We first discussed EEBO’s social networking resource, EEBO Interactions, eight months ago. At that time, there were seven contributors adding metadata to entries; now there are twenty-six contributors and nearly 150 interactions. New features such as “watch this page” and Twitter and Facebook links help contributors keep up with activity on their contributions, or interact with other contributors, or both.
The interface is easy to navigate. Though formatting guidelines list basic HTML code, icons above the text boxes provide instant formatting, eliminating the need for code for basics like italics, bold, or links. (I would be interested in hearing from users who use HTML code about how code is helpful.) Because each revision can be seen by users who have logged in and clicked on a contributor’s activity, writing and revising copy in Word and then retyping it into EEBO Interactions is smarter than composing within EEBO, especially if one needs to check links and therefore save initial drafts. Cutting and pasting also works, but it imports formatting that needs to be deleted. Inserting links to ODNB entries is easy; having those ODNB links within an EEBO entry is a huge benefit to users.
EEBO Interactions will serve the scholarly community well in at least three ways:
- it allows specialists to share information pertaining to little-known works;
- it facilitates collaborative work, something Eleanor mentioned in our last discussion;
- once vetted, the data provided on EEBO Interactions might be forwarded to ESTC which, as Steve Karian suggested in our earlier discussion, would benefit from adapting a similar kind of site.
The possibility for collaborative work seems especially promising, particularly for those working on clusters of under-studied texts and willing to share useful metadata. I wonder, however, whether this potential needs to be corralled. Would it be helpful to provide space on the EI site for “ongoing projects,” where scholars could create rubrics calling for work on specific concerns? I can imagine projects on specific women writers, on the history of science, on printers, on religious networks, and so forth. Each “ongoing project” might list pertinent entries for which metadata has been added. Contributors can leave messages for one another directly on the EI site, which might facilitate discussion of bibliographical problems. An ongoing project on recusant controversial works, for example, might focus on providing names, aliases, and religious names for priests, or build links between individual works and the diverse books and pamphlets to which they responded. This networking effect would be extremely helpful for unearthing the underworld of religious controversy.
Are there better ideas for how to corral the potential for EEBO Interactions? The designers of EEBO Interactions, Peter White and Jo-Anne Hogan, have made clear that they are willing to adjust the site according to users’ needs. They have provided a valuable venue for bibliographical discussion and discovery; it’s now time for scholars to make the most of it.