Should i delete my wordpress blog?

This question was asked many times in the internet. Most people think they have it to answer with yes or no, but instead given the direct answer it may be interested to a draw a scenario case. The question is, what will happen if the own blog is shutdown? The most prominent result is a message from WordPress which is “website is no longer available. The authors have deleted this site.” This message is shown if somebody types in the URL. Unfortunately the archived version at archive.org isn’t effected. On archive.org the crawled content is stored forever. That means, the user has not the full control over his content and deleting the content is not possible.

What the user can influence is the future behavior. If he forgets his own password, he can’t add new content to the blog. That means the website will become pseudo deleted, because it gets no fresh update. What is the advantage of loosing the ability to post content into the internet? One result is, that the amount of consumed hours is lower. If somebody hasn’t to write a blog article he can do in the same time other things. Another advantage is, that the possible frustration is lower. If no article was published, the traffic of that article and the amount of comments can be ignored. And a third advntage is, that if the amount of information in the INternet is lower, it will be easier for Google to find the relevant information more quicker.

Advertisements

Understanding the Open Access conflict

Why is the definition of Open Access so complicated? Because each actor in the game has a different goal. The most talks about Open Access were initiated by the academic libraries. They are introducing to the audience a wonderful future in which information is free, and the libraries and the customer are not forced to pay money to get access to content protected information. The funny point is that this point of view was not discussed with the other actors before. Instead the libraries are the only one who think that information should be free.

What they have to offer is not the answer but the libraries are asking for Open Access. They have a demand for Creative commons licenced paper and they have a need for Open Access gold. What the libraries are not explaining to the public is, that the details of this transformation are not invented yet. If major publishers are talking about the future of information distribution, Open Access is only one subject among other. That means, Elsevier/Wiley and Springer are not informed about the vision of the libraries. And if we are asking the authors who have to create all the content, they have a complete different vision which is far away from open Access.

If we want to know, what Open Access means, the libraries are the first choice. They have made lots of talks about the subject and know the details about the wonderful future. The libraries can also explain well why the public profits from the transformation and how Open Access helps to bring education forward. It is important to know, that the libraries are speaking not for all players in the game, but they are only provide the need of the customers. The libraries are not able and not interested in answering how the Open Access movement should be financed or what the individual author has to do. The libraries are playing basicly the role of a customer who is visiting the supermarket and has a long list with wishes. The customer is interested into fresh fruits, a great service, tasty cake and other products. And he doesn’t want to pay to much money for it. What the customer doesn’t answer is, how the supermarket should provide all the products.

It is important to understand that the customer of supermarket isn’t speaking for the supermarket. He is playing the social role of somebody who is interested in the products. The supermarket itself has different kind of needs. Sure, he interacts with the customer but the supermarket is playing his own game in which the customer is only a part of it.

Let us describe where the border is between libraries and publishers. The libraries can’t manage the employees of the publishers and the libraries can’t tell to the author which papers they have to create. These systems are located outside of the libraries. The library is only able to formulate a request to these systems. The reason why is simple: because the library doesn’t know what publishing is nor what authoring is. They have no idea about the costs in a publishing house, and they have no idea how long it takes to create new content. And most libraries are not interested in the details, because it is not their game. They are calling themself libraries and book archives, but they are not publishers or authors.

To understand the overall workflow it makes sense to put the actors into basket. In the first basket, the users of a library, the university and the library is located. They are summarized as content customers. What they have in common is, that they are searching for existing information and they are interested in customer friendly licenses like Creative Commons. In the second basket the publishers and printing houses are located. Names like Elsevier and Wiley are part of this group. And in the third basket the content authors are within.

What all these actors are doing is to interact with each other. They have different needs and services which are offering to each other. And each of the actors has a different understand what the future is. The good news is, that the demand of libraries was clearly formulated. The libraries are interested in not paying anything, they want creative commons licences and they are asking for a higher quality. It’s important to know, that the current publishing system is not able to fulfill these wishes. Because in the current system copyright protected papers behind a subscription paywall, low quality content and powerful publishers are the reality.

So the library customer asks basicly for a system transformation. New players in the market can anticipate what will get important in the future. They will become successful if they deliver what the libraries need. That means, newly academic publishers has to aware from day 1 on the needs of Open Access. They are forced to reduce their costs to a minimum. A market transformation is the chance to overcome existing problems and make the system attractive for something which works better.

