We were chatting last week with Brian Norberg, the Digital Humanities Technology Analyst for Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, who wanted to know what makes DC3 tick. I’m not sure we’ve ever been asked that directly before, and the conversation helped crystallize for me some of the basic operating principles we’ve evolved.
- Think big. Really big. Tackle problems that are hard, maybe impossible, that other people don’t want to deal with, that may take years or decades or the rest of your life.
- Put the data first. Improving the state of our data and sharing it takes precedence over doing flashy things with it. Not that we’re averse to cool-looking stuff, but that’s not the priority.
- Build small. That sounds like it’s in direct conflict with #1, but it’s not: you tackle big problems by chipping off discrete chunks of them. The principal win with computers is that they do lots of simple things very fast. So try to exploit that.
- Don’t be technology driven. That might sound weird coming from a Digital Humanities (DH) shop, but our motivation is not “what cool thing can we do with technology X?” It’s more like: “what’s the nature of this problem? Is the best solution a variant of traditional scholarly (analog) approaches, or is it technological, or (most likely) a hybrid? What’s actually going to work? Do that.
- Don’t have formal divisions of labor. We all have ideas, we all implement ideas. We do have different, largely complementary, skillsets and we use them. We can all initiate projects.