Posts by Tag

zotero

Hello Again, 2006: The Economics of Reference Management Software

4 minute read

The tiny and insular world where academia, technology, and business converge buzzed all day yesterday (and continues to do so today) about publishing giant Elsevier’s rumored bid to purchase Mendeley for $100M. TechCrunch’s dependably credulous reporter duly transcribed the leaker’s claims that publishing is “the world that Mendeley is disrupting.” But this story has really nothing to do with a “disruption” in academic publishing, and if anything what we’re seeing is a reversion to 2006 or so. When Zotero launched then, the major players were Endnote (Thomson Reuters) and RefWorks (ProQuest), each owned by a major content provider. And now in 2013 we can add to that stable of publisher-owned reference managers Papers (Springer) and, apparently, Mendeley (Elsevier). As someone...

On Usage Figures

3 minute read

Among the more eye-popping numbers associated with LinkedIn’s recent initial public offering is the 100,000,000 members it claims. What do those hundred million people do with their LinkedIn accounts? If they’re like me, they quietly ignore the endless spam but never quite motivate to unsubscribe. Or maybe they occasionally click through a link returned by a Google search, only to discover the limp résumé of some sad sack looking to escape the Enterprise rent-a-car counter, not the super cool and attractive “Sean Takats” that they went to high school with and are stalking. I’ve been thinking a lot about these kinds of numbers as the Zotero team prepares for a major summit this summer. In our first few years, we...

Zotero Versus

5 minute read

Brian Croxall recently lit up the comment feed at the Chronicle with his ProfHacker comparison of “Zotero vs. Endnote,” where the debate centered mostly around issues of citation fidelity. As Fred Gibbs notes, however, “while citation formatting is one major reason to use bibliographic software, it isn’t necessarily the only or even primary reason, especially in the humanities.” Zotero’s citation functionality was always imagined merely as bait: by providing this labor-saving functionality, Zotero would encourage each user to move her research into what amounted to a fully searchable and shareable relational database that could be subjected to text mining and other analysis. Here researchers could begin to do truly remarkable and new things with their evidence. A few commenters, as...

Zotero and AWS, or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cloud (Part 1 of 2)

5 minute read

Zotero’s server infrastructure has evolved in countless ways since the project’s 2006 launch, but most of those changes are super boring and not worth remembering. Over the past two months, however, we moved the bulk of Zotero’s back end to Amazon Web Services, a step that I believe is uniquely noteworthy in the context of digital humanities projects and their long-term sustainability. In this post I describe the recent changes to Zotero’s architecture. In the next post I’ll discuss why these changes are important for the digital humanities. This story is long, but it has a moral, and also a van. But First, a Little History Initially operating on physical servers purchased by the Center for History and New Media...

Zotero Storage Goes Global

less than 1 minute read

Because I live under a rock (Vietnam), I only recently discovered the Google Charts API. When I saw that it supported maps, I thought it might be fun to plot the sales data for Zotero File Storage provided by the nonprofit corporation I started along with a bunch of other academics. Bear in mind that these maps only reflect the billing addresses associated with purchasers of Zotero storage. Zotero’s general user base is even more globally distributed and several orders of magnitude larger than the subset depicted here. Nonetheless the results are stunning, I think, and something that pleasantly reminds me of the last throes of a game of Risk. We have work to do in Africa and the Middle...

Zotero and Open Access

2 minute read

Before the excitement surrounding last month’s Open Access Week fades completely — too late — I thought it might be appropriate to describe how and where Zotero intersects with OA. When people talk about Open Access, they typically mean free access to published, usually scholarly, content. It’s a concept that’s ideologically easy for most researchers to get behind because few of us reap any direct financial benefit from the majority of our publications, and we’re all very familiar with the annoying frictions introduced by gating access to content. Championing Open Access is kind of like advocating not clubbing baby seals: you’re unlikely to encounter much opposition. Publishers, of course, are always the villains in this narrative. They seek unseemly profits...

Diderot as Digital Humanist

7 minute read

The following piece is loosely based on a talk I gave at the 2010 meeting of the American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies in Albuquerque, NM. Although the research and reference management software Zotero has garnered plenty of attention for its pithy taglines and millions of delighted users, less well-known is the mission statement that guides every last detail of the project’s development: To collect knowledge disseminated around the globe; to set forth its general system to those with whom we live, and transmit it to those who will come after us, so that the work of preceding centuries will not become useless to the centuries to come; and so that our offspring, becoming better instructed, will at the same time...

Teaching with Zotero Groups, or Eating My Own Dog Food, Part 1

3 minute read

This fall I, along with many others, will use Zotero groups in the classroom for the first time. With their unprecedented collaborative functionality, Zotero groups promise to transform the way that instructors and students interact with sources, particularly in research-intensive classes. Although the Zotero groups functionality is already well-established – there are currently over 3200 public and private groups active at zotero.org – over the course of the semester I fully expect to discover areas where we could add or improve features, and I also look forward to refining how best to integrate Zotero into what passes for my pedagogy. I’ll be teaching History 499: The French Revolution, an undergraduate senior seminar that serves as a capstone for history majors....

A Few More Dismissal Details

1 minute read

We’re still waiting for the court reporter’s transcript from last week’s dismissal of the lawsuit filed by Thomson Reuters targeting Zotero, but a few more details have surfaced regarding the nature of the ruling. Judge Gaylord L. Finch, Jr. dismissed the Thomson Reuters complaint due to a lack of jurisdiction. The dismissal was without prejudice, which means that the judge did not bar Thomson Reuters from refiling its lawsuit. Whether the corporation can or will refile is unknown (to me) at this point. While it does not appear that the judge dealt with much if any of the merits of Thomson Reuters’s complaint, the dismissal is significant for a couple of reasons. First, it would seem to require that Thomson...

Thomson Reuters Lawsuit Dismissed

less than 1 minute read

I’m delighted to announce that this morning the Fairfax Circuit Court dismissed the lawsuit filed against Zotero by Thomson Reuters. The lawsuit had claimed that the Center for History and New Media “reverse-engineered” Thomson Reuters’s EndNote software to provide data interoperability between Zotero and EndNote. As co-director of the Zotero project along with Dan Cohen, I look forward to witnessing the Zotero team now devote its full attention to crafting the pathbreaking new features that are immediately on the development horizon: customized research recommendations, innovative annotation tools, and pioneering collaborative functionality. It’s worth noting that even while the lawsuit was underway over the last nine months, Zotero geniuses completed the implementation of such radical new functionality as cloud-based synchronization, shared...

Zotero Makes the New York Times

less than 1 minute read

Today Olivia Judson features Zotero in her excellent science blog, The Wild Side. In a generally positive review Judson points to Zotero’s ease of use and ability to grab metadata from a variety of sources. Fortunately for Zoterons, the features that Judson finds lacking in Zotero are already present in either the current 1.0.7 release (integration with research databases like JSTOR, PubMed, Web of Science) or in the 1.5 Sync Preview (automatic association of PDF metadata). In the notes accompanying her post, Judson draws attention to the growing problem of siloed data, with academic research increasingly housed in subscription databases. In attempting to address this important problem, I would note that we are far ahead of any competing software, offering...

Zotero Website Overhauled

less than 1 minute read

Notice anything different? Aside from the addition of “Login” and “Register” links to the upper right corner of the Zotero site, you might not detect many changes. The most visible difference is new unified login functionality to support the site’s various functional modules. Users can also now use an OpenID account to authenticate with the Zotero site. Beneath the surface, the guts have been been entirely reworked. Zotero’s web application team, led by Jon Lesser, has created a streamlined new architecture designed to support the vast array of innovative, web-based functionality that we will begin to roll out to users beginning this month. Stay tuned!

