CCC online, sorta

For some time now, I’ve wanted to write about the problems with CCC and the CCC Online Archive. But I’ve waited, out of respect to its maintainers, Collin Brooke and Derek Mueller, and also in the hopes that some clarity would emerge from NCTE/CCCC. Now quite the reverse has happened, since it’s been decided two web editors are needed for the CCCC web presence, one for a new Web 2.0 thingee and one to manage “CCC Online.” This is the second time the latter has been posted.

Steve Krause wrote a fantastic post on this problem which provides much of the backstory and some excellent critique. I can’t say it much better than he did, so this is repeated: given the history with CCCOA, the underestimation of the amount of work involved, and other problems fairly obvious with the NCTE/CCCC/CCC web presence, it’s unlikely the people in our field who are most qualified to do this work will apply. Like Steve, I’m aghast at “actual programming or Web building is not required”–but more so at “no more than 5 to 10 hours per month will be required.”

The (re)appearance of these postings makes Deborah Holdstein’s editorial in the December 2008 issue even more confusing—if these new positions were in the works, why didn’t the editorial mention them when explaining the decision to split articles between print and online versions? Holdstein writes not about “CCC Online,” but “The Extended CCC:”

[We decided] to keep the print journal as the autonomous, significant publication it is and make the online component—now called the CCC Online Archive—a research resource rather than some form of competition with the print journal. It was believed—and I still believe—that the journal would then be perceived as a “two-tier” publication that would not serve our readership or authors well.

However, I now envision something of a compromise, although I still believe firmly that an online component to CCC, as decided unanimously by yours truly and the other officers in 2004, should be limited in its scope. […]  This will be called “The Extended CCC,” and it will look just like the print journal on your screen. In this way, the contribution will have the still-relevant and still-dominant authority of the printed word, but we will make space in the print journal for traditional scholarship, in that the rest of the review or feature will be online.

This “The Extended CCC” (TECC?) is already up; it’s a section of the CCCC web site, branded thusly, including tables of content for CCC back to February 1997, Volume 48.1. For each article, there’s a link to a PDF (no metadata, no tagging) and a single keyword: “College.” Many articles have abstracts. But it’s not clear which articles were wholly printed and which are print/online hybrids (the “making space” Holdstein notes above). In other words, TECC is a second issue archive, vastly inferior to (and ignoring) CCCOA, which provided meaningful keywords, categorized articles following the scheme used for the annual conference, displayed works cited and citing (including forward linking for CCC), and covered 10 more years of back issues. I write “provided” because as Collin recently reminded us, CCCOA was knocked back on its heels when NCTE web staff changed CCC link formats without telling him. So in effect, we now have two archives, one which is little more than a tree of shoddily created PDFs, and one which used to be amazing but is now largely broken.

How CCC Online will fit into this is anyone’s guess. The editorial in the February 2009 issue offers no further commentary on the subject. Perhaps Holdstein isn’t suggesting a way forward because she wants to let the next editor (Kathleen Blake Yancey) make those decisions. Certainly understandable. But if that’s the case, I think it’s a mistake not to say so–though not serious an error as CCC turning its back on CCCOA.

For me, the way forward is to torpedo the print version. Kill off the notion of archives separated from and largely ignored by a journal. Put the whole thing online–not as PDFs, but as web pages. With numbered paragraphs and careful CSS, the articles would retain the crisp citation focus and clean reading structure when printed. Buy a real domain name. Make good URLs and/or buy into DOI or similar programs for persistent linking, and linkrot won’t be an issue–and members will be able to suck CCC content into their existing weblogs and social networks. Double the frequency of publication, and make it clear shorter articles are as welcome as long ones. Actualize the vision of CCCOA and extend it by providing an API other journals can use to crossreference their sites. And let’s dump that paywall and go full on open access. By doing so, the CCCC leadership would make a very bold statement about the importance of scholarship published online.  All possible if we stop paying for paper, ink, and press time.

For a few years now I’ve wanted Composition Forum to collaborate with other journals, including CCCOA, to create a web of citation and metadata, which raises the visibility of our scholarship. I still plan to push forward standards for online journals and journal web sites which will get writing studies out of its current web funk. That work has gone slowly, in part because I’ve been finishing up some other things, but also because of the research load (learning metadata standards and investigating the projects and codebases which are already doing many of the things I’d like to see CF do). Now I know another core element of the advocacy I must engage: encouraging Yancey and others involved with NCTE/CCCC/CCC to stop thinking of the journal as distinct from its web site. Instead, the reverse.

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