Reflective Essay

The Hurley Convergence Center project has been a wonderful experience. In my reckoning it has kept well within the parameter of our mission statement, even if it has not always lived up to the due dates. I believe I have contributed quite a bit to making this project a reality and steering it into its dual role as a resource and archive.

The original idea for the website layout worked out better than imagined. We were ultimately disappointed of the ability to swipe or click left and right to move between pages, but the menu is just as useful, if not better for including all pages. The idea of Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary pages was exercised for nearly every topic. A landing page was created to explain the purpose of the category and its contents, in addition to the home page these served as primary pages. The secondary pages held most of the information, and each one had some form of visual aid. Tertiary pages were not used for every secondary page, only the ones it made sense to include them in. A common tertiary page would be for a video transcript, and it can be argued that the Archives page served a dual secondary/tertiary role.

For the archive, it was originally imagined that there would be video and audio interviews coupled with a timeline and a catalog of archived documents. Needless to say, there were some serious technical issues associated with this side of the project. To start with, the final website includes no audio-only interviews. It was originally imagined that some individuals would be too busy to make the walk to the production studio, and that we could accommodate them by coming to their offices with recording equipment. In the end the recording equipment was found to be deficient and nobody we interviewed was unwilling to join us in the studio. In the end we exceeded our goal of six or seven interviewees by obtaining a grand total of eight.

After meeting with John Morello and obtaining his personal archive of the HCC, it became abundantly clear that two or three people could not classify every document in that file in the time allotted for the semester, let alone with the other needs of the project. With the addition of Jerry Slezak’s files and the transfer from Hanbury Evans, that goal became much loftier. As a compromise I came up with the hazy idea of putting together certain documents to form a narrative ‘spotlight’ on some aspect of the HCC’s conception/construction (In the middle of a group presentation no less). I consider these my greatest contribution to the site, and by far my favorite.

The final technical issue is one we are at a loss to solve, and likely doesn’t need solving. On some older versions of Internet Explorer the timeline does not display correctly. After the disappointment faced in our presentation I accessed the timeline from several different locations using all three common browsers. I found that the last three versions of Firefox and Chrome were entirely compatible with the timeline, but only the last two of Internet Explorer, and only if the older one was fully up to date with common software. I cannot begin to explain why, but I do take comfort in the knowledge that Internet Explorer is the least used of all three browsers.

In closing I would like to touch on our milestones. As laid out, most of the first few weeks dealt with exploring technology and educating ourselves on the HCC and its equipment. Our interviews were completed on time, our pages were written on time (although not necessarily in their final form), the editing was very nearly complete and the website was finalized on time. The only not wholly done on time was the Timeline, which was held back by a lack of detailed information. It wasn’t until the files of Jerry Slezak laid out the original exploration committee’s several design phases that the entire picture became clear. It occurs to me that I have talked very little about my own role in the process. I was primarily responsible with the archive and, in fact, did the majority of work on it. Otherwise I was present at half the interviews, despite working full time; I developed a standardized look to the resource pages, and I wrote most of them; and I was primarily responsible for making the timeline.

Thank you for the opportunity,

Andrew Steele

The Hardest Button to Button

The website is about 90% complete and I’m absolutely proud of it. It’s quick-loading, easy to navigate, and intuitive. It feels crazy that the early doodle I made in January has come along so well.

http://explorehcc.umwhistory.org

Before the weekend is over the website will only lack transcripts (Jon) and videos (Andrew B.), both of which have clearly defined  upload destinations.

The Hardest Button to Button

Digital Identity, or, I blog therefore I am

The first blog I read was “Personal Branding in the Age of Google.” Naturally I immediately googled my name.

I was disappointed.

I found that I could be an actor, felon, or possibly British. Since none of those were correct I added more details like my state of residence, middle initial, and finally my middle name.

As it turns out, I pop up on two websites; the first is a birth records index from California, and the second is my dearly departed grandmother’s genealogy project from 2003.

In other words, lesson 1, I don’t really exist.

The second article explained why this wasn’t such a bad thing.

“Controlling Your Public Appearance” affirmed that the lack of information was due primarily to how I’ve managed my digital presence over the last few years. My facebook is on lockdown, twitter is hardly used, and my ancient myspace, if it currently exists at all, was at least somewhat tasteful. Lesson 2, you have the (modest) power to be a nonentity.

If, someday, my facebook became a matter of public knowledge, I can rest assured that the only new information anyone will figure out (aside from that already available through my two search results) is that I have liberal leanings. That is (currently) not a crime, nor is it (currently) a bar to participating in public life. Lesson 3, some things are best left unsaid.

The “Digital Tattoo” was fun and interesting, but I need to put up two more lessons so here goes. Lesson 4, there’s no right way to exist digitally. There’s not really a wrong way either. Sending your account information to a Nigerian Prince or trusting a bombshell blonde you just met on facebook with your social security number are outright dumb, and dumb things are generally bad, but just as bad is refusing to exist digitally at all. This thought leads me to lesson 5; badges, likes, and upvotes are the cheapest way to get people to reveal things about themselves that they normally wouldn’t mention. Want an honest assessment of a person’s internet habits? Make a quiz and hand out badges, it’s like gold stars for first graders but it’s cheaper and gets more results.

On Contracts, Molars, and Audience

For me this week started with a dull pain in my mouth that grew exponentially in the course of 24 hours, by Tuesday morning I was on hold with a dentist. Luckily I was still home and still able to communicate with the team.

For the contract I initially wanted to keep to my strengths, hence volunteering for gathering documents and etc.; the other project, website layout/organization, I volunteered for based on a rough website layout I put together in class and was well received.

In thinking about audience, the obvious initial use for the site would be as a resource for admissions to advertise the building to prospective students and faculty.

Feedly and various other triumphs

In addition to the class blogs I added McClurken’s (updated) website from the DH Compendium and a blog called Pelagios that had an interesting set of maps. I’ve had experience with Google MyMaps and TimelineJS so I uploaded a previous class’ example of each. All in all, great for a snow day.

What Am I Doing Here?

I’m not particularly technically literate. I pick up on concepts and instructions as well as the next over-aged college student, but site building intimidates me, twitter confuses me, and any form of coding has the rare quality of petrifying and boring me at the same time.

This is good. It means I’m no longer in my comfort zone.

The one thing I feel like I’m good at is primary research, and the topic at hand has a lot of potential for framing a complete picture with primary documents.

What am I doing here? I still don’t know, but I’m willing to find out.