Blog Post

How do you use HASTAC? What does it provide specifically for you?

What Does HASTAC Do for You? How do you use HASTAC?

As I’ve posted about recently, I’m doing a lot of thinking about the relationship between a website/blog, its bloggers, and bloggers who are graduate students right now. My research is going into my MLA13 presentation on digital serial scholarship as well as into revisions on the NASSR Graduate Student Caucus blog that I have been managing for a couple of years now. It occurred to me that this is a really important topic to post about, since it seeks to understand the “meta” view of the many important sub-discussions or kinds of participation we enjoy on HASTAC from a user’s perspective. In other words, I’m wondering about your personal relationship with HASTAC :)

There is no doubt that HASTAC does something different for each of us that participate in this incredible forum/community. The community and the forum are extremely large and enable us to participate here in different ways and to different ends. (This is one the best parts of HASTAC and its platform, in my opinion!)

I’m wondering: how do you make this huge network and platform work for you? What bits of the network do you interact with and how are they useful? How do you, personally, participate in HASTAC -- even if they are ways that are perhaps unconventional?

How I Use HASTAC - initial thoughts:
I appreciate HASTAC most for its diverse and large readership, its Scholars program (I was an official HASTAC Scholar last year and am still really doing the Scholar thing, though I did not reapply), and as a news/resources source. I receive HASTAC news most readily by following HASTAC and Cathy Davidson on Twitter but also from checking out the HASTAC homepage and featured content almost daily. I also feel a strong connection to HASTAC as a community with which to think about teaching, learning, and scholarly dialogue with technology -- whether I am thinking about the digital in relation to my own doctoral research or in relation to the undergraduate courses I am teaching. My HASTAC blog is a place where over the past 1.5 years I have shared updates and digests of the myriad projects that I work on that pertain to DH. Though I welcome/encourage/desire feedback on these posts, they were written primarily to share a project or a process -- not to poll the HASTAC community for a response to a particular question. Only recently, while thinking more and more about the relationship between graduate students and blogging forums, have I begun writing posts specifically to hear back from other HASTAC members. (In the process, I have learned that when you start a post with the intent of posing a question, rather than with the intent of just sharing a project, the post accrues more of a conversation.)

Why I value the HASTAC Community
I work in an English Department where DH work is not the norm (unless there are many under-the-radar projects I don't know about) -- our Department and our Romanticism professors and grad students are absolutely stellar and are also more traditional scholars. HASTAC provides me with a virtual DH home -- a central place where I can find scholars working on similar kinds of projects, tackling related questions, and I can connect with them just by reading about their work and/or responding to their posts. I am not an active participant in any HASTAC “groups” currently, but I can see myself being one and I love knowing that they are there. (Side note: knowing that these sub-communities are there and will probably continue to be there nods to HASTAC’s commitment to being present and maintaining its ever-changing community - not an easy task.) In addition to the virtual community, I have had the privilege of presenting at a HASTAC conference (at HASTAC V in Michigan). At the conference, my co-presenter, Lindsey Eckert, and I truly enjoyed going from panel to panel and learning about technology and projects that were innovative, sometimes buggy, but always though-provoking and inspiring us to find new modes of producing research and pursuing research questions using digital tools. The crowd felt far more professional, in terms of the ratio of professors or administrators to graduate students, yet our formal presentation (which we totally rocked) and informal conversations were met with warmth and interest at every turn. It reminded me how important face-to-face conversations and actually meeting one's virtual colleagues can be.

Background and related blog posts:
In March of this past year (roughly a year ago), HASTAC’s superadmin published a post that asks “What Does HASTAC Mean to You” -- a similar question but one that hinges more on a kind of evolving definition of this dynamic group/forum/platform. Michael Widner responded at length that HASTAC has helped him with 5 things: professionalization, exposure and audience for his voice, aggregating announcements and resources in one place, and providing a multifaceted blog/conversation forum. Ernesto Priego followed Widner, saying that “HASTAC embodies the meaning of ‘platform,’” and is also “an academic springboard and a collaborative, inspiring collective system for amplification and empowerment” that enables scholars to “become.” Elizabeth Cornell answered this post in a different manner, taking a stab at defining the “essence of HASTAC” as “an inclusive, open community forum, whose members include students, researchers, teachers, and other people interested in participating in discussions of issues related to the learning, teaching, social, political, technical, economic implications of the Web” (there’s more - read her full response). I found this discussion useful, but only tangentially so, since there were so few responses and since it really sought to pin down AN essence or overall meaning of HASTAC -- a forum that is, in my opinion, geniusly constructed in a multifaceted way such that it can enable different kinds of scholars with different writing/sharing styles in different disciplines to participate in a variety of ways.

