Using EEBO Interactions: An Update

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We first discussed EEBO’s social networking resource, EEBO Interactions, eight months ago.  At that time, there were seven contributors adding metadata to entries; now there are twenty-six contributors and nearly 150 interactions.  New features such as “watch this page” and Twitter and Facebook links help contributors keep up with activity on their contributions, or interact with other contributors, or both.

The interface is easy to navigate.  Though formatting guidelines list basic HTML code, icons above the text boxes provide instant formatting, eliminating the need for code for basics like italics, bold, or links.  (I would be interested in hearing from users who use HTML code about how code is helpful.)  Because each revision can be seen by users who have logged in and clicked on a contributor’s activity, writing and revising copy in Word and then retyping it into EEBO Interactions is smarter than composing within EEBO, especially if one needs to check links and therefore save initial drafts.  Cutting and pasting also works, but it imports formatting that needs to be deleted.  Inserting links to ODNB entries is easy; having those ODNB links within an EEBO entry is a huge benefit to users.

EEBO Interactions will serve the scholarly community well in at least three ways:

  1. it allows specialists to share information pertaining to little-known works;
  2. it facilitates collaborative work, something Eleanor mentioned in our last discussion;
  3. once vetted, the data provided on EEBO Interactions might be forwarded to ESTC which, as Steve Karian suggested in our earlier discussion, would benefit from adapting a similar kind of site.

The possibility for collaborative work seems especially promising, particularly for those working on clusters of under-studied texts and willing to share useful metadata.  I wonder, however, whether this potential needs to be corralled.  Would it be helpful to provide space on the EI site for “ongoing projects,” where scholars could create rubrics calling for work on specific  concerns?  I can imagine projects on specific women writers, on the history of science, on printers, on religious networks, and so forth.  Each “ongoing project” might list pertinent entries for which metadata has been added.   Contributors can leave messages for one another directly on the EI site, which might facilitate discussion of bibliographical problems.  An ongoing project on recusant controversial works, for example, might focus on providing names, aliases, and religious names for priests, or build links between individual works and the diverse books and pamphlets to which they responded.  This networking effect would be extremely helpful for unearthing the underworld of religious controversy.

Are there better ideas for how to corral the potential for EEBO Interactions?  The designers of EEBO Interactions, Peter White and Jo-Anne Hogan, have made clear that they are willing to adjust the site according to users’ needs.  They have provided a valuable venue for bibliographical discussion and discovery; it’s now time for scholars to make the most of it.

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13 Responses to “Using EEBO Interactions: An Update”

  1. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Thanks, Anna, for this update on this extremely useful, but still somewhat under-used tool. Your suggestions of issuing calls for works seems one way of generating more focused response and activity. Some of the contributions clearly would benefit from such flagging. The cluster for Hamlet (EEBO ID: 99846524), for instance, has had three interactions–one in January 2010, another in April 2010, and a third in September 2010. These three interactions, moreover, all pose suggestions for more contributions, but perhaps highlighting the interest as Anna suggests would afford more regular give-and-take.

    In terms of technical information, your suggestion to compose first in another form such as Word and then enter into EEBO Interactions is good advice. As for the supplying of the code-by-click, I would think that eases the process for everyone–and especially those who are less familiar with html code.

  2. Anna Battigelli Says:

    I should have added that I was impressed by the quality of the comments added through Interactions.

  3. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Yes, the comments were substantive and authoritative. Your identifications of authorial identity for several lesser known works illustrates the very helpful type of information that would enhance what is already a wonderful resource.

  4. Anna Battigelli Says:

    I was thinking of Michael Slusser’s comments on a 1671 life of St. Theresa of Avila and its authorship. EEBO lists R.H. as the author, which might indicate Abraham Woodhead, but the notes provide additional possibilities and Slusser suggests that there is no bibliographical evidence for attributing the text to Woodhead.

    This is the kind of slow and detailed attribution work that might benefit from collaboration.

