PressForward for Collaborative Online Publications

PFLogo_transparentI was lucky enough to win a Museum Cross-Pollinator Fellowship to attend this year’s Digital Library Federation Forum in Atlanta (thank you, DLF and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation). There were many wonderful presentations, and today I’d like to share info from one talk about a new WordPress plugin that facilitates the aggregation and curation of online content to create a new sort of open journal.

From the PressForward website blog: “The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, the team that brought you Zotero and Omeka, announces the release of its newest digital tool, the PressFoward Plugin.  A tool for aggregating, curating and publishing content from the web, PressForward will change the way that websites find and publish the news and stories they share. PressForward enables individuals and communities to develop their own aggregated publications and will change the way that journalists, bloggers, and institutions find audiences for their work.”

Good, scholarly, online content proliferates fast. It is nearly impossible for one person to identify all the useful sites where such content is presented. So how do we stay up to date? The model presented by PressForward includes the use of bookmarklets to help aggregate content, and tools for editorial collaboration that allow a team of editors to work together to sift through that content and present it in an online journal for the benefit of all in their field.

To see how an end product might look, visit Digital Humanities Now. A glance at their Editors Corner will provide a full explanation of their process. The site is edited by a group of volunteers. Editors at Large suggest online articles for inclusion in the weekly publication, while other suggestions are collected from commonly cited websites via bookmarklets. The Editor in Chief for the week selects which of the submissions to publish. PressForward works with WordPress, and the final publication can be presented on a standard WordPress site.

Just think how a PressForward online journal for ARLIS might look. Content aggregated from all our websites and blogs, information from other online sources, reviewed by arts librarians, curated for arts librarians. Would it make your job easier? Using PressForward tools, Digital Humanities Now estimates that Editors at Large need schedule only 5 hours a week to work on the publication during their one-week shift. How many editors might we be able to find? Would students completing their Masters’ programs want to participate as editors? Would a publication like this be worth 5 hours every few months? The Editor in Chief needs to spend a bit more time preparing, but with shared editorial responsibility the task need not be onerous.

I was excited by the possibilities of PressForward, and the model of collaborative editing it promotes. Anyone else interested in looking at this more closely?


About HistoryPin

HistorypinHistorypin was created to help people to come together from across different generations, cultures and places, around the history of their families and neighbourhoods, improving personal relations and building stronger communities.”

Historypin, created by the non-profit We Are What We Do in collaboration with Google, provides a platform for sharing and annotating images, audio, and video content. Initially the site was loaded with content shared by more than 100 libraries, archives, and museums. Content has now grown to more than 350,000 contributions from individuals and institutions. The exact (and ever-changing) count is displayed on the home page.

Content can be pinned to maps, allowing visitors to view a rich array of diverse images of their community. Content can be grouped into collections or “tours.” Anyone can add stories or comments to the pinned content. The result is an unusual, compelling mix of curation and crowdsourcing. Looking at content for my own home area, Northern New Mexico, I can see pins from individuals, museums, and universities. It is wonderful to explore, and inspires me to get busy adding some older photos of my own.

How much can one rely on crowdsourced information? That’s going to be a question of increasing importance. In some respects, though, even inaccurate comments or fictitious stories tell us something about the people who shared them, and about what matters to those people. In Historypin, users can report inaccurate or inappropriate content, allowing the community to regulate itself. I would expect that there are conflicts similar to those that arise in Wikipedia related to different interpretations – or in this case different recollections. Historypin does moderate content, but one wonders to what degree that’s possible with content being added quickly.

Among the projects and collections are several related to art. One that’s featured now is Putting Art on the Map, from the Imperial War Museums. Here’s their intro to the project: “From John Singer Sargent to Paul Nash, some amazing artists captured scenes of the First World War. Explore these evocative artworks from the Imperial War Museums, help us improve their locations and enrich them with your comments and stories. Or you can curate the artworks into your own Collections or Tour.” The IWM presents images and information via this project, but it is also looking for help solving “mysteries,” attempting to define the location of an image int he collection, or identify the subject of a portrait.

I can see lots of potential applications for my Library and Archives, rich in visual material and fieldwork.

The site is easy to navigate, intuitive and comfortable to use. Terms and conditions and procedures are clearly laid out (see the FAQ page to get a good overview). Historypin has won a Webby Award for the best Charitable Organization/Not-for-profit website. This one is well worth a little exploration.



Score One for Serendipity

Serendip-o-maticModern search tools and discovery platforms have all but eliminated the joy of the serendipitous find. All of us old enough to remember card catalogs can also recall the pleasure of randomly discovering a useful bit of information or a wonderful book never dreamt of while sifting through the cards in search of something completely different. Some software tries to reintroduce serendipity – the Koha system my library is about to implement has a “browse shelf” feature, for example – but these are wishy-washy attempts at best.

Enter the Serendip-o-matic. Enter text – any text – into the big box and feed it to the hippo (try it; you’ll see). Continue reading