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profession

On Bubbles, or This Time It’s Different

3 minute read

This week Inside Higher Ed stirred the DH pot with a thinly-evidenced piece suggesting that we’re in the midst of a “Digital Humanities Bubble” which is supposedly about to burst. As someone who has spent nearly eight years struggling to fill a range of alt-ac, tenure-track, and tenured digital positions, while simultaneously trying to retain the good people we already have at RRCHNM, this comes as welcome news! If only. Since 2006 I’ve been party to over a dozen hires in digital and “traditional” history, and in every single one of those cases, the market dynamic in digital searches has been profoundly different from traditional ones. Whether there’s rapid or modest growth in digital history positions is kind of beside...

A Digital Humanities Tenure Case, Part 3: Decanal Retention

2 minute read

After some turbulence at the college committee level, my tenure case reached my dean in the spring. Here’s what he had to say about “some” — that’s the college committee’s own wiggle word — determining that digital projects should be considered “major service activity” rather than research: Although [Zotero] might appear as simply a technical advance, in fact the three outside reviewers consulted on this part of the case repeatedly note that it is a deep and important intervention into scholarly debate. Zotero depends on an understanding of the research techniques in the humanities and contributes mightily to their improvement. Zotero is thus a scholarly work because it makes significant methodological advances. Huh, so that’s it. With just three sentences, digital projects...

A Poorly Reasoned Suicide Note

3 minute read

Whenever I encounter the research of newly minted PhDs (or the researchers themselves, often at conferences), invariably my first step is to retrieve the relevant dissertations on ProQuest or the researcher’s institutional repository. Over the past few years I’ve run across a handful of cases where I couldn’t locate the dissertation; in each case I’ve contacted the historian in question, who have all provided me with some variant of the same explanation: “I don’t want to be scooped by someone before I write my book.” To me this is insane reasoning: not only does it quite obviously harm the field’s state of knowledge by limiting access, it naively assumes that the researcher is protecting herself from theft by hiding her...

We Are All Managers

4 minute read

When my wife attended an orientation session for her first post-college job, the human resources representative supplied helpful tips for developing “manageatorial” career skills. This felicitous neologism — it wonderfully conjures the image of a janitorial executive — has provided a reliable punch line for two decades; Daniel Allington’s recent jeremiad against digital humanities offers yet another opportunity to trot it out. For someone who’s adamantly not a digital humanist Allington certainly seems to know quite a bit about these soulless managers. He writes, for example, “Humanists today are less likely to be technologists than managers of technologists. Why do something for yourself when what you will be rewarded for is having found the money to pay someone to do it...

A Digital Humanities Tenure Case, Part 2: Letters and Committees

4 minute read

After my tenure presentation and with the unanimous vote of my department, my department’s RPT committee and our chair prepared additional letters to send the file up the food chain to the college-level promotion and tenure committee. These letters were embarrassingly favorable, and based on the excerpts they included from outside readers, those letters too offered overwhelming support for tenure. The college-level committee, however, wasn’t so easily fooled. Voting 10-2 in favor of my case, largely on the basis of my monograph in French history, here’s what the committee members had to report on the digital side of my portfolio: The committee also recognized his considerable work at the Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media as it relates to...

A Digital Humanities Tenure Case, Part 1: “The Talk”

4 minute read

Is there anything that promotes introspective hand-wringing like the heady mix of tenure, promotion, and the digital humanities? The Journal of Digital Humanities recently explored this issue, and especially interesting contributions by Mark Sample and Katherine D. Harris offer retrospective looks at the role played by the digital humanities in their happily-ending tenure cases. I’d like to go a bit further in raising the curtain on what’s unnecessarily viewed as a secretive and mysterious process, particularly when it involves digital humanities. Some of this mystery stems from the fact that there just aren’t that many people seeking tenure yet on digital grounds. But much of it is self-inflicted, because candidates are reluctant to disclose what’s happening, except perhaps after the...

Only a Historian

4 minute read

“The world needs ditch diggers too.” -Judge Smails, Caddyshack (1980) At last week’s Digital Humanities Luxembourg (DHLU) symposium, a common refrain could be heard in nearly every presentation: “I’m only a historian.” Uttered apologetically at the beginning of a number of presentations, after two days it became the object of parody and ultimately comprised part of organizer Frédéric Clavert‘s excellent concluding remarks. But despite the snickering each time it was heard, there was little investigation of what was behind this phrase. I think it actually reveals something important about the state of DH, perhaps especially in Europe but hardly exclusively so.1 A generous interpretation would be that stating one is “only a historian” apologizes for a deficit of technical content...

The End of (French) History

6 minute read

As a historian I like to think that I’m comfortable with the idea of fields dying. Maybe they’re reborn and live to fight another day (like diplomatic history, or so we all keep hearing), and maybe they never really die at all (like quantitative history, safely entrenched at Paris 1-Sorbonne). But what about the old workhorse geographic fields like, say, French history?1 Unless you are Natalie Zemon Davis, being a French historian over the last five decades or more probably meant that you, well, went to France to do your research. And why did you go? You told your department chair and your grant funders and your colleagues that you had to get to the archives and the libraries, of...

Roy’s Campus Interview Advice

2 minute read

While I am squarely in the “don’t-go” camp when it comes to graduate study and the inevitable nightmarish job search, I also recognize that I am the extremely fortunate recipient of very good professional advice all along that rocky path. Roy Rosenzweig provided some of the best such wisdom, and few days go by at CHNM when we don’t try to channel his common-sense pragmatism. Roy drew on decades of experience in the machinations of department politics and hiring, and he knew exactly where job candidates should focus their energy. In the spirit of Roy’s intellectual generosity — and perhaps in the hope that you’ll be inspired to repay it in more tangible ways — I’d like to share a...

Evidence and Abundance

6 minute read

My colleague Mike O’Malley recently wrote an excellent blog post on rethinking historians’ use of evidence in the digital age. In an era where digitization and search tools have largely erased the evidentiary constraints that defined earlier scholarship, how should historical practices change? Mike argues that digital abundance has rendered obsolete the litany of superfluous evidence that historians often deploy to bolster their arguments. Just a few years ago, limitations of of time, evidence, and access drove historians to lard their work with as many examples as possible, a “parade” that “demonstrated the historian’s triumph over scarcity.” Mike suggests that in the future, a historian might spend more time describing her “information architecture” than stacking up evidence like so much...

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digital humanities

Hello Tropy (soon)

2 minute read

I’m happy to announce the funding of Tropy, a major new RRCHNM initiative that Stephen Robertson and I will lead over the next two years. Thanks to the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Tropy will fill a crucial need in the initial phase of the research process: where humanities researchers organize and analyze their vast and rapidly growing personal collections of digital images collected in the archives. In the coming months we’ll be working closely with researchers and a range of archives to develop an entirely new digital tool that enables the efficient import, editing, organization, search, and sharing of images taken in the archives. Although we’re just getting started, I’m already excited about Tropy for a...

