Guide to Curating Scholarship from the Open Web: Part 5

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.


Previous parts of this Guide introduced considerations for establishing intellectual goals, a source base and venue for publication, a workflow, and an approach to sustainability when curating scholarship from the open web. This last post provides a checklist of steps and questions for reference.

Creating a Curated Publication

Editorial requirements
  • defined intellectual goals
  • committed collaborators (to expand curatorial interests, labor, reach)
  • set period to experiment and develop editorial guidelines and workflow
  • shared criteria and strategies for selection
  • detailed workflow and logistics
  • approach to financial and labor sustainability
Technical requirements
  • web sources (RSS feeds from blogs, repositories, or journals, Twitter accounts, etc.)
  • website running WordPress, with any desired social media integrated
  • established editorial guidelines, assigned responsibilities, and processes

Step 1:  Identify Intellectual Goals

The first step is to consider your intellectual goals for a curated publication by asking the traditional journalist’s questions in a particular order: whatwhywhowherehow, and when?

  • What is the scope of content you want to distribute?
    • focused on a topic or methodology? represent a subfield, discipline, or interdisciplinary concern?
    • any particular genre?
    • formally published articles or informally published works such as reports, white papers, conference presentations?
    • news items?
    • any unique content or editorial commentary?
  • Why distribute this content? What is your intention?
    • highlight variety of work in the field?
    • collect valuable work in one place?
    • aggregate attention on overlooked material?
    • gather contributions related to a particular event (conference, panel, etc.)?
    • share announcements and goings on?
    • other?
  • Who is your desired audience?
    • has an existing community expressed the need or desire for a new venue?
    • is there a dispersed community that doesn’t recognize its shared interests yet?
    • do any similar outlets already exist for this audience?
    • have there been attempts and why have they not continued?
    • what differentiates your publication from others?
    • do you know how to reach this audience?
  • Where is the content you want to distribute?
    • do you have RSS feeds for the websites, journals, or repositories you want to include?
    • can you draw on collaborators or the community at large to assemble or expand the source base?
  • How will you run this publication?
    • do you have committed collaborators or employees?
    • can you draw on a community effort?
    • where will your website be hosted?
    • do you have any financial or technical support for a trial period?
  • When will you do this?
    • how many hours do you realistically have to give this publication?
    • for what initial period of time will you commit to this project?

After you have thought about these questions then you get to focus on preparing the source base and publication venueestablishing editorial criteria, and determining workflow.

Step 2:  Build Sources and Web Publication

  • Create your source base of RSS feeds in editable spreadsheet
  • Choose a name for your publication
  • Arrange for a website running WordPress
  • Install the PressForward plugin and subscribe to feeds
  • Create social media accounts you wish to use for distribution (e.g. TwitterFacebookPinterestAcademia.eduLinkedIn)
  • Choose the look of the website using a theme (off-the-shelf or customized) to best reflect the intentions of the publication
  • Make sure to practice selecting and publishing content in a private webspace

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

Step 3:  Establish Editorial Criteria

  • Choose a period (for example, 6 weeks) to have all editors review all incoming content in PressForward Plugin
  • Have all editors nominate items for consideration
  • Have all editors add any additional content via Nominate This! bookmarklet
  • Have discussion among editors about which materials to select for distribution
  • Determine the selection criteria for all types or categories of content you wish to circulate
  • Determine the amount of content to republish on your site:
    • title, snippet, and link?
    • title and link?
    • any additional commentary or editor’s note as well?
  • Establish your mission statement and populate “About Page” on your website

You may want to wait until you have an established workflow and confirmed commitment before publicly announcing your website and forthcoming publication.

Step 4: Determine Responsibilities and Workflow

  • How frequently will you publish content on your site?
  • Who will make the final editorial selections: e.g., on a rotating basis or as a group?
  • How frequently do you expect participation in the review and nomination process?
  • Will you open any part of the process to community volunteers?
    • on what timeline?
    • who will oversee volunteers?
  • What are the expectations and process for editors to communicate?
  • Who will handle the soliciting and vetting of original content?
  • Who will organize editorial statements?
  • Who will handle public-facing social media accounts?

Practice publishing content in a private webspace to confirm process and populate site before for the public launch.

Step 5: Outline Community Involvement in Project

  • Will you reveal your source base or all your incoming content?
  • Will you allow community participation in the nomination or selection process as volunteer editors?
  • Will you allow open commenting or public feedback on your website?
  • Does your source base and editorial board reflect your intellectual goals?

Make sure to revisit your publication’s “About Page” and adjust the text as needed to reflect and articulate your goals.

Step 6: Prepare for Launch

  • Have defined and agreed-upon roles, responsibilities, and timelines for publication for a specific period of time
  • Establish the point in the future at which you will discuss long-term strategies
  • Enable your own RSS feed out of your own publication
  • Ask trusted colleagues to review the sources, preliminary selections, and editorial workflow
  • Determine plan for public announcement and launch
    • have material ready
    • know outlets
    • have person in charge of rollout and responding

Once you have a plan and know the timing of your publication launch you can begin to alert members of your targeted community.

Step 7: Consider Sustainability and Viability

  • Continue to review and refine editorial practices as content and editor availability ebbs and flows
  • Evaluate community response to the publication
  • Assess long-term prospects for editor and volunteer involvement
  • Consider sources for long-term technical or financial sustainability

After launch you should continually reassess the scope, processes, reach, and objectives of your curated publication as your community and intellectual goals change over time.

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