Friday, February 8, 2008

A Blog Carnival / Journal Proposal: The Past Discussed Quarterly

PDQ Submission
The Past Discussed Quarterly will be a journal published four times a year. There’s no intention to compete for the same market as any other journals, nor to replace weblogs. Instead the journal is a bridge between bloggers in the broadest sense and non-blogging academics. The journal will be available as a PDF for free under a CC licence and paper format at the minimum allowed cost via Lulu. The journal will reproduce articles and entries from weblogs, providing a citeable format for people uncomfortable with citing weblogs. Additionally it’s intended that an XHTML or TEI format will be archived, initially with Tom Elliott and hopefully later with ISAW. This will provide a permanent curated archive for webloggers’ work. Submission will be similar to a blog carnival, though the need for permissions to re-print entries adds a little more to the process of submitting.

Deadlines for Submissions will be the ends of February, May, August, November. The entries will be blog posts which are open for comments.* The journal will be compiled starting the second week of March, June, September and December with the intention of being complete by the end of that month.

To enter an article a blogger will email the editorial panel (method to be determined) and display a PDQ button somewhere on the blog entry linked to a page explaining what PDQ is. Use of this button will signify that that the blogger is allowing his or her entry to be in PDQ and released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence. It sounds like a cunning way to gain links to the site, but it also has another function. We’ll need a positive action by the author to show they’re willing to be included. Adding a button is easier than faxing a form to a central point. All entries will be reviewed by an editor and any changes emailed back to the author. Entries may be full-length academic works, though I’d recommend submitting to a more prestigious OA journal, news commentary, reviews, sample photographs of collections available under a Creative Commons licence, opinion or anything that would be of particular interest to an ancient world blogger. That would include The Lost PowerPoint slides, if Mark Rayner is interested in contributing.

The inclusivity is important. Bill Caraher raises several good points in his post Blogging, Peer Review, and Scholarly Publication. Weblogs are anarchic in a positive sense of the word. Making blogs more like academic papers would be a bad thing. We already have academic journals for academic papers, even if the publishing system needs a shove towards Open Access. Blogs are fast, eclectic and interactive. That last point in particular is important. I read weblogs and if they’re anonymous I don’t know if I’m reading a professor’s thoughts, or a students, or an ex-graduate or someone who’s simply interested in the past - and it doesn’t matter. What matters is the writing interesting. The blogs I read take the same view, it’s not the status of the individual, but the argument that matters. That critical approach should be the spirit of academic inquiry. For that reason pseudonymous bloggers should be welcome without having to lose their pseudonym.

Although the deadlines are quarterly, a blog post does not have to have been written in that quarter to be eligible for entry. A blog post written at any time is eligible. Given the journal is based in open accessible material, prior publication is not an issue. However, some bloggers may have many good posts in their archives, so perhaps a limit of two opinion pieces / academic notes per issue may be a useful limit. Multiple reviews and CFP notices are welcome. Just because something has been reviewed by one blogger there’s no reason why another reviewer should not offer a different opinion in the same or later edition.

The refereeing process will include reading the comments posted on a blog entry, so at least some of the refereeing will be transparent. Bloggers will know which editor is working with their entry. It wouldn’t be fair of one of the parties to be anonymous. This works on the assumption that participants are capable of acting like reasonable human beings, which would seem to be justified.

After the deadline for submissions has passed there’ll be at least a week before compilation starts. This means that entries submitted just before the deadline are open to commentary for at least seven days before the post is entered into the journal. During this period entries will be start to assigned to volunteer editors to work on. Any edits will be emailed back to the author for checking and, if accepted compiled into the journal.