The only option which is available for publishers is, if they are improving their workflow with all available technology and if they are using the author pays model for creating new content. This results automatically into predatory publishing. Because the publisher is under pressure and is trying to compete in the market. Let us describe the typical predatory publishers. In most cases, he is using an all-digital workflow, the process is outsourced to a different country and the author has to pay the APC charge to the company to get published. No peer review, no proofreading and no formatting is done by the predatory publisher to safe costs.

What i want to explain is, that if the library as a customer asks for Open Access the only allowed answer to this request is predatory publishing. It is not possible to fulfill the Open Access needs with a classical publishing house which is using obsolete mechanical typewriters and who are paying the authors for creating content. Open Access is the request of the customer and predatory publishing is the answer of the market. If the libraries are asking for more open access they will get more predatory publishing as answer.

One question wasn’t answered yet: why are the libraries so powerful that they are able to transform the existing market? Because they represent a large amount of customers. Most demand for worldwide academic literature is initiated by the libraries. Each student in the world goes to the library house if he needs literature. And these students who don’t a logging in from their home computer to the library network for doing online research. Apart from academic library there is only a small demand for literature. And in most cases, the libraries are speaking for these customers as well. Today, around 200 million students are available in the world at the same time. The libraries are representing their demand for literature. If the library have a wish, the market has no choice than to fulfill the need. Let me give an example. Suppose a meeting is there between the library delegation and the press speaker of Elsevier. The press speaker comes in blue colored suit. Unfortunately, the library delegation doesn’t like blue very much. They want to talk only with the other side, if they are wearing a green suit. What will happen? it is easy to answer. The Elsevier press speaker has to change it’s wardrobe as fast as he can to make the customer happy. And if doesn’t do so the talks are stopped and the press speaker will loose it’s job.

That’s sounds a bit weired, but that’s the rule of the market. The customer is always right and everybody how thinks different will go bankrupt.

Quality improvement in the digital age

Amazon KDP has published a guideline https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200952510 which creates pressure to the authors of content. If i understand the concept the right way, the amazon customer can press a button if they found a mistake in the book, and if too often the button was pressued, the author gets first a warning and later the ebook is banned from the Amazon store.

It is important to read carefully through the quality list to understand how the measurement works. Possible pitfalls which can happen in a book are:

– typos

– metadata problems

– blurry cover

– low image quality

– formatting problems

– wrong links

– duplicate text

Apart from this easy to fix issues, the Amazon customer can also report more serious problems which is called “disappointing content”:

– redirects the user to external websites

– content who is advertising for other products

– content who is too short

– recycled content from other books before

– poorly translated text

The interesting point is, that the customer never say that a certain book was nice to read, but the standard interaction is, that the customer will press the “found a mistake” button with the aim to ban a certain book from the store. As a result, the authors life in permanent fear of a demanding audience who is always right and will criticize any mistake. What is missing right now in the list of issues, is that the price of the book is too high. That means, if the customer doesn’t get the content for free, the price was high and the book should be banned from the store. That means, any author who is not working for free is guilty.

Why the libraries are always right

Libraries are organized bottom up by the readers. Most employees in the library are convinced regular readers of all kind of books and they have to do with million of customers who have the same need. A library is the collected voice of the readers. It make sense to hear what they want.

It’s important to understand that libraries are customers. They have the need for getting new books and they want to search in existing knowledge. The question is how provides the service for the libraries? The classical services are provided by book publishers, but in the internet age Google become also important for libraries. What the libraries and the customers of libraries are doing is to ask for books and to ask for digital information.

With this kind of background knowledge it is easy to predict who will win in the famous battle between the libraries and Elsevier which is called project DEAL. The libraries have to win. Because they are speaking as a collective voice of the single students in the libraries. And Elsevier has to obey what they want. This is the market principle known as total customer orientation.

Let us hear what the libraries want. If the negotiation with Elsevier from an objective point of view, the libraries want that Elsevier put all the existing content under a creative commons license. The libraries want also that the Elsevier company is going bancrupt and doesn’t earn a single cent with book. Because this will help the public to get the information they need. The libraries are speaking for the public and Elsevier is boycotting the needs.

The interesting fact is, that the libraries are powerful enough to realize their wishes. And as a result, Elsevier will going bancrupt. Or to be more specific, it wont earn their revenue with a subscription fee but has to refinance the costs somewere else. Not by asking the library for money but asking the authors for money. And exactly this movement is called Open Access. It means, that the classical business model of Elsevier goes bankrupt and that the company puts all the content for free into the internet.

