Category Archives: News

Help Us Create the Future

The Center for History and New Media at George Mason University is celebrating fifteen years of providing high-quality, free educational resources and tools to an audience that grows exponentially each year. Last year, sixteen million people visited CHNM’s websites and over two million people used our software.

The historians and technologists at CHNM feel lucky to serve this vast audience, but although all of our tools and resources are free, they are not without cost. With your help we hope to continue our service and innovation for another fifteen years and beyond. The National Endowment for the Humanities has given CHNM a rare challenge grant, which will match donations to CHNM’s endowment for a limited time.

Whether you use CHNM’s popular Zotero software for your research, get your daily fix from the History News Network, learn from award-winning sites such as Historical Thinking Matters and Gulag: Many Days, Many Lives, or scan through unique digital archives such as the Papers of the War Department, we hope you will make a contribution today. Your tax-deductible gift will help us to reach even more students, teachers, and scholars worldwide.

To make your donation right now, please visit:

http://chnm.gmu.edu/donate/

From all of us at the Center for History and New Media, we thank you in advance for helping us, as our motto says, “Build a Better Yesterday, Bit by Bit.”

UPDATE: An anonymous donor has stepped forward who will match the NEH’s match for the month of June, up to $15,000. So now is a terrific time to contribute and stretch your donation even further!

Zotero 2.0 Is Here!

Zotero LogoAfter an extensive development and testing period and the addition of even more features to make academic research easier, more collaborative, and ready for the future, Zotero 2.0 went public tonight. I’ll be blogging extensively about Zotero 2.0 in this space over the coming weeks and months as it continues to develop, but here’s a quick list of what you get with the major upgrade:

Syncing

  • Automatic synchronization of collections among multiple computers. For example, sync your PC at work with your Mac laptop and your Linux desktop at home.
  • Free automatic backup of your library data on Zotero’s servers.
  • Automatic synchronization of your attachment files to a WebDAV server (e.g. iDisk, Jungle Disk, or university-provided web storage).

People

  • Zotero users get a personal page with a short biography and the ability to list their discipline and interests, create an online CV (simple to export to other sites), and grant access to their libraries.
  • Easily find others in one’s discipline or researchers with similar interests.
  • Follow other scholars—and be followed in return.

Groups

  • Create and join public and private groups on any topic.
  • Access in real time new research materials from your groups on the web or in the Zotero interface.
  • Easily move materials from a group stream into your personal library.

Even More Functionality That Makes Your Research Easier

  • Automatic detection of PDF metadata (i.e., author, title, etc.).
  • Automatic detection and support for proxy servers.
  • Trash can with restore item functionality so you don’t accidentally lose important materials.
  • Rich-text notes.
  • A new style manager allowing you to add and delete CSLs and legacy style formats.

As always, the real credit for Zotero goes to what Roy Rosenzweig aptly called “The People Who Did the Work”: Zotero co-director Sean Takats; lead developer Dan Stillman; developers Simon Kornblith, Jon Lesser, Faolan Cheslack-Postava, Fred Gibbs, Matt Burton; community lead Trevor Owens; integration advisor Raymond Yee; assistant Andrew Howard; and the scores of people beyond the Center for History and New Media who made contributions large and small to this open source project.

Zotero 2.0 was created with generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Omeka Gets Even Better

Tom Scheinfeldt, co-director of the Omeka project along with Sharon Leon, shares the good news of a major upgrade to both the code and the website for the Center for History and New Media‘s online collection and exhibit software on Omeka’s blog.

The new version of Omeka has an even easier way to build an exhibit, wrap it in a design theme, and extend your site with plugins. Improved documentation and user support will help you along the way. For developers and geeks, the revamped theme API and plugin API make it simple to extend Omeka, or you can get involved with the project in other ways. And the Omeka team is about to make it a snap to import digital objects from a variety of repositories and other software.

You can find all of this goodness on the beautiful new Omeka site (below). Congrats to the hard-working Omeka team: Tom, Sharon, Jeremy Boggs, Jim Safley, Kris Kelly, Sheila Brennan, Dave Lester, and Ken Albers.

Zotero 1.5: Sync Preview and Much More

After nearly six months of extensive testing and tweaking, and with countless bug fixes done in progression with the movements of the Firefox 3 team, I’m pleased to report that the first version of Zotero that synchronizes with the much-awaited Zotero Server has been released for trial by the general public. Yes, you can now access your Zotero collection from anywhere and synchronize it across multiple machines (of any operating system). And of course the copy of your collection on our server means that you now have a free automatic backup of your Zotero library data.

