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Dmdh winter 2015 session #1
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DMDH Workshop #6: Available Tools: Free, Cheap, and Premium

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Workshop slides for the final DMDH workshop of the 2013-14 year on navigating platform and tool choice

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DMDH Workshop #6: Available Tools: Free, Cheap, and Premium

  1. 1. April 12th: Available Tools: Free, Cheap, and Premium (and how to navigate choosing between them)
  2. 2. While there are many different digital platforms you can use, in the end, all tools are visualization tools.
  3. 3. When you choose a tool, you’re choosing how you want to see your data.
  4. 4. Metadata: data about data
  5. 5. What are the components of the objects you work with? Book: words, pages, author(s), editor(s), publisher(s), reader(s), physical edition(s), digital editions, reader responses Performance: sound/video file, performer, venue, date/time, program
  6. 6. This: Book: words, pages, author(s), editor(s), publisher(s), reader(s), physical edition(s), digital editions, reader responses gets broken down even further.
  7. 7. <text xmlns="" xml:id="d1"> <body xml:id="d2"> <div1 type="book" xml:id="d3"> <head>Songs of Innocence</head> <pb n="4"/> <div2 type="poem" xml:id="d4"> <head>Introduction</head> <lg type="stanza"> <l>Piping down the valleys wild, </l> <l>Piping songs of pleasant glee, </l> <l>On a cloud I saw a child, </l> <l>And he laughing said to me: </l> </lg> TEI Encoding of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence (from TEI By Example:
  8. 8. Once you have data, you need to find a platform to use it with.
  9. 9. Important Considerations
  10. 10. Licensing • Did you pay for the tool/platform that you want to use? • Did you have to pay for it once, or do you have to renew it annually? • How will your users interact with the platform?
  11. 11. Licensing, continued • Case 1: • You probably produce many documents in Microsoft Word, and send them to other people (or print them out to give to people.) • Case 2: • You produce documents in Microsoft Word, and you want other people to edit those documents with you, using Microsoft Word’s collaborative editing features.
  12. 12. Ownership • In what space was your project built? • Your personal site? • The university’s webspace? • Where is the project supposed to “live” after completion? • Where did the funding for the project come from?
  13. 13. Platform Support & Lifespan • Who made the platform you want to use? • Is it open source? • What kind of user support is available? • How is maintenance of the platform (not your project, but the platform itself) funded? (Grants? Donations?) • Is it new and shiny? Or old and reliable?
  14. 14. Who is your audience? • You • Specialized scholarly audience • Other digital/multimodal scholars • Students • The general public
  15. 15. Flexibility • Can you import your data (i.e., prepare it outside of the platform?) • Can you export your data? • In a way that allows other people to see what the platform does? • In a way that allows you to use the data in other platforms?
  16. 16. Robustness • For a platform to be “robust,” it needs to be able to handle unexpected input or actions in a way that allows the user to fix the problem and continue with minimal fuss. • While this definition of robust is generally agreed upon, the precise standards for robustness are essentially subjective.
  17. 17. Is it robust?• If something goes wrong, does the platform return a blank screen, or crash entirely? • If something goes wrong, does the platform provide an error message that allows you to figure out what part of your input caused the problem? NOT ROBUST! ROBUST!
  18. 18. Alpha & Beta • Alpha: programs and platforms that are in early development, and are still highly error/crash-prone. Usually alpha programs are released to a limited audience who agree to provide feedback. • Beta: programs that are still in development, but released to a wider audience.These programs may not have full functionality, but are meant to be relatively error-free.
  19. 19. Hosting • If a platform is web-based (sometimes referred to as “server-side”), then someone else is making sure that the platform works, and gets upgraded. • Pro: you don’t have to install or maintain it. • Con: you’re dependent on being online for the platform to work. • If the platform is locally hosted (sometimes referred to as “client-side”), then it’s on your computer. • Pro: you don’t have to be online! (this is handy anytime you’re demonstrating your project outside of your home institution) • Con: you may need to have more programming skills to install and maintain the platform on your own machine/server.
  20. 20. Visibility • Some platforms may allow you to use them for free, provided you make your data public: • Are you concerned about other people accessing your data? • Could your data be considered someone else’s property?
  21. 21. The choices you make in choosing tools are an essential part of your documentation.
  22. 22. On with the tools! • Mapping/GIS tools(Community Walk, Google Maps, Google Earth,ArcGIS, Neatline, Quantum GIS) • MIT Simile • Data visualization (ManyEyes, Gephi) • Display (Scalar, Omeka) • Project Management (Pivotal Tracker)
  23. 23. Mapping Tools!
  24. 24. Community Walk: Free (Ad Revenue)