It’s important to understand that the library are not higher authority, and doesn’t own the license of books, but the library is a super customer. Under the platform of a library, many thousands customers are summarized who are reading day by day in printed and electronic books. And if this supercustomer get’s angry the market has to listen carefully and do what he wants.

Have the library to critize the publishers in the name of their customers? They have any right in the world. If the library says, that the subscription rate of Elsevier is to high, the service quality is too low and the DEAL negotation doesn’t make progress, the library is right. It is up to Elsevier to adept and make things more comfortable. The reason why the library have such a mandat is because they have thousands of readers behind them. The library are speaking in the name of the consumer and they need a much stronger voice. Most textbooks provided by Elsevier are too expensive, have a lot of typo errors and forbid the student to make a copy of the material. This condition can’t be accepted. It’s up to Elsevier to improve the situation and deliver a better quality for a lower price.

How exactly Elsevier will reach this goal is up to them. They can reduce the loan of their employees or they can ask the authors to pay the price. It’s not the problem of the libraries to give advice how to manage a book publishing company. All what the libraries have to do is to ask for better books and for lower subscription rate.

Sometimes the negotation between Elsevier and the library in the project DEAL is described as a peer to peer negotiation in which both actors have the same right. No it is not. The situation is asymmetric: the libraries are the master and Elsevier has to obey. If Elsevier doesn’t fulfill this social role, the library have to increase the pressure. Which means, that they are allowed to raise the voice, because they are the boss. The boss is allowed to critize the subordindate, but never the other way around. It is hierarchical structure topdown from the customer.

A customer is not negotiating with the company, a customer gives the order and he punish if the order is not fulfilled.

Can we change academic publishing?

What we call academic publishing is the result of what scholars are doing. Author #1 prefers a certain publisher, while Author #2 has a different kind of preferences. There is not best practice method, guidelines or the right way of bringing a manuscript online. Even the Open Access movement is only one option under many.

Controlling the single decisions of the author is not possible. And especially phd students and longterm professors are not motivated to obey any policy apart from their own. The only way to lead the system is to describe the current options in a meaningful sense. If somebody is able to provide a tutorial how to publish a paper, the world will become different.

The term tutorial is perhaps misleading, because most tutorials contains of do’s and dont’s advices which are a guideline by definition. The better idea to describe the world is with scenarios. The question is what will happen, if somebody publish his manuscript at publisher A over publisher B. Does this improve the H-index? Are the costs greater? Can he learn more from it?

In the publishing industry there are two major extreme positions available. The first one is overmanaging the workflow and the second one is a minimalist approach in which the pdf file is put to a webserver but nothing more happens. Let us describe the second option first, because it is a pure technical case. What the researcher / phd student has to do is to modify his DSL-router setting and open port 80. Then he installs a webserver on his local machine and copies the pdf document to the /var/www/ folder. Now, he has to figure out his own ip adress which was provided by the internet service provider with the help of https://www.whatismyip.com/ He can post the ip adress to an online board and the dissertation, proceeding or what ever he has created is online and can be indexed by google. The reason why the Internet is so successful has to do because the described workflow is so easy. To bring something online is the result of some settings in the operating system and the router hardware.

Academic self-publishing

The described workflow with open the port 80 in the own DSL router is a simple form of academic self-publishing. The idea is, that the author of a manuscript is a customer of some products. He has bought the router, he has spend money for the MS-Word software and is the customer of the local Internet-service provider and the other side provides him privileges.

A more elaborated option in publishing a paper is called self-publishing. The idea is, that to ask a higher instance which is specialized on book publishing. The relationship between the author and the opponent remains the same. That means, the author has to pay money to the instance and in exchange he gets webspace and an isbn number. The most important question is, how much features are needed. If the scholarly author asks for more features for example copy editing, the overall costs will become higher. It is a linear increase and at the high end case, the author pays 40000 US$ for a single paper to get published and indexed.

A famous service which costs money is Glasstree Academic Publishing (Lulu). Lulu is a company founded by Robert Young who was also the driving force behind the early Red Hat company. The reason why academic self-publishing is often called controversial is because classical publishing is also self-publishing. The difference is only the amount of money which was invested. That means, if the author has to pay 100 US$ for a single paper it is self-publishing and if the author pays 40000 US$ it is self-publishing too.