On Bubbles, or This Time It’s Different

3 minute read

This week Inside Higher Ed stirred the DH pot with a thinly-evidenced piece suggesting that we’re in the midst of a “Digital Humanities Bubble” which is supposedly about to burst. As someone who has spent nearly eight years struggling to fill a range of alt-ac, tenure-track, and tenured digital positions, while simultaneously trying to retain the good people we already have at RRCHNM, this comes as welcome news! If only. Since 2006 I’ve been party to over a dozen hires in digital and “traditional” history, and in every single one of those cases, the market dynamic in digital searches has been profoundly different from traditional ones. Whether there’s rapid or modest growth in digital history positions is kind of beside...

We Are All Managers

4 minute read

When my wife attended an orientation session for her first post-college job, the human resources representative supplied helpful tips for developing “manageatorial” career skills. This felicitous neologism — it wonderfully conjures the image of a janitorial executive — has provided a reliable punch line for two decades; Daniel Allington’s recent jeremiad against digital humanities offers yet another opportunity to trot it out. For someone who’s adamantly not a digital humanist Allington certainly seems to know quite a bit about these soulless managers. He writes, for example, “Humanists today are less likely to be technologists than managers of technologists. Why do something for yourself when what you will be rewarded for is having found the money to pay someone to do it...

Only a Historian

4 minute read

“The world needs ditch diggers too.” -Judge Smails, Caddyshack (1980) At last week’s Digital Humanities Luxembourg (DHLU) symposium, a common refrain could be heard in nearly every presentation: “I’m only a historian.” Uttered apologetically at the beginning of a number of presentations, after two days it became the object of parody and ultimately comprised part of organizer Frédéric Clavert‘s excellent concluding remarks. But despite the snickering each time it was heard, there was little investigation of what was behind this phrase. I think it actually reveals something important about the state of DH, perhaps especially in Europe but hardly exclusively so.1 A generous interpretation would be that stating one is “only a historian” apologizes for a deficit of technical content...

The End of (French) History

6 minute read

As a historian I like to think that I’m comfortable with the idea of fields dying. Maybe they’re reborn and live to fight another day (like diplomatic history, or so we all keep hearing), and maybe they never really die at all (like quantitative history, safely entrenched at Paris 1-Sorbonne). But what about the old workhorse geographic fields like, say, French history?1 Unless you are Natalie Zemon Davis, being a French historian over the last five decades or more probably meant that you, well, went to France to do your research. And why did you go? You told your department chair and your grant funders and your colleagues that you had to get to the archives and the libraries, of...

Zotero and AWS, or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cloud (Part 1 of 2)

5 minute read

Zotero’s server infrastructure has evolved in countless ways since the project’s 2006 launch, but most of those changes are super boring and not worth remembering. Over the past two months, however, we moved the bulk of Zotero’s back end to Amazon Web Services, a step that I believe is uniquely noteworthy in the context of digital humanities projects and their long-term sustainability. In this post I describe the recent changes to Zotero’s architecture. In the next post I’ll discuss why these changes are important for the digital humanities. This story is long, but it has a moral, and also a van. But First, a Little History Initially operating on physical servers purchased by the Center for History and New Media...

Test Your Digital Humanities Knowledge

1 minute read

I met up with my French colleague Marin Dacos today while he was in the middle of giving an exam on digital publishing to his humanities master’s students. While many U.S. graduate students (and professors) would balk at such a “factual” exam, I suspect that they would have a very tough time getting through it unscathed.1 How would you or your students fare with a test like this? I’ve translated the questions into English. You have ninety minutes. Go! Basic questions and definitions (13 points) In Wikipedia, what do “Diff” and “Edit war” mean? Name the XML formats useful for electronic publishing and specify their particularities. How does PageRank work? What are the advantages of this system? What are its...

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research

Now Hiring!

1 minute read

In a few weeks I’ll begin a project – the Digital History Advanced Research Projects Accelerator – as part of my new position at the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH). The Accelerator aims to create and promote software that capitalizes on digitalized historical research practices. More important than this software – and the key to its success – is the team I am currently recruiting to participate in its development and design. With the generous support of the Luxembourg National Research Fund and the University of Luxembourg, we’re running searches for a dozen new positions over the next year, including three postdoctoral researchers, three software developers, four fully-funded PhD positions, and administrative staff, and we also have...

Tropy

2 minute read

In late November 2010, on the last day of a research visit to Aix-en-Provence, I set down some thoughts on how historians’ practices had seemed to change overnight: what is the future of the archive? archival work now focused more narrowly, more intensely. but also potentially doesn’t provide enough time to get the feel for the archives and change direction. digital photography as a major change. archives now about raw collection, little or no feedback loop between what’s being observed and what comes next. requires a fundamentally different rhythm, one that i’m not yet comfortable with My reflections — which went on to include such uninspired predictions as “finding aids will soon all be online” — drew on my own...

Time Shifting and Historical Research

4 minute read

About ten thousand years ago, we were introduced to the phrase “time shifting” by a decade-long lawsuit over the right to use VCRs to tape TV shows for later viewing. Today’s DVR has of course made this process far easier and probably more widespread, but the idea remains the same: rather than watch something right now, with no snack breaks, we instead put it off until some later time. Other than the occasionally self-serving gripe about having “a lot of TiVo to catch up on,” time shifting is a settled and dead issue, a non-story. Or it would be, if it were not for the troubling case of historical research. In a recent post I fretted about how shifting research...

Evidence and Abundance

6 minute read

My colleague Mike O’Malley recently wrote an excellent blog post on rethinking historians’ use of evidence in the digital age. In an era where digitization and search tools have largely erased the evidentiary constraints that defined earlier scholarship, how should historical practices change? Mike argues that digital abundance has rendered obsolete the litany of superfluous evidence that historians often deploy to bolster their arguments. Just a few years ago, limitations of of time, evidence, and access drove historians to lard their work with as many examples as possible, a “parade” that “demonstrated the historian’s triumph over scarcity.” Mike suggests that in the future, a historian might spend more time describing her “information architecture” than stacking up evidence like so much...

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promotion

A Digital Humanities Tenure Case, Part 3: Decanal Retention

2 minute read

After some turbulence at the college committee level, my tenure case reached my dean in the spring. Here’s what he had to say about “some” — that’s the college committee’s own wiggle word — determining that digital projects should be considered “major service activity” rather than research: Although [Zotero] might appear as simply a technical advance, in fact the three outside reviewers consulted on this part of the case repeatedly note that it is a deep and important intervention into scholarly debate. Zotero depends on an understanding of the research techniques in the humanities and contributes mightily to their improvement. Zotero is thus a scholarly work because it makes significant methodological advances. Huh, so that’s it. With just three sentences, digital projects...

We Are All Managers

4 minute read

When my wife attended an orientation session for her first post-college job, the human resources representative supplied helpful tips for developing “manageatorial” career skills. This felicitous neologism — it wonderfully conjures the image of a janitorial executive — has provided a reliable punch line for two decades; Daniel Allington’s recent jeremiad against digital humanities offers yet another opportunity to trot it out. For someone who’s adamantly not a digital humanist Allington certainly seems to know quite a bit about these soulless managers. He writes, for example, “Humanists today are less likely to be technologists than managers of technologists. Why do something for yourself when what you will be rewarded for is having found the money to pay someone to do it...

A Digital Humanities Tenure Case, Part 2: Letters and Committees

4 minute read

After my tenure presentation and with the unanimous vote of my department, my department’s RPT committee and our chair prepared additional letters to send the file up the food chain to the college-level promotion and tenure committee. These letters were embarrassingly favorable, and based on the excerpts they included from outside readers, those letters too offered overwhelming support for tenure. The college-level committee, however, wasn’t so easily fooled. Voting 10-2 in favor of my case, largely on the basis of my monograph in French history, here’s what the committee members had to report on the digital side of my portfolio: The committee also recognized his considerable work at the Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media as it relates to...

