more new developments than any individual or smaller group could notice on its own.  Everything we notice could be OA through a group feed.  I call it the open access tracking project (OATP).  Consider this the launch of the project beta.

The project feed is available in three forms:

The feed already exists.  In fact, you can see the 10 most recent feed items in the sidebar of this blog --and soon, I hope, in many other blogs.

More important, the feed is already more comprehensive than Open Access News.  I know that it's more comprehensive because Gavin and I tag everything we blog.  We also tag a good number of things we don't blog. 

You can participate as a reader, a tagger, or both, starting immediately.  To participate as a reader, just follow or subscribe to some version of the project feed. 

To participate as a tagger, you'll need to create a Connotea account, if you don't already have one.  I recommending putting the "Add to Connotea" bookmarklet on your browser.  When you see a new OA development, tag it with  If you have time, write a brief description in the "description" box of the tagging dialog. 

My rule of rule of thumb here at OAN is to limit new posts to developments from the past six months or so.  I'm using the tag with the same understanding of what counts as new.

Long-term, the tracking project will go beyond an alert system for new developments to a classification system for older developments.  For example, you could mark an article about the NIH policy with oa.article, oa.nih, oa.mandate, oa.medicine, oa.legislation, and oa.usa.  You could tag items by field (oa.anthropology), country (oa.brazil), language (oa.chinese), date (oa.2009, oa.apr.2009), and genre (oa.article, oa.comment, oa.dissertation, oa.presentation).  If an item is not new, then just remember not to use the tag.

At this stage in the project, I don't want to propose a systematic set of subtopic tags (an ontology for OA) or a procedure for developing one.  The project has no official tags except, and is open to any subtopic tags you care to create.  For example, all my examples are in English, but there's no reason why subtopic tags couldn't be other languages as well.  However, for several reasons, it would help if the subtopic tags followed a common format (oa.something).

The Connotea guide includes instructions on how to build an RSS feed for multiple users and tags --for example, for all items tagged by you OR me, or all items tagged AND oa.german.

I'll have more to say about the project in the May issue of SOAN.  In the meantime here are a few quick notes:

  • Connotea feeds only deliver the 10 most recently tagged items, and the project is already tagging more than 10 items per day.  Hence, use a feed reader which refreshes several times a day and stores past items until you've read or deleted them.  Bloglines stores the most recent 200 items, and Google Reader appears to store all past items until you're ready to delete them.  There may be many other readers with this feature as well; I just haven't had time to check.  Note that for now the email feed is stuck with the 10 item limitation.
  • If two or more users tag the same item with the same tag (like, then the item will appear in the feed two or more times.  This doesn't prevent the feed from becoming comprehensive, but it makes an already-large feed larger than necessary.  I welcome suggestions and work-arounds, including other tagging services that don't create this problem.
  • If you're also a blogger, here's what I recommend.  Tag the OA-related items you blog (with Connotea project tags, not just your local blog tags).  That will alert project readers to the item even if they don't read your blog.  If your blog post is an original contribution, or adds a comment to an article or development elsewhere, then tag your blog post as well.  That will alert project readers to your blog and post.
  • Connotea users already use at least four different tags for OA-related sites:  open access, open_access, open-access, and openaccess.  The variant forms make it hard for users to find all the relevant feeds; they also prevent any single feed from taking full advantage of the collective tagging effort.  More to the point for this project, they are not limited to new developments and are often used to tag older developments.  Fortunately, OATP is fully compatible with existing tags.  I'm not asking anyone to stop using existing tags, but merely to start using for developments that are new within the last six months.
  • If you can't wait for the May SOAN for the code to display the project feed on your blog or other web site, just drop me a line.
  • If you're uncertain about any of this, don't feel any pressure to jump in.  I'd be happy for the project to start slow and small, so that we can debug it before it gets too large.  After my SOAN article comes out in May, I'll open a discussion forum for those who really want to dive in.

In my review of OA in 2008, I foreshadowed two crowdsourcing projects.  One was moving my timeline of the OA movement to the OAD wiki.  This is the other one.

Update (4/17/09).  I'm happy to report that I was wrong that Connotea RSS feeds are limited to the 10 most recent items.  Ten is the default, but it's easy to build feeds which contain the most recent 25, 50, 100, or even 1000 items.  For the same reason, I was wrong that the email feeds are limited to 10 items.  If you build an email feed from a longer RSS feed, then the email feed is longer as well.  But you don't have to build any of these feeds yourself.  I've posted a new array of feed links to the OAD page on the tracking project.

Update (4/18/09).  As I mentioned, Connotea feeds include duplicates ("If two or more users tag the same item with the same tag, like, then the item will appear in the feed two or more times").  But like any other RSS feeds, they are beautifully susceptible to mashups.  You can use Yahoo Pipes to create a new feed which filters out the duplicates (thanks to Hilary Spencer).  Here's an RSS feed, for example, which starts with Connotea feed of the most recent 100 items and then removes any duplicates.  It defines "duplicate" items as those with the same URL, regardless of how they are titled or described.  And here's an email feed built from the filtered RSS feed.