CCC Online: March 2009 Archives

A brief update

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Still not really feeling like talking about it, but I should mention that I just had a very nice conversation with Kent Williamson from NCTE.

And by very nice, I mean that I had a chance to explain what all has been happening from my end, and he had a chance to explain where he thought communication had broken down. I definitely left the conversation feeling a little better than I had, and that was good.

I know that there are at least a few people who have been writing on my behalf, forwarding my post, etc., and I thank you for that. And now I'm really going to go think about other stuff for a bit. ;-)

CCC Online

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I don't really want to talk about it. But ah well.

Here's how it felt. Imagine that you were in a fixed-term position at a university. You know that your time will be up eventually, but you feel like you've done pretty good work, and you feel some genuine loyalty to the school, and have some ideas about how things might go better. Then, one day, you open the MLA Job List, and find the description for your position. Your school has decided to change the position substantially, and to provide it with a number of benefits that you've never received. And at no point did they ever ask you about it, invite you to talk with them about the position and how it might be improved, or even let you know that the advertisement was going to appear.

You might be understandably disappointed.

The thing is, the CCC Online Archive is up, but it's broken. And it's broken for several reasons.

I made the mistake last summer of imagining that I could upgrade both the front and back ends of the site simultaneously. Shortly into that process, my grandfather passed away. I didn't come back from his funeral until the end of the first week of the semester, already basically 3 weeks behind in my preparation for my graduate seminar. Needless to say, the semester did not go well from my perspective.

On top of that, 3 of our senior faculty were on leave this year, and that's on a faculty of 12, if you count our two split-appointed faculty. In a small department, there is already a massive service load, and that didn't help. Add to that the fact that 2 of our junior faculty are standing for tenure this year, and add to that the fact that 2 of our senior faculty stood for promotion to full. Did I mention that I also chaired our search this year? Also, I made the mistake of following through on my bright idea of back-to-back conference presentations in October. The search itself got started late, although not because of my own delay in starting the semester, and as a result, we were conducting phone interviews the week before Christmas. Thanks to weather, car trouble, and the late timing of our search, I got to spend my first ever holiday season away from my family. But then, I had the joy of turning 40 to keep me warm. And with the turn of the year came the graduate admissions process which, for all of its importance, is effectively a second search committee process.

So yeah, not the best year of my life. One of my very best friends tells me that one of these days, I'm going to have to let myself grieve. I don't know whether to feel relief or despair over that.

I should also mention that, last spring, my college's support for the site was not renewed. It didn't help that my title was changed from Associate/Online Editor to CCC Online Archivist. One of those titles is not like the other when it comes to making a case for institutional support. And that's an observation that I might have made had I ever been consulted about the title change.

So yeah, the site's broken. Part of the reason why I didn't spend more time this summer, or start earlier, is that NCTE decided to overhaul their own site, thereby breaking all of the NCTE-target links on CCCOA. I paid someone out-of-pocket to help me fix those links. And didn't get going on the upgrade as soon as I'd planned.

When I did, I learned the hard way that Movable Type 4 was a good product for some things, and not for others. It is not a piece of software, unfortunately, that is friendly to those of us who prefer to design our own sites. Perhaps I could have and should have discovered this before I upgraded the software, but it also changed the format by which it constructed permalinks, leaving all of the interior links and all of the trackback links broken, with no easy way to reconstruct them. That in turn has rendered all of the links at our delicious page broken. Needless to say, it's going to be a long summer for me.

My issues with NCTE take place in that context, but honestly, their treatment of me has been poor regardless of context. I think that there are some good things about the way they're changing the position. I was never offered a gratis NCTE/CCCC membership, conference fee, or even a copy of the journal, so I'm glad to see that they're offering something, however small, to the person who'll take this over. I'm also glad to see that some kind of tech support will be in the mix, because I never received any. I'm glad to see that they're thinking of the position/site as something to be included in their overall vision, because it's been pretty clear to me that my work has not been.

Could I have done more to promote that connection? Perhaps. But I offered to come to Urbana on my own dime to meet with them and work with them, an offer that was either not taken seriously, or simply forgotten. By now, I suspect that in their eyes, I'm a loose cannon, though. Frankly, my patience was eroded by a long history of non-communication from NCTE, on issues that I should have at least been consulted about. And so yeah, I've lashed out a bit. No one from NCTE has ever contacted me to see if there was anything they could do, they've never contacted me to warn me about site changes that affected CCCOA, and they've maintained a pattern of making decisions about my position and the site and then passing them along as fait accompli. If from their perspective, I've behaved less than professionally, my reason is that I've been treated less than professionally.

I plan on continuing my work on the site, because there is value to it that can't be found anywhere else. Unfortunately for me, this will basically be volunteer work, and much of it will be reconstructive. But I do believe it's worth doing. I still believe in the vision for the site that I originally proposed.

As for NCTE, I hope that the next iteration of the site is more to their liking. And I hope that they manage better treatment of whomever they find to take it over. I'm not interested in spearheading a boycott, or making a big public stink over it. And I certainly don't want anyone to feel bad or disloyal for considering it. My overwhelming mood is comprised of equal parts disappointment and exhaustion. I'm more inclined to wax ironic than outraged. Here's a little something that you may not know: I was on the team of graduate student volunteers who designed the first websites for CCCC. And back in the day, I floated the idea of providing an online database making the abstracts searchable, only to be told that it could never happen. I don't know that I was the first or only person to have that idea, but 7-8 years later, it happened. And my guess is that the functionality I've tried to build into CCCOA will find its way into the NCTE site eventually as well. And our field will be better for it.

All I know is that it won't be me doing it.

And in the grand scheme, this episode is just one among many. I haven't let myself grieve and I haven't let myself really turn 40 yet. As I've been telling people lately (a lot, it feels like), I need to get some distance and figure out, if I don't want it to look like it does now, what I want my life to look like.

Yeah, that's all.



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This page is a archive of entries in the CCC Online category from March 2009.

CCC Online: January 2009 is the previous archive.

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