Dear Colleagues and Students,
At Writing Commons, we are happy with the overall success of our project. Since 2011, when we launched at WritingCommons.org, we have hosted 6,315,882 users who have reviewed over 11 million pages. We are thrilled that students and faculty find our site to be helpful. Our ongoing mission is to be the best writing textbook possible. We also happen to be free. While we cannot perhaps claim yet that we are the best possible textbook for technical writing or creative writing courses, we are working on that.
This open education project traces its roots back to 2002 with the publication of College Writing Online by Pearson. College Writing Online received the Distinguished Book Award from Computers and Writing in 2003. A traditional textbook publisher back in the day, Pearson failed to promote the project, and it languished in obscurity for a few years. Thankfully, Pearson returned copyright to me, and I published the site at CollegeWriting.org in 2008.
Then, inspired by the success of Jimmy Wales at Wikipedia along with the vision of peer-produced knowledge by scholars like Yochai Benkler, we launched Writing Commons in 2011. Subsequently Quentin Vieregge, the Editor-in-Chief, worked for six years with a talented group of editors to peer-review webtexts for students. Quentin has been assisted by Daniel Richards, the Senior Editor for Technical Writing. Over the years, we have fought hard against the prejudices toward pedagogical work. In UnCommon News, our newsletter for users, we promised writing faculty that we could help them attract a global audience for their teaching ideas. Thankfully, we have made good on our word. Thirty percent of our users come from outside the United States.
To further our dedication to publishing high-quality open educational resources, we created the Aaron Swartz Best Webtext award in an effort to celebrate the works of our authors while also recognizing the value of open-access research and scholarship. Each year, users of Writing Commons have the opportunity to vote for the site’s best new webtext. Recipients of this distinguished award include Andrea Scott’s “Formulating a Thesis” (2013), Maggie Melo’s "Creating 'Viral' Impressions: Composing Infographics for the Classroom and Workspace" (2014), and Dr. Angela Eward-Mangione’s "Literary Criticism: An Introduction" (2015). While we did not offer an award in 2016, we are excited to offer this award again in 2017.
Many of our authors have used Writing Commons to help their own students and others worldwide. For example, Jennifer Janechek’s article on formatting headings in APA Style has received over 385,414 reads. Jenna Pack Sheffield’s article on using the first person has received over 292,184 reads. Jennifer Lewis’s webtext on working with quotes has over 391,392 reads.
Unfortunately, I cannot claim that all of our attempts at innovation have been successful. Our early efforts back in 2012 to have a Facebook-like interface for students backfired when the site was overrun by hackers. And our goal to grow a subsite, MyCampus, where student writers would talk about their writing programs and publish their prose, withered on the vine. Our biggest obstacle over the years, frankly, has often been time. Because it is a commons project ancillary to our daily jobs, we have sometimes overlooked it. One meaningful struggle was how to fund the site to help protect it from the constant barrage of hackers. Twice they have overrun us. In response, back in 2016, we included a few ads on our site, endeavoring to generate revenue to hire a professional to better protect the site. Since then, we have been fortunate to work with Alston Chapman, who has made the site as up to date as possible when it comes to security.