DH Answers by the Numbers


[Dr. Bethany Nowviskie is Director of Digital Research & Scholarship at the University of Virginia Library, where she administers the Scholars' Lab and the Scholarly Communication Institute. She is Vice President of the ACH, the international Association for Computers and the Humanities, and is a member of the MLA's Committee on Information Technology -- a group that will shortly begin contributing guest posts to ProfHacker! Bethany wrote about negotiating alternative academic appointments in August.]

In late September, we announced the release of Digital Humanities Questions and Answers (or @DHanswers, for short and on Twitter). You can find this great new resource at:

DH Answers is a free, community-driven Q&A board, meant to be a welcoming space for practitioners of the digital humanities working in all of the disciplines and professional roles that fit under what is sometimes called our “big tent.” (And, by the way, “big tent digital humanities” happens to be the theme of this year’s annual DH conference, to be held at Stanford University in June.)

DH Answers is a collaboration of the Association for Computers and the Humanities with ProfHacker, so we plan to check in periodically on the project in this space. You can read past check-ins by Julie (just one week in) and by Jason. Today, I’ll look at DH Answers by the numbers.

Our baby is now a little over two months old. In that time, approximately 300 users have registered and are actively posting questions or offering others their help and answers on the site. There are 10 categories of question, ranging from the nitty-gritty of tool choice, database design, and the creation of usable online interfaces, to broader issues about the application of digital humanities methods and approaches in the classroom, and about best practices for managing DH projects. You can browse these categories or search through any of the past 115 Q&A threads to see if your question has already been addressed, and it’s very easy to register and post new questions or offer your insights to others.

DH Answers community members are also tagging their posts to create new, collective categories — like “visualization,” “metadata,” or “collaboration.” About 360 tags have been offered so far, and users have contributed nearly 750 posts in all.

Questions that are asked on the site garner an average of six to seven answers each, and (in part due to built-in options that allow users to receive email alerts or subscribe to Twitter postings from @DHanswers) it is rare to see a question go for more than a couple of hours without a response.

While the all-time most-answered question is “How can we improve the DH Answers site?” (36 responses! We knew you were a helpful bunch!), other popular threads include “Help us design a DH workspace!” and “How do we introduce undergraduates to the digital humanities?.” Requests for “Alternatives to InDesign for creating multimedia ebooks” and a “list of all the graduate programs that study DH” garnered many responses recently, as did a thread on the kinds of “help” questions that are often asked of DH center staff.

Just for fun — and also by the numbers — we’ve created a system in which frequent contributors can “level up” through the ranks of DH do-gooders with bronze, silver, and gold medals next to their names. The medals represent the number of posts they’ve added to our growing community knowledge-base. In addition, some users are starting to earn gold stars for recognition by their peers as the contributors of a set number of “best answers.”

And, finally: the number of times in the past eight weeks I’ve heard DH Answers cited as a perfect example of the openness, helpfulness, and egalitarian nature of the international digital humanities community? Countless. Thanks to all of you who are contributing to this new online community — and if you haven’t checked out Digital Humanities Questions and Answers yet, we invite you to stop by, search for issues of interest to you, and post your problems and queries for a speedy and friendly response!

Image by Flickr user lrargerich / Creative Commons licensed

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