But what do you do, Erin?
I build things that help; I synthesize and help people understand complex data and ideas; I lead teams and projects over challenging terrain; I try to leave things better than I found them.
I’m a writer, editor, and community nerd. I’ve mostly worked across tech, journalism, and publishing, although I have a soft spot for government and museum work.
Projects & work
In early 2020, I co-founded and, with Alexis Madrigal, co-led the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic, a grant-funded public-health project that channeled the efforts of hundreds of devoted volunteers—and eventually a staff of nearly 30 people—to stitch together, distribute, and explain a comprehensive, accessible, transparently sourced national covid dataset when US government agencies proved unable to do so.
This video is probably the best distillation of that work, which reached millions of people, informed two successive executive administrations, and helped journalists, researchers, congressional committees, and regular humans understand what actually happened in the pandemic’s first year.
It was high-stakes, emotionally and intellectually complex work, and we landed the project successfully. I wrote a little bit about how we built and ran the organization through the peak of the crisis; I’m proud of what we did.
Previously, I spent five years building and expanding OpenNews, an organization launched from the Knight Foundation and Mozilla Foundation to run community events and publish documentation that helped data journalists, designers, and reporters connect up across organizational boundaries and do better work by collaborating instead of competing.
As OpenNews’ editorial lead, I founded and edited Source, a publication devoted to building cross-org knowledge, community, and relationships for technologists in newsrooms, and I was also a core member of the event-running team that launched and produced the popular—and I think unusually humane—SRCCON series of conferences.
Before and between and after those projects, I’ve worked as an editorial strategist both independently and within studios like HUGE, Happy Cog, and Brain Traffic to lead large-scale content/editorial work for clients including the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Brookhaven National Laboratories, W.W. Norton, and Thomson Reuters.
Publishing & publications
Back in the day, I dropped out of grad school to write a kinda-technical book, and I’ve edited books for various tech presses on and off for a couple of decades. I was co-founder and co-editor of Contents magazine—and, for many years, the editor-in-chief of A List Apart magazine, where lots of people learned to make better websites.
A couple of things:
- Episode 1, Erin Kissane: On infusing technologies with an ethic of care, Frontier Magazine podcast, September, 2023
- “Blue Skies Over Mastodon (with Erin Kissane and Tim Bray),” Oxide and Friends podcast, May 2023
- “The Library as Map: Megan Shaw Prelinger & Rick Prelinger in conversation with Erin Kissane,” Fantasies of the Library, ed. Anna-Sophie Springer & Etienne Turpin, MIT Press, 2018 (you can read the original online version of this chapter at Contents)
- Little Big Systems (talk transcript with slides), Webstock, 2012
- The Elements of Content Strategy, a handbook for online editorial practitioners (now freely readable online)
Why I’m here
I care about online networks and spaces because I care about what they can do for—and to—the humans who inhabit them. I focus on the internet because I know from wrenching personal experience that, handled correctly, it can help us find each other and do the work necessary for our collective survival.