S-USIH Publications Committee Chair report
Spring 2013 membership meeting
by L.D. Burnett
The year in review
The Publications Committee saw a significant turnover in personnel this year. I joined the PubComm in July as its newest member and book review editor, serving with Ben Alpers, our blog editor, and Tim Lacy, who was then the current PubComm chair. After Tim resigned due to job considerations, I was appointed by the S-USIH executive committee to chair the PubComm for the remainder of Tim’s unfinished term. Ben Alpers graciously continued as blog editor, and I invited Mary Ellen Lennon to join the PubComm as book review editor.
The Publications Committee is currently responsible for publishing the S-USIH weblog, including our new separate section of book reviews, and is tasked with regularly publishing a society newsletter. So far, “regularly” has meant once a year; the newsletter that was to be distributed at our November 2012 conference is available for download here:
The Publications Committee would support any decision that S-USIH makes regarding moving ahead with some form of scholarly publication or e-publication beyond the blog and the newsletter, and we would be willing to assume whatever responsibilities connected with that venture that may be deemed appropriately within our purview.
Online publishing issues
This year the Publications Committee made a number of decisions related to the publication of the S-USIH blog
- Partly in response to the unauthorized pilfering and republication of our work on someone else’s site, we adopted a Creative Commons license (linked in the blog’s sidebar) spelling out the copyright terms for all future content appearing on the blog, including reader comments.
- We clarified and systematized the process of inviting / adding new bloggers to our roster: authors interested in a regular blogging assignment have a trial period of 6 consecutive weekly posts, after which point the blog’s editor will make a decision regarding future assignments. Responsibility for running one-time or occasional guest posts rests with individual bloggers, who exercise their own discretion in publishing/editing such posts. Anyone interested in writing a guest post may contact any one of the regular bloggers (profile/email links in sidebar).
- The move to the new platform has raised a number of issues; among these is the issue of commenter privacy. On the Blogger platform, the email / IP addresses of commenters were not visible to the blog’s authors or administrators (though they were without a doubt visible to Google — everything is). On the WordPress platform, the comment function automatically logs a commenter’s IP address / email address. These are not displayed to the public, but they are visible to authors/administrators of the blog. Therefore, the Publications Committee has unanimously agreed to adopt the following policy for the blog and any future online publications/forums for which we may be responsible: the identifying information of individual commenters will be considered private and will not be released by any author / administrator of the blog. This means that blog authors / administrators will not use this information to “out” commenters who wish to remain anonymous/pseudonymous, nor will they/we disclose identifying information to anyone on an individual basis. However, if a commenter is engaging in sock-puppetry (using multiple aliases on the blog at the same time), administrators will alert readers to the fact that this has occurred and will block the email / IP addresses in question. If you have any questions or concerns about this policy, please contact me.
All our authors and administrators participate in the effort to get first-time commenters approved in a timely fashion, while at the same time keeping pharmaceutical ads, ads for offshore gambling sites, etc., out of the mix. This approval process constitutes a significant additional chore, and I want to take the opportunity to publicly thank our blog crew for putting up with the veritable flood of automated “please moderate this comment” emails. If you have made a comment that is still not visible on the blog 24 hours later, please contact me and I will find it in the queue and publish it.
Looking to the future
As part of its ongoing effort to publish content that will both serve the current needs/interests of S-USIH members and further the goal of S-USIH to foster the study of U.S. intellectual history, the Publications Committee would like to propose a survey or surveys in order to gauge member and/or reader interest in current/future projects of the PubComm — perhaps as part of a larger survey of current/potential members of S-USIH. Thus, we would like to propose enlisting the help of a consultant in designing a survey to help assess the needs and concerns of S-USIH members.
Finally, I would like to strongly encourage anyone interested in serving as chair of the Publications Committee to notify Ray Haberski, S-USIH Membership Chair/Secretary, of your interest. Please also feel free to contact me or another member of the PubComm so that we can answer any questions you have. I am still a PhD student and I will be writing my dissertation next year, so I hope that someone will volunteer to run for this position. But if no one volunteers, I will run again. That ought to light a fire under somebody.