Thing Seven marks the end of Module One of DH23, Your Online Presence: Promoting, Networking and Communicating. Congratulations to all who’ve completed the six Things! If you’re still working your way through them, don’t worry – you can still complete them in your own time. Information about accreditation and about Module Two (for those who want to look at managing information online) will follow, but for now, Thing Seven: A Strategy for Maintaining and Preserving your Online Presence will help you to get an overview of the profile you’ve created over the six Things, and think about where you want to take it next.
You’ve now experimented with a number of ways of building and promoting your presence online:
- Alternative publishing (Blogs)
- Managing your online identity (SEO, Google Profile, Gravatar, Flavours.me, About.me, Namechk etc)
- Bibliometrics (Google Scholar citations, ResearcherID, ORCID)
- Building a Network (Twitter)
- Professional Networks (LinkedIn, Academia.edu)
- Digital Content Curation (Scoop.it, Storify)
A strategic approach to your future online presence
Look back at your weekly posts. Which of the individual tools do you feel you will continue to use in the future? How might they work together as a coherent identity? Draw up a strategy to connect each of your chosen platforms into a coherent online identity (literally drawing a ‘map’ of it might be helpful). You could consider:
- What you want your online presence to achieve overall, and which combination of tools is best suited to this purpose.
- Where your primary professional online presence will reside, and which platforms you will use as secondary ways to promote it, mirror it or link back to it.
- How to promote your presence online so it reaches the right audience
- How to keep your professional online identity separate from other, personal areas (such as Facebook) and to what extent this is desirable and appropriate
- How regularly you want to invest time in maintaining and updating your online presence and how active and up to date it needs to be. You’ll need to find a balance between a useful level of visibility, and an achievable level of maintenance.
- How regularly you need to check aspects of your online presence which are either updated automatically (e.g. Google Scholar Citations or ResearcherID), or made available about you by others (using Google)
- Which tools you will discontinue using, and whether you will delete profiles or leave them inactive with basic information, or with a signpost link to platforms with more up-to-date information about your activities.
The resources from the Researcher Online 1: Building your Online Identity may help you to draw up a strategy to integrate the Things we’ve addressed.
Some of you have set up a blog especially for DH23Things, whereas others of you have integrated your participation into an existing blog or one which you intend to continue for other purposes. If you feel that blogging in some form is something you’d like to keep doing, then you’ll need to think about how to refine and distinguish your various blogging aims.
- One way to do this within a blog is by using the ‘metadata’ of tags and categories so that you and others can find the type of entry you’re looking for. Tags will help your blog posts to appear in search rankings, and categories will help people navigate your blog and find related content (WordPress has more information about the differences between the two). If you’ve not used categories or tags in your blog before, think about the different types of post you might make and metadata which would work well. See the ‘categories’ cloud in the sidebar of this blog to see how it might be used.
- You might also consider setting up separate blogs for different purposes, which is possible through your WordPress account. If you do so, will you explicitly link them to a single identity, and how will you do so? What other platforms will you integrate with them to help publicise your posts?
You’ve now set up a number of profiles and accounts on other platforms. Online accounts which are clearly abandoned or out of date look bad. You need to think about what to do with the tools you don’t wish to continue using, and your strategy for continuing to engage with the ones you found useful, and bring them together into a coherent profile (or keep them separate!). Reading through your thoughts in previous weeks on Evaluation and Integration will help here to gain an overview.
- How will you commit to maintaining information about you and ensuring that it’s up to date and in line with the online identity you want to promote? This applies both to information you’ve put online but also that which has been uploaded by others (how regularly might you Google yourself to check your ranking and profile?) There is no escaping this; even if you use no online platforms yourself, others may well be making information about you available on the web and you will want to manage this!
- Will you delete accounts where possible? If so, bear in mind that some traces of your online activity may still be locatable, and some platforms do not make it easy to delete your account.
- Is a low level of use possible, leaving dormant accounts as signposts to more actively used ones, or updated automatically with content you’ve created elsewhere?
- How will you keep track of the account details of all the tools you use, while keeping your login and other information secure?
Maintaining and preserving your information
In exploring the Things in Module One, you’ve created digital information of various sorts:
- Account information: usernames, passwords
- Blog posts
- Uploads, e.g of papers to academia.edu or CVs to LinkedIn
- Profiles, e.g. on academia.edu, LinkedIn or Google Scholar
- Search results (Google or other search engines)
- Curated artefacts on Storify or Scoop.it
Some of this might be considered ephemera, but some of it might be of longer term use to you or to others. The platforms we have been using are in many ways excellent at what they do, but may not offer a very stable way to store your information over the longer term.
What do you now want to do with your blog entries, the online record of your participation? You’ve created original, insightful and interesting content which may well be of use to others. You may wish to continue using your blog for future DH23Things modules and as evidence of your training for your researcher development log. You may equally wish to keep it as a private record to reflect on, and change your privacy settings, or even delete it (although that would be a shame!).
