Going Digital

keystone 8mm model B8
keystone 8mm model B8 (Photo credit: B.S. Wise)

You might think that working in a digital humanities group would mean a lot less paper, but that’s not the case. I have a folder for each project I’m working on, each filled with papers showing things like milestones, budgets, and work plans. Every time I have a meeting about a project, I pull out the folder(s) related to it and go through the papers to catch up with where we are.

The problem with having everything on paper is that I have to be where the paper is. If I’m at home, I don’t have access to it. Same goes for the bus, or if I’m out-of-town. If I had everything digitized, or at least in some digital form, and available in the cloud, perhaps in Evernote, then I could use it anywhere, as long as I had wi-fi or cellular access.

What got me started thinking about this was the fact that in a few months, I’m going to have a 600 page (more or less) manuscript to edit. I don’t want to have to print it out and lug it around, or take sixty pages at a time with me on the bus. It wastes a lot of paper and is difficult to manage.

Fortunately, there’s an app for the iPad, iAnnotate, that lets me annotate PDFs. I can print my manuscript to PDF (still using the standard double spaced, one inch margin format) and mark it up as if it were paper. Even different colors. I can use the same editing techniques I used in my first novel without having to kill more trees (beyond those killed making my iPad).

The other thing that got me working on this was a recent post by Jamie Todd Rubin, a science fiction author, in which he discusses what he has done to move towards a paperless workflow. Most of what he does involves scanning and tagging with Evernote. No reason I couldn’t do likewise.

Consider this the beginning of an experiment. We have four startup grants this coming fiscal year, and I’m going to be involved in most of them in some form. We also have a couple other projects continuing into the next year as well. Plus my novel that I hope to have finished and edited by the end of summer (I know, we can always dream).

We have a good project management flow based on SCRUM that I may blog about some other time, probably on the MITH blog. We’re coming to the end of a project that has used that flow for its full lifetime, and I think it’s been a success. This next year, we’ll see how it works for multiplexing developer time across projects. I have a hunch that using digital tools will be key to making this next year a success. If nothing else, it should help me keep more hair on my head.

I’ll blog once in a while with updates about how the process is going, both for managing information in a digital humanities work environment and in my own personal life as I go through the editing process for my next novel.

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James is a software developer and self-published author. He received his B.S. in Math and Physics and his M.A. in English from Texas A&M University. After spending almost two decades in academia, he now works in the Washington, DC, start up world.