Amanda Morton (2nd year Digital History Fellow)
This semester the second year Digital History Fellows are sticking with one of the three divisions at RRCHNM (Research, Education, Public Projects) and participating in selected projects within those divisions. Some of us are coming in at the start of a new set of projects, while others are joining projects already in progress. There’s a certain benefit, I think, to being able to join a project in mid-flow and provide both an extra pair of hands and the type of feedback that comes from a fresh look at ongoing processes. By essentially acting as full-time floaters, we can also lend work hours and a different set of opinions to changes already set in motion,
I’ve been assigned to the Research Division this semester, directed by Sean Takats, and am currently spending the majority of my time working under Joan Fragaszy Troyano on the PressForward project. This project received an influx of graduate research assistants this semester, most of whom were, like myself, new to the division and to PressForward, and needed to be introduced to the way the different parts of the project are managed, particularly the weekly management of Digital Humanities Now.
A PressForward publication, Digital Humanities Now is a community-driven aggregator that calls upon volunteers to nominate content, then curates and publishes the best blog posts and news stories coming out of the DH community. One element of the management equation for DHNow, the way Editors-in-Chief communicate with and organize information for the Editors-at-Large — volunteers who nominate content for Digital Humanities Now — needed to be re-worked and streamlined to accommodate the addition of several new Graduate Research assistants to the project. This effort was also undertaken with an eye toward making the management of Editors-at-Large easier to share with groups using DHNow as a model for their own projects.
As a DH Fellow I was able to lend a hand to this redesign, working alongside Jeri Wieringa, one of the original PressForward GRAs who has a great deal of experience working with Editors-at-Large and organizing the associated data. The redesign that launched at the end of September includes a new section of the DHNow website that we’ve called our “Editors’ Corner,” designed to help Editors-at-Large choose and nominate content using the PressForward plugin, keep track of the weeks they’ve volunteered to edit, and provide feedback on the entire process. The changes we’ve made also streamline the way the Editors-at-Large system works on the administration side, automating emails and organizing form data, as well as utilizing bulk-upload plugins to make new user creation for the DHNow site (required to allow Editors-at-Large to nominate items using the PressForward plugin) faster and easier to manage.
This streamlining involved a variety of adjustments to the existing processes, from simple changes like modifying the structure of the Editor-at-Large sign-up form to give each week its own column, to more complicated changes that involved writing and/or modifying Google Apps Scripts to automate informational emails and confirmation messages.
Additionally, we are in the process of creating sets of instructions for using this new system, as well as the portion of the DHNow site dedicated to Editors-at-Large (DHNow’s Editors-at-Large Corner), so that projects with similar requirements can adapt these techniques to their own needs. DHNow has and continues to rely on free and open access tools such as Google Spreadsheets and Forms, in addition to free WordPress plugins. Our goal in this is to enable other projects to easily access and adopt our processes for creating community run, aggregated publications.
In the end, we’ve created a system that we hope will be an accessible and easy to use example of how other groups or organizations might manage a similar project. I’m delighted to have had the chance to participate in this process, and I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t volunteered to be an Editor-at-Large for DHNow to sign up now, and if you have, sign up again and check out the new Editors-at-Large Corner!