[Long-time readers of this blog and my writing elsewhere know that this major update to Zotero was due some time ago; all I can say in my defense is that: 1) Firefox 3 was also supposed to be released last fall but finally was released at the end of June (and we needed Firefox 3 for the server versions of Zotero); 2) we’ve continued in the meantime to add dozens of new features and hundreds of new supported sites suggested in our forums to the “classic” version of Zotero; 3) synchronization of digital collections across multiple machines and our server is an outrageously difficult task (ask your local computer science guru); 4) we’ve also used the additional time to add functionality to Zotero 1.5 and subsequent versions that we believe will keep it far ahead of any commercial alternatives, and that will begin to enable Zotero’s communication with the Internet Archive. OK, enough of the mea culpas. Let’s get back to the exciting news.]

Although Zotero 1.5 maintains its easy-to-use iTunes-like interface, behind the scenes it includes a complex, robust communications and synchronization layer that provides the foundation for all subsequent releases of the software and our soon-to-come Zotero website and services, including public and private groups, collection sharing, and recommendations. This new layer also means that Zotero can begin to synchronize and link to other repositories, services, and applications on the Web. Although we have already gotten a lot of interest from outside software developers in creating extensions to Zotero, the new 1.5 will be another leap forward in allowing these developers to combine Zotero with whatever scholarly software or collections they are working on.

Other goodies we’ve thrown in (beyond this list of additions ported from 1.0) simply because we listen to our users and like to make them happy:

  • Even though Zotero has beaten Endnote in head-to-head competition, one point of comparison that some people thought Zotero was inferior on was its lack of the thousands of citation styles available on that commercial program. We still believe that the open source style system we have adopted, CSL (created by Bruce D’Arcus), is far more flexible and robust than the citation style systems of Endnote and other tools, and when you really look at the supposed “thousands of Endnote styles” they are really just many of copies of a limited number of styles with different journal names stuck on. Nevertheless we decided to make this point of comparison moot. Zotero users can now use Endnote styles as well as CSL styles, although we still plan to aggressively build out from the dozens of CSLs currently available and strongly encourage the creation and use of CSLs.
  • We have added preliminary support for ZeroConf. Let me translate the tech-speak: underneath the hood, Zotero now has the ability to broadcast collections over a local network, without going through the Zotero server. This means that a group of students in a classroom or academics at a conference can enable sharing and see and grab references or links from other users, much the same way that you can share your iTunes music library with others nearby. We plan to expand support for this feature in subsequent releases. (For now, it’s a bit hidden for testing.)

As always, when I use “we” in posts about Zotero, I mean our incredible team: the Center for History and New Media‘s Director of Research Projects Sean Takats (who has succeeded me in that role), Lead Developer Dan Stillman, Connie Sehat (former CHNM senior staffer who has just been hired as Emory‘s Director of Digital Scholarship), Zotero community liaison Trevor Owens, and the core developer team of Simon Kornblith, Jon Lesser, Michael Berkowitz, and Raymond Yee.

Why not take Zotero 1.5 for a spin (we include the normal caveats about beta software on our site, but in my experience it’s rather stable), extend it with plugins, or develop your own software for the Zotero platform?

THATCamp Begins

I’m at the Center for History and New Media this weekend for our first annual THATCamp: The Humanities and Technology Camp, a spontaneous, participant-generated 48 hours of collaborative advancement of the art of digital humanities. It has started off with a bang: almost 30 ad hoc sessions have been planned, ranging from search technologies to interface design to civic engagement.

Unfortunately we had enormous interest in THATCamp and had to limit the size of this year’s edition, but those who can’t be here can follow the proceedings live on Twitter (follow @thatcamp or my Twitter feed @dancohen), IRC (irc.freenode.net, port 7000, room thatcamp), or on Flickr (the THATCamp set).

National History Education Clearinghouse Launches

The Center for History and New Media has just publicly launched a massive, multi-year project and website: the National History Education Clearinghouse.

With major funding from the U.S. Department of Education, the Clearinghouse is designed to help K-12 history teachers access resources and materials to improve U.S. history education in the classroom. The project builds on and disseminates the valuable lessons learned by more than 800 Teaching American History projects, which the Dept. of Ed’s Office of Innovation and Improvement underwrote to raise student achievement by improving teachers’ knowledge and understanding of traditional U.S. history. At the Center we have done five of these TAH projects, using new media to enhance and rethink the acquisition of historical knowledge and theory.

As you can see on the site, the Clearinghouse will cover not only rich, open-access historical content and learning modules, but also useful material for professional development, including best practices and policy briefs for teachers. CHNM has partnered with the Stanford University History Education Group to produce the Clearinghouse.

