Matt Downs is my hero

Posted in Digital History on March 18th, 2008 by Colin

He knows why.

Finishing Touches

Posted in Digital History on March 17th, 2008 by Colin

Pursuant (SAT, GRE, and LSAT word, by the way) to the terms of our contract, the James Farmer Group is supposed to finish our timeline this week. It is now 3 days before we present to the class on Thursday, but I think that we are almost done right now.

I worked on the design over the weekend and just tweaked it a little bit. The menu looks better than it did before, I think. I also annotated the bibliography, so on the layout end of things besides the timeline itself, it is done.

However, we still had a couple dates that we didn’t have citations for or we weren’t even sure about the dates themselves. Nikole asked me if she could help and I said that we still needed to know when Farmer went to the NAACP, when the Multicultural Center became the James Farmer Multicultural Center, and a good citation for his death. She did a great job and found the last two for us. We’re still not quite sure about the exact date that Farmer went to work for the NAACP, so I went back to Farmer’s autobiography. Lay Bare the Heart simply says that he went in early 1959, so if that is good enough for Farmer, then I think that that is good enough for us.

I made sure to add the new sources Nikole found to our bibliography. One of the things that Nikole discovered was this page at the James Farmer Scholars website that offers an extremely thorough list of the awards James Farmer received. There is quite a lot there, but if we think its worth it, we can put all of them in the timeline. Nikole suggested a new awards category, so I made one and put the four big awards at the bottom of the page into the timeline.

So then, the big issue is this: that brings our total number of events to 39, but if we want to add all of the honorary doctorates that Farmer received, the number could nearly double. I’m ok with adding them since they’re pretty short and all from the same source, but I agree with Nikole and I just don’t think that they are that important to Farmer’s life.

Contract Changes

Posted in Digital History on March 13th, 2008 by Colin

Mary made a good point last night about the deadlines we had on our original contract. Originally, our group was trying to cast a very wide net for material on James Farmer’s life, but what we kept running into was copyright issues. I believe that we recognized that almost from the outset and understood that we would have to work within the context of the preexisting copyrights to do our project that way.

But then we realized that the timeframe for doing that was too long to fit into one semester. Drafting permission letters, then mailing them, then waiting for a response could take 6 weeks or more, especially if we contacted one of the major copyright holders like Getty Images or UPI. We started working with what we had access to and could get quick permission for, which mostly included stuff in the UMW Archives and the Free-Lance Star.

This morning we made some updates to our contract that reflect this that I think everyone in our group agrees with. In most cases not involving copyright (which doesn’t really apply anymore), we are actually ahead of schedule for where we wanted to be at this point in the semester. Laura has a good start with uploading pictures, Mary has done a lot with the Bullet articles, I have nearly finished the timeline, and Nikole has done a lot of work in the UMW archives. Even our website is looking a lot like how we want it to look in the final version, so our updated contract pushes us to have more from the sources that we have.

We chose to keep our next deadline, which is the finished timeline next week. I think that that won’t be a problem on my end. We may talk about it a little more then run it by Dr. McClurken.

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“Kosovo Wikipedia” Attention

Posted in Balkans, Digital History on February 27th, 2008 by Colin

So, I noticed something really cool: my post for our assignment on the syllabus from last week about the Kosovo Wikipedia article is number 10 on Google. Just do a search for “kosovo wikipedia” and there it is.

I started noticing when firestats was tracking a lot of people from places like Finland, Switzerland, and Ireland by their IP addresses. It’s the most popular page on my blog. Very cool. Maybe I’ll write more about this topic in the future.

What I want to know is why people are searching for the article instead of going straight to wikipedia. Obviously the article is the #1 search result, so is the article getting a lot of attention for other reasons? Why are so many people bothering to go all the way down to #10? And why wikipedia and not some other source?

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UMW Archive Media

Posted in Digital History on February 26th, 2008 by Colin

Nikole and I are back in the UMW archives today, where we split up what we were looking at.

There’s some very good media on Farmer, where we can at least get a few quotes, but some of the stuff we have is UMW copyright or public domain. Nikole and I talked about emailing Jerry to start digitizing this stuff.

  1. James Farmer Tribute and Statue Unveiling, 4/20/2001. This is a video of Andrew Young, a former student, speaking for about 2 minutes, and then his daughter unveils the bust.
  2. Dr. James Farmer in the Senate of Virginia (DVD), 2/27/1998. This also has a much longer VHS, but the DVD is about 20 minutes and has several people speaking about James Farmer. They eventually lead him to the podium where he talks for a few minutes. All the remarks are very good, and I think if we digitized this we could split them up.
  3. James Farmer’s Speech to the Federal Election Commission, Washington, DC, 4/4/1994. This is fantastic because he’s still speaking relatively effortlessly, and it sounds like he’s just giving his typical speech that he gave on normal speaking engagements. He tells the coke story, the theater story, and several others. It’s long, but again, we could break this up into smaller clips.
  4. James Farmer Memorial Tribute, Dodd Auditorium, 9/1/1999. This is basically a mashup on VHS with A LOT of pictures. We have no idea if we can use them, but we can find out. It also came with a CD of a gospel choir singing, which is probably what they played along with the VHS in Dodd.
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Timeline and other news

Posted in Digital History on February 24th, 2008 by Colin

First off, I love the new blog theme on the JFG blog.

Second, I spent some time on the Library of Congress website this weekend, and they have audio recordings of some of James Farmer’s speeches and press appearances. They are not, however, public domain, but it’s somewhere to look into. I’ll be up there in the Library later this week, so do you guys think I should check it out?

Now, the timeline. I did a lot to it.