The tools we have explored are largely proprietary – they are commercial services which generate income from your information, as well as from advertising. This raises two issues:
- Firstly, you may feel that the content you have created is yours, but depending on the terms and conditions, the intellectual property may in fact belong to the company whose platform you are using. You’ll need to check how much control you have over the material you have created, especially if you want to reuse it.
- Secondly, your content is stored by those platforms remotely in the cloud. Any digital material is vulnerable as accessing it depends on the format it is stored in and the platform which hosts it. You are relying on the continued existence of the platforms and their backup systems to preserve your content. If you think any of your content might be useful to you in future, it is good practice to consider a digital data management strategy.
Digital Data management
- What content might you wish to keep, and for what purpose? Might it have interest for others?
- How will you back it up and store it over the longer term?
- What is the intended lifespan of the content you have created? What ‘sell-by date’ is implied in the content and its genre? Much of the value of social media is immediacy.
- Tweets, for example, are largely viewed as ephemeral, but you may wish to keep a record of it for your own reference or as a digital humanities research object. Storify can do this, but it is as vulnerable to issues of digital data management as any of the other platforms. There is a blog post on ways to archive tweets here.
- Blogs have greater longevity and relevance, but how might you preserve them, and the media you might have embedded in them, such as links, images or video, and the comments from others?
- What degree of longevity is offered by the platform you’ve used? Any of the platforms might be withdrawn (perhaps if the company goes bust) or the functionality or terms and conditions change so that it’s no longer suitable for you.
- What are the ‘export’ options for each of these platforms, so that you can extract your content into other forms and platforms? If they are not sufficient, how else might you export your information? What do you need to preserve – just readable text, metadata about its provenance, or embedded media?
- How much sense would the information make outside of the original context, and how much of that context might you need to or be able to preserve, for example, metadata about its source, its place in an interactive medium such as a blog comment, or time of posting? Is there a stable URL you can point to? Can you use recovery mechanisms such as the Wayback Machine to recover earlier versions of information, for example, if you’ve edited your blog posts or profiles? Is this something you want to rely on?
- Where else might you store it so that it is accessible by you, or by others if that is your intent? How will you describe it so that it is clear what it is and easy to locate?
Digital content, especially that on the web, raises issues which are unique to this medium.
- Access: In some ways, online content never goes away, but then again, its not always easily accessible when you need it. If you want to keep something, it may be hard to find or access, and if you don’t want to keep it, it may not disappear… If you do want to preserve it, it’s best to take control over this yourself.
- Ownership: Who owns content if it’s hosted by commercial companies? This depends on the terms and conditions of the platform. And what about content that’s been made available by other users? It’s unlikely that you can store or use it without permission or acknowledgement. Creative Commons is an initiative that provides a legal framework to enable greater sharing of digital content. Look for a Creative Commons License on digital material to see if and in what way you can use it, such as that on this blog.
- Instability: Digital media are easy to edit and manipulate, but that can make them unstable or result in a multiplicity of versions which can be easily confused. This might affect material such as websites, blogs and online profiles which can be edited or removed, which is why metadata about the time content was posted, edited or accessed can be important.
- Longevity: Software and hardware develops fast and changes frequently, becoming obsolete. It may also become corrupt or degrade. Webspace may be withdrawn, either because you are no longer associated with an institution or because a proprietary platform is no longer available. If you want to store your data long term, you will need to do so in a format which is unlikely to become superceded and in a space where it can be maintained in the long term (this may be online or off-line, depending on your requirements.
This week’s task relates to the latter points. You may not wish to keep the content from your DH23Things blog, but it makes a good subject to practice on if you wish to keep blogging or maintaining a web presence of any sort.
Try exporting and saving your blog so far. Open your blog, and in your web browser menu, select ‘File’ and then ‘save as’. (this will be slightly different depending on which browser you use) Click on this, and see what the different options are for exporting and saving your content. You many be offered options such as saving it as a XML or HTML file, as just the text, or with the embedded links and images. Try saving it as each of them, and see what is preserved. Try saving it also as a PDF file, by selecting ‘print’ in your browser menu. The type of file will offer you different levels of preservation, from just the text for ease of reading, to some or all of the embedded media, for easy reuse in other contexts. What kind of metadata might you need to add in order for the content to make sense in future? If any of the embedded media such as images or video doesn’t save well, then how might you store it separately so that its relationship to your content still makes sense? And if you’ve linked to or embedded media created by others changes or is withdrawn from the web, how can you preserve enough of it to make sense?
You might also explore some of the methods outlined in the link above to see if you can archive your tweets so far, or use the Wayback Machine to see previous versions of your blog before updates or edits.
Professional Digital Archiving
Of course, your own computer hardware or any of your online storage options may become obsolete. There are, however, professional digital archives which exist to take on such material and preserve it over the longer term. DSpace@Cambridge is the University’s repository and curates and preserves scholarly and heritage digital material, and can advise on ways in which it can best be preserved and maintained.