A long, long time ago I wrote a blog post about how this year’s NINES Fellows were going to be working on a digital project called The Shelley-Godwin Archive. Back then we were particularly excited about the project because it was going to be a collaborative one–we needed to figure out how (or whether!) two groups of people who didn’t see each other every day, or even every month, could manage workflow on a single project.
Probably every person who has ever worked on a collaborative project will not be surprised to learn that the process has been challenging, and especially so because of the geographical separation problem. We can’t walk down the hall or lean across the table to resolve an issue with GitHub or to hammer out what strategy we are all going to use to treat some new anomaly in one of the manuscripts we’re encoding. We’ve been using email, primarily, to communicate between MITH and NINES, and even though most of us are the kind of over-committed enthusiasts who will reply to a query about XML IDs at 8:30 in the evening, we have nevertheless had to come up with strategies for sidelining certain problems and moving on to others while we wait for an answer to reach us.
But challenges aside, we’re making good progress. Last night the NINES end of the project started encoding our assigned portion of Shelley’s fair copy manuscript of Prometheus Unbound. Though we did lose at least an hour’s worth of work (thanks, GitHub!) we did finally manage to encode three pages of the manuscript.
Significantly, over the course of the evening, we decided that as long as we’re going to the trouble of marking each speaker in Prometheus Unbound individually with a <milestone/> element, we might as well give each of those speakers a unique XML ID. That way someone using the archive could ask questions about the kinds of speech acts Ione makes, as distinct from Panthea or Prometheus or any of the other speakers in the poem. Analytical possibilities!
The best part of this story is that when the incomparable Dana Wheeles suggested (via email, naturally) this idea to our designated markup contact at MITH, the wonderful David Brookshire, he replied a few hours later and enthusiastically agreed. Collaboration works, people. We are making something! Check back here in future for further updates, and expect something awesome.