All posts by Russell

ArchaeoTech LIVE Video Podcast from #SAA2015

Hi Folks,

If, like me, you couldn’t attend the Society for American Archaeology conference happening right now in San Francisco, I have a treat for you! Chris Webster, of Digtech LLC and the Archaeology Podcast Network, helped me record some video interviews with exhibitors from the conference! You can watch the result here on the Diachronic Design YouTube Channel.

I also used some of my R programming skills, learned from the recent Software Carpentry workshop at University of Washington, to pull the last 1,000 tweets that used the #SAA2015 hashtag on Twitter. The wordcloud I created using that data gives you some idea of the most talked about people, sessions, and ideas from the past day or so.

Word cloud of some #SAA2015 tweets (n=1000), April 18, 2015 2pm
Word cloud of some #SAA2015 tweets (n=1000)

Together, I hope these two bits of media give you a quick look into the conference.



ArchaeoTech Podcast Episode 8: Interview with Chris Cameron from Field Technologies, Inc.

On the latest episode of the ArchaeoTech podcast, Chris Webster (host of the CRM Archaeology Podcast) joins me to interview Chris Cameron, a CRM archaeologist and entrepreneur whose company, Field Technologies, Inc., has developed “ArchaeoGen,” a tablet-based application for recording shoveltest forms digitally. We talk about Field Technologies’s software and hardware, the process of designing for both field archaeologists and regulatory agencies, and pick Chris’s brain for advice on how other shovelbums can start their own side businesses while on the road!

Download or stream the show here on the Archaeology Podcast Network website!

ArchaeoTech Podcast Episode 7: Interview with Brian Ballsun-Stanton, Technical Manager and Data Architect for FAIMS

In the latest episode of the ArchaeoTech Podcast, I talk with Brian Ballsun-Stanton, the technical manager and data architect for the Federated Archaeology Information Management System (FAIMS), an integrated digital archaeology capture, management, analysis, archival, and publishing initiative in Australia. We discuss relational (and non-relational databases), the culture of archaeologists, mobile development, philosophy, and why archaeologists often choose to play Rogues in role playing games…

Click here to listen and/or download the episode from Chris Webster’s Archaeology Podcast Network!

An example of archaeology character classes in a Star Wars Edge of Empire, a popular role playing game. More info here at Fantasy

#15 Mobilizing the Past for the Digital Future Conference Day 1 Roundup

#MobileArc Day1 Tweets, n=57
#MobileArc Day1 Tweets, n=57 per @jadufton’s request for the conference buzzwords.

Bringing Archaeology Conferences Online

If you’re not already watching the livestream of the Mobilizing the Past for the Digital Future Conference, you should absolutely start!

Although the sessions are being recorded and will be available on YouTube afterwards, the conference organizers have done a fantastic job of using new media tools like UStream and Twitter to really bring this conference online in a way few others in archaeology have done. Follow along by watching the hashtag #MobileArc and following the conference account @MobileArc15. I’ve spent most of the afternoon Friday taking care of my son and taking client calls while having the livestream and twitter chat running in the background. These two aspects really allowed me to participate in the conversation and the conference in ways almost as good as being in Boston myself! Continue reading #15 Mobilizing the Past for the Digital Future Conference Day 1 Roundup

Announcing the ArchaeoTech Podcast!

I am now co-hosting a technology-focused podcast with Doug Rocks-Macqueen (of the Doug’s Archaeology and OpenAccess Archaeology websites) as one of several great shows on Chris Webster’s Archaeology Podcast Network.

During the show Doug and I interview archaeologists of all kinds about how they integrate digital technology like tablets, geographic information systems, digital cameras, photogrammetry, augmented reality, and more into their work. We also ask guests to describe the specific technologies they use and how they learned them so that you, our listeners, can apply these tools in your own projects!

As of today, we’ve produced 6 shows with leading digital archaeologists like Stu Eve (of the ARK archaeology recording kit project and Dead Men’s Eyes Augmented Reality), Lorna Richardson (a UK-based public archaeologist), Hugh Corley (an archaeology systems manager at Historic England), Dan Garcia (an innovator in data collection for CRM archaeology projects), and Eric Kansa and Sarah Whitcher-Kansa (the power-duo behind the open data publication project OpenContext).

