I’ve long argued that web sites in English studies should be more technically sophisticated. While we don’t have the budget, centralized control, or simplicity of mission of, say, Amazon.com, we should be adopting some of the rich feature sets which make sites like Amazon useful research tools. And we should certainly do a better job where accessibility, findability, stability, and usability are concerned. As I move this argument from conference presentations to publications, I’m considering some empirical work: developing a measurement of quality for the English studies web, considered as a whole, and a more formal assessment of our strengths and weaknesses. I think a data-driven argument will be essential if I imagine my work being used to generate support for the funding which would help address some of our quality issues.
To consider if this project would be worth it, I want to break down the work involved:
- List the types of web sites created or maintained by people and organizations in English studies.
- Find (and/or develop) lists of sites which fit those categories.
- Establish criteria for site quality (keeping in mind variance between types–for example, online journals need more attention to metadata than departmental web sites).
- Develop methods for individual and aggregated evaluation.
- Evaluate a representative sample of sites.
- Consider methods for repeating this work periodically, developing collectively maintained indexes, building automated validators, etc.
While I’ve been thinking about all six of these things lately, the first of these seems, well, more “firsty” than, say, the sixth, which might actually be spread throughout the whole process. So, what kinds of English sites are out there? Here’s the list I’ve come up with so far.
- Web sites
- Organizations (scholarly, student, etc)
- Weblogs (standalone)
- Web-based scholarly editions
- Indexes or meta-sites
- Digital archives
- Scholarship (institutional repositories)
- Primary material
- Social networks
- Facebook-style pages
- Ning-style community sites
- Twitter-style post-streams
- Scholarly journal sites
- Online journals
- Companion sites for print journals
Any others? (Thanks to Chris Morrow for suggestions already integrated above.) There’s a lot more to think about here, and more posts will certainly follow.