Stuff I Used to Work On

Programming Historian

Programming Historian offers novice-friendly, peer-reviewed tutorials that help humanists learn a wide range of digital tools, techniques, and workflows to facilitate their research. As a general editor from early 2012 to mid 2017, I carefully edited and guided over a half-dozen lessons through the publication process. Much more significantly, I focused my efforts on community building and developing a transparent and sustainable editorial process—anchored with free, open source tools and volunteer labor to create a sustainable, peer-reviewed, high quality, open access academic resource. I’m proud to have contributed to crafting a model for academic publishing that avoids the bloated costs and inaccessibility of most academic resources.

Histories of the Future

This project was an experiment to see if a small academic workshop (on speculative futures in the history of science) could produce and make available a collection of scholarly work in an open access web format that would remain more visible an active than the results (and papers) from a typical academic workshop.

I was responsible for designing and building the website, as well as migrating content to a sustainable web format and publishing the essays online. The project is still ongoing, but the project team was pulled in too many different directions b various other obligations, which has unfortunately dissipated energy from this project. But we are proud of what we produced as an experiment for making the work of a one-off workshop openly visible and available for specialists and non-specialists alike.

Our work lives on at

Metadata Improvement VIA Mapping (MIVIAM)

This project developed a prototype (funded by the Mellon Foundation) to ease the process of mapping historical data and clean up (inevitably) messy data in the process. MIVIAM’s rich user interface allows users to map specific sets of data—about which they have expertise—and thus can easily recognize and correct problems with metadata, thus improving their own maps and making the data more useful for everyone else at the same time.

Reframing the Victorians

With funding from one of the twelve Google Digital Humanities Grants, Dan Cohen and I explored the massive corpus of Victorian literature held at Google Books in order to reevaluate and complicate the stereotypical characterizations of the Victorians based on anecdotal sampling of the traditional literary canon. The vast digital library of Google Books presents for the first time the possibility that we can conduct a nearly comprehensive survey of Victorian writing—–not just the well-known Mills and Carlyles—but the tens of thousands of lesser-known or even forgotten authors to see if the Victorians truly did use the kinds of words and phrases that Houghton in his seminal The Victorian Frame of Mind thought were indicative of their character. Did metaphors of light actually increase in real terms between 1830 and 1870, or was this only true for the dozen prominent writers he chose to focus on in his chapter on optimism? Will a more complex picture emerge from the comprehensive index of Google Books as we study changing word use over time?

Digging Into Data: Criminal Intent

With one of the earliest “Digging Into Data” grants from the Digital Humanities Office at NEH, the Criminal Intent project demonstrated the potential roles for text mining in historical practice, showing that greater historical rigor can be achieved, and new insights gained, by moving from a single trial or narrow run of relevant examples to an analysis of statistically significant textual patterns found in Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court over a period of 240 years, as a single, massive whole.


Most online education tools remain far too closed, proprietary, and complex for most of the essential tasks that scholars need to do on a daily basis. Scholarpress created a suite of focused plug-ins for the ubiquitous blogging platform WordPress to help humanities teachers and researchers create syllabi, course websites, and display bibliographies.


My work centered on citation formatting, an effort fundamentally about abstracting and standardizing non-standardized data and theories about data, both of which greatly enhanced my knowledge of bibliographic metadata and standards and reflection on what I call the metaphysics of metadata–how our taxonomies and categories have important implications for access to information and research questions.