By Kristen Ratan

At Coko, we’re taking a community-first approach to developing the next generation of publishing technologies. The organizations who will adopt the platforms are helping to design, build, and test them from the beginning.  We’re bringing in partners, user groups, and other stakeholders early to shape the workflows, feature sets, and interfaces. Quite literally, the white board markers are in their hands. Not only is this resulting in better technologies, it’s a lot more fun. And the culture change needed to switch to a new platform is baked into the process. The participants own the product development process and the outcomes. Practically speaking, this means that on our journal platform, xPub, we’re working hand-in-hand with publisher leadership, technology and user experience teams at organizations like University of California Press, eLife, Hindawi, and Europe PMC to co-develop shared technology solutions.

This requires a lot of careful and hands on community building and management. The ingredients that have made this effort successful so far are:

  1. Shared roadmap: the different groups and individuals operate as a unified team, working hard to communicate clearly what everyone is working on so that the work can be divvied up
  2. Communication: We have quarterly in person meetings for all of the developers across the organizations to meet and the sub-teams for development and UX that meet every other week by video, and everyone chats daily on Mattermost (open source Slack)
  3. Trust: While code commits are checked and controlled by lead developers for each group, the groups have spent enough time together that a lot of goodwill and trust has been built up. This is crucial to fostering collaboration over competition and not-invented-here syndrome. It makes it much easier for groups to reuse each others’ code and build on it rather than over it.

This effort is very much a work in progress and we are learning all of the time, but it’s rather amazing how well it’s gone so far, given the complexity of the technology and the diversity of use cases across the community. Product outputs and links to Mattermost, Gitlab and other resources can be found here: