Clearinghouse for tools, data, projects, and resources

The question of where scholars can go to discover relevant tools, resources, data and projects remains relevant, despite a number of high-profile attempts to address it, including MERLOT and the DiRT wiki. One of the proposed directions for Project Bamboo was for it to serve as a clearinghouse for tools, data, projects, and resources, including information about standards and best practices, templates for writing reports about digital projects, pedagogical materials, etc.

A number of workshop participants saw the benefit of such a clearinghouse. Raising the profile of existing digital humanities tools and projects could reduce the amount of duplicated effort. A project that would otherwise be re-creating a little-known tool could instead improve the existing tool, perhaps by adding new features or refactoring it to work in new environments. Models for teaching or collaboration that have worked at one institution could be implemented elsewhere. New projects might be built in accordance with standards and best practices, if there was greater awareness about those standards. Institutions without significant resources for in-house development or time-consuming technology research were particularly enthusiastic about the possibility of a clearinghouse. Students interested in digital humanities could learn valuable skills by contributing to existing projects in need of help. A clearinghouse could also potentially include a "Craigslist for the humanities" feature that would facilitate institutions' "borrowing" each other's specialists to address a short-term project need, either through a bater system or through the use of some sort of "credit".

While workshop participants largely agreed that the idea was good in theory, opinions varied sharply about how realistic it would be to implement. It was noted that clearinghouses that relied solely or heavily on manual curation tend to die out due to lack of energy and interest. Concerns were raised about incentives-- what motivates people to contribute to the site? The potential for publicity for one's own project was mentioned, along with the possibility of financial incentives. The need for extensive community engagement would be particularly acute if the clearinghouse were to include reviews of the resources it contained; some saw reviews as a crucial mechanism for quality control. A few participants questioned whether creating another website for scholars check was the right approach, and instead advocated for a data source that could be consumed in other environments (virtual research environments, course management systems, social and scholarly networking sites, etc.) The "Craigslist for the humanities" concept gained limited traction, primarily among small liberal arts colleges. It was noted that running such a system would involve a non-trivial accounting burden, and may only be feasible if managed by an organization such as NITLE, which already has systems in place for dealing with large and small payments from institutions.

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