Epilogue -- A frivolous frustration: the enigma of HASTAC user points
I’m a competitive type-A+ scholar, cheerful work-a-holic, and a performance athlete (I rock climb and enjoy trying to complete routes with more and more difficult grades; it keeps me sane). When I have a profile and my profile comes automatically paired with a points ranking, I notice it and it starts to matter to me. Enter the HASTAC user points rating. I have yet to be able to find the guide for what accrues how many points, and also how points are lost (I admit I have not spent tons of time searching, but I figured it should be easy to find. With my luck, it's probably right under my nose ...). This past fall, after I returned from Switzerland and when my Scholars status expired, I lost lots of points -- it was either that or that I had let time elapse since my last blog post or response? No idea. Also: as a blogger, I tend to write longer, more polished blog posts that take a lot of time -- as a result of my training, that’s just my inclination, and try as I might, I’m incapable of not over-patrolling a post for errors/typos/needed-revision. (Take this post for example -- I could have stopped a long time ago! And if I split this post into two posts, I’ll probably get more points.) My guess is that long posts earn the same amount as short posts, polished posts the same as unedited. I think I also gained some points for commenting. No points are earned if you are more of a Tweeter than a blogger -- Tweets are, of course, part of Twitter and therefore are probably too challenging for HASTAC to track. Anyway -- it’s a minor annoyance and a tangent to my original post, but I would really love to know how the whole point system works. And it would be lovely if a participant could opt out of the point system -- especially if that scholar is one who, like me, tends to work in ways (longer but fewer posts, lots of tweets) that don’t usually lend themselves toward points rewards.

But I digress -- back to my original questions: How do you make this huge network and platform work for you? What bits of the network do you interact with and how are they useful? How do you participate in HASTAC in ways that are perhaps unconventional?

Thanks for your responses! Happy continued winter break!




Hi, Kirstyn, This is a beautiful post---it is so welcoming.   HASTAC is now over 10,000 network members.  Incredible.  And the activity is so intense that it is a little bit of everything to everyone---which means, we see how individuals contribute to and shape the network but have very little idea of how other individuals use it, how they make their way through this massive exciting content, and what they do with it.  And we  are dying to know.  Ruby has been working on a "usability" survey for the site but your question goes to actual funtions such as the HASTAC conferences, THAT Camps, meet ups at conferences, finding collaborators and doing projects together, as well as virtual interactivity. We will promote your blog post in every way because you are asking the central questions. 


By the way, one major way I use the site is through the "SEARCH" function.  It's not perfect but often HASTAC team members will retag posts to make them more useful to our search engines and the network members are getting better and better at good tags.  Here's an example:  I just put in "classroom tools" and came up with dozens of blogs with titles and a few first lines and immediately could find this could blog on twitter in the classroom: or this one on "Tools for Classroom Collaboration":


I'd love to know if that's something everyone does because we're constantly working on our search function on the site.  Useful?  Not? 


Thank you so much for your leadership and we cannot wait to find out more from the answers you pose here.  We may even turn it into a HASTAC Scholars Forum someday.  Interested?  Let's talk to Fiona about it.   Have a great holiday and thanks again for getting this conversation started.   As a peer-generated network, anyone can become a leader simply by, well, leading.  This blog is an excellent example of how to lead and inspire a virtual network and learn from your own contribution.  Thanks again. We'll all learn together from this.


Thank you, Ruby! For others as curious as I was: here's the explanation given in Ruby's link regarding user points:

User points badge. Members accrue points based on their interactions with the site. New bars are given at 10, 50, 100, 200, and 300 points. Some of the activities that earn points include commenting (2), adding a picture to your profile (5), posting content (5), and creating groups (10). If we suspect a member of attempting to game the point system, we may remove the user's points. All points expire one year after they are earned.

