How to Reboot an H-Net Network

Thank you for your interest in H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, a central institution in today’s academy and one of the most widely-used and longest-running digital platforms for scholars. Since the 1990s, our system has facilitated the production of a library’s-worth of moderated academic discussion and debate, over 45,000 book reviews, as well as essays, timelines, and more. We have trained, certified, and helped guide the labor of thousands of academic volunteers. Our system has over 200,000 academic users, draws on the expertise of over 1,000 academic volunteers of all ranks and from around the globe, and cumulatively receives millions of web visits every year.

Many readers are most familiar with H-Net from their engagement with a specific H-Net network. Our networks conventionally have names like “H-Asia,” “H-Medieval,” and “H-Nationalism,” and focus on the academic study of the said subject. They do so by serving as topically-oriented forums and publishing platforms that circulate diverse academic content to their subscribers (via email notifications) and by making the same freely available to read online. If you are on this page, odds are there is a specific H-Net network that has gone silent that you are interested in helping out with. (And thank you for that interest!) This document provides H-Net’s official advice about how to do so. We begin with general comments, move on to suggest concrete paths forward, and then handle individual steps down each path.

As a reader and/or subscriber to a network that is currently inactive, you may naturally be asking whether there is something wrong with the network or whether there are specific reasons it cannot be rebooted. Since H-Net is a very large organization in terms of its academic reach but is very modest in terms of its revenues and paid staff, we do usually have at least a dozen of our 100+ networks that need new volunteers. This is primarily a function of the size of our volunteer editorial community and natural turnover within it. The fact that a network is temporarily inactive should not be read as indicative of its potential. Such networks still have subscribers, and underlying publishing platform, and H-Net’s support system. Our experience over the last decade is that, with new volunteers, these networks can quickly be up and running again in a few months. (H-Net does have a few networks that we have judged to be no longer viable; these should have a header on their front page indicating that they’ve been “decommissioned.”)

 

General Advice

Some additional background information: H-Net is a multi-faceted organization with scores of networks that rely on teams of academic volunteers for their management. H-Net also offers services, including H-Announce and the H-Net Job Guide, which are handled by H-Net’s small paid staff. As a volunteer with H-Net, you’d be working at a specific network, although you might engage with our services in various ways (such as by republishing announcements from H-Announce). H-Net also has a democratic system of governance, featuring annual elections among our editors, and a set of written policies that govern our operations and our networks. H-Net certifies its editors through an application process and provides them with free, easy online training. This training familiarizes editors with H-Net’s proprietary digital platform, the H-Net Commons, which is custom-built to limit conflicts of interest and focus on best practices. In essence, our networks are lodged within a system of governance and support that help their volunteer editorial teams focus on work of intrinsic academic value.

The two core tasks of rebooting an H-Net network are to ensure that: 1) incoming messages to the network, typically academic announcements and queries, get vetted and, when appropriate, published to the network; and 2) the network has an active and engaged editorial team that works together to develop its potential. 1 (moderation) requires only modest, routine labor and operates through H-Net’s built-in system, which is easy to use. H-Net provides training on how to moderate posts and our Help Desk, Directors, and elected officers are all available to provide guidance. In general, a single trained H-Net editor can handle these moderation duties without much of a burden on their schedule. 2 (team building) is more complicated but should also be understood as a gradual process. There are multiple ways to go about recruiting additional team members, including drawing on your own academic connections and using occasional messages over the network to recruit from its subscribers (“Calls for Editors,” as we often refer to them). 

 

Paths Forward

Taking any of the three routes outlined below can work wonders for an idling network. Please consider them in the context of your own schedule and interests, and keep in mind that H-Net seeks to protect the interests of its volunteers. We understand if you initially opt for an ambitious strategy but ultimately end up pursuing one with lighter burdens. Remember, you’re helping us.

Path A—Sole Network Editor: You don’t have a lot of time, but you still want to help out, so you offer to serve as a “Network Editor” for a couple of years, with an eye to ensuring that point 1 above, moderation, is handled regularly. You’ll seek to do one or two rounds of additional recruitment over the network, but otherwise hope others will do more to build a more expansive editorial team for the network in the future.

Path B—Network Editorial Team: You and some of your colleagues have communicated with each other about the network and want to come onboard as a team. Your team have already started to sort out who will do what, and together you can ensure that (1) and (2) above will be taken care of immediately and that you’ll also seek to continue to recruit additional team members as you move forward. At least two of your proposed team will serve as “Network Editors,” which will allow them to take care of (1). (In H-Net nomenclature, the other two possible positions in an editorial team are “Review Editors” and “Advisory Board Members,” which we can address further as your team comes onboard.)