  25. 25. Pros • Free! • Web-based • Reasonable range of functionality • Allows multiple maps to be created in one account • Unique site login can be shared without compromising online persona • Can’t block ads • Awkward User Interface (UI) Cons
  26. 26. Google Maps: Free
  27. 27. Pros • Free! • Web-based • Unobtrusive ads • Reasonable range of functionality • Linked to Google Account for easy portability/access • Designed for navigation • Linked to existing Google Account • Lack of functionality • Dependent on Google maintaining the tool Cons
  28. 28. Google Earth: Free (Paid Upgrade: Premium)
  29. 29. Pros • Free! • No ads • Historical map integration • Robust functionality • May need to pay for pro- account, depending on your goals • Not web-based • May be more complex than you need • Dependent on Google maintaining it Cons
  30. 30. ArcGIS (Super-Premium)
  31. 31. Pros • It does EVERYTHING • No ads • Robust functionality • Expensive! • Not web-based Cons
  32. 32. Quantum GIS
  33. 33. Pros • Has all the functionality of ArcGIS in an open-source format • No ads • Robust functionality • Compatible with Google Earth • Not compatible with ArcGIS • Shorter development history (displays typical open source bugginess) Cons
  34. 34. Neatline
  35. 35. Pros • Allows tracking and display of points in space and time • Creates flexible custom timelines, maps • Compatible with Omeka and Simile • Not standalone (i.e., you need to be working with Omeka in order to run it) • Still in development (but generally well-supported) Cons
  36. 36. MIT Simile Widgets (Free)
  37. 37. Pros • Free! • Open access for easy collaboration • Web-based or locally hosted • Unique (no current rivals) • Highly customizable • Data can be stored in GoogleDoc • Open access and always in development (stability issues) • Requires HTML, more programming skill for customization • Documentation is spotty Cons
  38. 38. Many Eyes (free) • Free text and numerical data visualization engine, made by IBM ( • Creates word clouds, tree diagrams, and phrase nets from plain text files • Usable on Mac/PC, but only in browsers that run Java (i.e., not Google Chrome)
  39. 39. Pros • Easy to try out different visualizations using the same text • Easy to upload datasets • Allows visualizations to be saved and emailed to other people who can view them without a login • Access to everyone else’s data set • Only accessible online • No export capability • Dependent on Java • No privacy: your data is everyone’s data Cons
  40. 40. Gephi (free) • Network/data visualization software for exploring connections between objects • Works with data that you create yourself (from any source), or download from sites like Facebook • Will produce complex visualizations if you devote time to learning how to structure your data • How-to posts available from various sources online.
  41. 41. Scalar (Free)
  42. 42. Pros • Free! • Web-based • Unique in its capability for creating non-linear paths • Customizable • Supported by investment and use of multiple organizations • It’s in open beta, and still new • It requires you to host material on the Scalar website, but does not currently have an export feature • Documentation is not yet extensive • Dependent on continued funding Cons
  43. 43. Omeka (free/cheap)
  44. 44. Pros • Available free (if you have your own server), or hosted for a small fee. • Robust functionality, full documentation available • User-friendly interface • Compatible with Neatline GIS suite • Large community of individual and institutionally-based users • Works best with data that is a mixture of images and texts (i.e., it’s less effective for data analysis projects) • New features are released while in development, and may still be buggy at first Cons
  45. 45. Pivotal Tracker (Free/Cheap)
  46. 46. Pros • Free (for public projects, and non-profit/academic projects) • Supported by paid users • Customizable • Sophisticated, friendly user- interface • iOS compatible • It’s project management software -- not a project platform • Dependent on your willingness to make your project public, continued funding, or academic/nonprofit status Cons
  47. 47. Just a few of the many places you can check for tools: New: DH Office Hours! (Alternate Thursdays in OUGL 230 – check for more info)
  48. 48. Using (new) digital tools means that you will inevitably need help at some point.
  49. 49. Learning how to ask for help is important. Learning how to Google for it is vital.
  50. 50. In the end, you are only as good as your data set.
  51. 51. Using tools doesn’t make you a digital humanist – the critical thinking does.
  52. 52. Q:What makes a good data set? A: Knowledge of its components; and accessibility of metadata.
  53. 53. Depending on the decisions you make regarding your data, people will be able to do different things with it.
  54. 54. Your decisions may impact the compatibility of your data with other tools/platforms.
  55. 55. This is why we emphasize that DH is a highly social and collaborative field.
  56. 56. DHValues (in review)
  57. 57. What do you need, as possible practitioners of digital humanities scholarship? (breakout session)
  58. 58. Take part in the #DMDH September Showcase! (Show the UW community what you’re learning) Thanks to the Simpson Center for the Humanities for its ongoing sponsorship of DMDH!

Workshop slides for the final DMDH workshop of the 2013-14 year on navigating platform and tool choice


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