How to Work Collaboratively

I’m currently teaching professional writing, and I’m very thankful to have these ProfHacker posts about collaboration to share with my students. Although a single-authored document is a very common assignment in most college courses, documents that have been collaboratively authored are much more likely to be created in a work environment.

We all know how difficult writing can be if we are working by ourselves. However, if we work together, perhaps the work isn’t quite as difficult.

Social medial tools like Facebook and Twitter can help get you through your to-do list, instead of distracting you from it. Here’s a simple strategy for breaking out of procrastination.

Online Tools For Collaboration,” by George H. Williams
Collaborating with others on large and ongoing projects can be tricky, but it’s much easier if you use a few online tools wisely.

E-mail Is Not a Tool for Revision,” by Jason B. Jones
Using an online writing environment–such as GoogleDocs or a wiki–makes collaboration easier and side steps the problems that can arise when several authors are e-mailing each other different drafts of the same document

If you and your collaborators need to make significant progress on a document in a short period of time, here’s one way to do it.

Use GoogleDocs for Crowd-Sourced Notes,” by George H. Williams
When several different people are taking notes about the same topic, using a shared online document is an effective way to keep track of all of the different contributions.

This new, Windows-only plug-in from Google Docs allows you to share, back up, and edit simultaneously with others who are also using the plug-in with Office or who are using Google Docs in the cloud.

[Creative Commons-licensed flickr photo by Christopher Schmidt]

Flickr Bookmarklets

If you need a bookmarklet to search for Flickr photos that have been licensed for commercial re-use and modification, drag the following link to the bookmarks bar on your browser: Search Flickr. (This is a variation on a bookmarklet created by Konrad Lawson.)

If you need a bookmarklet that will automatically generate a hyperlinked attribution for an individual Flickr photos, drag the following link to the bookmarks bar on your browser: Flickr attribution. (This is a variation on a bookmarklet created by Cory Dodt.)

I also created a (silent) screencast demonstrating how to use the bookmarklets. In order to make sense of what’s going on you’ll probably want to expand the video to fill your screen.

[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by rosemilkinabottle]

ASECS 2011: My Schedule

The 2011 meeting of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies will take place this weekend in Vancouver, British Columbia.

These are the sessions with which I am involved one way or another:

Friday, March 18

  • 9:45am-11:15am: “The Eighteenth Century in the Twenty-First: The Impact of the Digital Humanities” (Grand Ballroom BC)
  • 4:15pm-5:45pm: “New Media In the Eighteenth Century” (Port Alberni)

Saturday, March 19

  • 2:00pm-3:30pm: “Evaluating Digital Work: Projects, Programs and Peer Review” (Grand Ballroom BC)

How about you? Are you going? What’s your schedule look like? (The rest of the conference program is online as a PDF.)

Universal Subtitles: Crowdsourcing Subtitles For Videos

Below you’ll see one of our videos from the BrailleSC project. This particular video features a teacher working with a young student who is visually impaired. The video, like all of our videos, needs subtitles. If BrailleSC is to fulfill its goal of creating fully accessible content, then we need to make sure that people with hearing impairments will be able to benefit from our videos. After experimenting with a paid service for transcribing our videos, I began to think about what it would take to create a tool that would allow people to volunteer their transcription efforts. Such a tool would benefit not only BrailleSC, but also other projects that also feature video or audio.

One tool whose development I’ve been very interested in is Scripto, “a light-weight, open source, tool that will allow users to contribute transcriptions to online documentary projects.” Scripto, being developed by the Center for History and New Media, is designed for projects where images of written or printed documents need to be transcribed. The potential exists, I believe, for adapting a tool like this for projects involving video or audio rather than the written word.

Until that potential is realized, however, there are some other options available. I recently learned about a great project called Universal Subtitles, an open-source tool that brings together volunteers who want to subtitle videos and videos that need subtitles. The idea is pretty simple; I’ll just quote from their site:

You add our widget to your videos. Then you and your viewers can add subtitles, which anyone can watch. We save the subtitles on our site (but you can download them). And each video has its own collaboration space on our site (like a wikipedia article) where people can make improvements, track changes, and give feedback.

The project is being undertaken by the Participatory Culture Foundation, “a non-profit organization building free and open tools for more a democratic and decentralized media. Universal Subtitles is a featured Mozilla Drumbeat project, and they’re currently raising money to get the tool out of beta. Note: From now until January 1 Mozilla will match your donation to the project.

Universal Subtitles is composed of three main parts:

  • The subtitling widget currently exists as a browser-based javascript tool that features an user friendly interface for adding subtitles to almost any video on the web (without the hassle of re-transcoding or re-uploading). We’re inviting people to check it out and we’re curious to know what you think.
  • The collaborative website will develop as a space for collaborative subtitling and translating videos. The site will encourage dynamics like: formation of teams for subtitling a program, or a topic; tracking which subtitling or translation tasks are the most requested, and mobilizing volunteers; volunteers recruiting their friends for help transcribing or translating a video.
  • The protocol/open spec (still in the early stages) will allow clients such as Firefox extensions, desktop video players, websites, or browsers to look up and download matching subtitles from subtitle database(s).

Everything … will be available under the open source AGPL license.

It’s easy to get involved with Universal Subtitles:

For more information

How do I create a custom page in Omeka?

I have a fairly simple question about Omeka, and I hope there’s a fairly simple answer (or that someone can point me to the right place in the documentation or discussion forum.) If an item has a few media files associated with it, how would I go about creating a template for a dynamically-generated page that would display one of those media files and not all of them at once? Here’s the context for the question: with BrailleSC, we’re creating an Omeka archive of oral histories. Each oral history item will be presented as a transcription (in HTML), a video file (MP4), and an audio file (MP3). As I understand it, the default page for an Omeka item automatically displays all of the files associated with that particular item, and in the case of a 30-minute video what that means is the user must wait for a pretty large video file to load, even if all they’re interested in is the transcription or the mp3.

Now, we could use some kind of Flash-based player that wouldn’t load the video on the page but would stream it when the user specifically triggers the video; unfortunately, however, Flash is not compatible with the screen reader shoftware used by many of our intended audience.

What’d we like to have is a page that automatically displays the transcription (and maybe a screenshot from the video) but just provides links to the pages that contain the video and the audio. If I understand the backend correctly, such pages would need to be passed the “id” of the Omeka item so that they could then grab the appropriate video or audio file and embed it on the page. Is that correct? Could anyone give me a nudge in the right direction so that I could hack something together?

Thanks in advance for any and all advice!