The time period and geographical scope could be a problem. I don’t know what the likely submission rate will be. It’s possible that Bronze Age to Late Antiquity in Europe and the Near East would fill out an edition. On the other hand people may be busy. Is ancient anything before AD 800? Or anything before 1492? Would pre-columbian material from the Americas be suitable? My own tastes tend to be pretty catholic and I think anything pre-Renaissance world-wide would be a reasonable range, plus the effects of the ancient world on the modern, like Classical reception. Additionally cross-period discussions are interesting. If there are posts by different authors on the landscape of Classical, Medieval, Post-Med and Modern Italy referencing each other then why not include the posts from the later periods together with the earlier posts as a section? My wariness of being fully open to all periods stems from needing to be able to manage the publication. There’s a lot of 20th century history blogs for example. That could lead to a lot of entries. If the historical blogging world (I refuse to use the word blogosphere) expands, that would add further pressure.

This wouldn’t prevent the information and experience being passed on to other people who might want to set up a Modern equivalent.


Other notes:
The name. I don’t know about elsewhere but in the UK PDQ stands for Pretty Darn Quick. It’s a slightly frivolous name, Ancient Quarterly would be more serious, but this is a journal / blog carnival hybrid. Even though I use the word journal above, there are journals and there are journals. The purpose of this journal is to show off the advantages of blogging. Interactivity is one advantage, the speed of getting ideas out and feedback is another. Rather than trying to emulate traditional journals, this would be an opportunity to offer something new. On the other hand if PDQ really puts people off, then AQ would be the better name to go with.

Editing. In a perfect world, this shouldn’t be much more work than putting together a blog carnival. In reality the proof-reading and confirmation of edits will take time and this is something done in spare time, not as a job. Tom Elliott has suggested a managerial committee of 2-3 people, with an additional 2-3 people working on each issue. The problem with having a lot of editors is that organising them becomes a full-time job. As Tom will be handling the archiving and I expect to be converting the edited blog entries from from text or Word files into PDF and XHTML, I think we’d be obvious initial choices for the management committee with a third member Given the lack of a Late Antiquarian, Medievalist or Biblical scholar I think a volunteer from one of these fields would be helpful. Additionally we’ll need volunteers from any fields to edit the first couple of issues.

Ongoing running. The journal will need a homepage to list the editions and to explain what it is. I thought would be a suitable host for this. It has the ability to have a static front page and host other static pages. The stats package with it should be able to track links using the journal’s button, which might help if people forget to email in their entries in. On a weekly basis a list of submissions could be posted here for anyone who wants to comment on entries before the edition is compiled. Additionally calls for papers and volunteer editors could appear here, so the journal website is for hosting the journal rather than diluting the discussion on this weblog.

Timescale. If you look above I said that the first deadline should be the end of February. If you look at this as a blog carnival, and that older posts are acceptable submissions then this doesn’t sound as mad as setting up a journal in a few weeks. I picked those dates because they’d best fit around the UK terms. If terms in other countries are radically different then it may be better to shift them.

If we keep this under discussion for another week I can set up the infrastructure next weekend and that would leave two weeks for people to submit material for the first issue. That’s about normal for a typical blog carnival. In the meantime if you want to write for the inaugural edition it’s three weeks’ notice.

* Except for David Meadows’ Rogue Classicism. It’s a feature of the weblogging software that he uses that inline comments aren’t possible. It would be insanity to turn him down if he were willing to contribute.


Sebastian Heath said...

This is exciting and I love how it's come about.

I have two "dotting i's and crossing t's" legal concerns that I have to preface by saying that "I am not a lawyer".

Does distributing via Lulu count as non-commercial? Money changes hands and I don't know that or their printer don't make some profit, even if you stick to the minimum cost.

I've just checked the full by-nc-nc license. Para 4b seem most relevant:

You may not exercise any of the rights granted to You in Section 3 above in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation. The exchange of the Work for other copyrighted works by means of digital file-sharing or otherwise shall not be considered to be intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation, provided there is no payment of any monetary compensation in connection with the exchange of copyrighted works.

In spirit, PDQ is ok. In practice, I don't know.

Also, Alun wrote that "Use of this button will signify that that the blogger is allowing his or her entry to be in PDQ and released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence". I think that would require new legalize making this clear. Why not just say use the pdq icon and make an explicit reference to the license. Then all is done and no further wrangling is necessary.

