DiRT and Archives Wiki

One of my considerations as I begin keeping this blog, a forum for exploring online resources for Russian scholarship, is whether or not a blog is in fact the best medium for my project. An alternative- the wiki, the content of which would be shaped by a much larger group of editors, potentially anyone.

One such site is the Digital Research Tools Wiki, affectionately known as DiRT. The site promises to collect

information about tools and resources that can help scholars (particularly in the humanities and social sciences) conduct research more efficiently or creatively. Whether you need software to help you manage citations, author a multimedia work, or analyze texts, Digital Research Tools will help you find what you’re looking for. We provide a directory of tools organized by research activity, as well as reviews of select tools in which we not only describe the tool’s features, but also explore how it might be employed most effectively by researchers.

Despite the fact that the site is very new (there was a sneak preview in May, 2008), it is packed with information, especially lists of software. For those seeking to move way beyond microsoft word, mozilla, google mail and excel, this is a very useful site.

This wiki is a very effective “directory of tools.” It provides immediate access to comprehensive lists of the many resources out there to accomplish whatever task you might be interested in (выполнить и перевыполнить!). But the site, at least at its current level, is not such a convincing “reviewer.” The reviews come last: that is, you first choose a category of interest, then a resource, and only then do you find out if it has been discussed in a useful way. Clicking on a number of the items simply took me to their websites, which I could just have easily have found by searching.

Another wiki with a lot of potential is the American History Association’s Archives Wiki, “intended to be a clearinghouse of information about archival resources throughout the world.” I think it was created in 2007, and at least judging from the section on Russia, the wiki is just getting started. Only RGASPI has been included. Success will depend on more of us getting involved. As for me, there’s something a little too impersonal about the wiki format when it takes on such grand tasks. We have yet to see if, as a brief article from the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus blog suggests, the Wiki has run out of steam.

In any case, I’m happy with the blog format for now.

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April 30, 2009. Archives, Research, Software, Web tools.

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