Guide to Curating Scholarship from the Open Web: Part 2

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This Guide is part of a series that reflects on three years of research on sourcing and circulating scholarly communication on the open web. In the coming weeks we will share our discoveries, processes, and code developed through rapid prototyping and iterative design: the PressForward plugin for WordPress; the collaboratively-edited weekly publication Digital Humanities Now; and the experimental overlay Journal of Digital Humanities. We hope these resources will encourage and assist others who wish to collect, select, and share content from the web with an engaged community of readers.

Part 2: Establishing Sources, Publication Venues, and Editorial Criteria

After you and your collaborators have an initial agreement upon the intellectual goals of your curated publication (namely what, why, who, where, how, and when), you will need to build your source basedevelop a web presence for your publication, and establish editorial criteria.

Build Your Source Base

Begin to identify the websites and Twitter accounts you think will provide valuable content for your publication. By creating a list of the syndicated web feeds (RSS or Atom) from these sources in an editable spreadsheet such as Excel or Google Docs first, you will be able to adjust and maintain a copy of your subscription list that you can export as an OPML file whenever you are ready to set up your feed aggregator. You are not limited to curating content only from these web feeds, however since the PressForward plugin’s Nominate This! bookmarklet enables user to capture an excerpt and attribution for any content on the open web that gets added to the nomination pool. And as you continue to identify sources that regularly provide content of interest, you can always add to your subscriptions.

Develop Your Web Presence

In order to publish online, you will first need to identify a host for your site and choose a title. You may choose to pay for hosting and buy a web domain for your publication, or obtain institutional hosting. You should install WordPress as the content management system for your site, or choose it from the options provided by your web host. A basic WordPress installation will allow you to create and publish posts, but you can customize your site through the use of plugins that provide an easy user interface for additional functionality and control. You will need to install the PressForward plugin to provide the aggregation and review environment (updated June 2, 2014: now available in the WordPress plugin directory and through the administrative dashboard).

You can influence the look of your website by choosing a theme, and you can either stick with the default setting, or customize it by modifying the layout, fonts, and colors. You can even choose a theme to reflect the intentions of the publication. Perhaps you would like to look like a newspaper, or formal journal? Present a lot of content, or have fewer, larger features? You also can choose ways to build out your site, such as enabling commenting, displaying live feeds from social media, etc.

In addition, you will want to start identifying and creating the social media accounts you wish to use for distribution of your curated content (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Academia.edu, LinkedIn).

As you begin to develop your site you may want to keep the URL private, or have a static homepage, while you practice selecting and publishing contents. You may also choose to keep posts and pages private. Likely you will want to wait until you have established a workflow and confirmed commitment before making a public announcement.

If you are new to WordPress, there are free resources online and many universities offer training courses.

Establish Editorial Criteria

The best way to develop your editorial criteria is to coordinate a period of time to practice reviewing, discussing, selecting, and republishing content in a private space. Once you have identified your initial source base you can begin to aggregate all your content in the PressForward plugin so your editorial group can review and nominate content for dissemination through your publication. Editors also can suggest additional material they discover on the web via the Nominate This! bookmarklet and continue to expand the source base.

As you begin to consider development, you can have editorial conversations using the commenting feature in PressForward or shared documents. In-person or interactive meetings are the most conducive to discussing the selection criteria for the type and quality of material you wish to distribute through your publication. This criteria may include attention to genre, authorship, source, or topic. It also could include consideration of altmetrics (such as number of comments on a piece, number of downloads, or engagement on Twitter).

As you begin to come to some agreement on the desired content for distribution, next consider how you want to display content on your site. Will your readers find a title, snippet, and link? Do you wish to add any additional editorial commentary to contextualize the selections? Will you provide an image, a quote, or something else?

At the same time you practice selecting content, you also should practice publishing the selections on your private web space to confirm the process. Sometimes seeing material in its published form can help you re-evaluate editorial priorities and determine the best method for presentation. As an added bonus, you will begin to populate your site prior to its public launch.

While you are having editorial conversations about content selection and presentation, you should also spend some time populating the “About Page” on your website. You can draft a version based on your initial editorial goals now and revisit them throughout the process.

Look for the next post to address workflow and logistics!

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