Not meaning to be a legal concern-troll here. Just wanting to get the legal infrastructure of this form of publication right the first time.

Sebastian Heath said...

p.s. Tom, I'm happy to help with the markup.

Archaeologyknits said...

This sounds like an amazing idea, I would love to get involved in any way possible to see help it get off the ground.

Charles Ellwood Jones said...

I'm in!

Bill Caraher said...

Despite my sour grapes post from yesterday, I am interested in the idea. I am an Late Antiquitist as well, if that helps any.

Good luck and feel free to lean on me .

Alun said...

Licencing is always a problem when money changes hands. The source articles will all have their own copyrights, ranging from all rights reserved through to CC-BY. To be able to serve the articles freely realistically we need permission to distribute them with at least a BY-NC-ND. That means that legally, contributors shouldn’t find their work on Wikipedia being edited by other people, or for sale in an essay bank against their will. The electronic copy is non-profit.

The paper copy is raised questions because you can’t print and ship a paper copy for free. What I propose is that we set the creator royalties on Lulu to 0%. That would make a 50 page A4 print £3.15, which I think is around $6 US. That’s around 6p a page and the photocopiers I tend to use in the Sackler are 7p a page at the moment. What you’d be paying for with the hard copy is the printing, not the articles. I’d be astonished if Lulu weren’t making a small profit off that, but non-profit printers are hard to find. The question is whether that would be an unreasonable profit, and compared to photocopy charges I think not. Additionally with the CC licence on the printed edition too, it’s permission to photocopy the whole journal if needed. Currently in the UK, only one paper per journal can be legally copied if I remember correctly. In the long run I hope the paper copy will be purely ceremonial and if people need printed copies they’ll be printing from the freely downloaded PDF or the archived XHTML.

However, I’ve had a couple of emails from a small society who are keen on the concept of being able to produce much cheaper hard copies of their journal than their current publisher. I’d like to be able to should that hard copies are feasible on a low or zero budget publication. Being bloggers it can be easy to forget that not everyone is connected or happy with the internet, and those who are might not be on broadband. That makes big files difficult to download. While the PDF and XHTML editions with colour photos, and embedded hyperlinks will be the superior version, for some readers the printed version will be more accessible. For the foreseeable future paper isn’t going to go away.

We also need the right to be able to reproduce the articles in a variety of media including those which haven’t been invented. This sounds draconian, but it’s essential for digital conservation. If XHTML or PDF were to be readable forever, then the files wouldn’t need conserving. It’s that fact that the formats of 50 years time are unknown that makes this necessary. On the other side, this would be a licence not a copyright. If the author wants to print off their own book with their PDQ article in it, or use it as the basis of a Wikipedia entry or a Knol, they can do what they like with their article.

I think legally authors will be permitting reproduction of their work and permitting sub-licencing through Creative Commons, rather than CC licensing their work themselves. I only did homicide in my Law A-level, and I really hope that's not applicable. :)

I think it will be necessary to make clear that if there’s a price tag next to a copy of the output then it’s not a matter the journal making money off the back of this. It’s worth bearing in mind for the future though, because if a book were to be compiled and sold through Amazon, then profit becomes a problem again. Selling a book through mainstream retail channels doubles the price, and there would be a cost publishing it.

Alun said...

Committee-wise it would make sense for the managing editors to be Tom, Sebastian and myself as I hope that between us we'll cover the technology side of publishing. That would mean that Charles, archaeologyknits, and Bill would be the first issue's editors.

IF we want to hit the end of February deadline, then we'll need volunteers for the second edition soon as well. On the other hand the first issue might well need some leeway on the deadline.

I am wondering about the name. I like the pun PDQ, but 's difficult for me to pronounce. Past Quarterly may be better, or something else?

david meadows said...

I agree that the name might have connotations which might not be desireable -- the pretty damn quick analogy might give it a 'cheaper' patina (in Canada, in addition to 'pretty damn quick' pdq is also 'province du quebec'); why not just PD (the past discussed), which also would allow a smooth transition if the publishing schedule increased or decreased (pd also is "professional development" in some circles)?

mike said...