Doug and I are continuing to record and new shows are available every other Monday at or you can subscribe to the show using iTunes (if you like the show, please leave us a review!). If you’d like to be on the show, please email us at

I hope you enjoy the show!



The Importance of an Open Internet

The FCC has opened a new inbox for open internet comments. Please send an email to the address below (just click on the link) or visit to post your comment into an official FCC proceeding. They need to hear from a representative sample of US citizens, not just those who can afford to lobby government officials.


The Importance of an Open Internet

As a scientist, a business person, and an American citizen, I firmly believe that the FCC should have the power to enforce strong Net Neutrality. By this I mean that no internet service provider in the United States should be allowed to discriminate what data travels across the network, at what speeds it travels across the network, or who can access that data.

As a scientist, the internet enables me to communicate and collaborate with colleagues across the globe – literally from Arkansas, Arizona, and Washington State to Brazil, Sydney, Hong Kong, and the Marshall islands. The opportunity for scientific advancement and interaction has never been so robust. Researchers from around the world can currently communicate and collaborate to solve the problems we face in our current world: from climate change to health problems like obesity and cancer – an open internet is vital to our future.

As a business person, the internet allows me the same access to customers and potential business opportunities as companies that spend millions of dollars on advertising. Even if only a few hundred people across the globe need or want my services, I can make a living – an important respite in this current economic climate. This access also allows “the next big idea” the opportunity to arise. How will the next Netflix, Facebook, or Tesla be able to revolutionize a market (or create a new one) if Blockbuster, MySpace, and GM have already bought the privilege from ISPs to have their own sites load more quickly?

As an American citizen, the internet allows me to read and view news and opinion from around the world, as events happen. A student sitting in a dorm room in 2011 was able to witness the Egyptian revolution via Twitter as it happened, and a business person sitting in an office was able to read updates from a campus shooting in Seattle last week. Sometimes it’s inspiring; sometimes it’s heartbreaking, but the internet allows me to witness, consider, and respond to both the good and the tragic events that people do in our world today.

The internet has quickly become a main means of communication, social interaction, and commerce for not only the American public, but also people around the world. The internet allows people across the globe to communicate with anyone else who has an internet connection. This not only provides an avenue for global commerce, but also for the spread – and generation – of democratic ideals and innovative ideas, news, commentary, and protest of civil and human rights violations

Please reclassify internet providers as Title II telecommunications, or whatever means necessary, to ensure that providers treat all data as data – without respect to where it comes from or what it contains – this is vital for the continued functioning of the most open avenue for communication, science, business, innovation, and freedom of speech the world has yet seen: the global internet.


-Russell Alleen-Willems

Archaeologist, humanist, citizen, and father.


#14 Day of Digital Humanities 2014: Rain and Mobile Databases in Seattle

I originally wrote this post for the Day of Digital Humanities 2014 blogging project. I have reposted it here with only minor changes to fit my blog’s formatting, but you can read the original post here.

I tested MementoDB at a local park prior to using it on the monitoring project.
I tested MementoDB at a local park prior to using it on the monitoring project.

I have a new baby at home and am his primary caregiver while my wife is at work (she’s a cultural anthropologist and does qualitative research on usability and user experience for a local game company), so my Day of Digital Humanities started early this morning at 3am and ended by about 7:30am when my wife and son woke up!

Continue reading #14 Day of Digital Humanities 2014: Rain and Mobile Databases in Seattle

#13: Best Posts of the Last Year

This post is in response to Doug Rocks-Macqueen’s Blogging Archaeology Carnival, in preparation for the Blogging Archaeology session at the 2014 SAA meeting in Austin, Texas. Read through some of the fantastic responses to past questions here.

For January, Doug asked us to write about what we think our best posts are, however we want to define “best.”

“The idea for this month is simple- reflect on what you consider you best post(s) and why that is. Also, think about what others might think is your best post however you want to measure that (views? comments? etc.).  Then share your thoughts.”