The complete ideology behind Open Access in which the author has to contact Elsevier first, and the library has to refinance the costs is self-publishing at it’s best. The overall decision is in the hand of the author. If the author doesn’t want to bring his knowledge to the public, no company in the loop will do a single step. I’ve never heard of a case in which a book was published against the will of the author.

Let us take a look how Glasstree (Lulu) describes the peer review workflow. Quote from the homepage “Glasstree authors have access to professional peer review services.” That means, the peer review process isn’t started by the journal, but it is product which is bought by the author. He can put the “peer review” service into the cart and has to pay for it. The author can decide if he needs a peer review or not. Can this peer review become negative? No way, if the author has paid for the service he will get a positive feedback. That means, paid peer review doesn’t maintain the overall quality in science but it asks for a peer review after the peer review.

Definition of knowledge blogging

Classical non-fiction books are distributed within the bookstores. The combination of publishers, peer review, library and bookstores are pushing existing content into the market. Somebody argues, that the bookstore is equal to the market and everything what is not listed with an ISBN number doesn’t exist.

In contrast, knowledge blogging see a different kind of market which is online. Not the librararies and the ISBN system is equal to the market but the search engines within the internet. If something was indexed by Google it can be found by the readers. This explains what the difference is between knowledge blogging and classical publishing. For a knowledge blogger it is enough, if the Google crawler has indexed the website and brings new readers to the site from all over the world. That means, the Google search engine is equal to the market and the goal is get rank #1. In contrast, a classical author thinks, that the market is within the bookstore and that information should be sold at the checkout desk. Some more advanced classical authors belief that Amazon provides the market, because they are selling ebooks as well. The main conflict between online and offline world is the question: what is the market?

For the offline world, the market is a real one. It contains of bookstores, sold books, and the exchange is about money for books. For Google and other online first advocates, the market is the internet. And the aim is to increase the ranking. The reason, why Google claims that online is the best distribution channel for information is because the classical book market has a lot of problems. Suppose somebody is interested in the subject robotics. What he has to do according to the book market is to visit his local bookstores and buys all the needed information. He will need a pickup truck because he bought 1000 books for each 50 US$. He has spend 50000 US$ only for a small library of robotics books. At home, he has to read the books in chronological order because a printed book doesn’t has a search feature. Is this understanding of education future ready? Perhaps not, and that is the reason why many experts belief that knowledge blogging and online content is good idea.

The problem with the mentioned example is, that the classical bookmarket’s deficit can’t be overcome. A large amount of information doesn’t fit well to paid books which are printed. Because the total price will increase rapidly. Even if somebody isn’t buying the books anymore but using a library he will recognize early, that it takes to much time to read the printed information chronological. Only digital information which can searched in fulltext and which are accessible for free are a future ready tool for scientists. And what the offline bookstore has to offer is not a useful place for searching for information and provide content somebody asks for, but the classical bookstore is a voodoo market. If somebody needs a single novel he can buy the product without any problems. But if somebody needs to do detailed research about a subject or want’s to bring science forward, the classical book distribution system is an antipattern.

The term knowledge blogging is referencing to a new kind of market. It is an online first distribution channel in which the Google search engine brings authors and readers together. The reader types in a question and google provides the websites who can answer it. This is the real information market. It provides the lowest cost and is open for the most people.

Before the Internet was born …

Not so long ago, there was no Internet. In the year 1980 most households doesn’t had a PC. The medium of choice in that time was the printed book. A normal market in that time consists of food and clothes. But on the long run, only apples and fish can become boring, so it was fascinating if one dealer provided books. This was something which was new. A book is something which can be read, it explains how the world works. On a normal food market, a book dealer is something which is exciting. He can call himself advanced because he provides something which is new and useful at the same time. In the year 1980 and the time before a bookstore made sense. Because the alternative was to not have access to books.

Since the invention of the Internet things have changed dramatically. The bookstore is the same like 40 years ago, but the world is a different one. Perhaps a modern bookstore is more advanced than ever. The latest example from the real life are bigger and more luxury than ever. They are not only provide books, but they can order any book ever published within days. But even this great amount of service can’t compete with the Internet. The internet provides fulltext search, provides information for free and the user can cite a book without typing in the complete information again. in contrast to Google, a bookstore looks outdated. It doesn’t fit into modern life anymore. It’s something which is no longer useful. It is history.

