WordPress 5.9

The WordPress 5.9 update brings full site editing to block-based themes along with many other improvements. Full site editing gives users much more control over the look and feel of their websites, and opens up a powerful array of tools for authoring content. We wrote a blog post about the transition that includes a video introducing full-site editing.

Working in the Full Site Editor

CORE transition to MSU

Since its inception, the CORE repository has been generously hosted by the Columbia University Libraries. We have transitioned CORE to the MSU Libraries, which will make it easier for us to maintain and support it.

In Progress

Process improvements and documentation

Over the last year we have been working to improve how we work on the Commons. This includes transitioning to a new project management application (ZenHub), improving our workflows, improving our internal documentation, and improving our user-facing documentation. This work is ongoing, and will make it much easier for our small team to keep the Commons up-to-date, secure, and always improving.

Identity management improvements

We have been gradually improving the authentication and registration functionality of the Commons. We have been working to reduce the instances where users are forced to re-login to the Commons when visiting different areas of the site. We have also made the registration and login section of the site more visually consistent with the rest of the Commons. We are currently working to make it easier for users to take control of their identity on the Commons, for example by adding a new email address, login method, or society membership without having to contact support. We are also working to streamline our authentication and registration infrastructure in order to reduce instances where users have trouble registering or authenticating.

ARLISNA launch

The Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) recently joined the Commons and we have been transitioning many of their sites to the Commons.

HASTAC launch

HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) is the latest organization to join the Commons. HASTAC is transitioning their current website to the Commons along with their nearly 20,000 users. HASTAC Commons will launch this summer!

CORE FAST metadata transition

In order to support academics from a wider range of disciplines, we are transitioning the CORE repository to use FAST metadata for subject categorization. This is a key first step in opening up the Commons to users from beyond the humanities.

Adding FAST subjects to a deposit

Theme refresh

Since its inception, the Commons has used a version of the BuddyBoss theme for our main site. This theme has served us well, but is starting to show its age. We are working on a refresh of the site to address some of our most severe usability and accessibility issues. This will bridge us to a more substantial redesign coming soon.

On Deck

Disciplinary expansion

The Commons was founded with the aim of giving humanities scholars a home on the internet that had not previously existed. As we have matured we have found a demand to extend our community beyond the humanities, particularly to STEM and the Social Sciences. The CORE FAST transition is our first step in this process and we are working to make the Commons a place where academics from all disciplines can find a home.

STEM Education @ State, hosted by the Commons

Commons API phase 1

A guiding principle of our development is interoperability. This means that we see the Commons as interacting with a network of Open Access and Open Source tools and platforms in a way that enriches our users’ experience of all. The first step for improving our interoperability is developing and API that allows external platforms and applications to access and use content on the Commons. For instance, a user who publishes a document with Manifold might connect the publication to their Commons profile to have their profile information imported to Manifold and their publication automatically reflected in their Commons profile and activity feed.

The first phase of this API will allow external services to access publicly available information on the Commons in a read-only way. Future phases will allow for more robust interactions and will include tools to allow users full control over how their personal data is shared.


CommonsConnect is a plugin that will allow users to embed Commons content in any WordPress site, whether on the Commons or not. For example, a user will be able to have an always up-to-date list of their publications they have uploaded to CORE on their personal site:

Prototype of COREConnect block

This plugin will make use of the Commons API and will serve as a model of the type of application you can use to connect to the Commons.

Theme redesign

Following our theme refresh, we will be pursuing a full scale redesign of the main Commons theme. The new theme will be a modern block-based full site editing theme and will serve as the basis for Commons 2.0 – a fully redesigned and rewritten Commons platform.


Decentralized Commons

The current Commons uses a multi-network architecture to serve the entire site on a single WordPress instance. In the future we will be transitioning to a multi-instance architecture where Commons instances can be hosted by a variety of organizations and institutions, all interacting through our WordPress API. This future Commons will overlay the WordPress / BuddyPress backend with a REACT, block-based frontend. This will allow the Commons to scale beyond what is possible with the current architecture and also allow organizations more power to customize the Commons experience for their users.

Commons API Phase 2

The second phase of the Commons API will allow external sites and services to interact with the Commons more robustly, including updating profiles, participating in discussions, and sending message. This version of the Commons API will be the backbone of the decentralized Commons, but will also allow interoperability with a wide range of Open Scholarship sites and platforms.

Next Generation Repository

The CORE repository, based on the Fedora platform, has served us well for many years and is one of the most popular parts of the Commons. However, looking to the future the Commons needs to transition to a repository system that allows for next-generation features such as overlay journals, revisioning, and data deposits. We are currently working on early designs of our next-generation repository, based on the Invenio framework.