Visitors to CFPList.com, the call for papers website run by URI English Ph.D. students Derick Ariyam and Michael Becker, will find a clean, innovative way to search calls for papers, conference information, writing awards, and calls for chapters and articles. The site’s organization and streamlined, user-friendly interface distinguishes it from other CFP sites. On it, scholars can search by the three criteria Becker and Ariyam use to structure the site: time (date), location, and topic. Ariyam and Becker saw the need for an easily navigable CFP database that was designed differently. As for that clean look, Ariyam explains, “To begin, I wanted a minimalist aesthetic that would allow people to see key things, like dates, right away. I wanted it to be responsive and quick.” Becker adds that he was blown away by the prototype’s clean style because he “had this idea of what the tools could be like, but hadn’t yet given much thought to the minimalist, organized, readable structure of the site. We talked about the color choices—green, purple, and orange—for the color-coding of the standardization of the site.”
The two realized that there weren’t many existing sources for finding calls for papers and that theses sources often had limited search tools. Ariyam says, “I thought of taking on building something… I talked to Mike and it was funny because Mike had the exact same ideas.” That’s when things really started to take off. Ariyam created a prototype website based on his ideas and asked Becker for feedback. Becker recalls that “Derick had asked me to critique the [prototype] site and I wrote a three or four page email— I got so into it. I was scared that Derick would never speak to me again because I had just given him this in-depth critique of a little side project, but when Derick’s response was ‘let’s do this—I like these ideas,’ I knew this was something that could go really far because the people with the right skill sets to compliment one another were getting together.”
Becker’s favorite feature of the site is its map that allows scholars to find CFPs by location, but Ariyam’s is the automation of it because “someone can just go to the site and submit and edit their post. Emails are sent and then all Mike has to do is click an ‘approve button’ to complete the process.” The ease of using the site has helped it generate wide, international attention. “Many of our CFPs are now for events outside of the US,” notes Ariyam, a surprising development that pleases both of them.
Becker says, “I remember my excitement the first time we had one pin on each of the major continents. We hopped overseas to Europe really quickly, and then there were quite a few listings in the Middle East, Japan, and China. Australia took a while. For me, that spread was a really pleasant surprise. At one point, I think it was in the first year, we had a lot of CFPs from Poland and somebody got in touch with us to say, ‘This is really wonderful. It’s difficult to promote a conference here.’ The people who cheer us on are wonderful.”
Another surprise has been the site’s ability to reach outside of the humanities: it has garnered attention from the sciences, as well as engineering, computer programming, politics, fashion, and other fields. “In that sense,” says Becker, “we’re at this moment when we have to look at our categories again because the original vision we both shared under-anticipated the desire of people working outside of the humanities to use our tools.”
By request, Becker offers some tips for successful collaboration: “There was something about our working style where we could be absolutely 100% honest and it wasn’t threatening. So, I guess, be honest, know what your skill sets are (and what they aren’t), and be patient while looking for the people who compliment your skills.”
You can find their website at cfplist.com.