Over at ClioWeb, Jeremy Boggs is starting a promising series of posts on the development process for digital humanites process. He’s splitting the process up into five steps, which may happen at the same time, but still follow a rough sort of order. Step one, obviously, is “Figure out what exactly you’re building.”
But is that really the first step? I’m finding that what I build is dependent on who I’m building for. Having launched an alpha version of the product and shaken out many of the bugs in the base functionality, I’m going to have to make some tough decisions about what I concentrate my time on next. These all revolve around who I’m developing the product for:
My Family: Remember that I developed the transcription software to help accomplish a specific goal: transcribe Julia Brumfield’s diaries to share with family members. The features I should concentrate on for this audience are:
- Finish porting my father’s 1992 transcription of the 1918 diary to FromThePage
- Fix zoom.
- Improve the collaborative tools for discussing the works and figuring out which pages need review.
- Build out the printing feature, so that the diaries can be shared with people who have limited computer access.
THATCamp attendees: Probably the best feedback I’ll be able to receive on the analytical tools like subject graphs will come from THATCamp. This means that any analytical features I’d like to demo need to be presentable by the middle of May.
Institutional Users: This blog has drawn interest from a couple of people looking for software for their institutions to use. For the past month, I’ve corresponded extensively with John Rumm, editor of the Digital Buffalo Bill Project, based at McCracken Research Library, at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. Though our conversations are continuing, it seems like the main features his project would need are:
- Full support for manuscript transcription tags used to describe normalization, different hands, corrections/revisions to the text, illegible text and other descriptors used in low-level transcription work. (More on this in a separate post)
- Integration with other systems the project may be using, like Omeka, Pachyderm, MediaWiki, and such.
My Volunteers: A few of the people who’ve been trying out the software have expressed interest in using it to host their own projects. More than any other audience, their needs would push FromThePage towards my vision of unlocking the filing cabinets in family archivists’ basements and making these handwritten sources accessible online. We’re in the very early stages of this, so I don’t yet know what requirements will arise.
The problem is that there’s very little overlap between the features these groups need. I will likely concentrate on family and volunteers, while doing the basics for THATCamp. I realize that’s not a very tight focus, but it’s much clearer to me now than it was last week.