Opportunity for A Disciplinary Bulletin Board

by Joshua Tucker on September 1, 2013 · 14 comments

in Academia,Housekeeping

Having just returned from the American Political Science Association annual conference (#APSA2013), I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who took the time to offer their kind words about the move to the Washington Post. It was very much appreciated.

Like the rest of the team, I think there are some enormous opportunities here that outweigh the potential drawbacks of the move, most importantly that we will have a much bigger microphone from which to pursue our goal of making the lessons from political science research available to a larger audience. But I also wanted to take some time to address some of the drawbacks that other political scientists raised about the move in my many discussions these past few days.

1) The paywall at the Washington Post. This is the simplest issue to solve. First, for the next 12 months The Monkey Cage will be outside the paywall. That means everyone can continue to access The Monkey Cage however and as often as they want without a subscription to the Post. But more importantly in the long term, you will always be able to access The Monkey Cage for free if you click to our posts through a link from Facebook or Twitter. We have a Facebook page (located here) and a Twitter Feed (located here). Both of these are automated so that posts appear whenever a new post appears on The Monkey Cage. So if you want to see what we are doing by logging on first to Facebook or Twitter and then clicking on the links for the posts you want to read, you will be always be able to do it this way whether or not you have a digital subscription to the Post. So if you have students outside the US who you want to read the blog, you can just send them to either the Facebook or Twitter feeds. And as these pages are public, you do not even need to have a Twitter or Facebook account to access them.

2) The quality of the comments thread: A number of people (and commentators on our original post) expressed the fact that they had learned a lot from discussions following our posts in the past beyond what was in the post itself, as well as a certain degree of skepticism that these kinds of discussions can continue when we are in a more public forum. This may very well turn out to be correct, but the one plea I would make is let’s just try to see if we can keep up useful discussions at The Post. If those of you who are used to providing thoughtful comments now can at least give it a try for a little while when we move, maybe we can establish the site as a place with a reputation for useful discussion. This may very well be wishful thinking, but I’d hope we can at least try.

3) The final point – which will not be of interest to many of our non political scientist readers – is a sense of regret that The Monkey Cage will no longer be able to function as a disciplinary “bulletin board”. As John noted in the replay to “John Dickey” in the post announcing the move, we will still be able to do a little of this when the issues are of broader interest (i.e., threats to research funding in the social sciences), but the reality is that the extent to which we do this is going to drop rather substantially. I count myself on the list of people who do see this as a drawback, especially because I have really enjoyed being able to make these kinds of announcements in the past! So here my suggestion is for someone to take this as an opportunity to establish something new that can meet this need. We’ve demonstrated that there is a demand for this kind of a service: a place for political scientists to alert one another to interesting developments regarding conferences, journals, resources, etc. We’re no longer going to be able to do it, but hopefully someone else will take the opportunity to build a platform that can fill this void – I know that I would definitely be a regular visitor to such a site. I hope maybe people can throw out some ideas below in the comments section, but I’ll start with a couple thoughts.

First, I wonder how many eyeballs will regularly return to a page that is just a bulletin board.  Put another way, I wonder if it is better to embed this function within another site (like it was at The Monkey Cage) or if it could stand on its own.

Second, I would recommend that someone or some organization actively run the site, as opposed to setting it up as a wiki.

Finally, I think there might be resources for supporting such a site within the major political science associations.  There is always interest in these organizations as to how they can better serve their members; so if there is a demand for this type of product, then it might be a natural fit for the mission of the associations.

As I always, I welcome comments and thoughts.

{ 14 comments }

Matthew Shugart September 1, 2013 at 6:19 pm

The “Political Scientists” group page at Facebook seems to serve a good “bulletin board” function.

Phillip September 1, 2013 at 9:02 pm

An active and informative Poli Sci bulletin board would be great and seems like a natural role for APSA. I pay quite a bit of money to be a member of APSA and I get nothing out of this membership (my library provides me access to all of the APSA journals). I would think this would be a great resource APSA could provide the profession and hopefully they would place this resource outside of their paywall.

Dixie Wrecked September 1, 2013 at 10:29 pm

I’ve never liked the option for comments on any blog, newspaper, etc.

Harry Brown September 1, 2013 at 11:57 pm

As a student, I have been a regular adherent to the Monkey Cage for many years now and it has deeply fostered my interest in Political Science. I believe that the move to WaPo will ultimately allow a greater audience of budding PolSci students gain an insight into the various sub-fields of political science and it will be a utilised resource for a perspective on current affairs from an academic rather than journalistic perspective. It would be extremely useful if a site did take up the mantle of collating the various work of researchers and presenting a bulletin board in order to remain abreast of the latest scholarly works.

Joshua Tucker September 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Harry – thanks for the kind words!

Amie Kreppel September 2, 2013 at 8:47 am

Apologies if this was already asked/discussed in previous post. Just wondering if the email versions of the blog still be sent out to those who subscribed. Self interest really as this is how/where I generally read it (clicking through if I have a comment or want to read the comments or a post is not provided in full).

CJ September 2, 2013 at 11:25 am

@Matthew Shugart

There are many who strongly prefer to not have facebook accounts. They’re easy to miss, for obvious reasons.

Joshua Tucker September 2, 2013 at 3:23 pm

CJ: The Monkey Cage Facebook page is, I believe, available as a
“public” page without having a Facebook account. Perhaps a similar public page could be set up?

Kevin Hill September 2, 2013 at 2:28 pm

“No! Your the rasist!”

“Your a fashist if you believe anything Obozo sez!!”

Sorry, just getting you guys ready for the new WAPO comments sections.

Ugh.

Barry September 2, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Joshua, please read the comments at Wonkblog, and seriously consider how to keep the level up at your new home.

Ryan September 3, 2013 at 12:19 pm

This is good advice. Wonkblog is one place where I’ve steered toward not reading comments/commenting.

Sebastian September 3, 2013 at 1:03 am

I’m generally with Kevin & Barry in my worries about the comments, but then I looked at the last two Dan Hopkins posts on Wonkblogs and there aren’t that many comments and the comments are at least decent – so there may be some hope.
On the more pessimistic side, the only blog hosted at a major publication with good comments is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s and he spends a ton of time commenting & moderating and by now has a couple of community moderators as well. They’re hardcore in banning anyone who’s even remotely trollish and I doubt the WaPo will let you get away with that unfortunately.

We’ll see. If political science were a real science, we’d be able to predict the quality of the comments reliably ;).

Leslie A. Joy September 3, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Hey, I’d really love to talk more to you about this project, but I can’t find an email address on this website. Am I missing it? And if not, what would be the best method to contact you or to give you my contact info?

Leslie A. Joy September 3, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Nevermind. I found it through the link connected to your comment account above.

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