Book market today

Which technology has replaced the former bookstore? For what people spend their money? This is easy to answer. The modern customer visits a computer stores. Computer of choice are Macbooks, ipads, external harddrives and keyboards. Professional users like Google buy more advanced technology not available for end users which is usually a server rack full of 1gb connected mainboards with extra ram and the Linux operating system. All these technology is the basis of modern information age. It allows the people to transfer data over long distances and make the pdf file visible at the screen.

Is peer review and copy editing the same?

The term peer review is usually mentioned in the context of academic journals to maintain a certain quality. This description is not quite good, because it assumes, that peer review is located within the journal. In reality, peer review has to do with the workflow until a paper gets published. And it will initiated not by the journal but by the author.

In step #1 the authors sits alone on his computer and types in the draft manuscript. In step #2 is manuscript gets copy edited, which means that the language will be improved. In step #3 the content of the manuscript needs adjustment which includes adding references to existing papers and delete some paragraphs. The step #3 is equal to peer review itself. It means, that a draft manuscript gets improvement on a content-basis.

The term peer review is referencing to the fact, that it is domain specific. If the draft manuscript was created within mathematics, somebody has to cite other mathematical papers and should use the same language like other mathematician. The term “peer” is referencing to the fact that it’s not only about English language but the quality improvement is done on a content basis.

With this background knowledge we can describe different options for doing the peer review and copy editing process. The natural choice is, that the author is doing all the steps alone. He writes the draft version, improves the languages, adds references and improves the quality on a content level. In most academic journals this self-publishing attitude is not desired. Instead a common workflow is, that the author only writes the draft version, and the other steps are distributed to the academic journal. Or to be more specific, to a copy editing agency who are doing paid proofreading and paid peer review.

The idea, that the author writes the content together with the publisher is available in the mainstream bookmarket as well. In the classical publishing business, not the author but an external copy editor provides the knowledge for improving the quality. Also the decision if a manuscript should be published is taken by the publishing house.

And now we can define what a potential alternative to paid peer review is. The opposite is called self-publishing. Which means, that the publishing company puts any manuscript online without quality improvement nor quality control. This is called self-publishing. Self-publishing means, that author is in charge to maintain the quality. He decides if he likes to proofread the manuscript by an external agency or if he needs help for a certain subject from experts. Most self-publishing authors are trying to reduce their costs and avoid such quality improvements. They have not proofread their documents and they haven’t asked experts if the manuscript make sense. This reduces the time to publishing and lowers the quality and it increases the number of authors who can fulfill their dream of become an author.

Post-precessing steps like proofreading, copy editing, adding references, quality improvement and quality control is without any doubt a good idea. But it is costly. If the author is doing it by himself he has to invest time, if an external agency is doing so it will cost real money. Disrupting the publishing industry means to avoid any costs and publish low quality documents.

Let us ask, why a normal academic paper is so expensive to create. Because the original author has taken many months to create it, and many external proofreaders and peer revieweers were invovled into the process. All of them are asking for money and have to invest time. As a result the academic paper looks perfect. It hasn’t a single typo error, it presents the best research results which are available and it was written by experts.

In an online forum the workflow was described from the publishers perspective. The question was, which services a publisher has to offer to the author. https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/1593/what-do-publishers-provide-to-authors-in-different-disciplines/1740#1740 Services who are offered are:

– copy editing

– formatting

– printing

– online publication

– peer review

– marketing

– typesetting

– DOI numbering

None of these services are free. In the classical understanding it was not mentioned that the author has to pay for it, it was seen as a standard workflow which can’t be adjusted. In a more modern world, the author is free to decide which of the services he needs and which not. Suppose the author want’s to publish a paper with a classical publisher but likes to save some of the costs. He can decide to buy the following services: doi numbering, marketing and printing. But he can avoid the buy services like cpy editing, peer review and online publication.

If the author buys all the services provides by Springer / Elsevier this will results into higher costs. That means, the author is in charge to decide which services he needs and which not. Suppose an author has presented his manuscript on an academic conference in the past and has some feedback from the audience. Then, he wouldn’t need an additional paid peer review organized by the publisher but he puts the received feedback under his work and everybody is happy.

The idea behind newly founded publishers, megajournals and academic self-publishers is, that in theory the author can decide to buy not a single service from the publisher but only asks for the online-publishing itself, which results into the lowest possible costs. That means, the author understands himself as a blogger and the publisher has a webserver but not more. This kind of minimalist attitude is highly controversial. Similar to the self-publishing trend in the mainstream bookmarket the system is divided into authors who likes the new opportunity and others who are not interested in it.