A pause for thinking

The to-do list continues to prod me about unwritten emails (“email Geohumanities folks re: DiRT”), unfixed bugs (“deal with nid 1069 and related problems”), vague attempts at progress on large projects (I literally have a recurring item for “write something for Drupal for Humanists”), and concrete tasks (“write blurb for DH on RIT website”). I’m choosing to ignore all of it, though, and instead think about some of the bigger-picture issues facing some of my large projects.

A specific, technical discussion about APIs on Friday got me thinking about where the DiRT directory falls on the scale of sites that are socially-oriented (users with profiles, keeping track of contributions, etc.) vs. those that are information-oriented. Information-oriented sites still need people, but there’s a different staffing and incentive model. It’d be great if everyone who looked up tool information on DiRT were also a contributor, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. Instead, DiRT (as I’ve run it) has grown when an individual with a particular interest in certain kinds of tools shares that information. DiRT grows when someone goes on an editing spree, rather than through everyone contributing something on occasion. There are people who I know are long-term DiRT users who have never even created an account. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the time has come when we need to better think through the model of who we’re trying to engage, and how.

I’m lucky to have a wonderful and dedicated group of people on the DiRT board to help figure out these issues. We’ve got a number of sub-committees looking in depth at various aspects of DiRT, which should lead to some new developments over the summer. I just wish I had a little more time to step back and just think. The way I have my workflow set up, it’s so much easier to jump from doing one thing and then another. “Think!” is even less suitable as a to-do list item than “write something”. Perhaps the drive up to DHSI in June will be productive in that respect, though.

Meanwhile, new things have been set in motion this week on another project, DHCommons, as we announced the call for project statements from mid-stage digital projects. It was almost a year ago that we first brainstormed our way to the model of the project statement as a way of doing peer review for digital projects, and I’m very curious to see to what extent it works out the way we intended. The position of “technical editor” is a great one. I’m fascinated by experiments in scholarly communication like the one we’re undertaking here, and I enjoy being able to shape what the project is doing, but I’m not sure if I’d want to be personally on the hook for controversies that might arise with a new journal. Not that it’s a position immune from receiving angry email, but given the choice, I’d rather be on the hook for a buggy system (which frustrates people, but rarely infuriates them) than editorial choices as such.

My phone’s notification light reminds me that I have a meeting in five minutes. Emails are piling up again in my inbox– this time, it’s a hungry hackathon participant wondering if we’ll be providing food during the judging on Saturday. (We will, but we didn’t publicize it at first because we weren’t sure if the funding would come through.) No more time for thinking today, it’s back to doing.