Dr. Strangecode - or: How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the
Hey there! You might recognize my name (or initials) from Twitter, Facebook, and the various other MoEML feeds. In addition to my work with the mayoral shows, it has also been my privilege to help kick MoEML’s social media presence and promotions into gear. Recent exciting developments are a fresh new look for the website, a redesigned news page, a Twitter feed (included after much debate), and a new series of blog posts from our entire team.
You might think that blogging would be the simplest of tasks for a team of researchers, text encoders, and English students. It seems, however, that there is a fundamental disconnect between writing research papers or proposals and writing blog posts. Nearly every team member asked me this question at some point in the process of preparing their blog posts:
Should my citations still be in MLA, or does blogging require something like Chicago?This question betrays our scholarly anxiety.
As a group of folks who have a near-Pavlovian response to structure and guidelines, we found it natural to construct a series of prompts to help grease the blog-writing wheels. Project Director Janelle Jenstad and I put together a range of questions and topics intended to help guide our team members when writing their first posts. The prompts themselves speak to the frame of mind of the new design and ideology of the MoEML you will all surely come to know and love.
In approaching the team to begin filling up our blogroll, we created a rationale meant to underscore the desired ethics at stake:
The goal of the MoEML blog is to record the unseen labour of the project. Encoding is a lot of work, and it tends to get downplayed in the literary critical milieu. Encoding is often seen as the soft side of research and computer work. While hacking and building and scripting are given their proper dues, things like markup and encoding tend to be passed over as light design work. These blogs aim to highlight (in a light way) the work we do as encoders, and how this work contributes to the project and our own scholarly development as a whole. We are a fantastic team of techies, researchers, and administrators, and this blog will showcase it all.
With this rationale in mind, we then followed up with prompts in three categories:
Aesthetics and Environment Ethos
Aesthetic and Environmental Ethosprovides bloggers an easy starting point for their writing: just write about how and where you do your encoding! This and most of the other prompts were generated from everyday discussions around our encoding work. We have, from time to time, taken to comparing and playfully slandering each other’s oXygen colour schemes. For example, those of us who use some of the more garish colour schemes (think neon pink and slime green on a field of jet black) do so for the sake of alertness. Having highly differentiated colours that leap off the screen and assault the eyes is preferable for some encoders who spend long hours peering into the murky depths of a two-thousand line sheet of XML. (Personally, I opt for my custom colour scheme named
reggae sunrise: dull red, yellow, orange, and green, over a field of charcoal grey. My defense is that the best encoding happens with a foundation of rhythm!)
Personographywas designed to encourage MoEML team members to expand on their biographies, and perhaps provide a bit of depth to a personality behind their
@xml:id. The most entertaining set of questions team members consider for their biographies include,
How do folks react when you explain encoding and programming to be integral to your work as an English student?and
How do you explain what you do to your friends and family?We’ve all got some funny stories about explaing our work to those outside the project, all of which have necessitated us being able to explain our work in multiple registers. Saying that
I work with stylesheets and databases to archive and conserve documentssounds quite different than
I work with transcriptions of mayoral shows from Early English Books Online and make them web-capable for an early modern research site,simply because I emphasize different features of the same act.
Technical,unlike the previous two categories, is geared towards the mechanical rather than the personal and social side of our work. Though it may seem a little interview-like, the question
What is your prior computer experience?elicits some surprising responses. Many of us came into technical work purely by chance, and had little or no experience with encoding, markup, programming before joining MoEML. Another hope at play with these prompts is the aspect of community-building by identifying other projects and experiences that have brought our team together.
Now you’re laughing, and that’s quite alright--anyone whose steps do not falter en route to success treads too light a path! I am proud to say that we have an outstanding series of blog posts underway, in which every member of MoEML has contributed intriguing and insightful glimpses into their work processes. As the blog posts begin to roll out, you’ll have some context as to why we’re getting so personal!
- Zaqir Virani wrote this blog post in November 2013. (KT)
- Early English Books Online (EEBO). Proquest LLC. Subscription.
Last modification: 2016-06-16 10:37:03 -0700 (Thu, 16 Jun 2016) (mholmes)