A Digital Humanities Tenure Case, Part 1: “The Talk”

4 minute read

Is there anything that promotes introspective hand-wringing like the heady mix of tenure, promotion, and the digital humanities? The Journal of Digital Humanities recently explored this issue, and especially interesting contributions by Mark Sample and Katherine D. Harris offer retrospective looks at the role played by the digital humanities in their happily-ending tenure cases. I’d like to go a bit further in raising the curtain on what’s unnecessarily viewed as a secretive and mysterious process, particularly when it involves digital humanities. Some of this mystery stems from the fact that there just aren’t that many people seeking tenure yet on digital grounds. But much of it is self-inflicted, because candidates are reluctant to disclose what’s happening, except perhaps after the...

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enlightenment

We Are All Managers

4 minute read

When my wife attended an orientation session for her first post-college job, the human resources representative supplied helpful tips for developing “manageatorial” career skills. This felicitous neologism — it wonderfully conjures the image of a janitorial executive — has provided a reliable punch line for two decades; Daniel Allington’s recent jeremiad against digital humanities offers yet another opportunity to trot it out. For someone who’s adamantly not a digital humanist Allington certainly seems to know quite a bit about these soulless managers. He writes, for example, “Humanists today are less likely to be technologists than managers of technologists. Why do something for yourself when what you will be rewarded for is having found the money to pay someone to do it...

Only a Historian

4 minute read

“The world needs ditch diggers too.” -Judge Smails, Caddyshack (1980) At last week’s Digital Humanities Luxembourg (DHLU) symposium, a common refrain could be heard in nearly every presentation: “I’m only a historian.” Uttered apologetically at the beginning of a number of presentations, after two days it became the object of parody and ultimately comprised part of organizer Frédéric Clavert‘s excellent concluding remarks. But despite the snickering each time it was heard, there was little investigation of what was behind this phrase. I think it actually reveals something important about the state of DH, perhaps especially in Europe but hardly exclusively so.1 A generous interpretation would be that stating one is “only a historian” apologizes for a deficit of technical content...

Diderot as Digital Humanist

7 minute read

The following piece is loosely based on a talk I gave at the 2010 meeting of the American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies in Albuquerque, NM. Although the research and reference management software Zotero has garnered plenty of attention for its pithy taglines and millions of delighted users, less well-known is the mission statement that guides every last detail of the project’s development: To collect knowledge disseminated around the globe; to set forth its general system to those with whom we live, and transmit it to those who will come after us, so that the work of preceding centuries will not become useless to the centuries to come; and so that our offspring, becoming better instructed, will at the same time...

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gallica

Time Shifting and Historical Research

4 minute read

About ten thousand years ago, we were introduced to the phrase “time shifting” by a decade-long lawsuit over the right to use VCRs to tape TV shows for later viewing. Today’s DVR has of course made this process far easier and probably more widespread, but the idea remains the same: rather than watch something right now, with no snack breaks, we instead put it off until some later time. Other than the occasionally self-serving gripe about having “a lot of TiVo to catch up on,” time shifting is a settled and dead issue, a non-story. Or it would be, if it were not for the troubling case of historical research. In a recent post I fretted about how shifting research...

The End of (French) History

6 minute read

As a historian I like to think that I’m comfortable with the idea of fields dying. Maybe they’re reborn and live to fight another day (like diplomatic history, or so we all keep hearing), and maybe they never really die at all (like quantitative history, safely entrenched at Paris 1-Sorbonne). But what about the old workhorse geographic fields like, say, French history?1 Unless you are Natalie Zemon Davis, being a French historian over the last five decades or more probably meant that you, well, went to France to do your research. And why did you go? You told your department chair and your grant funders and your colleagues that you had to get to the archives and the libraries, of...

Evidence and Abundance

6 minute read

My colleague Mike O’Malley recently wrote an excellent blog post on rethinking historians’ use of evidence in the digital age. In an era where digitization and search tools have largely erased the evidentiary constraints that defined earlier scholarship, how should historical practices change? Mike argues that digital abundance has rendered obsolete the litany of superfluous evidence that historians often deploy to bolster their arguments. Just a few years ago, limitations of of time, evidence, and access drove historians to lard their work with as many examples as possible, a “parade” that “demonstrated the historian’s triumph over scarcity.” Mike suggests that in the future, a historian might spend more time describing her “information architecture” than stacking up evidence like so much...

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methods

Tropy

2 minute read

In late November 2010, on the last day of a research visit to Aix-en-Provence, I set down some thoughts on how historians’ practices had seemed to change overnight: what is the future of the archive? archival work now focused more narrowly, more intensely. but also potentially doesn’t provide enough time to get the feel for the archives and change direction. digital photography as a major change. archives now about raw collection, little or no feedback loop between what’s being observed and what comes next. requires a fundamentally different rhythm, one that i’m not yet comfortable with My reflections — which went on to include such uninspired predictions as “finding aids will soon all be online” — drew on my own...

Time Shifting and Historical Research

4 minute read

About ten thousand years ago, we were introduced to the phrase “time shifting” by a decade-long lawsuit over the right to use VCRs to tape TV shows for later viewing. Today’s DVR has of course made this process far easier and probably more widespread, but the idea remains the same: rather than watch something right now, with no snack breaks, we instead put it off until some later time. Other than the occasionally self-serving gripe about having “a lot of TiVo to catch up on,” time shifting is a settled and dead issue, a non-story. Or it would be, if it were not for the troubling case of historical research. In a recent post I fretted about how shifting research...

Evidence and Abundance

6 minute read

My colleague Mike O’Malley recently wrote an excellent blog post on rethinking historians’ use of evidence in the digital age. In an era where digitization and search tools have largely erased the evidentiary constraints that defined earlier scholarship, how should historical practices change? Mike argues that digital abundance has rendered obsolete the litany of superfluous evidence that historians often deploy to bolster their arguments. Just a few years ago, limitations of of time, evidence, and access drove historians to lard their work with as many examples as possible, a “parade” that “demonstrated the historian’s triumph over scarcity.” Mike suggests that in the future, a historian might spend more time describing her “information architecture” than stacking up evidence like so much...

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France

The End of (French) History

6 minute read

As a historian I like to think that I’m comfortable with the idea of fields dying. Maybe they’re reborn and live to fight another day (like diplomatic history, or so we all keep hearing), and maybe they never really die at all (like quantitative history, safely entrenched at Paris 1-Sorbonne). But what about the old workhorse geographic fields like, say, French history?1 Unless you are Natalie Zemon Davis, being a French historian over the last five decades or more probably meant that you, well, went to France to do your research. And why did you go? You told your department chair and your grant funders and your colleagues that you had to get to the archives and the libraries, of...

Test Your Digital Humanities Knowledge

1 minute read

I met up with my French colleague Marin Dacos today while he was in the middle of giving an exam on digital publishing to his humanities master’s students. While many U.S. graduate students (and professors) would balk at such a “factual” exam, I suspect that they would have a very tough time getting through it unscathed.1 How would you or your students fare with a test like this? I’ve translated the questions into English. You have ninety minutes. Go! Basic questions and definitions (13 points) In Wikipedia, what do “Diff” and “Edit war” mean? Name the XML formats useful for electronic publishing and specify their particularities. How does PageRank work? What are the advantages of this system? What are its...

