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August 3, 2010, 04:43 PM ET

Digital Humanists Unveil New Blog-to-Book Tool

A team of 12 digital humanists came together at George Mason University last week. In seven days, they built a new Web tool that lets users turn blog entries into an electronic book.

The creators intend their new tool, Anthologize, to make preparing a polished product—potentially for publication—a simple, quick process.

Anthologize is the product of the One Week, One Tool program, run by George Mason's Center for History and New Media and supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The program brought together people from a variety of disciplines, including professors in the humanities, instructional-technology staff, and Web developers, for a hands-on learning experience.

The new tool, Anthologize, is a free, open-source WordPress plug-in that lets users organize and edit work from one blog or from many. Users can then export the content as a printer-friendly PDF or in other digital formats. The tool's creators have proposed several potential uses for Anthologize. For example, instructors might compile work from student blogs, or scholars could collect pieces on related topics and edit them into a digital publication similar to a journal.

Still, the new plug-in is not perfect: Its creators acknowledged that when they revealed Anthologize online on Tuesday afternoon. They plan to continue refining it over the course of the next year, and they encourage its users to join in, said the center's managing director, Thomas Scheinfeldt, in the online announcement.

Comments

1. missoularedhead - August 04, 2010 at 05:42 am

As someone who knows one of the participants in One Week, and having read all the tweets and blogposts reporting from the scene, I'm completely in awe of what they accomplished in, literally, one week.

My favorite thing about Anthologize? That despite it being a 'humanities' group, everyone can use this, for everything from recipes and craft patterns to research information.

Bravo!

2. paievoli - August 04, 2010 at 07:13 am

Take a look at www.Flipboard.com
This is an electronic journal that uses feeds from "blogs" and is completely dynamic. In other words as the entries update so does the "electronic journal".
This way knowledge is continually fluid...that is the main purpose of education not static. Start thinking dynamic, I told two friends and so on and so on....

3. amandafrench - August 04, 2010 at 09:12 am

Flipboard is cool, paievoli, but it's a reading tool, not a publishing tool. Anthologize lets you publish your own journal or book to the iPad.

4. emmadw - August 04, 2010 at 09:31 am

Looks promising; though I've not yet installed it (I do have a WP blog). I see that it lets you order the work etc., I'm assuming that if you get it to download all posts or whatever, you've got an easy way of putting them back into chronological order - don't have to reverse the reverse chronology manually...

5. paievoli - August 04, 2010 at 10:40 am

amandafrench -
flipboard.com =
rss feeds from blogs aggreagted into a new blogjournal....
flipboard.com all togther now....
same premise just dynamic...

6. paievoli - August 04, 2010 at 11:01 am

also if the premise is that being an ejournal readers will pay that is also gone....
nobody in academia is paying for content even at ebook prices...
the concept needs to be alternative revenue streams...
it is what made google google and yahoo yahoo and so on...
the model is gone time for a new model....

7. george_h_williams - August 04, 2010 at 12:08 pm

@paievoli: Flipboard is great — we reviewed it at ProfHacker last week — but Anthologize is a different animal altogether.

Flipboard is a web service offered through one site; Anthologize is an open-source tool that anyone can download, install on their own machines, and tweak & customize to their heart's content.

Flipboard formats and sends content to the iPad; Anthologize will publish content in a variety of different formats, none of which requires the use of one particular device or application to read:

* TEI-formatted XML (add a stylesheet and most recent browsers will display it),
* EPUB (compatible with a variety of software applications and hardware devices),
* PDF (similarly compatible with a several applications and devices), or
* RTF (readable by most word processing applications).

As for the premise of the “One Week | One Tool” project, my understanding is that it's an experiment in rapid development of a digital humanities tool in a collaborative environment. As their Web site explains, "One Week | One Tool" was a summer institute that “aims to teach participants how to build an open source digital tool for humanities scholarship by actually building a tool, from inception to launch, in a week.”

I'm pretty sure nothing like this has been done before. What's valuable, I think, is not just the tool that they created (although Anthologize is pretty darn cool), but also the insights that come from the process by which the tool was created.

