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2009-03-17
PhilPapers update
It has been six weeks since the public launch of PhilPapers. We now have nearly 2500 registered users, and at least twice as many regular but unregistered users. The registered users who have specified affiliations are about 40% faculty, 40% graduate students, and 20% others (undergraduate, postdoc, research staff, etc).

We are continuing to debug and add new features. Thanks to your input, we have fixed various bugs pertaining to the registration process, email alerts, and RSS feeds. Along with various other minor changes, we have added three significant new features:

(1) We have restructured the category browsing system to make it clearer and easier to use. When you go to an area page, the entire category structure for that area will be displayed. When you go to subareas, you will see both the category structure for that subarea and all the items in that subarea.

(2) We now have a page for tracked personal pages, listing all of the personal pages that we monitor for new papers. Users can edit these listings and suggest new listings (subject to approval). Philosophers are encouraged to add their personal page to this system if it is not there already. If you do this and the addition is approved, your papers should show up on PhilPapers automatically. Thanks to Wolfgang Schwarz for implementing this very useful system.

(3) We have made some changes to the forums. They are now moderated. We have also added a blog that displays a selection of threads from the forums, and which can be read like an ordinary blog (or through an RSS feed). The blog is visible from the home page as well as on the blog page. We have also fixed a problem which prevented email notices from being sent to forum subscribers (you may find that you are now getting notices for the first time). At the same time, we have changed the default frequency of these notices to weekly. You can unsubscribe or change the frequency to "daily" or "instantly" here.

We're pleased to have had a largely positive response from journal publishers. Editors and publishers of around twenty journals that are not currently included in our database have contacted us, asking to be included. To avoid the labor-intensive process of designing new automatic harvesters each time, our plan is to move toward a model whereby journals provide us with their information in a regimented format. This model already works well in the RePEc archives in economics, and we may simply adopt the RePEc format at least for now. If you would like a journal to be added, please encourage the editor or publisher to contact us, and we will send instructions when they are finalized.

We're also very pleased by the amount of attention and use that PhilPapers has received. At the same time, we see PhilPapers as a community project and its success depends on community contributions. Participation by well-qualified users in the philosophy profession is especially important. There are at least two areas in which we would like to see this participation developed.

First, the categorization project. We're grateful to those users who have been active in categorizing papers. We'd like to encourage more, though. For example, if you have expertise in a given area, we encourage you to pick a category and to populate it with papers. Using the search engine combined with the "categorize" tool (in multiple-entry mode) makes this process quick and easy. We also encourage users with expertise to categorize new papers as they enter the database. For simple area-level categorization, this can be done easily using the categorization shortcuts (enabled in viewing options) on the "New items" page.

To help with the categorization process, we will be seeking area editors for various areas of PhilPapers: mainly the level-2 areas in the first instance (e.g. epistemology, normative ethics, 19th century philosophy). These editors should be professional philosophers with significant expertise in the relevant areas. Their main role, initially, will be to co-ordinate the categorization of papers in that area (and in some cases to help develop the category structure), though other roles may develop along the way. If you might be interested in playing such a role, please let us know.

Second, the discussion forums. There has been some good discussion so far, but participation has been limited.  We would like to see these forums become a venue for lively and regular high-quality discussion among professional philosophers and graduate students, akin to the sort of discussion that is found on the best weblogs. With the large number of faculty and graduate students that subscribe, the forums present a unique opportunity for informal exchanges between philosophers. So we strongly encourage qualified philosophers to post to these forums.

Here are some tips for people interested in following the forums. First, the new blog page will give you access to a selection of discussion threads from the forums. Second, you can see at a glance all new posts and threads in the forums from the "all threads" page. You can also use the "my forums" feature in your profile. This shows you the latest posts in the forums you are subscribed to. Note that you can use this feature without receiving email notices: simply disable email notices on the privacy and communication settings page.

As always, we are very interested to hear your suggestions about how the site might be improved. Thoughts about how to encourage participation in the projects above are especially welcome. General thoughts can be posted in the PhilPapers Discussion forum, and thoughts specific to the topics above can be posted in the thread following this message.

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