Vietnamese War Dead

4 minute read

Today is Veterans Day in the United States, Remembrance (or “Poppy”) Day in Commonwealth nations, and le Jour du Souvenir in France. In Vietnam, it’s not celebrated at all, but that wasn’t always the case. Unlike the United States’ vaguely-defined Veterans’ Day, in the places where the holiday is elsewhere celebrated it remains rooted in the specificity of the Great War, even as those memories to be recalled have virtually receded beyond the limits of the human lifespan. In France and elsewhere in Europe it’s the dead in particular that are the focus of the day’s attention, and one need not visit in November to witness its significance in historical memory. Once they move beyond the famous Normandy sites, visitors...

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tenure

A Digital Humanities Tenure Case, Part 3: Decanal Retention

2 minute read

After some turbulence at the college committee level, my tenure case reached my dean in the spring. Here’s what he had to say about “some” — that’s the college committee’s own wiggle word — determining that digital projects should be considered “major service activity” rather than research: Although [Zotero] might appear as simply a technical advance, in fact the three outside reviewers consulted on this part of the case repeatedly note that it is a deep and important intervention into scholarly debate. Zotero depends on an understanding of the research techniques in the humanities and contributes mightily to their improvement. Zotero is thus a scholarly work because it makes significant methodological advances. Huh, so that’s it. With just three sentences, digital projects...

A Digital Humanities Tenure Case, Part 2: Letters and Committees

4 minute read

After my tenure presentation and with the unanimous vote of my department, my department’s RPT committee and our chair prepared additional letters to send the file up the food chain to the college-level promotion and tenure committee. These letters were embarrassingly favorable, and based on the excerpts they included from outside readers, those letters too offered overwhelming support for tenure. The college-level committee, however, wasn’t so easily fooled. Voting 10-2 in favor of my case, largely on the basis of my monograph in French history, here’s what the committee members had to report on the digital side of my portfolio: The committee also recognized his considerable work at the Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media as it relates to...

A Digital Humanities Tenure Case, Part 1: “The Talk”

4 minute read

Is there anything that promotes introspective hand-wringing like the heady mix of tenure, promotion, and the digital humanities? The Journal of Digital Humanities recently explored this issue, and especially interesting contributions by Mark Sample and Katherine D. Harris offer retrospective looks at the role played by the digital humanities in their happily-ending tenure cases. I’d like to go a bit further in raising the curtain on what’s unnecessarily viewed as a secretive and mysterious process, particularly when it involves digital humanities. Some of this mystery stems from the fact that there just aren’t that many people seeking tenure yet on digital grounds. But much of it is self-inflicted, because candidates are reluctant to disclose what’s happening, except perhaps after the...

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evidence

On Bubbles, or This Time It’s Different

3 minute read

This week Inside Higher Ed stirred the DH pot with a thinly-evidenced piece suggesting that we’re in the midst of a “Digital Humanities Bubble” which is supposedly about to burst. As someone who has spent nearly eight years struggling to fill a range of alt-ac, tenure-track, and tenured digital positions, while simultaneously trying to retain the good people we already have at RRCHNM, this comes as welcome news! If only. Since 2006 I’ve been party to over a dozen hires in digital and “traditional” history, and in every single one of those cases, the market dynamic in digital searches has been profoundly different from traditional ones. Whether there’s rapid or modest growth in digital history positions is kind of beside...

Evidence and Abundance

6 minute read

My colleague Mike O’Malley recently wrote an excellent blog post on rethinking historians’ use of evidence in the digital age. In an era where digitization and search tools have largely erased the evidentiary constraints that defined earlier scholarship, how should historical practices change? Mike argues that digital abundance has rendered obsolete the litany of superfluous evidence that historians often deploy to bolster their arguments. Just a few years ago, limitations of of time, evidence, and access drove historians to lard their work with as many examples as possible, a “parade” that “demonstrated the historian’s triumph over scarcity.” Mike suggests that in the future, a historian might spend more time describing her “information architecture” than stacking up evidence like so much...

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infrastructure

Hello Tropy (soon)

2 minute read

I’m happy to announce the funding of Tropy, a major new RRCHNM initiative that Stephen Robertson and I will lead over the next two years. Thanks to the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Tropy will fill a crucial need in the initial phase of the research process: where humanities researchers organize and analyze their vast and rapidly growing personal collections of digital images collected in the archives. In the coming months we’ll be working closely with researchers and a range of archives to develop an entirely new digital tool that enables the efficient import, editing, organization, search, and sharing of images taken in the archives. Although we’re just getting started, I’m already excited about Tropy for a...

Zotero and AWS, or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cloud (Part 1 of 2)

5 minute read

Zotero’s server infrastructure has evolved in countless ways since the project’s 2006 launch, but most of those changes are super boring and not worth remembering. Over the past two months, however, we moved the bulk of Zotero’s back end to Amazon Web Services, a step that I believe is uniquely noteworthy in the context of digital humanities projects and their long-term sustainability. In this post I describe the recent changes to Zotero’s architecture. In the next post I’ll discuss why these changes are important for the digital humanities. This story is long, but it has a moral, and also a van. But First, a Little History Initially operating on physical servers purchased by the Center for History and New Media...

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Google Books

Time Shifting and Historical Research

4 minute read

About ten thousand years ago, we were introduced to the phrase “time shifting” by a decade-long lawsuit over the right to use VCRs to tape TV shows for later viewing. Today’s DVR has of course made this process far easier and probably more widespread, but the idea remains the same: rather than watch something right now, with no snack breaks, we instead put it off until some later time. Other than the occasionally self-serving gripe about having “a lot of TiVo to catch up on,” time shifting is a settled and dead issue, a non-story. Or it would be, if it were not for the troubling case of historical research. In a recent post I fretted about how shifting research...

The End of (French) History

6 minute read

As a historian I like to think that I’m comfortable with the idea of fields dying. Maybe they’re reborn and live to fight another day (like diplomatic history, or so we all keep hearing), and maybe they never really die at all (like quantitative history, safely entrenched at Paris 1-Sorbonne). But what about the old workhorse geographic fields like, say, French history?1 Unless you are Natalie Zemon Davis, being a French historian over the last five decades or more probably meant that you, well, went to France to do your research. And why did you go? You told your department chair and your grant funders and your colleagues that you had to get to the archives and the libraries, of...

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pressforward

Long-term Sustainability of PressForward

2 minute read

As this year’s Open Access Week winds down, I’m really pleased to share that the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation will generously fund a new, three-year phase of PressForward to ensure its long-term sustainability. The key deliverables of the grant are the launch of a dozen high-quality science publications and the continued refinement of the PressForward software to lower the barrier to entry for new research groups who want to create a collaborative publication. While “sustainability” is probably the most dreaded criterion of any grant application, it’s an area that I actually enjoy working on in its own right. At RRCHNM we’ve been fortunate to shepherd Zotero and Omeka through phases of grant funding that were explicitly intended to lay the...

PressForward Joins Forces with OpenEdition

2 minute read

I’m pleased to announce a new partnership between PressForward and OpenEdition. PressForward is the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s project to study and produce alternative means scholarly communication. OpenEdition, led by the Centre for Open Electronic Publishing in Marseille, shares many of the same goals but on a much larger scale: it seeks to develop a sustainable digital platform for publishing scholarly content and will be supported over eight years by a 7 million euro grant funded by the French Higher Education and Research Ministry. Our role at RRCHNM will be to develop and support PressForward’s multilingual integration into OpenEditions’s overall platform. The partnership is being funded by the French Agence nationale de la Recherche’s Equipex program,...