Congratulations to all of the CHNMers who have been burning the midnight oil and a lot of CPU cycles to get this beautiful and enormously helpful site up in only three months: Director of Education Kelly Schrum, Director of Public Projects Sharon Leon, Project Managers Lee Ann Ghajar and Teresa DeFlitch, Project Associate Jane Heckley Kon, Lead Web Designer Laura Veprek, Lead Programmer Jon Lesser, and of course our trusty (and overworked) Webmaster, Ammon Shepherd.

[N.B.: I accidentally leaked this launch notice a month ago for a few hours, so this post might look familiar to those who check their RSS reader frequently. The NHEC has now, truly, launched.]

NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities

ODH LogoWhat began as a plucky “initiative” has now become a permanent “office.” The National Endowment for the Humanities will announce in a few hours that their Digital Humanities Initiative has now been given a full home, in recognition of how important digital technology and media are for the future of the humanities. The DHI has become the Office of Digital Humanities, with a new website and a new RSS feed for news. From the ODH welcome message:

The Office of Digital Humanities (ODH) is an office within the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Our primary mission is to help coordinate the NEH’s efforts in the area of digital scholarship. As in the sciences, digital technology has changed the way scholars perform their work. It allows new questions to be raised and has radically changed the ways in which materials can be searched, mined, displayed, taught, and analyzed. Technology has also had an enormous impact on how scholarly materials are preserved and accessed, which brings with it many challenging issues related to sustainability, copyright, and authenticity. The ODH works not only with NEH staff and members of the scholarly community, but also facilitates conversations with other funding bodies both in the United States and abroad so that we can work towards meeting these challenges.

Congrats to the NEH for this move forward.

2008 Mellon Awards for Technology Collaboration

It’s that time of year to help out open source projects you love by nominating them for the Mellon Awards for Technology Collaboration (MATC Awards), sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Prior recipients include beloved FOSS projects that have greatly benefited academia, including Moodle and Scriblio.

The deadline for nominations for the 2008 Mellon Awards for Technology Collaboration (MATC Awards) is April 14, 2008. The MATC Awards consist of up to ten $50,000 or $100,000 prizes, which a receiving institution can use in a variety of ways to continue its technology leadership. The awards honor not-for-profit institutions that have demonstrated exemplary leadership in the development of open source software for one or more of the constituencies served by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation: the arts and humanities in higher education; research libraries, museums; performing arts organizations; and conservation biology.

Awardees are selected by a distinguished committee of technology leaders, including Mitchell Baker, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, John Seely Brown, Vint Cerf, John Gage, and Tim O’Reilly. Previous winners include higher education institutions, libraries, and museums from North America, Europe, and Asia.

An online nomination form and more information may be found at http://matc.mellon.org.

Vertov Brings Video Annotation to Zotero

From the beginning of the Zotero project, I’ve said that we have bigger fish to fry than citation management, although Zotero does that quite well, thank you very much. (Case in point: Zotero recently beat Endnote, RefWorks, and all of the other big citation managers in head-to-head competition at CiteFest.)

Zotero aims to be a digital research platform, and an extensible one at that. That’s why it’s gratifying and exciting to see the brilliant and incredibly useful Vertov plugin for Zotero. Vertov allows Zotero users to cut video and audio files into clips, annotate the clips, and integrate their annotations with other research sources and notes stored in Zotero. It has terrific functionality and should be ideal for use in the classroom as well as by film scholars and other researchers.

Vertov Screenshot

Congrats and many thanks to Concordia University’s Digital History Lab, led by Elena Razlogova, for conceptualizing and executing this great plugin.

PC Magazine Best Free Software IssueAnd since it’s been a little while since I’ve done shameless cheerleading for Zotero, it’s humbling to get the recognition from PC Magazine that Zotero has, for the second year in a row, been declared one of the best free software applications.

Goodbye, Ross

Ross ScaifeA couple of years ago I first heard from Ross Scaife in a lengthy and incredibly intelligent response to a post on this blog. A few months later I met him—and befriended him—at a digital humanities conference, and we have had spirited conversations about scholarship and digital media ever since.

Very sadly, I learned today on the Stoa Consortium blog (which Ross founded) that Ross had finally succumbed to cancer this week at the heartbreakingly young age of 47.

Like my friend and colleague Roy Rosenzweig, who passed away five months ago from cancer, Ross approached his series of painful treatments with a bravery and even nonchalance that is frankly unfathomable to me. Until fairly recently he was still sending me upbeat, hilarious notes via email, and talking about hunting and fishing on Facebook.

In the digital world it’s sometimes easy to lose track of the real humans on the other side of the network. That was never the case with Ross. His humanity, kindness, and enthusiasm was instantly apparent to everyone he spoke to online and off.

I’ll miss him greatly.