Brand Name Scholar

Scholars may not like it, but that doesn’t change the fact that in the 21st century’s fragmented media environment, marketing and branding are key to disseminating the knowledge and tools we produce. This is especially true in the field of digital humanities, where we are competing for attention not only with other humanists and other cultural institutions, but also with titans of the blogosphere and big-time technology firms. Indeed, CHNM spends quite a bit of energy on branding—logo design, search engine optimization, cool SWAG, blogs like this one—something we view as central to our success and our mission: to get history into as many hands possible. (CHNM’s actual mission statement reads, “Since 1994 under the founding direction of Roy Rosenzweig, CHNM has used digital media and computer technology to democratize history—to incorporate multiple voices, reach diverse audiences, and encourage popular participation in presenting and preserving the past.”)

In my experience, branding is mostly a game learned by trial and error, which is the only way to really understand what works for your target audience. But business school types also have some worthwhile advice. One good place to start is a two part series on “personal branding” from Mashable, which provides some easy advice for building a brand for your self or your projects. Another very valuable resource, which was just posted yesterday, is the Mozilla Community Marketing Guide. In it the team that managed to carve out a 20% market share from Microsoft for the open source web browser Firefox provides invaluable guidance not only on branding, but also on giving public presentations, using social networking, finding sponsorships, and dealing with the media that is widely transferable to marketing digital humanities and cultural heritage projects.

It may not be pretty, but in an internet of more than one trillion pages, helping your work stand out is no sin.

(Note: I’ll be leading a lunchtime discussion of these and other issues relating to electronic marketing and outreach for cultural heritage projects later today at the IMLS WebWise conference in Washington, D.C. I’ll be using #webwise on Twitter if you’d like to follow my updates from the conference.)

Briefly Noted for February 25, 2009

Along with “the perfect is the enemy of the good,” “release early and often” is something of a mantra around CHNM, especially when it comes to software and web application development. For a variety of reasons, not least the invaluable testing and feedback projects get when they actually make it into the wild, CHNM has always been keen to get stuff into users’ hands. Two good statements of likeminded philosophy: Eric Ries’ Lessons Learned: Continuous deployment and continuous learning and Timothy Fitz’s Continuous Deployment.

Lisa Spiro continues her excellent roundup of Digital Humanities in 2008 with a discussion of developments in open access. Readers should also make sure to catch Lisa’s first installment on digital scholarship. Nice to see that CHNM makes an appearance in both.

Drunk History presents “history as it’s never been told before”: by drunks. Check out Volume One, where Arrested Development and Juno’s Michael Cera does a turn as Alexander Hamilton. Thanks, Ken.

New Omeka Support Resources

Omeka Team Omeka has been hard at work. Not only are we preparing for a 1.0 alpha release in early March, we have also been working with the Omeka community to improve support for the steadily growing numbers of institutions and individuals using Omeka to display their collections and build exhibitions in rich narrative and visual context. A few of the latest developments:

  • A new series of Omeka “playdates” (informal training sessions) launched last week with a well-attended even at Omeka HQ in Fairfax. A second playdate, to be held on Thursday, April 2 before the start of the National Council on Public History annual meeting in Providence, was just announced. A third, again in Fairfax, will fill the Friday between the close of Digital Humanities 2009 and the start of THATCamp on June 26. We will be announcing additional dates in the weeks ahead. Visit the Omeka Events calendar for more information, to sign up, and to see a list of upcoming papers and presentations by Omeka staff members.
  • By now many of you are already following @omeka on Twitter. Do you also know that you can track changes to the Omeka trunk on Twitter by following @omekatrac?
  • The Omeka development team and development community are always available to answer questions about theme and plugin development, receive bug reports, and accept code contributions via the Omeka Dev Google Group. Now the community is also available via IRC at #omeka. Check in at 2:30 EST on Fridays for the weekly developers’ meet-up.

As always, new or prospective Omeka users should play in the Sandbox and visit the getting started sections of our open, editable documentation. In coming weeks, we will be convening a community documentation working group to improve our support resources in advance of the 1.0 release. Let us know if you’d like to get involved.

Briefly Noted for February 12, 2009

Showing extreme negligence earlier in the week, I somehow forgot to mention the opening of applications for THATCamp 2009. Last year’s event was great. This year will be (a little) bigger and better.

Another late entry: Our colleagues at the Maryland Institute of Technology in the Humanities have launched their spring series of Digital Dialogues. I’m posting too late for readers to catch CHNM’s Jeremy Boggs (who spoke this past Tuesday), but there’s plenty of time to plan a trip to College Park for Mills Kelly’s provocatively titled “What Happens When You Teach Your Students to Lie Online?” in April. Other topics this semester include Project Bamboo, Shakespeare, and robots.

A somewhat unlikely place for the subject matter, Slashdot nevertheless has a great discussion of How Do I Start a University Transition to Open Source?

Finally, from the New York Times, some tips on how to run better meetings: Meetings Are a Matter of Precious Time . Thanks, Jerm, hint taken.

Briefly Noted for February 10, 2009

Jessica Pritchard of the American Historical Association blog reports on a panel at last month’s annual meeting that asked what it takes to be a public historian. Entitled “Perspectives on Public History: What Knowledge, Skills, and Experiences are Essential for the Public History Professional?” the panel was chaired by George Mason’s own Spencer Crew.

Going back a bit to the December issue of Code4Lib Journal, Dale Askey considers why librarians are reluctant to release their code and suggests some strategies for stemming their reluctance. I have to say I sympathize completely with my colleagues in the library; I think the entire Omeka team will agree with me that putting yourself out there in open source project is no easy feat of psychology.

The Bowery Boys, hosts of the excellent NYC History podcast, give us The History of New York City in Video Games, a thoroughgoing look of how New York has been pictured by game designers from the Brooklyn of the original Super Mario Brothers to the five boroughs of Grand Theft Auto IV’s “Liberty City.”

John Slater, Creative Director of Mozilla, rightly notes that, however unlikely, t-shirts are important to the success of open source software. In his T-Shirt History of Mozilla, Slater shows us 50 designs dating back to late 1990s.