I recently submitted a new digital humanities work for peer review: “Building a static website with Jekyll and GitHub Pages” at the Programming Historian. My lesson teaches you how to create and publish your own basic website or blog (which will look just like this and be publicly accessible on the Web, for free!) using some popular tech (the Jekyll static site generator, and GitHub Pages for web hosting). The lesson attempts to walk you slowly through the process and not assume any previous tech knowledge, and explains why you might be interested in creating a website this way instead of using other tools. (For what it’s worth, this blog you’re reading right now is run using the same tech as the lesson introduces—Jekyll and GitHub Pages!)
I invite anyone interested in trying my lesson to share your thoughts as you follow the lesson. Everything from ideas of things to add or highlighting parts of the lesson you liked, to “I got stuck here!”, “This sentence was confusing”, “I wish you’d explain why this step is necessary”, and “I understood this step, but I think someone with less of a tech background would be confused” is useful to me.
In exchange for providing feedback on my lesson as you work through the lesson, during the next month (through April 15, 2016) I will respond to any comments or questions from lesson users and I will personally try to make sure you can make it through the whole lesson all the way to your own basic public website. (Note: this lesson was originally Mac-only, but I just added and tested steps that should support Windows users as well. I haven’t coded on a PC in years, though, so I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to troubleshoot all Windows-specific issues.)
Visit “Building a static website with Jekyll and GitHub Pages” to use the lesson.
I’m seeking constructive comments—things that can help me make the lesson better and more accessible to users without a technical background. This includes places where you were confused, got stuck, quit, wanted more details, etc. I’m interested in both how I can make the lesson better for you specifically, and how you think I could improve the lesson for other users (especially those who may not have as much digital experience as you).
The Programming Historian has reviewer guidelines with more information about how to be a good, friendly reviewer and how their peer review process works.
Programming Historian is a collaborative web project offering “novice-friendly, peer-reviewed tutorials that help humanists learn a wide range of digital tools, techniques, and workflows to facilitate their research”. PH features “lessons” written by digital humanists; each lesson is a thorough, novice-friendly walk-through of not just how to use a specific digital humanities tool, but why you might want to. As such, they’re not classroom lesson plans (though they can be used as part of one!), but rather a pedagogical form of research writing where the new knowledge produced by the writer is all about making a methodology accessible to new users. (That’s how I’m explaining this work to my faculty review committee, by the way.)
If you’re interested in finding out more about digital ways of engaging with the humanities, check out the Programming Historian’s list of peer-reviewed lessons here (they aren’t just for historians, by the way). They’re all fantastic lessons, and run the range from more foundational concepts like preserving research data (by James Baker) or cleaning up digital text scanned from print books (by Laura Turner O’Hara), to methods of distant reading or a full set of lessons on learning the coding language Python.
I especially recommend Miriam Posner’s “Up and Running with Omeka.net” (if you’d like to create a website to show off a collection of digital or physical artifacts, like stuff from an archival collection or museum) or Matthew Lincoln’s “Using SPARQL to access Linked Open Data” (if you keep hearing about how collections like “the British Museum, Europeana, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Yale Center forBritish Art” are publishing “APIs” or “linked open data” and want to know how this might be useful in your research/teaching).