It has been five months since Ant Spider Bee relaunched its site with the WordPress web aggregation and publication plugin PressForward. Thanks to a generous grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, we have been able to pilot this tool as a partner of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. PressForward helps us review a collection of relevant RSS feeds, nominate the posts we deem of greatest interest to our readers, and repost excerpts. By doing the aggregating work of the “ant,” it helps us be the “bee”…allowing more resources for digestion and cross-pollination.
“Digestion” and “cross-pollination” are two main functions of scholarly blogs, electronic publications that may build community and curate, contextualize, or comment on issues in a field of study. Discussing how a tool like PressForward is relevant for scholarly communication, and in particular blogs that engage an academic community with relevant news along with original “gray literature” (meaning not peer-reviewed), was a focus of the PressForward Institute for Scholarly Communication at George Mason University from 13-14 August. We enjoyed meeting RRCHNM staff and learned how to better manage our feeds and share them with others. It was great to meet the other three original pilot partners [PLoS, MicroBEnet, CitizenScienceToday (Zooniverse)] and other participants (including Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory and the Association of College and Research Libraries’ dh+lib).
In these five months since adding PressForward we’ve seen our traffic increase 138%. Still, we ask: what does a successful scholarly blog look like for us, what role does PressForward play, and how can we measure this success?