Open for edits
SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #155
March 2, 2011
by Peter Suber
In the last issue I called for reader help in coming up with a short, sweet term for author-side openness, for example, the openness of wikis to user edits.  If "open access" is openness to readers and other users, human and machine, what's a good analogous term for openness to authors?

Apart from informal criteria like shortness and sweetness, I had two formal criteria.  One was that the term function as a noun and adjective, as "open access" does.  The other was that it refer to author-side openness alone, not the combination of author- and reader-side openness. 

If there was a good term already in use but not widely known, I wanted to know about it.  If there wasn't, I wanted to see what creative coinages SOAN readers could come up with.

The responses confirmed my suspicion that there isn't already good term in use.  There are nouns, but no good noun-adjective amphibians.  There are some noun-adjective amphibians, and we can argue about how good they are; but while some already circulate, none is widely used.

Because it's hard to prove a negative, I reached out to two experts who knew the wiki universe better than I did. 

I put my question to Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia and founder of Citizendium.  He replied that he's seen "open collaboration", "radical collaboration", and "strong collaboration", and has used all three terms himself.  He pointed out that Wikipedia formerly had articles on all three, which Sanger didn't write, "but has since apparently replaced them with [an article on] 'mass collaboration'...."  He added that "FWIW, of all these, 'open collaboration' gets me the most Google results....[but] 'open collaboration' does not enjoy the sort of popularity as a term that 'open source' and 'open content' have."

On the plus side, all four of these terms already exist and refer solely to author-side openness rather than the combination of author- and reader-side openness.  However, they work better as nouns than adjectives, and they refer less to a text's open editability than to the communal activity that follows upon or takes advantage of open editability.

I also put my question Joseph Reagle, author of the recent book, _Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia_ (MIT 2010).

Joseph pointed out four terms from the right ballpark:

* "User generated content" (UGC)

* "Open Content Communities" (Reagle)

* "Prosumption" (Wikinomics)

* "Community-curated works" (CCW) (Brianna)

These have the same pros and cons as the four terms that Larry pointed out:  they already circulate and they focus on author-side openness, but they make better nouns than adjectives and they focus on something slightly to the side of open editability itself.

As I wrote this out, I noticed something that you're probably noticing as well.  To describe the sense in which these existing terms miss the target I had in mind, I find myself using a term for the target I had in mind:  "open editability".  So let me be explicit:  I find "open editability" (noun) and "open-editable" (adjective) accurate but inelegant.  I'd like to find an existing term or coinage with the same meaning but less clumsiness.

My thanks to Larry and Joseph for helping me with the vocabulary of open collaboration.  Among other things, they made me appreciate some distinctions I didn't think to spell out in my original piece.  For example, suppose that you've published an article in an OA journal under a CC-BY license.  It's clearly open in one important sense.  Then you create a wikified copy of the published text open to user edits.  That makes it open in a second important sense for which we don't seem to have a good term.  "Open collaboration" is a good term for what your colleagues might do with the article after you added the second kind of openness, but it's not a good term for the second kind of openness itself.  If the wikified copy were significantly revised by a wide group of users, then the new version might well be called "user generated content" or "community curated work", and the people who participated might be called an "open content community".  But I want a term for the openness to new edits that made the revisions and community possible.

My example isn't arbitrary.  In June 2009, the OA journal, _Open Medicine_ experimentally wikified one of its published OA articles and invited the community to modify it.  If "OA" is the term for the reader-side openness the article had from the moment of publication, I want a good term for the new, second, author-side openness the journal added after publication when it created the wikified version.

BTW, until this week, _Open Medicine_ had only wikified one of its published articles.  But just yesterday it wikified its second one.  I'm glad to see the experiment continue.

An email from Lambert Heller helped me realize another distinction I failed to spell out:  legal permission to revise v. technical tools for revising.  All open licenses (except CC-ND and the equivalent) include permission to revise.  Users could always download texts that permit derivative works them, modify them offline, and then upload them again.  But wikis offer both permission to revise in public and the tools for making those public revisions.  I'd like a good term for both aspects open editability.

Here are the reader nominations (alphabetical by nominator):

Mark Cyzyk = "open input"

Ray English = "open authoring"

Gary Hall = "Is it something like 'open content' ( or 'free content' ( you're looking for?  Or what's meant when it's said that a text is available on a 'read/write' basis?"

Lambert Heller = "open use, open usage, openly adoptable, openly remixable, collaborative works"

Randy Koch = "candid access"

Reme Melero = "openauthoriding"

Daniel Mietchen = "I suppose editable/ editability has been suggested before, so I am throwing in o'pen or o[pen] // o'penness or o[pen]ness, with the 'pen' part hinting at that pre-digital writing tool, and the brackets at the wiki edit 'button'."

Peter Murray-Rust = "I don't have a good term for you.  I'm using a general term of 'Open Scholarship' but that includes much more. I thought of 'Open Authoring' but OA clashes with Open Access....My best so far is 'Open Writing' which doesn't do justice to the non-textual aspects...."

Cameron Neylon = "I'd suggest Openly Writable, Openly Readable, Openly Useable (OW, OR, OU) as they're actually three orthogonal concepts (this is half the problem with the term OA as we know)...."

Naina Pandita = "Open Writing, Open Work, Open Research Publishing, Open Submissions (opposite of access)"

Peter Pennefather = "free reign, open reign"

Heather Piwowar = "open use, open create, open creation"

Eloy Rodrigues = "Open Creation, Open Authorship, Open Conception, Shared Creation, Shared Authorship, Shared Conception, Common Creation, Common Authorship, Common Conception"

Egon Willighagen = "Open Content? or already taken? Open Remix / Open Rewrite?"

Short versions of my call for a new term appeared in different places around the web, and I'm sorry if I missed some suggestions not directly mailed to me.  The only nominations I've deliberately omitted are those posted online and blending author- and reader-side openness, rather than picking out the former alone. 

Several of these nominations hit the target.  I like "open input" (Mark Cyzyk) and "open remix" (Egon Willighagen and others).  I can imagine using either term to fill in the blanks of the two sample sentences I put forward last month:

1.  "A wiki is OA for readers and ____ for authors."  (Calls for an adjective.)

2.  "For some scholarly purposes, OA must be complemented by ____, but for other scholarly purposes it needn't."  (Calls for a noun.) 

"Open writable" (Cameron Neylon), and "open editable" (me, with a wince) also work, at least if we switch to "writability" and "editability" when we need nouns rather than adjectives. 

Thanks to everyone who sent me suggestions or participated in the online discussions.  If you have new ideas, please post them to the SPARC Open Access Forum.


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