Path C—Network Chair: You’d like to personally oversee both (1) and (2) by managing the network’s day-to-day operations while also developing an ambitious recruitment program for the next couple of years. You see rejuvenating the network as of vital academic importance and are eager to exercise leadership in your field of study by doing so. In essence, you are interested in serving as a “Network Editor” who also temporarily Chairs the network, rebuilding its editorial team through steady recruitment.

 

Next Steps

All of the above three paths require some common steps, in part because all H-Net editors need to be certified by H-Net’s elected Council and to complete H-Net’s training material. The following outlines therefor repeat some information with each other.

Steps for Path A—Sole Network Editor:

  1. You contact H-Net’s Vice President for Networks (“VPN”; vp-net@mail.h-net.org) with a CC to H-Net’s Networks Liaisons (paid undergraduate staffers; networks@mail.h-net.org) indicating that you have read the “How to Reboot an H-Net Network” webpage and would like to volunteer to handle Path A for a specific H-Net network (please provide a link to its homepage). You provide a few well-composed sentences about your schedule over the next few years and your interest in the field of study (feel free to attach a CV).
  2. If the VPN believes that H-Net’s Executive Council should approve your application, the VPN will encourage you to apply using the form that opens at the bottom of the following page when you click on the word “Application”: https://networks.h-net.org/h-net-network-editors. To be able to fill out the application form, you will need to have a free H-Net User Profile and be logged into it. If you have any difficulty with that, H-Net’s Help Desk can assist (help@mail.h-net.org). For future reference, this form can be found on H-Net’s Recruitment Central webpage (https://networks.h-net.org/node/152006/pages/4759087/recruitment-central). The VPN will send in a supporting nomination (https://networks.h-net.org/nomination-form). 
  3. H-Net will ask you to complete its “Network Editor Training Material,” which consists of reading material about who we are, what our best practices are, and how our online platform works. H-Net will provide access to these materials. When you have finished the material, please notify the Network Liaisons (networks@mail.h-net.org).
  4. H-Net’s elected Executive Council will vote on whether to approve your application.
  5. If approved, H-Net will ask that you introduce yourself to our broader community of editors with a brief message to our private network, Editor-Resources.
  6. H-Net will grant you access to the network that you are now an editor at. Feel free to nudge the Network Liaisons (networks@mail.h-net.org) and the VPN (vp-net@mail.h-net.org) if you think you’re ready to move forward but haven’t heard from anyone in a few weeks.
  7. At the moment you assume editorial control of the network, please email the Network Liaisons (networks@mail.h-net.org) to ask if the network needs to “have its buttons restored.” In some cases, when a network has been idling for a long time, H-Net removes its user-interface buttons to prevent subscribers from sending in new messages. Now that you’re present to handle the moderation duties, H-Net will put them back up so subscribers can send in announcements, etc.
  8. Please check the moderation queue and see if it has antiquated messages that need to be cleaned out. (NB: the oldest messages currently appear at the front of the queue, the newest at the back). An example of an antiquated message would be an announcement from two years ago for a conference deadline in six months. The deadline has passed, as has the conference most likely, so there is no need to publish the message. For those messages that do warrant publication—they are relevant to the network and still pertinent—go ahead and publish them. Once you have published any pending messages that merit it, you can confer with the VPN (vp-net@mail.h-net.org) about whether it is appropriate to have H-Net “scrub the queue of old messages.” The VPN will confer with you and then H-Net’s Home Office.
  9. Send an announcement out to the network noting that it is up and running again and will circulate relevant academic announcements as they come in. You may also use Editor-Resources to ask other H-Net editors to circulate a similar message over their networks.
  10. Continue to check the moderation queue at least twice a week, approving relevant messages, asking for revisions when necessary, and rejecting those that are outright irrelevant or otherwise unsuitable for a scholarly audience (NB: these are quite rare).
  11. Think about recruiting an additional editor or two sometime over the next year or so, especially someone who can help share the routine moderation duties with you. Feel free to look at the recruitment messages that appear at the bottom of our Recruitment Central site (https://networks.h-net.org/node/152006/pages/4759087/recruitment-central) and to make use of the advice document we maintain on Editor-Resources (https://networks.h-net.org/node/877/pages/4141609/how-guide-building-editorial-team). You can of course always ask the VPN for advice. 