Off the top of my head, I can think of a few ways that I’d define best: posts which are popular or useful, although that may be conflating two categories. I assume if people are resharing a post, then they found it at least useful enough to read it. The post with the most “likes” ­– now that our culture has decided that the “best” way to show approval is with a simple thumbs up or thumbs down, social media is one way to determine what people find interesting. Finally, there’s my subjective “best,” or the posts I personally like the best or got the most out of writing. Let’s start off the rundown.

First Popular/Useful Post:

#6 Archaeology Digital Data Tools

The first post I wrote that really gave me an indication that people read and responded to my blog was a quick post I wrote because I was coming up against my self-imposed deadline of a post a month. Pressed for time, I collected together a bunch of applications I had researched that were either designed for, or I thought were of use to archaeologists. This included software like the FAIMS project and ArcheoLINK, two programs for which I later more in-depth reviews. It was exciting to see people start to respond to the post, and I especially got a little charge as my little social media buttons slowly incremented their counters. The counters topped out around 12, which is admittedly not that high, but it was the first indication that someone besides myself and those friends to whom I sent the link were actually reading my blog and cared enough to reshare it. The post has become a central point for my blog, as now I add new programs to it as I come across them and then insert links to my review posts once I get the chance to install and test each program.

Most “Likes”:

#10 Advice for New CRM Archaeologists: Keeping Busy During Downtime

Looking at the counters on my website, the most popular link in terms of reshares has been the post I wrote on “Keeping During Downtime.” I wrote the post in response to an episode of the CRM Archaeology Podcast on the 2013 Government Shutdown that I couldn’t attend. Listening to the great responses from the other panelists in the finished episode made me so fired up that I had to go home and write down my own thoughts. Usually, I end up thinking that my responses on the podcast sound rushed and rambling, so I really appreciated being able to take the time to carefully think though and organize my thoughts through writing the post. As it stands, I’m also pretty proud of what I wrote and, although it just represents my own experiences and what I’ve found useful, I hope that the post helps at least one new archaeologist figure out how to make ends meet or keep from getting cabin fever during what can be long and lonely winter months their first year or two or when shovelbumming doesn’t always provide a winter job.

My Personal Favorite:

#5 Digitizing Fieldnotes through Crowdsourcing and Games

My personal favorite post so far has been the article I wrote on using crowdsourcing and games to digitize documents. I wrote the post after attending a ContentDM conference here in Seattle last year. I met a librarian who had access to lots of primary documents from John Muir and other notable figures, but who having trouble figuring out how to get funds to cover the cost and time it would take to digitize them all. I gave him my business card and told him to contact me so that I could send him links to a couple unique digitization projects I had read about, namely the UrCrowdsource and DigiTalkoot projects. The UrCrowdsource project harnesses the power of people volunteering their time online to transcribe original fieldnotes from the archaeologists who first excavated the Mesopotamian city of Ur back in the 1920s and 30s. The second project was using custom made video games to recruit members of the public to double check and correct text from library collections that had been run through optical character recognition (OCR) systems. Essentially, imagine if playing Angry Birds resulted in better transcriptions of historic documents rather than just giving players an understanding of cartoon physics and providing a little stress and boredom relief while waiting for a bus or in a doctor’s waiting room. My favorite parts about this post are that it a) required me to do some research into some of the innovative things people are doing out in the world to combine technology and the past and b) hopefully it opened up someone’s mind to the possibility of using similar technologies to start their own innovative transcription project. My goal with this blog is to highlight some of the ways that archaeologists and other scientists are using technology in our work, and this post is a good example of the kind of post I intend to write more often.

What have been your favorite posts? Have any helped you find a new tool or a new method for using archaeological data? Post your thoughts in the comments below!

Until next time,



#12 Announcing Live Digital Archaeology Help and the Diachronic Design Labs!

I am pleased to announce not just one, but two new additions to the Diachronic Design website! In addition to my software tutorials, I am now offering live consulting help through Google Helpouts and will also provide archaeological software and educational games.

First, as part of the Google Helpouts program, I am now able to provide one-on-one help on digital archaeology to anyone in the world. Contact me to request assistance with projects like building a lithics database, creating GIS maps, customizing data collection apps, creating websites, preparing images and reports, or to ask questions about best practices and options for how digital tools can enhance almost any kind of archaeological work.  Continue reading #12 Announcing Live Digital Archaeology Help and the Diachronic Design Labs!