The New Republic has launched Open University and David Greenberg hits the nail on the head with his opening post. OU's list of contributors: Johns Hopkins' David Bell, Yale's David Bromwich, Tufts' Daniel Drezner, Rutgers' David Greenberg, Yale's Jacob Hacker, Georgetown's Michael Kazin, Texas' Sanford Levinson, McGill's Jacob Levy, Florida State's Darrin McMahan, Manhattan Institute's John McWhorter, Harvard's Elisa New, Harvard's Steven Pinker, UC, Davis' Eric Rauchway, Princeton's Christine Stansell, Harvard's Lawrence Summers, Chicago's Cass Sunstein, Manhattan Institute's Abigail Thernstrom, Brown's Ted Widmer, and Boston College's Alan Wolfe.
With all due respect to Cliopatria's old friends at Crooked Timber, The Valve, and The Volokh Conspiracy, Open University could easily become the most important academic blog on the net. Other, comparable efforts have been launched and failed. This one, I predict, will not fail and it marks a new maturity in the academic blogosphere. See also the comments a little less enthusiastic than my own at Crooked Timber. Thanks to Scott McLemee for the tip.
Jason T. Kuznicki - 9/1/2006
Although I'm not a subscriber to TNR, I probably should be. And since I'm a former student of one of the contributors at Open University, I'd hope I'd at least get shortlisted as a commenter.
Alun Salt - 9/1/2006
I'm not sure that the pay to comment barrier is a killer. Suppose you want to put your ideas in front of a major professor. You could rely on talent and saying something interesting, but it's always a gamble and good papers can be missed at conferences. Alternatively you can pay $30 and put a brief comment in front of their eyes and associate yourself with a Big Name. But if I were to pay $30 to comment then I'd want to know exactly what the comment policy was.
Naming yourself after the largest university in the UK could be a problem, and the name Open University when commenting is behind a pay barrier is a little ironic.
Sharon Howard - 9/1/2006
(Setting aside my feelings about them stealing the name of a venerable British academic institution, naturally...)
I have my doubts about the future of this venture, to be honest, Ralph. You have to pay to comment?! You gotta be kidding! And there are just too many, too intrusive, adverts. (It looks like an online newspaper rather than a blog. Advertising everywhere.) I could block some of them, but particularly annoying was the one that popped up *every* time I returned to the main page, asking if I wanted to take out a subscription. I think all that'll turn people off in droves, regardless of the content.
Scott Eric Kaufman - 8/31/2006
I hear tell they're going to try to change that. You're right, though, that a $30 paywall will keep people out. What they should do is something along the lines of the Gawker family of blogs, i.e. have a stable of commenters who've been pre-approved. And I think we should be that stable. Everyone who wants to vote themselves in, say "Aye"!
Jonathan Dresner - 8/31/2006
The comment boards are subscriber only, for one thing. Thirty bucks a year for the digital subscription will keep out a lot of riff-raff.
Scott Eric Kaufman - 8/31/2006
To repeat something I wrote to one contributor today: I worry about how the comments section will work. Oftentimes the mention of Pinker of Summers is enough to bring the hoards descending; can you imagine what the effect a post of theirs will have? I think they're going to need to hire someone to moderate the comments, full time. I mean, some random social constructivist gets a chance to throw punches at Pinker? It could get ugly. (That said, this is all just professional jealously. They could've invited me, you know. Everyone else may already have an amazing job, but I could've been the graduate student they got an amazing job. Alas, I suppose I'll have to earn it myself, after all.)