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Tropy

Tropy

2 minute read

In late November 2010, on the last day of a research visit to Aix-en-Provence, I set down some thoughts on how historians’ practices had seemed to change overnight: what is the future of the archive? archival work now focused more narrowly, more intensely. but also potentially doesn’t provide enough time to get the feel for the archives and change direction. digital photography as a major change. archives now about raw collection, little or no feedback loop between what’s being observed and what comes next. requires a fundamentally different rhythm, one that i’m not yet comfortable with My reflections — which went on to include such uninspired predictions as “finding aids will soon all be online” — drew on my own...

Hello Tropy (soon)

2 minute read

I’m happy to announce the funding of Tropy, a major new RRCHNM initiative that Stephen Robertson and I will lead over the next two years. Thanks to the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Tropy will fill a crucial need in the initial phase of the research process: where humanities researchers organize and analyze their vast and rapidly growing personal collections of digital images collected in the archives. In the coming months we’ll be working closely with researchers and a range of archives to develop an entirely new digital tool that enables the efficient import, editing, organization, search, and sharing of images taken in the archives. Although we’re just getting started, I’m already excited about Tropy for a...

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syncing

Zotero Website Overhauled

less than 1 minute read

Notice anything different? Aside from the addition of “Login” and “Register” links to the upper right corner of the Zotero site, you might not detect many changes. The most visible difference is new unified login functionality to support the site’s various functional modules. Users can also now use an OpenID account to authenticate with the Zotero site. Beneath the surface, the guts have been been entirely reworked. Zotero’s web application team, led by Jon Lesser, has created a streamlined new architecture designed to support the vast array of innovative, web-based functionality that we will begin to roll out to users beginning this month. Stay tuned!

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press

Zotero Makes the New York Times

less than 1 minute read

Today Olivia Judson features Zotero in her excellent science blog, The Wild Side. In a generally positive review Judson points to Zotero’s ease of use and ability to grab metadata from a variety of sources. Fortunately for Zoterons, the features that Judson finds lacking in Zotero are already present in either the current 1.0.7 release (integration with research databases like JSTOR, PubMed, Web of Science) or in the 1.5 Sync Preview (automatic association of PDF metadata). In the notes accompanying her post, Judson draws attention to the growing problem of siloed data, with academic research increasingly housed in subscription databases. In attempting to address this important problem, I would note that we are far ahead of any competing software, offering...

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endnote

Thomson Reuters Lawsuit Dismissed

less than 1 minute read

I’m delighted to announce that this morning the Fairfax Circuit Court dismissed the lawsuit filed against Zotero by Thomson Reuters. The lawsuit had claimed that the Center for History and New Media “reverse-engineered” Thomson Reuters’s EndNote software to provide data interoperability between Zotero and EndNote. As co-director of the Zotero project along with Dan Cohen, I look forward to witnessing the Zotero team now devote its full attention to crafting the pathbreaking new features that are immediately on the development horizon: customized research recommendations, innovative annotation tools, and pioneering collaborative functionality. It’s worth noting that even while the lawsuit was underway over the last nine months, Zotero geniuses completed the implementation of such radical new functionality as cloud-based synchronization, shared...

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thomsonreuters

Thomson Reuters Lawsuit Dismissed

less than 1 minute read

I’m delighted to announce that this morning the Fairfax Circuit Court dismissed the lawsuit filed against Zotero by Thomson Reuters. The lawsuit had claimed that the Center for History and New Media “reverse-engineered” Thomson Reuters’s EndNote software to provide data interoperability between Zotero and EndNote. As co-director of the Zotero project along with Dan Cohen, I look forward to witnessing the Zotero team now devote its full attention to crafting the pathbreaking new features that are immediately on the development horizon: customized research recommendations, innovative annotation tools, and pioneering collaborative functionality. It’s worth noting that even while the lawsuit was underway over the last nine months, Zotero geniuses completed the implementation of such radical new functionality as cloud-based synchronization, shared...

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vindication

Thomson Reuters Lawsuit Dismissed

less than 1 minute read

I’m delighted to announce that this morning the Fairfax Circuit Court dismissed the lawsuit filed against Zotero by Thomson Reuters. The lawsuit had claimed that the Center for History and New Media “reverse-engineered” Thomson Reuters’s EndNote software to provide data interoperability between Zotero and EndNote. As co-director of the Zotero project along with Dan Cohen, I look forward to witnessing the Zotero team now devote its full attention to crafting the pathbreaking new features that are immediately on the development horizon: customized research recommendations, innovative annotation tools, and pioneering collaborative functionality. It’s worth noting that even while the lawsuit was underway over the last nine months, Zotero geniuses completed the implementation of such radical new functionality as cloud-based synchronization, shared...

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teaching

Teaching with Zotero Groups, or Eating My Own Dog Food, Part 1

3 minute read

This fall I, along with many others, will use Zotero groups in the classroom for the first time. With their unprecedented collaborative functionality, Zotero groups promise to transform the way that instructors and students interact with sources, particularly in research-intensive classes. Although the Zotero groups functionality is already well-established – there are currently over 3200 public and private groups active at zotero.org – over the course of the semester I fully expect to discover areas where we could add or improve features, and I also look forward to refining how best to integrate Zotero into what passes for my pedagogy. I’ll be teaching History 499: The French Revolution, an undergraduate senior seminar that serves as a capstone for history majors....

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Diderot

Diderot as Digital Humanist

7 minute read

The following piece is loosely based on a talk I gave at the 2010 meeting of the American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies in Albuquerque, NM. Although the research and reference management software Zotero has garnered plenty of attention for its pithy taglines and millions of delighted users, less well-known is the mission statement that guides every last detail of the project’s development: To collect knowledge disseminated around the globe; to set forth its general system to those with whom we live, and transmit it to those who will come after us, so that the work of preceding centuries will not become useless to the centuries to come; and so that our offspring, becoming better instructed, will at the same time...

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encyclopedia

Diderot as Digital Humanist

7 minute read

The following piece is loosely based on a talk I gave at the 2010 meeting of the American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies in Albuquerque, NM. Although the research and reference management software Zotero has garnered plenty of attention for its pithy taglines and millions of delighted users, less well-known is the mission statement that guides every last detail of the project’s development: To collect knowledge disseminated around the globe; to set forth its general system to those with whom we live, and transmit it to those who will come after us, so that the work of preceding centuries will not become useless to the centuries to come; and so that our offspring, becoming better instructed, will at the same time...

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talks

Diderot as Digital Humanist

7 minute read

The following piece is loosely based on a talk I gave at the 2010 meeting of the American Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies in Albuquerque, NM. Although the research and reference management software Zotero has garnered plenty of attention for its pithy taglines and millions of delighted users, less well-known is the mission statement that guides every last detail of the project’s development: To collect knowledge disseminated around the globe; to set forth its general system to those with whom we live, and transmit it to those who will come after us, so that the work of preceding centuries will not become useless to the centuries to come; and so that our offspring, becoming better instructed, will at the same time...

