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The book is something they can sell. Are they going to make money off the website? (If so, how?) For how long, in both cases?</p> <p>And if they're not making money from the website -- if it's not attracting additional book orders -- why will they keep it, much less put additional resources into maintaining or updating it?</p> <p>Libraries can take on this kind of digital project because everyone knows we're cost centers; we're not expected to make money. Presses are in a vastly more difficult situation with regard to indefinite digital-preservation commitments. For that reason, librarians have been freer than press employees (on balance, and with exceptions) in developing skills in digital preservation and online content management.</p> <p>Think hard about the outcomes you want, and proceed accordingly. </p> Bethany Nowviskie on "What does it mean to future-proof a DH project?" http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/topic/what-does-it-mean-to-future-proof-a-dh-project#post-577 Mon, 25 Oct 2010 01:21:36 +0000 Bethany Nowviskie 577@http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/ <p>Stephen, I'm so glad you found the answers and the community here helpful! </p> <p>I do have to second Dorothea's worry about confidence that a commercial press will provide good stewardship of your project's digital component. All could, of course, go swimmingly! and I hope it does -- but two things you wrote raised red flags for me. </p> <p>The first was that the press you're working with has no experience in this arena. At the very least, you should make sure that they're talking with more experienced presses and (importantly) libraries. They need to know exactly what they're getting into, and whether they have the capacity to work with you in the way you need. (Another DH answers thread on the most promising university or commercial electronic imprints and the centers or groups with the most experience in digital curation would surely yield some good responses!)</p> <p>My second red flag unfurled when you wrote, "so as long as they want to keep it in print... then keeping it around on the web should not be a problem." I would not feel at all confident that the print and (nascent) digital sides of the house at any given press will necessarily stay in sync. What if the book is profitable, but the website isn't, and they can't justify preserving it? What happens to your digital content when the print volume stops turning a profit -- if (no offense!) it ever does? If I were to get into a deal like this, I'd be making sure that my digital content is <a href="http://creativecommons.org">Creative Commons</a>-licensed so that I or someone else could migrate it to new forms as time goes on -- and I'd archive a copy of the whole thing myself, just in case bad things happen even faster than I (ever the optimist, when it comes to linkrot!) expect. </p> Dorothea Salo on "What does it mean to future-proof a DH project?" http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/topic/what-does-it-mean-to-future-proof-a-dh-project#post-574 Sun, 24 Oct 2010 21:18:49 +0000 Dorothea Salo 574@http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/ <p>Oof. Speaking as someone who used to work in scholarly publishing -- I would NOT trust a major commercial press to keep something on the web.</p> <p>I really, really, really wouldn't.</p> <p>Really. </p> essayross@gmail.com on "What does it mean to future-proof a DH project?" http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/topic/what-does-it-mean-to-future-proof-a-dh-project#post-566 Sun, 24 Oct 2010 04:57:12 +0000 essayross@gmail.com 566@http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/ <p>Many thanks to everyone who replied to my perplexity. </p> <p>In fact, the project is a publishing venture being considered by a major commercial press, so as long as they want to keep it in print (there will be a companion print volume) then keeping it around on the web should not be a problem. Right? </p> <p>It is true that they have no experience doing this sort of thing, and I suspect that the question I got from an anonymous assessor about future-proofing was an attempt to sound like knowing something about it when the facts may be slightly different. Still, it raised a good question for me, and I now have some very good answers -- and a tremendously better understanding of what's at stake. It's my first foray into a DH project as well, so it's all grist to the mill at this point and I'm very very very happy to have found such a welcoming and helpful community. </p> <p>Thanks again. </p> Julie Meloni on "What does it mean to future-proof a DH project?" http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/topic/what-does-it-mean-to-future-proof-a-dh-project#post-521 Tue, 19 Oct 2010 16:14:29 +0000 Julie Meloni 521@http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/ <p>I admit to asking Stephen to post this question specifically to DHAnswers after I answered his private e-mail. I figured the discussion would be of use to a wide range of folks; yes it is, as noted on Twitter (I think), a question about grant-writing. But it's also a question about technology, to some extent, and also a question about interacting with people who hear and use terms without a full understanding of what they mean.</p> <p>So, as to the term "future-proof," it does have meaning and it is a legitimate question that could be asked by stakeholders in several areas (e.g. a funder or a librarian could be asking the question and your answer could be different but equally meaningful to both). Can you actually future-proof something? No, not really, but there are absolutely steps that can be taken at project outset and also as time moves on to ensure that the project does not die on the vine (and take the rest of the vine with it).</p> <p>When Stephen asked "how people "future-proof" online or digital projects? What does it even mean?" I answered him thusly:</p> <p>I'd say what it means depends on who is asking. If it's a funding agency looking for some assurances that their investment will be used to make something sustainable, they are likely talking about the technical details rather than the content. For example, they would want to make sure that the content is in a format easily transferred to something else or easily put into a different framework. This is why you see a lot of curated projects taking advantage of open source or otherwise non-proprietary software/languages/databases -- so that the content and its presentation is independent of the structures housing it (for example: documents encoded in TEI or another SGML<br /> derivative rather than existing solely as Microsoft Word documents).</p> <p>When he asked "Does it signal proofing the project against becoming technically obsolete, or obsolete in terms of the content it has, etc?" I said:</p> <p>Typically it's the technology; I would say in DH projects there's at least a tacit understanding that the work being undertaken is itself work that should lead to knowledge creation (and thus the addition of more content). DH projects-as-scholarship are as future-proofed as their paper counterparts, you know?</p> <p>And, to "what am I supposed to say to someone who asks me to show that my proposed project has been "future-proofed"?" I said:</p> <p>I would say that if you show an attention to using current standards-compliant, open source, cross-platform methods for storing, displaying, and otherwise maintaining the content, it's as future-proofed as anything is going to be. There's future-proofed, as<br /> in "will I be able to read this 10 years from now" and then there's "is this built in the most sustainable or manageable way," which are a bit different. For example, if your data is stored in a bunch of static marked-up XML files, technically it's future-proofed, but is it the most efficient or easily managed/moved/stored/displayed? perhaps<br /> not.</p> <p>----</p> <p>So, that's what I said. I also like Dorothea's and Hugh's answers. They're shorter. </p> Hugh Cayless on "What does it mean to future-proof a DH project?" http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/topic/what-does-it-mean-to-future-proof-a-dh-project#post-520 Tue, 19 Oct 2010 16:12:49 +0000 Hugh Cayless 520@http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/ <p>I think there are several things you can do to future-proof a project:</p> <p>* Is the project's data easily obtainable (preferably in a single download)?<br /> * Is the data under an open license?<br /> * Is the functionality well-documented?<br /> * Does it use Open Source code?<br /> * Is any custom code released under an open license?<br /> * Is the code (and documentation) published in a repository, like Sourceforge or Github?<br /> * Can the whole project be indexed and cached by search engines and the Internet Archive?<br /> * Is there an institutional commitment to maintaining it (as Dorothea says, the library may be a good candidate)?</p> <p>If the answers to all of these are yes (I'm sure I've missed a few), then you've probably done all you can to future-proof your project. Nothing is certain, of course, but you can do things to improve the chances that your project won't just sink beneath the waves after the funding period is over. Most of the points above are ways you can make it easier for someone else to use your work after you're done. Or for a follow-on project to re-use its data, or for someone on the library systems team to stand it up on their server. </p> Dorothea Salo on "What does it mean to future-proof a DH project?" http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/topic/what-does-it-mean-to-future-proof-a-dh-project#post-514 Tue, 19 Oct 2010 12:30:27 +0000 Dorothea Salo 514@http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/ <p>Well, let's think this through, with history in mind.</p> <p>I once heard a Mellon representative say that he'd often been asked for a list of URLS for Mellon-funded digital-humanities projects. He couldn't do that, he said, because most of them were gone. G-O-N-E. "Futureproofing," let us posit, is avoiding a similar fate for YOUR project.</p> <p>There are quite a few elements to this. You've mentioned a couple already: file-format obsolescence (ou sont les HyperCards d'antan?) and content obsolescence (IMO less worrisome; we accept it in print, don't we?). There's more to the threat model, though. The big obvious one is: what happens to your project when the grant money runs out?</p> <p>I have known humanities scholars say "oh, I'll just hire a student to maintain it after that." Forgive me, but -- no, nobody does that. No scholar can afford to pour money into an old project when new projects need attention.</p> <p>So I suspect what your interlocutor wants to know is whom you're partnering with to ensure medium- to long-term preservation of the digital materials you create during your project. Your likeliest campus partner is your library. Outside campus, you'll want to look around for an archiving effort in your discipline, being aware that it may well not exist.</p> <p>Hope this helps! </p> Miriam Posner on "What does it mean to future-proof a DH project?" http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/topic/what-does-it-mean-to-future-proof-a-dh-project#post-513 Tue, 19 Oct 2010 11:47:48 +0000 Miriam Posner 513@http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/ <p><em>Replying to @essayross@gmail.com's <a href="http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/topic/what-does-it-mean-to-future-proof-a-dh-project#post-512">post</a>:</em></p> <p>Hmm. Can you say something about who this audience is? For example, has this institution dealt with other digital projects before, or is this a relatively new foray? Is it a humanities-type organization? A sciences-type organization? A both-type organization? </p> <p>There's no such thing as future-proofing (as it sounds like you know), so you may have to do some explaining-without-seeming-like-you're-explaining. </p> essayross@gmail.com on "What does it mean to future-proof a DH project?" http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/topic/what-does-it-mean-to-future-proof-a-dh-project#post-512 Tue, 19 Oct 2010 04:11:17 +0000 essayross@gmail.com 512@http://digitalhumanities.org/answers/ <p>How do people "future-proof" online or digital projects? What does it even mean? Does it signal proofing the project against becoming technically obsolete, or obsolete in terms of the content it has, etc? I mean, what am I supposed to say to someone who asks me to show that my proposed project has been "future-proofed"?</p> <p>I find this just a trifle perplexing. </p>