Welcome to OpenChannels and the Sea ++ Blog! Now that you're here, here's what you can do

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By Nick Wehner
Project Manager, OpenChannels
nwehner [at] marineaffairs.org

Greetings OpenChannels users, and welcome to the inaugural edition of the Sea ++ Blog. This blog will provide regular content on the technological side of ocean planning and management. In this issue, I'll be briefing you on the capabilities of the OpenChannels website and changes that will be forthcoming for our September "Stable" launch.

OpenChannels is designed to be dynamic. Following the basic principles of Adaptive Management, we're going to (try) to practice what we preach. What do I mean, exactly? You probably have noticed the questionnaires on the right-side of every page. That's the first step: gather user feedback. We collected a lot of very valuable feedback from the "Alpha" site we launched back in June. Community members just like you filled out in-site questionnaires, emailed us, and even let us interview them over the phone. We heard comments about features people liked (so we made sure to keep and improve them), things people didn't like (we'll be getting rid of the enormous, rotating pictures for the "Stable" launch!), and things people wanted (so we added a bunch of new features for this "Beta" site). We gathered feedback from our stakeholders, reviewed it, made changes, and we're starting our second round of assessment. That's the adaptive management approach for OpenChannels. We think it helped a lot, and we hope you do too!

User accounts

So, what can you do with the Beta version of OpenChannels? First, I suggest you create a user account. Why? 1. It'll help us keep a record of how many people are using the site. This is particularly useful when we're assessing feedback so we have an idea of our population size. 2. You'll be able to sign up for the OpenChannels Newsletter where you'll receive updates on upcoming events (like our Office Hours), new additions to the Literature Library, as well as other content updates. 3. With a user account, you can also write a blog.

Write a Blog

Did you know the term Blog is short for Web Log? Next time you play trivia, you'll get this one right!

OpenChannels Blogs are a great way for our users to express themselves. We'll be featuring regular Blogs from movers and shakers within the ocean planning community - people like Tundi Agardy, Toni Parras, Jeff Ardron, and others. We'd like you to share your thoughts and experiences with the OpenChannels community, too! Create a user account and then write your own Blog. If you have questions about blogging, or if you'd like to become a regular contributor to the OpenChannels Blogs (and get your own logo!), nwehner [at] openchannels.org (subject: OC%20Blogs) (send me an email).

Share news, video, literature, or other content

Anyone can share information with the OpenChannels community using the menu links located below the rotating picture items. If there's a relevant story in the news media, click Share a news story and your post will appear in the News and Blogs section. Did you recently read a great report that isn't in the Literature Library? Click the Submit an item to the Literature Library link and fill out the relevant information. The OpenChannels team will add it to the Library, and we'll be sure to credit you with the submission. If there is other content you think belongs on OpenChannels, use the Share content, video, and resources link. The OpenChannels team will review your submission and add it to the appropriate section of the site, and just like the other sharing methods, we'll be sure to credit you with the submission. We like to make sure our users get credit for giving back!

Sign up for content notifications

Once you are logged-in with your OpenChannels user account, you may notice links such as Subscribe to: Posts of type Literature. These links allow you to signup for email notifications, meaning that you can receive an email each time we add an item to the Literature Library, post a new MPA News article, or other events occur. You may choose from either immediate or nightly (midnight Pacific time) notifications. When you comment on the site or post a forum topic, you'll get a notification email by default when someone responds to your post. It's a great way to keep informed of when your questions get answered or spark discussion on the site.

Diving into the Literature Library

The OpenChannels Literature Library now has over 900 items in it - everything from journal articles, reports, memos, fact sheets, and more. If we find it useful for ocean planning, chances are it's there. For the Beta site, you'll be able to filter the Library by content type. Soon we'll be unveiling subject filters. If there are certain subjects you would like to have covered, be sure to tell us using the in-site feedback forms within the Literature Library. You can keyword search everything in the OpenChannels website, including the Literature Library, using the Search button located on the right-side of every page.

A note on Open Access: Many of the items in the Literature Library are Open Access, or at least free for everyone to download and read. However, this is not the case with all journal articles, in particular. Some of the journals cited in the Literature Library are what we call closed: that means your local library or institution will have to pay for a subscription to the journal for you to access the full-text, or you'll have to pay a one-time license fee. Journal license fees can get very expensive, very quickly. For example, a one year license to the journal Ocean and Coastal Management is over US $2,000 - and that's just online access to the last 5 years of content! While we'd love to give the OpenChannels community free access to all the information you could possibly consume, we simply can't afford it. If the Open Access initiative is new to you, the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains the challenges of scholarly sharing in a recent article.

Webinars: learning on-demand

OpenChannels Webinars cover a variety of topics, including EBM, MPAs, and Software Tools to name a few. You can stream a webinar from within the OpenChannels website, or download a copy from our Vimeo page and take it with you offline. Special thanks to the EBM Tools Network for sharing those with us!

Videos, Resources, and Software Tools

The remaining content on OpenChannels is fairly self-explanatory. There's a great list of videos with more and more added each week. Each video covers a different topic on ocean planning and management in a fun and insightful way. The Resource Center will introduce you to a sample of related institutions, where to go to find relevant data, and even tools for enhancing collaboration and productivity within your organization. Last but certainly not least, Sarah Carr of the EBM Tools Network contributed a list of field-tested software tools useful for comprehensive marine spatial planning. Visit the Software Tools page and the Tools Resources section for more information on selecting the right software tool for use in your next spatial planning project.

Now that​ you're familiar with the capabilities of the OpenChannels Forum for Ocean Planning and Management, go have fun with it!

There is a lot of content in OpenChannels to keep you busy for quite a while. Next time you need productive procrastination, take a coffee break with OpenChannels. I'm sure it'll keep you occupied, and hopefully you'll learn a thing or two. Thanks for visiting us - be sure to check back soon for updates!