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advice

Roy’s Campus Interview Advice

2 minute read

While I am squarely in the “don’t-go” camp when it comes to graduate study and the inevitable nightmarish job search, I also recognize that I am the extremely fortunate recipient of very good professional advice all along that rocky path. Roy Rosenzweig provided some of the best such wisdom, and few days go by at CHNM when we don’t try to channel his common-sense pragmatism. Roy drew on decades of experience in the machinations of department politics and hiring, and he knew exactly where job candidates should focus their energy. In the spirit of Roy’s intellectual generosity — and perhaps in the hope that you’ll be inspired to repay it in more tangible ways — I’d like to share a...

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memory

Vietnamese War Dead

4 minute read

Today is Veterans Day in the United States, Remembrance (or “Poppy”) Day in Commonwealth nations, and le Jour du Souvenir in France. In Vietnam, it’s not celebrated at all, but that wasn’t always the case. Unlike the United States’ vaguely-defined Veterans’ Day, in the places where the holiday is elsewhere celebrated it remains rooted in the specificity of the Great War, even as those memories to be recalled have virtually receded beyond the limits of the human lifespan. In France and elsewhere in Europe it’s the dead in particular that are the focus of the day’s attention, and one need not visit in November to witness its significance in historical memory. Once they move beyond the famous Normandy sites, visitors...

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Vietnam

Vietnamese War Dead

4 minute read

Today is Veterans Day in the United States, Remembrance (or “Poppy”) Day in Commonwealth nations, and le Jour du Souvenir in France. In Vietnam, it’s not celebrated at all, but that wasn’t always the case. Unlike the United States’ vaguely-defined Veterans’ Day, in the places where the holiday is elsewhere celebrated it remains rooted in the specificity of the Great War, even as those memories to be recalled have virtually receded beyond the limits of the human lifespan. In France and elsewhere in Europe it’s the dead in particular that are the focus of the day’s attention, and one need not visit in November to witness its significance in historical memory. Once they move beyond the famous Normandy sites, visitors...

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baby seals

Zotero and Open Access

2 minute read

Before the excitement surrounding last month’s Open Access Week fades completely — too late — I thought it might be appropriate to describe how and where Zotero intersects with OA. When people talk about Open Access, they typically mean free access to published, usually scholarly, content. It’s a concept that’s ideologically easy for most researchers to get behind because few of us reap any direct financial benefit from the majority of our publications, and we’re all very familiar with the annoying frictions introduced by gating access to content. Championing Open Access is kind of like advocating not clubbing baby seals: you’re unlikely to encounter much opposition. Publishers, of course, are always the villains in this narrative. They seek unseemly profits...

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Bieber

Zotero and Open Access

2 minute read

Before the excitement surrounding last month’s Open Access Week fades completely — too late — I thought it might be appropriate to describe how and where Zotero intersects with OA. When people talk about Open Access, they typically mean free access to published, usually scholarly, content. It’s a concept that’s ideologically easy for most researchers to get behind because few of us reap any direct financial benefit from the majority of our publications, and we’re all very familiar with the annoying frictions introduced by gating access to content. Championing Open Access is kind of like advocating not clubbing baby seals: you’re unlikely to encounter much opposition. Publishers, of course, are always the villains in this narrative. They seek unseemly profits...

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open access

Zotero and Open Access

2 minute read

Before the excitement surrounding last month’s Open Access Week fades completely — too late — I thought it might be appropriate to describe how and where Zotero intersects with OA. When people talk about Open Access, they typically mean free access to published, usually scholarly, content. It’s a concept that’s ideologically easy for most researchers to get behind because few of us reap any direct financial benefit from the majority of our publications, and we’re all very familiar with the annoying frictions introduced by gating access to content. Championing Open Access is kind of like advocating not clubbing baby seals: you’re unlikely to encounter much opposition. Publishers, of course, are always the villains in this narrative. They seek unseemly profits...

Back to top ↑

open content

Zotero and Open Access

2 minute read

Before the excitement surrounding last month’s Open Access Week fades completely — too late — I thought it might be appropriate to describe how and where Zotero intersects with OA. When people talk about Open Access, they typically mean free access to published, usually scholarly, content. It’s a concept that’s ideologically easy for most researchers to get behind because few of us reap any direct financial benefit from the majority of our publications, and we’re all very familiar with the annoying frictions introduced by gating access to content. Championing Open Access is kind of like advocating not clubbing baby seals: you’re unlikely to encounter much opposition. Publishers, of course, are always the villains in this narrative. They seek unseemly profits...

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education

Test Your Digital Humanities Knowledge

1 minute read

I met up with my French colleague Marin Dacos today while he was in the middle of giving an exam on digital publishing to his humanities master’s students. While many U.S. graduate students (and professors) would balk at such a “factual” exam, I suspect that they would have a very tough time getting through it unscathed.1 How would you or your students fare with a test like this? I’ve translated the questions into English. You have ninety minutes. Go! Basic questions and definitions (13 points) In Wikipedia, what do “Diff” and “Edit war” mean? Name the XML formats useful for electronic publishing and specify their particularities. How does PageRank work? What are the advantages of this system? What are its...

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CDS

Zotero Storage Goes Global

less than 1 minute read

Because I live under a rock (Vietnam), I only recently discovered the Google Charts API. When I saw that it supported maps, I thought it might be fun to plot the sales data for Zotero File Storage provided by the nonprofit corporation I started along with a bunch of other academics. Bear in mind that these maps only reflect the billing addresses associated with purchasers of Zotero storage. Zotero’s general user base is even more globally distributed and several orders of magnitude larger than the subset depicted here. Nonetheless the results are stunning, I think, and something that pleasantly reminds me of the last throes of a game of Risk. We have work to do in Africa and the Middle...

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API

Zotero and AWS, or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cloud (Part 1 of 2)

5 minute read

Zotero’s server infrastructure has evolved in countless ways since the project’s 2006 launch, but most of those changes are super boring and not worth remembering. Over the past two months, however, we moved the bulk of Zotero’s back end to Amazon Web Services, a step that I believe is uniquely noteworthy in the context of digital humanities projects and their long-term sustainability. In this post I describe the recent changes to Zotero’s architecture. In the next post I’ll discuss why these changes are important for the digital humanities. This story is long, but it has a moral, and also a van. But First, a Little History Initially operating on physical servers purchased by the Center for History and New Media...

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Gelflings

Zotero and AWS, or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cloud (Part 1 of 2)

5 minute read

Zotero’s server infrastructure has evolved in countless ways since the project’s 2006 launch, but most of those changes are super boring and not worth remembering. Over the past two months, however, we moved the bulk of Zotero’s back end to Amazon Web Services, a step that I believe is uniquely noteworthy in the context of digital humanities projects and their long-term sustainability. In this post I describe the recent changes to Zotero’s architecture. In the next post I’ll discuss why these changes are important for the digital humanities. This story is long, but it has a moral, and also a van. But First, a Little History Initially operating on physical servers purchased by the Center for History and New Media...

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vans

Zotero and AWS, or How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Cloud (Part 1 of 2)

5 minute read

Zotero’s server infrastructure has evolved in countless ways since the project’s 2006 launch, but most of those changes are super boring and not worth remembering. Over the past two months, however, we moved the bulk of Zotero’s back end to Amazon Web Services, a step that I believe is uniquely noteworthy in the context of digital humanities projects and their long-term sustainability. In this post I describe the recent changes to Zotero’s architecture. In the next post I’ll discuss why these changes are important for the digital humanities. This story is long, but it has a moral, and also a van. But First, a Little History Initially operating on physical servers purchased by the Center for History and New Media...