I will look forward to responding to the HASTAC user survey in January -- thanks for taking the time to reply on what I assume is a very busy day!


I only have time for a brief reply today, but I'm thrilled that you've posed these questions and fascinated to see what people have to say. I can tell you that user points are assigned based solely on the quantity and not quality of your activity on the site, and they automatically expire a year after they are earned. Here's a little more about that:

We have prepared a HASTAC member survey that we will be launching in the beginning of January to get a better idea of how to make the site more usable. We couldn't be more interested in your qualitative and quantitative feedback about, especially right now. Thanks for your thoughtful engagement with site!


Hi Cathy - thank you very much for your comment and your support!

Yes (!!) to the search bar -- in fact, I get a little panicky when I get to websites and I cannot find the search bar immediately. The search bar to me is a symbol of content openness and access -- without one, users are left trying to puzzle out what the "right" navigation system is from the GUI to find what they need.

I am also a hastac searcher who searches on topics and tags. It's one of the things that I always look for in blog posts and search for posts by. I am a fan of blogs with tag clouds I can see and click on the words I'm interested in - it shows me visually how major or minor the topic is. (You currently have a version of this with #s under topics and subtopics)

Yes to helping Fiona with the Scholars Forum if that would be useful.

You say "As a peer-generated network, anyone can become a leader simply by, well, leading." I love this idea and also love the idea that as a peer-generated network, anyone can of course become a peer. In other words, departmental worlds can feel small -- especially when dissertating/teaching -- and I find that being able to see/feel/read about others working hard and thinking alongside me by our HASTAC web relationship makes a difference in my own work and my quality of life as a scholar. This may sound strange, but it's at times just a feeling of knowing that others in the HASTAC community are working/producing/thinking/asking. We are not working in a vaccuum and via HASTAC have a way to actually see that.

Also, I'm beginning to think that what many perceive as a moment of great distress in the "overproduction of PhDs" can also be thought of as a moment of great wealth in knowledge production. Because there are more of us! We may not be able to fire off articles that go straight to peer-reviewed journals, but we do a LOT of meaningful work, thinking, drafting, revising, rethinking, and participating in projects that don't lead to traditional scholarly articles (at least in my field of Romanticism). We also encounter professional norms with fresh eyes -- what we lack in experience, we gain in perspective at times -- and in such great numbers it may be possible to help make some changes in the long run. To save these thoughts, research nuggets, and questions for peer-reviewed articles or a book published *years* after graduation is really a waste of knowledge production and opportunities for collaboration and meaningful contributions to the Humanities.



I've already learned something else from you:  our tag cloud is no longer visible!   We used to have one, some of us at HASTAC Central love them, some hate them . . . I'm not sure what happened to ours.   I'll inquire.  (Thanks for adding a point to my side of this argument, btw!)


I love your point about contribution.   My partner is Ken Wissoker, editorial director of Duke U Press, and, like any editor, he can rehearse all the stresses to scholarly publishing these days.  He turns down about 30 ms a week, just him, not the other editors at the press.  On the other hand, he is the first person to remind scholars today that they have opportunities to present their ideas that no previous generation of scholars had (although, in fact, poets have for decades and decades, certainly back to TS Eliot but before that too, always had local self-publishing for their work:   when I still wrote poetry, I used to joke that half of my poems were published at My Friend's Basement Press--very tiny local presses, usually run by some other poet, but often with extremely stringent standards nonetheless but, since there was no hope of profit, definitely a "hand craft" operation).  


Now, though, any scholar can choose how to present herself and her work to the world in so many different venues.   In fact, I just put "citation" into the search box and found a number of good posts about how to cite digital contributions on a resume.  Here's one for example: and and


For our PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge next semester, we are focusing on only two topics:  scholarly self-presentation on line (digital portfolios and websites) and new forms of teaching.   They go together.


Thanks again for this conversation.   And now I'm going to use our handy feedback tool to ask about our former tag cloud.  Happy new year!





Hi Kirstyn,

"I’m a competitive type-A+ scholar, cheerful work-a-holic" is hands-down my new all-time favorite phrase. Thanks for putting that out there. I feel less alone now :)

Your comment about the points is interesting, and is connected to my research (technology-mediated social participation) and it dovetails with what we're learning about good badge system design through the DML Competition grantees. 

