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now: an archive of Cooper Union's Bylaws from 1859 - 2012 / later: experiments outlining best practices for living documents and content management systems that are transparent and accountable
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A lot of people have approached me up in arms about shutting up unless I've got a financial solution. I'm of the opinion that financial solutions with any integrity at all will only happen in conjunction with other types of more important changes: systemic, rhetorical, technical.

So here is something nerdy:

This repository contains an archive of Cooper Union's Bylaws from 1996 - 2012. Having done nothing more than pull these documents together into a folder, they already highlight the sloppy and outmoded manner in which Cooper's administrators create, distribute, and archive information.

Going forward I hope to use these documents as raw-material for experiments outlining best practices for living documents and content management systems that are transparent and accountable.

If this collection doesn't look particularly interesting that's because it actually isn't! But getting access to this ostensibly public document's history has been an arduous, bottlenecked procedure (it shouldn't have to be)...and the collection isn't even complete. Where, for example, are the original 1972 Bylaws which all these revisions amend? Where is the history of every document? If we weren't keeping it already why aren't we starting this second?

After a month of heckling the Secretary to the Board of Trustees, a mixed-bag of documents was passed to the college's Library, whose staff quickly posted them online. The files varied substantially in formatting and accessibility and were therefore hard to compare. I set about standardizing the documents as much as possible so the ways that this governing text has changed over time can begin to surface.

Before and After

The first step of this is that most of the PDFs have been converted by hand into Markdown, a plain-text writing format that provides for a little bit of structure. If you're adventurous, you can already download the files in the /markdown directory and plug them into a diff tool like Kaleidoscope.

Kaleidoscope Screenshot

In my dream-world I use this space to build tools that shoehorn these principles directly into the administrative workflows responsible for creating and distributing this mess, so that ridiculous retroactive unpacking efforts such as this are not necessary.

But this is a start.

The original documents were accessed from the library website on January 23rd, 2013. The six PDF files available on via the library are archived in the /pdf directory of this repository. One version of the bylaws, made available by the library in HTML, is not yet archived here.

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