Announcing Digital Humanities Questions & Answers (@DHAnswers)

DH Q&ASeveral months ago, we were lucky enough to have been approached by the Association for Computers and the Humanities (ACH) with an idea for collaboration that would help broaden (and serve) the digital humanities community—many of whom we know read the ProfHacker blog and interact in the commenting community we have here. The result of that idea, put forth by ACH Vice President Bethany Nowviskie, is Digital Humanities Questions & Answers, a community-based Q&A board you can participate in for free at:

(We also suggest you follow @DHAnswers on Twitter.)

The goal of DH Answers is to create a friendly and inviting space where people can help each other with questions about languages, tools, standards, best practices, pedagogy, and all things related to scholarly activity in the digital humanities (broadly defined). No question is too small, or too simple, or, for that matter, too broad or difficult. The community will answer your question, or help narrow the focus, or simply add to the community knowledgebase. After all, sometimes a question needs more space than a medium like Twitter might offer, and is a little more specific (or basic!) than one might feel comfortable posting on Humanist or specialist mailing lists.

To that end, a small team has been working behind the scenes on behalf of ProfHacker and ACH to create a useful communication platform, with topic categories that will help filter and focus the discussions. The core team is myself (Julie Meloni, University of Victoria), Bethany Nowviskie (University of Virginia Scholars’ Lab), Stéfan Sinclair (McMaster University), and Joe Gilbert (University of Virginia Scholars’ Lab); Joe should get the bulk of the credit for development and overall good work (and cheer).

At DH Answers, you will find questions and answers already exist in all the categories:

  • Applications, Tools, Formats: help with using software, suggestions of tools or file formats to use
  • Databases & Data Structures: flatfiles? sql? hierarchical data? uml? all these and more
  • Interfaces, Design & Usability: all things user-centred
  • DH in the Classroom: on teaching DH topics and integrating technology with teaching
  • Markup & Metadata: all things encoding (XML, XSLT, TEI, etc.) and information metadata
  • Programming: any programming language (PHP, Ruby, Java, Lisp, etc.) or about which language to use
  • New Media & Games: interactive arts, game studies, etc.
  • Project Management & DH Professions: project management tools and tips, discussion of DH roles
  • About DH Answers: how to use the site, Twitter integration, etc.

During the pre-launch phase, we invited a small number of people with a wide range of expertise to start the discussions so that when we launched today, you’d have several models (and a lot of information) to learn from. Currently there are more than 30 questions and 140 “answers” (or posts that add to the discussion). Now it’s time for you to join the fun:

  1. Go to DHAnswers and register an account (or use an existing OpenID account such as your Google account).
  2. Click the “Ask a Question” link to ask a question, making sure to select the appropriate category for the question.
  3. Browse any existing questions and add your answer where relevant. For questions you have initiated, you will be able to mark one or more responses as “best answers.”
  4. If you’re on Twitter, you might want to follow @DHAnswers, where new questions will be automatically tweeted.

That’s all there is to it! Well, if you want a little more information we recommend reading the “So, what is this Q&A forum, and what can I do here?” thread in which the administrators (Bethany, Stéfan, Joe, and myself) answer questions like “What’s it for? What kind of questions should I be asking? Any tips and tricks? And who is here to help me?”

We hope ProfHacker readers find Digital Humanities Questions and Answers useful in your work and an attractive venue in which to help a new generation of digital humanists. Please contribute your own questions and answers, and encourage your undergraduate and graduate students to participate as well. We are grateful to the ACH for continuing to think about outreach, community-building, and other issues related to the growth of the Digital Humanities “big tent.”

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