Sunday is a day for housekeeping. The dishes are done, the laundry is in, the floors are washed and dinner is in the oven. So, I thought it would be appropriate to update you on two of my ongoing digital history experiments. (Totally just kidding about the housework – none of that is done. I’m a grad student and it’s the end of the term – my only domestic responsibility is to make sure I have enough coffee in the house. It makes a good metaphor, though).
The first experiment, which I blogged about earlier in the year, is with the document manager Qiqqa. I have been using Qiqqa for a few months now and, like a fine wine, it only gets better with age. The more documents I add to my Qiqqa library, the more useful and powerful it becomes. The tagging feature was particularly helpful for my current Archives essay – I was able to filter my library by the relevant tags (being “archives” and “public history”), run an annotation report that revealed the notes I had made on those articles and was essentially presented with the framework for my essay. Also, being able to search the text of an article (or my entire library, for that matter) is invaluable when looking for that specific quote or passage you saw somewhere, but can’t quite remember where. Basically, if you make detailed notes and use the tagging feature effectively, then Qiqqa will ensure an excellent return on your (non-monetary) investment.
Qiqqa has made a few updates since I last blogged about my experience, including my recommendation of lightening the colour of the annotations (which I have so modestly circled in red in the image). Also, you can now share your documents with friends and colleagues by inviting them to join your web library (which is synced up to your computer). I suspect they will be doing more with this feature in the months ahead to further facilitate collaboration. There has already been a December release, so clearly the people at Qiqqa are always responsive to feedback and are working hard to develop their product.
My other ongoing digital history experiment is with Wikipedia. I mentioned in a previous post, my first attempt to edit an entry, which edit only lasted 8 hours. I decided that my edit (to do with the Famous Five monument in Ottawa) was more appropriate in a different article (and one less high profile than the one on Parliament Hill). I took the same sentence I tried to add to the Parliament Hill article and added it to the article called The Famous Five. Once my edit made it past the 8 hour mark, I felt like I was making some progress. I then tested the waters some more by adding another sentence, to the end of an existing paragraph, that read: “The controversy surrounding the women has made commemoration difficult.” I then moved the existing paragraph on commemoration to follow this paragraph, having my new sentence act as a transition sentence of sorts.
Although these are minor edits, they did take some of my time. I have more changes and additions I would like to make to this article, but my initial experience with the Parliament Hill article has made me hesitant to invest too much of my time in the event that my work is reverted and declared “unneeded.” I definitely have a new appreciation for the Wikipedia process and for those who dedicate their time to creating, revising and editing articles. It actually amazes me that there are so many people who invest this kind of time in a project that isn’t much of a benefit to them individually. I am inclined to agree with Clay Shirky that people who contribute to Wikipedia do so in the spirit of the common good and out of love.