I'm like you -- if I see a reputation/reward mechanic, I want to know how it's designed and I want to understand how my contributions are valued and reflected back to me and the community. We've talked a little here at HASTAC about how to design a good system (for example, one that doesn't just reward quantity, but collaboration, initiative, interactivity, quality). Asking the community how to design a HASTAC badge system would make an interesting post. For example, does it make sense to have points expire after a year? If I contribute to the community, and others build on those contributions, why should those points (a short-cut representation of social proof) expire? And why a year? Losing points doesn't make people feel like they should post more (which in my opinion is the lowest-common denominator motivation for posting), it just makes them feel like they're losing. How can you weight contributions over time so that they remain valuable, and is there a way to build a good system that rewards without punishes?

A good badge system should reflect how we contribute to the community, not just how much and when. Our current system is relatively crude and if we had the resources, it would be fascinating to crowd-source ideas about what it means to build a genuine HASTAC badge system. One thing I'm learning from the Badges for Lifelong Learning grantees is how much we have to learn about good design principles. In my ideal system, it would be designed so that even if you game it, the output benefits the community and the individual contributor. Or in the process of learning to game the system, you become more aware of the community values and how the system interacts with it. Oh, and my ideal system would also be free to build and easy to use :)





Thanks Kirstyn for a really intriguing post. I had wondered about the point system too, and now I know. 

@Cathy Davidson, I've noticed that you can't search for users by name in the search bar. It seems like a relatively easy field to add to the search algorithm. Is there a reason for not having users come up? I've tried clicking on "Users"  and then searching by last name. Still no dice. I've gone out to Google and searched to come back in where I want to find someone a few times. Possibly this is because I am interested in the evolution of certain people's blogs as well as topics. Or I am missing an easier way to find them. I have also gone through the Scholars link where all of our thumbnails are, but it's a clunky way to find someone. 

So, for me, the search bar ought to scan the "author" field.



That's a good suggestion, Tassie. Right now there two ways to search for users on the site.

1. The member directory lets you filter by name, organization, interests, and group membership.

2. The search page has a users tab (the one you used), where you can search by user name.

The HASTAC site is builting using the Drupal platform, and also takes advantage of the very powerful Apache Solr search engine, so it's not a small matter to just go in a change the code. We tend to prefer solutions that utilize the strengths of the software we have, and also are working hard to keep additions to a minimum to help keep the site running smoothly.

All that said, there is always room for improvement and we find it very helpful to get suggestions and priorities from members. We use a service called Uservoice to do this at, but I am loving this thread (which is not just limited to web site funcitonality) so keep the conversation going here.



I remember Cathy and Ruby mentioning that there's going to be an initiative/study/survey soon regarding how HASTACers use HASTAC. I was just thinking of a method of doing this: have a group of volunteers (ideally a diverse group from a range of institutions, research areas, degree programs, etc.) keep a HASTAC use journal for a defined period of time. Maybe there's a form you would like users to submit each time they use the site that records what they clicked on, looked for, found, didn't find, responded to, thought about using but didn't use, etc. That way you could turn the journal into collectable data (rather than just digging through narratives and having to parse that).


So we did kick off the study mentioned above. Anyone can take the survey at and learn more about it at

I like the idea of your users' journal too. This might be a good idea for when we are working on the next major version of the site, but could be handy any time someone has the energy to organize adn respond to it.  We actually have a group here for people who might be interested in particpating, although they haven't been very active since we launched the current version of the site in the summer of 2011.


Hi Ruby,

Just wanted to thank you for your response and let you know that I completed the usability survey a couple weeks ago. I'll encourage others to do so, too. I take your point about surveys and labor near to the heart. Even with a small Wordpress forum for our NASSR graduate student caucus blog, I struggle to fit working on our site and processes into my general research/writing/teaching workflow -- but I think the key is really at this point I just need another person to help. :)




Thanks for starting this great discussion.  It's stuck in my head and I've written a post here on HASTAC following a case study of how HASTAC has directly benefitted me.  It was unexpectedly complicated to follow all of the links involved, but I think it makes for some interesting reading.  Hope you find it interesting!