TIM Review’s evolution from Ottawa journal to international resource

Tim Review
Tony Bailetti (Left), director of Carleton Unviersity’s TIM program, and Chris McPhee, editor-in-chief of TIM Review.
Photo by Mark Holleron.

From its humble beginnings as the Open Source Business Resource to its status today as an internationally acclaimed journal for academics and businesspeople alike, the Technology Innovation Management Review has made its name on staying ahead of the curve.

Tony Bailetti, director of Carleton University’s TIM program, launched the journal back in 2007. At the time, it was an experiment to uncover how business owners might make use of open-source applications.

These questions were on the minds of local companies such as Newbridge Networks and Nortel, and Bailetti says he was approached by firms such as these to launch a publication that would provide answers.

“We knew what open-source was in terms of the software; we knew how the project worked; we had no idea how it worked economically,” he says.

Bailetti didn’t know it then, but the founding of the Open Source Business Resource established a precedent that the TIM Review carries on today as it explores topics such as cybersecurity, living labs and, most recently, machine learning.

“The success of the journal has been that we focus on things that are new, that are novel, before they become mainstream.”

Chris McPhee, the editor-in-chief of the journal, puts it another way: TIM Review goes to the places where there are more questions than answers.

From local to international

The origins of the OSBR focused largely on Ottawa, with academics and authors drawn from the surrounding area. Bailetti says the plan was to start in the city, then expand to Ontario and finally to the rest of the world. The goal, he says, was always to be global.

When McPhee joined the journal in 2010, it marked a shift away from open-source and the rebranding of the journal into the TIM Review. By then, the monthly publication had a sizeable following, but it had gone as far as it could on its initial open-source niche.

It was time to take off the training wheels and see where it could go.

Tim Review readership
Traffic to the TIM Review website over its history. Courtesy of TIM Review.

The TIM Review straddles the line between an academic and practical journal. Authors come from both sides and are encouraged to support their theories with lived experiences.

“We’re trying to do something with the rigour of academia but at the pace of business,” McPhee says.

Its work in areas such as cybersecurity and social innovation has earned it international acclaim. According to a self-analysis on the occasion of its 10-year anniversary, 70 per cent of the TIM Review’s readership resides outside of the Americas. Additionally, 56 per cent of article authors from across its 10-year history are from the Americas, compared with 85 per cent at the time of the rebrand.

“We’re trying to do something with the rigour of academia but at the pace of business,”

McPhee says the most exciting statistic to him, though, relates to the most popular articles in the journal’s history. Seven of the 10 most popular articles were written by TIM students, instructors or local Ottawa entrepreneurs.

“We started something here at Carleton, in our local ecosystem, put it out into the world, and the content that’s rising to the top is the local content,” he says.

“I remember the pushback, people saying, ‘Ottawa can’t do this,’” Bailetti recalls.

Ten years on, more than one million people have visited TIM Review online, and the journal has 25,000 unique monthly visitors. It’s clear now that Ottawa can do this; the questions now are about how far it can go and how it will get there.

Tim readers
TIM authors and readership. Courtesy of TIM Review.

New tools of the trade

Bailetti and McPhee were out for a beer one evening, reflecting on what might be next for the journal. How do they raise their traffic from 25,000 visitors per month to 100,000?

“What are we going to be when we grow up?” Bailetti asked.

As part of its special anniversary issue, TIM Review undertook a topic modelling analysis of its entire archive. The team used a machine learning tool to read the hundreds of published articles and break down into specific topics what the journal has been covering.

Common and connected words are identified by the algorithm, revealing clusters, or topics. Words such as data, security, and vulnerability can be grouped as “cybersecurity,” whereas co-creation, city and stakeholder would fit under “living labs.” The topics are then modelled, and articles are filtered based on how they fit in these groupings, with a few floating between.

Topic modelling
Topic modelling reveals how discussions of living labs evolved over TIM Review's history. Courtesy of TIM Review.

Topic modelling allows observers to step back and see the overview of an archive as massive as the TIM Review. Some topics don’t come as a surprise: Cybersecurity, for example, is a conscious focus of the journal today.

But Bailetti realized firsthand that topic modelling can correct your assumptions and biases. A colleague introduced him to topic modelling by analyzing some of his students’ papers. While he was certain that “growth” was the main thrust of his Technology Entrepreneurship class, topic modelling revealed his students were writing about product features, or incorporating customer feedback – growth was hardly mentioned, and his colleague told him as much.

“If growth is what you’re doing in your course, you better go back and tell your students, because that’s not what they’re writing about,” Bailetti recalls him saying. Not only was it a wake-up call as to the power of topic modelling, it was a clear sign that he needed to double down on growth in his lessons.

“I just blasted everybody,” Bailetti says with a laugh, recalling the ensuing class with his students.

“I remember the pushback, people saying, ‘Ottawa can’t do this,’”

Examining the potentials of machine learning and topic modelling is part of the vision for the future of the TIM Review. While Bailetti says he’s seen academics do analyses of journals in this way, the journals have not yet adopted the tools themselves.

“Let’s try something nobody else will do. There’s no other journal in the world that I know that is doing this on a recurring basis.”

A decade from now, Bailetti and McPhee will probably be having another beer, reflecting on 20 years of the TIM Review. With thousands more articles in the archive, topic modelling may show the uncharted directions the journal travelled over the decade.

The question on the table, though, likely will not have changed: “What are we going to be when we grow up?”