Check out, for example, the following three posts by Tom Scheinfeldt (managing director of the Center for History and New Media, which hosted the seminar that built the tool):

* “Lessons from One Week | One Tool – Part 1, Project Management
* “Lessons from One Week | One Tool – Part 2, Use
* “Lessons from One Week | One Tool – Part 3, Serendipity

Also, look for a post about the "One Week | One Tool" experience to appear on ProfHacker this afternoon.

8. murleenray - August 04, 2010 at 02:29 pm

Am I the only person noticing the potential for copyright and privacy infringement here? If a person "agrees" to comment on a particular blog, does this imply they agree that their posts can be used in other ways, possibly for profit? Since I'm posting here, does this mean I'm giving tacit permission for someone to use my comments in an editorial content over which I have no control? Hmmm... Even in the wild virtual world, certainly allowing someone to download posts *at will* poses some thorny issues. Furthermore, once the blogs leave the virtual world of their origin, anything that is said has been taken out of context and may be manipulated.

9. 11159995 - August 04, 2010 at 02:38 pm

Not only is #8's concern a problem here, but there is more to scholarly publishing than just reformatting. Where does peer review enter in? How about documentation like footnotes? Talking about "publication" here makes me think that it is a degraded notion, such as what libraries may think they are doing when they "publish" articles by posting them on institutional repositories.---Sandy Thatcher

10. george_h_williams - August 04, 2010 at 03:07 pm

@murleenray & @1115995: All good questions. Note that the tool is open source, so you should feel free to get involved in the Anthologize project and suggest whatever features you think will improve it.

By the way, it looks like our ProfHacker post on the "One Week | One Tool" experience will be not be appearing this afternoon. Perhaps tomorrow...

Stay tuned.

11. gossettphd - August 04, 2010 at 09:59 pm

@emmadw: Anthologize makes a copy of the posts you add to your "anthology," and it's the copy that you can edit and re-order. Your original blog posts are never altered.

@Sandy Thatcher: One of the issues we talked about at One Week | One Tool was footnoting, but we had to put that on a to-do list for a future version of Anthologize. One of the "lessons learned" from this experience was the need to clearly identify the scope of what could be done in 1 week (6 days actually) by 12 people. As far as scholarly publishing is concerned, yes, this is a new model; however, RTF and ePub formats were included specifically for users who would like to submit work more formally to publishers.

12. shirley77 - August 05, 2010 at 05:28 pm

I agree; there's more to scholarly publishing than reformatting. Who cares?

13. clevesque - August 05, 2010 at 10:10 pm

Shirley77,

I can see some utility for this for scholars and others working on something before publication. If a researcher creates a blog as a means of writing book chapters or sections of an article, or a student is working on thesis or dissertation writing using a blog, the tool (once it supports footnotes) could be used to format a final product. Similarly, it could be used with a group blog to select and organize entries from the group for publication in an anthology. I imagine that a tool like this would have made publishing Riverbend's blog, which documents an Iraqi woman's view of post-invasion Iraq, easier.

Just because Anthologize doesn't lend itself to traditional peer-reviewed articles doesn't make it worthless, just a tool for a different type of publishing.

14. paievoli - August 06, 2010 at 02:38 am

Here is a link to an article in the NYTimes regarding the future of academic publishing and its business model.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/technology/01ping.html?_r=1&ref=education
Notice how the archival structure and costs are featured and also disappearing. This came out on August 1.

15. patrickmj - August 06, 2010 at 10:40 am

RE: copyright issues. It's something that we talked about a bit, and about having a statement somewhere to users that they should respect copyright. But, to me that seems like a user issue, outside of what Anthologize has any control over.

Moreover, I don't think this is a new issue in general. Exactly the same issue applies to republishing via RSS feeds on the web. And so, copyright issues with Anthologize, I think, are just a subset of copyright issues with RSS. I'm not sure about the extent to which outputting to additional formats complicates it -- that will be a matter that, hopefully, we never have to get a court-ruling on!

Patrick

16. bdellarocca - August 09, 2010 at 10:30 am

Interesting- both the product and the curricular endevor. I wish it was compatable as a plug-in for all blog platforms; especially Tumblr.

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