This document outlines the method and criteria used for adding new content to the library.

This document is primarily for onboarding new contributors, but it may also be of interest to users and patrons of the library.

Table of Contents

Overview

The OBU Library serves English speakers with a basic education and an interest in Buddhism.

Its collections are entirely digital and are a combination of self-hosted files (on GitHub and Google Drive) and links to resources accessible on the broader internet. Each entry in the library is ideally hosted in multiple locations (e.g. at Archive.org and on Google Drive) for redundancy and accessibility.

The collection does not strive to host a copy or link to every work ever published about Buddhism. That would as undesirable as it is impossible. The collection instead strives to offer a high-quality, representative selection in keeping with the University’s mission to provide a free, undergraduate-style curriculum in Buddhist Studies with a focus on Early Buddhism.

The Pipeline

The usual procedure for ingesting new content is as follows:

  1. Free content is found online and added to this folder on Google Drive.
  2. That content is then sorted by subject.
  3. A reviewer then reviews pieces in their subject area.
  4. Accepted pieces are moved to the appropriate folders in the public Google Drive library based on what subject they teach and rejected items are archived privately.
  5. When a topical folder on Drive has reached a state of maturity, its contents are added one-by-one to the site’s _content library and the (Drive) folder is added as a new “tag” on the website.
  6. When a tag has a diverse set of works, its content is reviewed again and organized into a course syllabus. (See the open issues on GitHub for courses currently awaiting a volunteer if you’re interested in writing one!)

Inclusion Criteria

For inclusion in the OBU library, a given work should be:

  1. Truthful and accurate
  2. In beautiful and charismatic English
  3. Espousing the Dharma and wholesome values
  4. Adding a unique perspective
  5. On an important topic of wide interest to Buddhists
  6. Available for free
  7. From a reputable source
  8. Difficult to find online

The above factors are to be taken “on balance” such that a deficiency in one area may be compensated for by strength in another. For example, there are a few works of fiction in the library which fail IC1, but whose craft (IC2) and wholesome messages (IC3) make up for their lack of literal truth. On the other hand, the teachings of Chögyam Trungpa, for example, are so disreputable (IC7) and widely publicized (IC8) as to be inadmissible to our library, regardless of his works’ potential merits.

Note that works are subject to reevaluation. If a better (more up-to-date, etc) work is found covering the same topic as an older work, for example, then the older work should be archived in favor of the newer one. In the Hope of Nibbana is a good example of such a work which was downranked after better work was found.

Works that would otherwise not be added to the site for their low score on IC2 and/or IC4 should still be added as rank2 works (see below) if they score highly on IC8 to ensure that they remain accessible online.

Acceptance Levels

Rather than a binary “accepted or rejected” status, items in the OBU library are given a 1–5 star rating based on their score on the Inclusion Criteria above.

  • One-star pieces fail multiple IC categories and are never proactively added to the site. Their files are kept in a private archive on Google Drive of rejected works.
  • Two-star pieces fail at most one IC category but receive only lackluster scores on the rest. This is the most common score for items we review. Such pieces are typically not added to the website, though occasionally a borderline rank3 work can be added (especially if it scores well on IC8). Such works are placed in this Google Drive folder and are labeled “📦 Archived” on the site (see the table below).
  • Three-star pieces fail at most one IC category and receive strong marks in one or two areas. This is the most common designation for accepted works. They are accepted into the appropriate subfolder on the public-facing Google Drive library and must be added to the site if that folder has already been added as a tag.
  • Four-star pieces fail at most one IC category but receive very strong marks in multiple other areas. A four-star review means that this piece is highly recommended and should be added to the website right away (unless its IC5 score is particularly low).
  • Five-star pieces must fail none of the IC categories and must receive strong marks across the board. These are quite rare. They are not identified immediately, but are selected from the pool of recent four-star additions when it comes time to write the next blog post (usually every couple months).

The following table summarizes the five levels and how they work on the website:

Ranking Label Code Effect Example
rank1 📦 Deprecated status: rejected and reason: [explanation] The work will be delisted everywhere on the website except for search, where it will be downranked. The Ancient Path to Enlightenment (code) was delisted after the video was taken down.
rank2 📦 Archived course: nil Archived works are downranked in search and content recommendations. One Teacher, Many Traditions (code) Failed IC6 and IC4, but scored highly enough on the rest to deserve an “honorable mention” as a rank2 piece
rank3 [none] course: [value] An accepted work will be featured on the /tags/[value] page. The Buddha’s Remains (code) Somewhat dry (IC2), niche (IC5) and Googlable (IC8), this otherwise-solid piece was accepted as a standard entry
rank4 ⭐ Recommended status: featured These works are upranked in search and content recommendations and they get highlighted in content lists. The Buddha’s Genitals (code) This piece, in contrast, hits solid marks across the board, being a unique and interesting take buried in an online forum.
rank5 🏅 Featured both of the above and a link to the work in a blog post Same as rank4 but are also highlighted in the newsletter. Arhat Invitation during the Song (code) (blog post) This piece was very interesting and more important than its unassuming title might suggest. It was therefore deemed worthy of featuring in the newsletter.

Note: to view a piece’s ranking directly on the website, click the “Bibtex Data” button and look for the ranking field.

Ontology

As a valued contributor to / keen user of this library, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the library folder structure. Contributors to the library should be able to answer basic questions about the collection such as:

  1. Where are the Jātaka tales?1
  2. Where can one find information about Tibetan Buddhism?2
  3. What are the subcategories under Buddhist Philosophy?3

Having this structure in your head will help you navigate the collection efficiently and helps reviewers direct works to their correct folders.

Choosing a Folder

Once a work has been accepted for inclusion, the reviewer must select the folder (and, if it’s being added to the website, tags) to which this work belongs.

This selection is more art than science, but a few questions are helpful to ask when making the decision:

  • What discourse is this work contributing to?
  • What does the piece claim to be about (e.g. in its title)?
  • Is it actually about something else?
  • What did I personally learn from it?
  • I would enthusiastically recommend this to someone interested in what?
  • Could I imagine this being assigned reading in an undergrad course about __?

The collection is already quite large, so it’s best to be conservative and place works in the smallest conceivable category. For example, a work about Buddhist Cosmology should be placed in “Cosmology” not in “Philosophy”.

Adding to the site

When a work is added into the website, its course field is set to the slug of the folder it was accepted into on Google Drive. The work may also be tagged with additional tags which mark other topics the work is about.

Tags should, but don’t have to, correspond to folders on Drive. If they do, however, a work should not be tagged with both a folder and that folder’s parent. Obviously a work about thai Buddhism is also about theravada and a work about philosophy is also about right view. Tags should mark wildly different places a work may have been added: for example sutta and lay for a work about Pāḷi discourses to lay people.

Conclusion

If you have any additional questions about the library not answered in this document, please feel free to email me at any time.

Thank you for your interest in the library and may you be blessed by the blessings of the Triple Gem. 🙏

💎💎💎

Answers to the Ontology Quiz

  1. Buddhism->Forms->Indian->Stories->Jataka 

  2. Buddhism->Forms->Mahayana->Vajrayana 

  3. Epistemology, Right View, and Right Thought