  5. Nick Says:

    I was very excited when EEBO Interactions was first set up: since then, I must admit, I have been a bit rubbish at keeping up my initial burst of activity on it. I am in the midst of writing up an essay that relies on lots of bibliographical analysis to deduce printers and booksellers of twenty or so texts, so will hopefully transfer that across when I get a spare moment. Finding the time to interact with Interactions is, I suspect, the thing getting in the way at the moment. With less than 30 contributors at present the pace is a bit slow. Hopefully if more scholars set up accounts, the momentum will start to increase a bit. It’s all very well having the ability to watch a text, but if nobody else is doing anything with it then people may start to lose interest.

    On the importing formatting point, if you are composing outside Interactions the best thing to do is to use Notepad or another basic text editor, then you won’t get stray formatting in the same way as if you’d used Word. Or you can use the “paste as plain text” button.

    On HTML, it is easier if you are used to routinely using tags like (which anchors links to other texts), (which bolds text) and so on just to type them in direct rather than then clicking a button.

    I completely agree with the point about having ongoing projects. Setting up a “working party” to fill in bibliographic details for a particular author or particular text would be a great challenge. One other possibility, particularly if EEBO are looking to increase the user base amongst younger scholars, is to have a prize competition for the best extended contributions (a la EEBO Introductions on the main site). I reckon this would attract a lot of interest. It could even result a a mini journal or similar to collate together the best contributions.

  6. Nick Says:

    And there you are – I forgot to close my HTML tags. Proof that using the buttons is probably better, after all!

  7. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    A prize competition is in keeping with ProQuest’s earlier efforts to encourage the EEBO database’s use in the undergraduate classroom; here it offered an award for the best student paper using this tool.

    And you are right, Nick, about the coding issue. I tend to compose in WordPress, for instance, because I do not care for Notepad (a visual thing) and I tend to insert the coding myself rather than turning to the buttons…

    • Anna Battigelli Says:

      This is from Peter White, one of EI’s moderators:

      Google and other search engines regularly index EEBO Interactions, so you should find that you’re also able to retrieve results from EEBO Interactions when you search on the open web. For example, a web user using Google to search for Shelfmark WT.7.46(2) will retrieve EEBO Interactions postings by users relating to the item shelved in the collections of Christ Church, Oxford, at this location, and can click the link in their Google search results to view the posting in question (i.e. without logging in).

      This search function might contribute to the community-building function thereby facilitating what Nick calls the building of a "working party" on a particular topic.

      • Eleanor Shevlin Says:

        That’s very good news on several fronts that these interactions are indexed regularly. For one, it would allow a person to identify potential members for such a working group. It would still be good to have a space on EEBO to identify these groups.

  8. Anna Battigelli Says:

    I doubt there will be great forward momentum on these working projects unless clusters of authors discover a way to channel their findings into publications. And I don’t see that happening easily or at least consistently. Is there a solution to this problem?

  9. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Anna, the issue you raise–the end goal of publication–has been at the back of mind. But to clarify, are you specifically asking about how such working groups might become collaborative authors of an essay emerging from their collective efforts? Or something else?

    • Anna Battigelli Says:

      I don’t have a specific question in mind. I’m wondering generally whether there might be ways for EI’s “working projects” to become publications. I can imagine that a good editor, focused on a specific topic, say, on a given author who published anonymously, and/or a printer who aided that writer, might collaborate with others to produce an article or a note based largely on the metadata provided in EI.

      A carefully focused project like this might be one way to encourage scholars to contribute to EI. After all, scholars working across the world could easily work together through EI, at least on questions that did not involve having the actual text before them.

  10. Anna Battigelli Says:

    Dave has an interesting link on Long18th to Marc Bousquet’s piece in the Chronicle on the replacement of MLA interviews with Skype interviews. One calculation Bousquet fails to take into account as he estimates how many registrations MLA is losing to Skype is the number of schools, like my own, that bypassed MLA by using telephone interviews before on-campus interviews.

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