  • Added several Civil Rights Movement events and created a Civil Rights category.
  • Beefed up some of the facts we had on some of the events.
  • Added a “source” column so we can start putting in where we are finding this information.
  • Changed the exhibit HTML code to show the source when the bubble appears after someone clicks on an event or timespan.
  • Put our timeline out on the actual internet so that all of you can see what our timeline looks like after we add stuff to it in GoogleDocs.

Doing that last part was a trial. Here’s the bad news: since we have to modify an HTML document from scratch to put the javascript code into the <HEAD> tags, its not possible to put the timeline up in WordPress with the rest of our work right now. I tried and WordPress barked at me about security settings. We may have to talk to the DTLT people about it and see if they can make an exception for us on the umwblogs.org server.

I have a stable version of our timeline here on Geocities, but I hope to not keep it there.

Bullet Articles and Timeline

Posted in Digital History on February 22nd, 2008 by Colin

This afternoon, Laura, Mary and I met in the library and went over the microfilm reels of the Bullet from the 80’s and 90’s while James Farmer was a professor here. It was interesting to see how the Bullet staff always turned to Dr. Farmer whenever there was news relating to civil rights, which I think underscored his prominence.

Since we have so many articles and Tim wants us to transcribe some of them, we developed a point system that rates each article based on if it has pictures of Farmer and how good the quotes are. 1’s are the best, 3’s the worst. We did about half of the articles before I had to go, but Laura and Mary are still there right now.

The timeline is also going to get some more attention this weekend. We decided to also add dates from the civil rights movement in general in order to place Farmer’s life in the context of other national and world events. I’m going to tackle that aspect, and I will also read part 6 of Lay Bare the Heart thanks to Mary’s suggestion that that part of the book has a lot of events worthy of the timeline.

I’m also going to work on embedding the timeline somewhere permanently, probably the group blog. I’m worried that wordpress won’t let me input the HTML, but I honestly feel that I am making this a bigger deal than it actually is.

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Kosovo Wikipedia Article

Posted in Balkans, Digital History on February 19th, 2008 by Colin

I decided to kill two birds with one stone today and talk about a recent event that I am interested in and how it relates to the Wikipedia article assignment. For those who don’t know, the former Autonomous Socialist Republic of Kosovo (which the Firefox AND WordPress spell checkers don’t seem to know how to spell) declared its independence from the Republic of Serbia on Sunday. I wrote about the breakup of Yugoslavia in my 485 paper, so this is kinda near and dear to me.

Why is this news? Well, its very important in the context of recent history because NATO stepped in between Serbia and Kosovo in the late 1990s after Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic began a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the overwhelmingly Albanian population of the Serbian province of Kosovo. The UN still has a mission there to guarantee the rights of all citizens. Essentially, ethnic tensions are still high. The Albanian population of Kosovo decided a few months ago (which is why this isn’t a shock to anyone) to declare its independence from Serbia in February. The few Serbs living in Kosovo have reacted negatively, and Serbia itself is furious.

So, I figured that now is as good a time as any to look at the Kosovo Wikipedia page, and what did I find?

Well, its a pretty detailed historical article that covers Medieval, Ottoman, and Modern Kosovo, including accounts of both former Yugoslavias and the Wars of Yugoslav Succession. Wikipedia offers a pretty good mix of everything you could want to know about the new country, including Kosovo’s pop culture and demographics.

However, they also announce that it is related to a current event, which is where all of the really funny stuff starts happening. 😀 I went to the discussion page and found that the Arbitration Committee (probably two guys in a coffee shop in Seattle) placed the article on “probation” because contributors are going off topic. You can’t make this stuff up. What is so controversial? Well, to begin with, people are debating the demonym for people who live in Kosovo. Is it Kosovans or Kosovars? (Its Kosovars, by the way) With how prominent Kosovo is in the news now, the powers that be apparently needed to protect the article, because everyone thinks they know something interesting to add about Kosovo. The discussion centers around letting people add information they have “found.” My question is, why now and not before it became newsworthy? (AKA, once you heard of the place)

The Revision history page tells the same story. Before Sunday, the Kosovo page had approximately 5-10 edits on a busy day, but usually it was 4 or 5 days between edits before anyone changed anything. Since Sunday, there have literally been hundreds of edits, mostly down to silly stuff like the names of people and places while a few earnest people add the only relevant information.

Le sigh.

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Timeline Updated

Posted in Digital History on February 16th, 2008 by Colin

As we agreed on Thursday, I went into GoogleDocs this afternoon and edited our final timeline to include the dates we had from our previous timeline.

You all may notice that there are not as many dates on this one as the other one. I decided not to add dates that said “James Farmer Graduates College” since we already have timespans for his college career. I assume anyone looking at the finished dynamic timeline in Simile would figure out that he graduated college.

Also, I changed the categories for “Politician” and “Activist” to reflect our contract, so they are now all “Political Activist.” However, I left the labels as activist01, activist02, etc, regardless of if they were from politics or not.

The published version is here.

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Washington Post Articles

Posted in Digital History on February 12th, 2008 by Colin

So, going off what we talked about today in class, I went to a potential primary source, the Washington Post, to see what they had on James Farmer. Here’s what I’ve discovered about Washington Post articles: there are plenty; however, getting access to them might not be possible.

I didn’t know that to read the archives on the Post website means that you have to pay like the New York Times, which isn’t feasible (the prices are ridiculous). Now, I know that we can go around this in academic databases like LexusNexus, but we will still run into the problem of copyright. All the articles are copyright The Washington Post Company. At least we know who to write to for them, not that that was rocket science to figure out, but I’m skeptical that they will let us use them since they usually charge money for them. Additionally, academic databses like LexusNexus, for example, also don’t include the pictures that the paper runs with the articles, so I don’t know how we’d get around that either.

Sorry, team. It’s not technically impossible, but it will be hard.

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