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cheese

The End of (French) History

6 minute read

As a historian I like to think that I’m comfortable with the idea of fields dying. Maybe they’re reborn and live to fight another day (like diplomatic history, or so we all keep hearing), and maybe they never really die at all (like quantitative history, safely entrenched at Paris 1-Sorbonne). But what about the old workhorse geographic fields like, say, French history?1 Unless you are Natalie Zemon Davis, being a French historian over the last five decades or more probably meant that you, well, went to France to do your research. And why did you go? You told your department chair and your grant funders and your colleagues that you had to get to the archives and the libraries, of...

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smoking lounge

Time Shifting and Historical Research

4 minute read

About ten thousand years ago, we were introduced to the phrase “time shifting” by a decade-long lawsuit over the right to use VCRs to tape TV shows for later viewing. Today’s DVR has of course made this process far easier and probably more widespread, but the idea remains the same: rather than watch something right now, with no snack breaks, we instead put it off until some later time. Other than the occasionally self-serving gripe about having “a lot of TiVo to catch up on,” time shifting is a settled and dead issue, a non-story. Or it would be, if it were not for the troubling case of historical research. In a recent post I fretted about how shifting research...

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FLOSS

Zotero Versus

5 minute read

Brian Croxall recently lit up the comment feed at the Chronicle with his ProfHacker comparison of “Zotero vs. Endnote,” where the debate centered mostly around issues of citation fidelity. As Fred Gibbs notes, however, “while citation formatting is one major reason to use bibliographic software, it isn’t necessarily the only or even primary reason, especially in the humanities.” Zotero’s citation functionality was always imagined merely as bait: by providing this labor-saving functionality, Zotero would encourage each user to move her research into what amounted to a fully searchable and shareable relational database that could be subjected to text mining and other analysis. Here researchers could begin to do truly remarkable and new things with their evidence. A few commenters, as...

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K-car

Zotero Versus

5 minute read

Brian Croxall recently lit up the comment feed at the Chronicle with his ProfHacker comparison of “Zotero vs. Endnote,” where the debate centered mostly around issues of citation fidelity. As Fred Gibbs notes, however, “while citation formatting is one major reason to use bibliographic software, it isn’t necessarily the only or even primary reason, especially in the humanities.” Zotero’s citation functionality was always imagined merely as bait: by providing this labor-saving functionality, Zotero would encourage each user to move her research into what amounted to a fully searchable and shareable relational database that could be subjected to text mining and other analysis. Here researchers could begin to do truly remarkable and new things with their evidence. A few commenters, as...

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soviet agricultural output

On Usage Figures

3 minute read

Among the more eye-popping numbers associated with LinkedIn’s recent initial public offering is the 100,000,000 members it claims. What do those hundred million people do with their LinkedIn accounts? If they’re like me, they quietly ignore the endless spam but never quite motivate to unsubscribe. Or maybe they occasionally click through a link returned by a Google search, only to discover the limp résumé of some sad sack looking to escape the Enterprise rent-a-car counter, not the super cool and attractive “Sean Takats” that they went to high school with and are stalking. I’ve been thinking a lot about these kinds of numbers as the Zotero team prepares for a major summit this summer. In our first few years, we...

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statistics

On Usage Figures

3 minute read

Among the more eye-popping numbers associated with LinkedIn’s recent initial public offering is the 100,000,000 members it claims. What do those hundred million people do with their LinkedIn accounts? If they’re like me, they quietly ignore the endless spam but never quite motivate to unsubscribe. Or maybe they occasionally click through a link returned by a Google search, only to discover the limp résumé of some sad sack looking to escape the Enterprise rent-a-car counter, not the super cool and attractive “Sean Takats” that they went to high school with and are stalking. I’ve been thinking a lot about these kinds of numbers as the Zotero team prepares for a major summit this summer. In our first few years, we...

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collaboration

PressForward Joins Forces with OpenEdition

2 minute read

I’m pleased to announce a new partnership between PressForward and OpenEdition. PressForward is the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s project to study and produce alternative means scholarly communication. OpenEdition, led by the Centre for Open Electronic Publishing in Marseille, shares many of the same goals but on a much larger scale: it seeks to develop a sustainable digital platform for publishing scholarly content and will be supported over eight years by a 7 million euro grant funded by the French Higher Education and Research Ministry. Our role at RRCHNM will be to develop and support PressForward’s multilingual integration into OpenEditions’s overall platform. The partnership is being funded by the French Agence nationale de la Recherche’s Equipex program,...

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OpenEdition

PressForward Joins Forces with OpenEdition

2 minute read

I’m pleased to announce a new partnership between PressForward and OpenEdition. PressForward is the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s project to study and produce alternative means scholarly communication. OpenEdition, led by the Centre for Open Electronic Publishing in Marseille, shares many of the same goals but on a much larger scale: it seeks to develop a sustainable digital platform for publishing scholarly content and will be supported over eight years by a 7 million euro grant funded by the French Higher Education and Research Ministry. Our role at RRCHNM will be to develop and support PressForward’s multilingual integration into OpenEditions’s overall platform. The partnership is being funded by the French Agence nationale de la Recherche’s Equipex program,...

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caddyshack

Only a Historian

4 minute read

“The world needs ditch diggers too.” -Judge Smails, Caddyshack (1980) At last week’s Digital Humanities Luxembourg (DHLU) symposium, a common refrain could be heard in nearly every presentation: “I’m only a historian.” Uttered apologetically at the beginning of a number of presentations, after two days it became the object of parody and ultimately comprised part of organizer Frédéric Clavert‘s excellent concluding remarks. But despite the snickering each time it was heard, there was little investigation of what was behind this phrase. I think it actually reveals something important about the state of DH, perhaps especially in Europe but hardly exclusively so.1 A generous interpretation would be that stating one is “only a historian” apologizes for a deficit of technical content...

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pie

A Digital Humanities Tenure Case, Part 2: Letters and Committees

4 minute read

After my tenure presentation and with the unanimous vote of my department, my department’s RPT committee and our chair prepared additional letters to send the file up the food chain to the college-level promotion and tenure committee. These letters were embarrassingly favorable, and based on the excerpts they included from outside readers, those letters too offered overwhelming support for tenure. The college-level committee, however, wasn’t so easily fooled. Voting 10-2 in favor of my case, largely on the basis of my monograph in French history, here’s what the committee members had to report on the digital side of my portfolio: The committee also recognized his considerable work at the Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media as it relates to...

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publishing

A Poorly Reasoned Suicide Note

3 minute read

Whenever I encounter the research of newly minted PhDs (or the researchers themselves, often at conferences), invariably my first step is to retrieve the relevant dissertations on ProQuest or the researcher’s institutional repository. Over the past few years I’ve run across a handful of cases where I couldn’t locate the dissertation; in each case I’ve contacted the historian in question, who have all provided me with some variant of the same explanation: “I don’t want to be scooped by someone before I write my book.” To me this is insane reasoning: not only does it quite obviously harm the field’s state of knowledge by limiting access, it naively assumes that the researcher is protecting herself from theft by hiding her...

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jobs

Now Hiring!

1 minute read

In a few weeks I’ll begin a project – the Digital History Advanced Research Projects Accelerator – as part of my new position at the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH). The Accelerator aims to create and promote software that capitalizes on digitalized historical research practices. More important than this software – and the key to its success – is the team I am currently recruiting to participate in its development and design. With the generous support of the Luxembourg National Research Fund and the University of Luxembourg, we’re running searches for a dozen new positions over the next year, including three postdoctoral researchers, three software developers, four fully-funded PhD positions, and administrative staff, and we also have...

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