The Commons is changing, and we want you to be a part of it! Below is our roadmap along with explanations of our main projects. If you have any feedback, or would like to get involved with the development of the Commons, please get in touch with us.
The Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) recently joined the Commons and we have been transitioning many of their sites to the Commons. We also migrated almost 1,000 of their deposits to our CORE repository.
CORE FAST metadata transition
In order to support academics from a wider range of disciplines, we transitioned the CORE repository to use FAST metadata for subject categorization. This is a key first step in opening up the Commons to users from beyond the humanities.
HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) is the latest organization to join the Commons. HASTAC launched on the Commons in Fall 2022. We made many improvements to the overall Commons experience as part of that launch, including blog posts on user profiles and including user sites in search results. HASTAC is also the first Commons site to have a block-based frontpage.
We updated the Commons to WordPress 6.1 in February 2023. This update included the Twenty Twenty-Three theme, which has a much-improved site editing experience from Twenty Twenty-Two and is also the first major theme to showcase “style variations”, which allows a single theme to include several different color and style schemes.
ORCID is an open system of digital identifiers for researchers. In February we added ORCID as a login method to the Commons, and in March we removed Twitter due to concerns about its reliability and overall direction. We plan for many more ORCID integrations in the future as part of our focus on interoperability.
Process Improvements and Documentation
Over the last year we have been working to improve how we work on the Commons. This includes transitioning to a new project management application (ZenHub), improving our workflows, improving our internal documentation, and improving our user-facing documentation. This work is ongoing, and will make it much easier for our growing team to keep the Commons up-to-date, secure, and always improving.
All organizations on the Commons use a variation of the BuddyBoss theme for their base site. The theme is quite out-of-date, but is essential for many of our core functionalities. Our reliance on it has made improving the network increasingly difficult. We are working to move those functionalities out of the theme in order to allow our base sites to use a modern theme and to facilitate further performance improvements on the site.
Containerization & Development Workflow
Commons development currently relies on a number of cloud-based mirrors of the main site. This is expensive and leads to problems with pursuing multiple concurrent projects while also testing and diagnosing issues on our production site. We are working to containerize our various application stacks—WordPress, Identity & Authentication, and Next-Generation Repository—to allow for local development and improved testing and deployment workflows.
User Self-Service Dashboards
The Commons uses COmanage for user identity and permissions management. It allows us to retrieve identity information from a variety of sources and manage how users are able to login and access various organizations and groups on the Commons. However, we have previously restricted these user management activities to Commons administrators. We are working with the COmanage developers to allow Commons users more control over their own identities through COmanage user self-service dashboards. This will make it easier for users to control their own identities and perform basic tasks like updating their email addresses or adding society memberships without having to contact support.
We recently began work to replace the current CORE repository, based on Fedora, with a next-generation repository based on Invenio RDM, developed by CERN. Invenio includes many desirable features including allowing multiple deposit attachments, a wide variety of deposit types, and versioning of deposits.
Art History / Disciplinary Homes
How can users best find the content and community of most interest to them? One experiment we are pursuing to answer this question is “disciplinary homes”: Commons pages that bring together repository deposits, blog posts, groups, and users around a shared topic. Our pilot project for this experiment is Art History.
Currently all of the Commons member organizations and user sites operate on a single WordPress instance and single database. This architecture imposes significant constraints on our ability to grow, both from a technical and institutional perspective. Over the last several months we have been working to design a new decentralized Commons architecture that uses the ActivityPub protocol for communication between Commonses running on separate instances. We believe this will not only allow us to scale in the future but allow us to connect to a wide array of other services using ActivityPub, such as Mastodon.
WordPress Performance Improvements
The Containerization and Theme Decoupling projects are ultimately aimed at making it feasible for us to improve the performance and user experience of the Commons. Once those projects are completed our primary focus will be improving these aspects of the Commons. This will also give us a solid basis for future development.
The Theme Decoupling project also will facilitate a full redesign of the Commons. We are currently in the early stages of developing a design document that will guide our redesign and visual identity of Commons sites and projects.
WordPress 6.2 further improves the site editing experience, and represents the full (non-beta) launch of the site editor. Over the coming months we will be testing 6.2 for release on the Commons.
WordPress :: COmanage API
Currently user data and access permissions are passed from COmanage to WordPress when a user logs in to the site. This method mostly works but has led to some reliability and maintenance issues for us. This project will change how these two applications communicate with each other.
The first piece of our planned Next-Generation Commons that we plan to launch is redesigned user profiles. We plan to begin work on these profiles in the second half of 2023.
Commons API Phase 1
A guiding principle of our development is interoperability. This means that we see the Commons as interacting with a network of Open Access and Open Source tools and platforms in a way that enriches our users’ experience of all. The first step for improving our interoperability is developing and API that allows external platforms and applications to access and use content on the Commons. For instance, a user who publishes a document with Manifold might connect the publication to their Commons profile to have their profile information imported to Manifold and their publication automatically reflected in their Commons profile and activity feed.
The first phase of this API will allow external services to access publicly available information on the Commons in a read-only way. Future phases will allow for more robust interactions and will include tools to allow users full control over how their personal data is shared.
After Profiles, we plan to tackle improving search on the Commons. Our current search is flexible, allowing users to find content and users from all over the Commons network. However, it is quite slow and sometimes produces perplexing results. Fast, intuitive, and powerful search is essential for both improving the current Commons and our plans for the future.
Commons API Phase 2
The second phase of the Commons API will allow external sites and services to interact with the Commons more robustly, including updating profiles, participating in discussions, and sending messages. This version of the Commons API will be the backbone of the decentralized Commons, but will also allow interoperability with a wide range of Open Scholarship sites and platforms.
Groups serve essential functions for many Commons users, but have never quite fulfilled their potential for facilitating the types of interactions we want to foster on the Commons. We are currently working on rethinking how groups in particular and user interaction in general could be improved.