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Tomorrow (May 1, 2010) Google will turn off FTP updating for Blogger. The old FTP-based Blogger blogs can migrate to a new Google-hosted site where FTP won't be necessary. If a blog migrates, then all the posts in its archive will receive new URLs, all links to the old URLs will be redirected, all posts will carry their old page-rank to their new addresses, and Google will start indexing the new versions of the posts and stop indexing the old. If a blog doesn't migrate, it will die. Its archive may remain online, but it cannot be updated with new posts.
My days of heavy blogging at Open Access News are behind me. In July 2009, I curtailed my blogging to make room for my new work at the Berkman Center, and in January 2010 I cut back even further --essentially to zero-- in favor of the Open Access Tracking Project, a more comprehensive and scalable alert service for the now very large and very fast-growing OA movement. OATP was not designed to do what OAN once did. But for several years now, the high volume of daily OA news has made it impossible to keep doing what OAN once did, even with an assistant.
Despite that, my plan was to keep Open Access News alive and contribute sporadically. But now Google has forced my hand.
I've decided not to migrate OAN. At first I worried about the risks to the large OAN archive: more than 18,000 posts in more than 400 files. I use the archive every day in my own research and I know that many of you use it too. It's still the best source for news and links about any OA development in the last eight years, and I didn't want to take the chance that even part of it might not survive the migration or might disappear behind broken links. Blogger has been very good about answering my anxious queries and I'm persuaded that the risks are low. But the fact remains that migration is irreversible.
(I especially want to thank Blogger's Rick Klau. He always had time for my questions even though the migration must have caused a huge spike in his workload.)
In the end, a more decisive factor was that I've essentially stopped blogging at OAN and don't have plans to resume. The safest way to keep the archive intact for research is also the most realistic about my future: freeze this blog as it is and start a new one later if I feel the need to do so.
If I do start a new blog later, it won't be a daily news blog about new OA developments. I've been there, and the future for that task is the crowdsourced approach of OATP. But if a new blog wouldn't carry on the job of OAN, then it needn't be OAN. It would be nice to have the old page-rank of OAN, but if I do start a new blog --by no means certain-- I'll start from scratch like everyone else.
I'll still be able to update the OAN About page. If I have any blog-related announcements too late to blog, look for them there.
I've often thanked the Open Society Institute, SPARC, and the Wellcome Trust for the financial support that made OAN possible. But I'll never be able to thank them adequately. OAN was more than a mere job and more than a full-time job. Without their support I would have watched from the sidelines.
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, oa.new). 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,
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.
Gavin Baker joined Open Access News as assistant editor in February 2008, two weeks shy of two years ago. When he started, there was already too much news for me to cover alone. His help was indispensable to the blog and to me personally. After July 2009, when I took a new position and had to curtail my own blogging, he carried virtually the whole, still-growing load at OAN on his own. Today is his last day, and OAN will not be the same.
Gavin was highly qualified for this job on Day One. As I described his background in my blog post introducing him to my readers (February 3, 2008):
In the past two years, his understanding of this topic and the worldwide campaign behind it grew even further, embodied in a daily stream of succinct posts. Behind the scenes he was skilled and dogged at the time-consuming tasks required to blog well: finding the relevant policies of the journals, publishers, projects, institutions, or countries we were covering; discovering whether a development in the news was really new; deciphering gibberish and PR-speak and restating it clearly; gaining access to articles that were not OA; understanding stories or documents not written in English; finding URLs for items to which we'd like to link; and reading long documents in order to select the most relevant excerpts. When a news article or press release was vague on a point important to us and our readers, Gavin often took the initiative to ask the right questions and track down people who might be in a position to answer.
His work at OAN --as well as the OA tracking project-- has been valuable to me, our readers, and the wider OA movement. I'm grateful to him and wish him the best in the next chapters of his life and career, starting with graduate school in the fall.
Postscript 1. For an idea of what he's been up to, see his article, Open access: Advice on working with faculty senates, published just this week in the January issue of College & Research Libraries News.
Postscript 2. I'll soon post more on the future of OAN itself.
For the past two years, my work on Open Access News has been funded by SPARC. My funding ends today, and with it my tenure at OAN.
I'll leave it to Peter to say what becomes of OAN from here. The Open Access Tracking Project, which we launched last year, continues. (Anticipating this moment was one motivation behind the project: anyone can contribute to the OATP feed, allowing the workload to be distributed.)
I give my sincerest thanks to Peter and to SPARC for affording me this incredible opportunity. There are few better ways to engage so deeply and globally with the topic of open access. I've learned so much.
I hope my work has also been useful to you, our readers. It has been a challenge and a privilege to make sense of the world of open access and communicate it to you. Thank you for your support and engagement.
As for me, I intend to begin work on my Ph.D. in the fall. Until then, I'm available to work on new projects: if you have any ideas, please contact me.
Thanks for reading, and for all you do.
Keep in touch,