In missionary organizations, PD is "partnership development" - i.e. raising support.

I'm not a big fan of either name, but I think that AQ would be the better one.

Archaeologyknits said...

I guess one of the big things at this point is to attempt to get stuff in for the first deadline. One good way may be through blog carnivals, something like FSH which I think is this next week.

Shawn Graham said...

Count me in too (technically, I'm a Romanist).

PDQ I thought was a great name, but I can see the problems. AQ sounds good, but would that rile a body like Antiquity? Discussing the Ancient World Quarterly - DAWQ?

Alun said...

I think David raises a very good point about PDQ. If it is about about being internet-positive to a community that's unfamiliar with the less formal nature of blogging then PD would be the better name.

If anyone has something better or more appropriate we can go with that. I don't do titles very well. The only other unused title idea I have lying around, which was rejected for another project, is Proheritination, which I worked out was the opposite of Procrastination. I don't think that would be a helpful title.

Sebastian Heath said...

I sort of liked PDQ. A little bit of irreverence may keep us all honest. Here's what else it can mean. Overall, I'm not picky. I am, however, game to be part of moving this forward.

Bill Caraher said...

I like PDQ.

Just so I can envision this, will PDQ have a web page that will have our archived blog posts aggregated? Is this where the PDQ button will be mounted? And it will presumably be searchable, tagged, et c.?

Do we want to solicit good quality posts for the first volume as a way of telling folks "no this isn't a joke, and yes, we have thought this through"?

Do we want to have some thematic unity to the volumes? This might provide a bit of structure and plant the seed in the mind of bloggers to write a blog at a particular moment or give a lingering proto-blog some polish. Moreover, it will make the volumes more coherent and useful for scholars who already fear the chaotic eclecticism of the blogging world (aka blogosphere).

Just some thoughts.

Archaeologyknits said...

Here is the call for papers I put in to FSH, I am trying to come up with other good places to publicize it, so if you have any thoughts, let me know.\

Also,as I said to Alun, if we need someone to work on the final layout, I can do some of that in Illustrator.

Shawn Graham said...

I'm wondering about links in the blog articles, and how these will be represented in PDQ. Lulu takes a Word document and converts it into a straight pdf, no fanciness. When I put together my best-of-the-blog experiment with Lulu, I elected to turn all of the links into footnotes with the full url. This was cumbersome. I wonder if there is a better way?

On a related note, I wonder about the form of citations in blogs (and hyperlinking as a way of indicating authority). I mean, as academics we're all trained to provide proper referencing etc, but I can imagine non-academics having relevant material to contribute. Would PDQ impose some sort of uniformity or policy in this regard? And if it did, would we be losing something?

Archaeologyknits said...

In response to citations etc, we might just be able to take care of this with the editing process.
Have editors review the pieces and return them with edits, basically pointing out necessity for citations etc.
One possibility to aid in the URL thing would be to just insert the url in parentheses where necessary.

I think we do want to stick with citations etc, since the point of this is to go somewhat beyond blogs and make things available for use by scholars.

Archaeologyknits said...

Let me just clarify that last post, citations should be put in where necessary.

Basically, one doesn't want to get somehow accused of infringement etc. or end up with some problem over distribution. There are of course many potential blog posts to draw from that won't require notes on sources.

Duane Smith said...

I 'm a little late to this party but I very much like the idea and will be happy to assist in any way I can.

Christopher Jones said...

Late here as well, but I'll be keeping up on this discussion; it's a great idea.

Mark said...

Thanks for thinking to include me in your call for entries. I'll have a look at the licensing agreement and get back to you by next week. I think if I send one set of Lost PowerPoints that shouldn't pose a problem for other publishers. Cheers! Mark

Archaeologyknits said...

I think maybe if this is being considered for inclusion in 1.1 of PDQ, you might think of rewriting it or editing it to include changes and developments that have come since it was first posted. Think about including your article on the re-thinking the blog carnival, so that they are a single piece.