Steps for Path B—Network Team:

  1. You contact H-Net’s Vice President for Networks (“VPN”; vp-net@mail.h-net.org) with a CC to H-Net’s Networks Liaisons (paid undergraduate staffers; networks@mail.h-net.org) indicating that you and your colleagues have read the “How to Reboot an H-Net Network” webpage and would like to volunteer to handle Path B for a specific H-Net network. You provide a few well-composed sentences about your schedules over the next few years and your interests in the field of study (feel free to attach CVs). If you know which two (or more) of your proposed team want to handle the routine moderation duties, indicate as much.
  2. The VPN will confer with you about what the various members of your editorial team will do, perhaps putting you in contact with H-Net’s Vice President of Research and Publications (vp-publications@h-net.org), who has authority over Review Editors, and/or our Vice President for Teaching, who works with editors focused on pedagogy. Collectively, these conversations sort out the remaining details of which of your team members will be doing what.
  3. If the relevant Vice Presidents believe that H-Net’s Executive Council should approve your team members’ various applications, they will encourage your team to apply using the relevant application forms. The VPs will provide supporting nominations.
  4. H-Net’s Network Liaisons (networks@mail.h-net.org) will usher you through the relevant certification and training the processes, which can take a few weeks pending how much business H-Net’s elected Executive Council is handling. Training material is provided for free, is available online, and is easy to complete with some patient reading.
  5. Once ready, H-Net will ask those members of your team who are serving as “Network Editors” to introduce themselves to our broader community of editors with brief messages to our private network, Editor-Resources.
  6. H-Net will grant the Network Editors access to the network they are editing. Review Editors will gain access to H-Net’s Reviews Management System. Feel free to nudge the Network Liaisons (networks@mail.h-net.org) and the VPN (vp-net@mail.h-net.org) or VP of Pubs (vp-publications@mail.h-net.org) if you think you’re ready to move forward but haven’t heard from anyone in a few weeks.
  7. At the moment that your Network Editors assume editorial control of the network, please email the Network Liaisons (networks@mail.h-net.org) to ask if the network needs to “have its buttons restored.” In some cases, when a network has been idling for a long time, H-Net removes its user-interface buttons to prevent subscribers from sending in new messages. Now you’re your team is present to handle the moderation duties, H-Net will put them back up so subscribers can send in announcements, etc.
  8. Please make sure your team’s Network Editors check the moderation queue and see if it has antiquated messages that need to be cleaned out. (NB: the oldest messages currently appear at the front of the queue, the newest at the back). An example of an antiquated message would be an announcement from two years ago for a conference deadline in six months. The deadline has passed, as has the conference most likely, so there is no need to publish the message. An example of an old message would be an announcement from two years ago for a conference deadline in six months. The deadline has passed, so there is no need to publish the message. For those messages that do warrant publication—they are relevant to the network and still pertinent—go ahead and publish them. Once you have published any pending messages that merit it, you can confer with the VPN (vp-net@mail.h-net.org) about whether it is appropriate to have H-Net “scrub the queue of old messages.” The VPN will confer with you and then H-Net’s Home Office.
  9. Send an announcement out to the network noting that it is up and running again and will circulate relevant academic announcements as they come in. You may also use Editor-Resources to ask other H-Net editors to circulate a similar message over their networks.
  10. Continue to check the moderation queue at least twice a week, approving relevant messages, asking for revisions when necessary, and rejecting those that are outright irrelevant or otherwise unsuitable for a scholarly audience (NB: these are quite rare).
  11. Develop your intend projects and continue to recruit new team members over the coming years. Feel free to look at the recruitment messages that appear at the bottom of our Recruitment Central site (https://networks.h-net.org/node/152006/pages/4759087/recruitment-central) and to make use of the advice document we maintain on Editor-Resources (https://networks.h-net.org/node/877/pages/4141609/how-guide-building-editorial-team). You can of course always ask the VPN for advice.

Steps for Path C—Network Chair:

  1. You contact H-Net’s Vice President for Networks (“VPN”; vp-net@mail.h-net.org) with a CC to H-Net’s Networks Liaisons (paid undergraduate staffers; networks@mail.h-net.org) indicating that you have read the “How to Reboot an H-Net Network” webpage and would like to volunteer to handle Path C for a specific H-Net network. You provide a few well-composed paragraphs about your schedule over the next few years, your interest in the field of study (feel free to attach a CV), and how you see yourself developing the network, especially by recruiting additional editors. One approach would be to target new editors in the following sequence over a two-year period: 1) a few junior scholars who can handle routine moderation duties as Network Editors and flesh out the network’s Resources Tab; 2) a Review Editor or two who can commission and publish book reviews using H-Net’s official system; 3) a Network Editor who can serve as a “new publications” specialist, compiling a monthly message cataloguing recent scholarship; 4) a Network Editor who can serve as a “digester,” breaking down recent news and/or informed opinion about your network’s topic; 5) a Teaching Editor who can help build manageable projects related to pedagogy (such as a syllabus database); and 6) an advisory board member or two willing to help provide guidance to the network.
  2. The VPN will dialog with you about the two positions and ask any questions and offer any suggestions she/he has about your plan to develop the network.
  3. If the VPN believes that H-Net’s Executive Council should approve your application, the VPN will encourage you to apply using the form that opens at the bottom of the following page when you click on the word “Application”: https://networks.h-net.org/h-net-network-editors. To be able to fill out the application form, you will need to have a free H-Net User Profile and be logged into it. In your letter of application, please indicate at the top of it that you are applying to be both a Network Editor and a Chair. In your letter, provided a revised outline of your plan for developing the network. If you have any difficulty accessing the application form, H-Net’s Help Desk can assist (help@mail.h-net.org). The VPN will send in a supporting nomination (https://networks.h-net.org/nomination-form) and message H-Net’s Executive Council indicating her/his support for you service as the network’s temporary Chair. 
  4. H-Net will ask you to complete its “Network Editor Training Material,” which consists of reading material about who we are, what our best practices are, and how our online platform works. H-Net will provide access to these materials. When you have finished the material, please notify the Network Liaisons (networks@mail.h-net.org).
  5. H-Net’s elected Executive Council will vote on whether to approve your application.
  6. If approved, H-Net will ask that you introduce yourself to our broader community of editors with a brief message to our private network, Editor-Resources.
  7. H-Net will grant you access to the network that you are now an editor at. Feel free to nudge the Network Liaisons (networks@mail.h-net.org) and the VPN (vp-net@mail.h-net.org) if you think you’re ready to move forward but haven’t heard from anyone in a few weeks.
  8. At the moment you assume editorial control of the network, please email the Network Liaisons (networks@mail.h-net.org) to ask if the network needs to “have its buttons restored.” In some cases, when a network has been idling for a long time, H-Net removes its user-interface buttons to prevent subscribers from sending in new messages. Now that you’re present to handle the moderation duties, H-Net will put them back up so subscribers can send in announcements, etc.
  9. Please check the moderation queue and see if it has antiquated messages that need to be cleaned out (NB: the oldest messages currently appear at the front of the queue, the newest at the back). An example of an antiquated message would be an announcement from two years ago for a conference deadline in six months. The deadline has passed, as has the conference most likely, so there is no need to publish the message. For those messages that do warrant publication—they are relevant to the network and still pertinent—go ahead and publish them. Once you have published any pending messages that merit it, you can confer with the VPN (vp-net@mail.h-net.org) about whether it is appropriate to have H-Net “scrub the queue of old messages.” The VPN will confer with you and then H-Net’s Home Office.
  10. Send an announcement out to the network noting that it is up and running again and will circulate relevant academic announcements as they come in. You may also use Editor-Resources to ask other H-Net editors to circulate a similar message over their networks.
  11. Continue to check the moderation queue at least twice a week, approving relevant messages, asking for revisions when necessary, and rejecting those that are outright irrelevant or otherwise unsuitable for a scholarly audience (these are quite rare).
  12. Begin pursuing a steady campaign of recruitment. This can be done through a mixture of strategies, but likely should include at least a few “Calls for Editors” published over the network each year. Our general advice is to seek to recruit at least two additional editors in your first year and at least three in your second, with the expectation being that they will be serving in discrete, complementary roles that slowly increase the network’s range of content. Be prepared to roll with the punches. Feel free to look at the recruitment messages that appear at the bottom of our Recruitment Central site (https://networks.h-net.org/node/152006/pages/4759087/recruitment-central) and to make use of the advice document we maintain on Editor-Resources (https://networks.h-net.org/node/877/pages/4141609/how-guide-building-editorial-team). You can of course always ask the VPN for advice. 
  13. After a few years, consider moving the network’s advisory board and seeing if the new team of editors can provide the network momentum moving forward.

 

In all cases, please remember, H-Net networks exist to enrich their field of study, practice, and pedagogy. We do not harness them for revenue. If you work with one of our networks, you should feel that your labor is substantive and important but also manageable given your other commitments. All editorial team members should remain in communication with each other as they lend a hand amidst their busy schedules. Thank you!