Digital workflow

William Turkel has a nice four-part series of blog posts entitled A Workflow for Digital Research Using Off-the-Shelf Tools. His four points are

  1. Start with a backup and versioning strategy.
  2. Make everything digital.
  3. Research 24/7 (using RSS feeds).
  4. Make local copies of everything.

Also by William Turkel, The Programming Historian, “an open-access introduction to programming in Python, aimed at working historians (and other humanists) with little previous experience.”

Related post: Create offline, analyze online

4 thoughts on “Digital workflow

  1. Never do research or anything creative “24/7”. “24/7” == “getting stuck in a rut”. Take frequent, meaningful downtime from your work – yes, that means not checking email or rss feeds – or your thought processes won’t get jolted out of local minima.

    I have never yet had the solution to a thorny research issue come to me while I was working on it. Beating your head against a problem – searching the literature, trying out ideas, buttonholing your colleagues – is important to map out the problem space in your mind. But the resolution always seem to come when I’ve taken a break away from the whole mess. It comes while I’m out walking with my camera. Or having some nice Indian food with my wife. Or while playing a computer game. Or memorizing Japanese vocabulary. Or whatever that is completely unconnected to my work.

  2. Great stuff.

    Point one is essential and took me years to get that. (And many of my coauthors don’t get it, so we have quasi-religious arguments about this.) Same or worse for data dictionaries and data cleaning consistency as is for code and working papers in progress or reports.


  3. John, thank you for links. I will do a handful more posts to round out the section on off-the-shelf tools, then do another workflow series that uses only cloud-based tools. My colleagues and I are working on another, expanded edition of the Programming Historian, so any feedback is always welcome.

    Janne, I couldn’t agree more. I walk for 1.5-3 hours each day, read, watch TV, take pictures and eat Indian food with my wife, too :) That post is really about letting your computer work for you, so you can enjoy the things that make life worth living.

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