#11 The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Archaeology Blogging

This post is part of Doug Rocks-Macqueen’s Archaeology “Blogging Carnival” preparing for the 2014 Blogging in Archaeology session at the Society for American Archaeology meeting. You can read Doug’s kickoff post here and consider contributing your own post. Additionally, use the hashtag #blogarch to find other posts online!

For December 2013, Doug has asked participants to write on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of archaeology blogging.

The Good

Blogging == Writing Practice

Like most worthwhile skills, my writing ability atrophies unless I practice writing. I wrote my share of lousy papers while in undergrad and graduate school, but I also wrote a lot of papers period while in school. Over time, I refined my writing abilities enough that, even now, I can look back at several of my papers and, surprisingly, even my thesis without cringing too badly. Since graduating, however, I have been writing more technical reports, guides, and grant proposals. I find these different kinds of writing valuable in their own right, but they exercise a different skill set than used for more free form or academic writing. Through my blog, I have been able to write short posts on both broader topics in digital archaeology, as well as technical reviews. I’m not completely happy with the quality of my blog writing so far, but I think it’s improving and the skills I practice will help me as I write more on my research in the future and experiment with archaeology storytelling in other media. (What do you think of my writing? Feel free to comment below! :-)). Continue reading #11 The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Archaeology Blogging

Man wearing a balaclava.

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

Chris Webster over at DigTech-LLC just posted another episode of his CRM Archaeology podcast  where some of the usual suspects covered topics including women working in CRM, social media advice for archaeologists, the government shutdown, and some great responses to a listener question: “What do techs do with themselves during work lulls?” I was not able to make it on the show for this episode but really wanted to offer my answer to that question.

The guests all had some great advice, both directly to the listener’s question, but also to the wider topic of how to prepare for, and get through, lulls in paid archaeology work. I thought I would write down some of what I have learned from work lulls throughout my career. As an added bonus, I can take the time to properly compose and edit my thoughts in this post, as opposed to stuttering and rambling the way I sometimes do on the podcast!

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

#9 Closer Look: ArcheoLINK Information System

A word about software posts: On this blog, I want to provide review type information about the myriad archaeology software out there, but also want to be clear about what precisely the review represents. In order from least to most rigorous, the different levels of software posts are: Closer Look, Hands-On, and Field Test. In “Closer Look” posts, I write about an application’s features and hypothesize about how an archaeologist might benefit from them. In “Hands-On” posts I write about my experience actually installing an application and trying out some of its basic features. In “Field Test” posts, I write about collecting or processing real data using the application.

Post updated 10/31/13 to include comments and clarifications from QLC, Inc. archaeologist and developer Michiel Kappers [shown in bracketed italics].

ArcheoLINK Background

 ArcheoLINK is a piece of software developed by archaeologists that aims to provide a complete system for archaeology project management, data recording, inventory, and analysis; in short, an Archaeological Information System (AIS). Dutch archaeologists Michiel Kappers, Willem Schnitger, and Elsbeth Westerman originally designed ArcheoLINK to meet their research and project management needs as heritage management archaeologists as well as for academic research in the Caribbean. The company Kappers et al. founded, QLC, Inc. recently created a US version of their software, ArcheoLINK-Americas, that is customized for American academic and CRM archaeologists. Kappers recently visited the Diachronic Design office and gave me a demonstration of both the latest version of ArcheoLINK, as well as some of the features they are currently developing. This post describes each of ArcheoLINK’s feature categories, as well as my thoughts on how field archaeologists might use these features. [Paragraph updated to differentiate between QLC, Inc., the company, and ArcheoLINK-Americas, the US version of the ArcheoLINK software.] Continue reading #9 Closer Look: ArcheoLINK Information System

FAIMS GIS

#8 Hands-On: FAIMS Mobile Data Collector App

A word about software posts: On this blog, I want to provide review type information about the myriad archaeology software out there, but also want to be clear about what precisely the review represents. In order from least to most rigorous, the different levels of software posts are: Closer Look, Hands-On, and Field Test. In “Closer Look” posts, I write about an application’s features and hypothesize about how an archaeologist might benefit from them. In “Hands-On” posts I write about my experience actually installing an application and trying out some of its basic features. In “Field Test” posts, I write about collecting or processing real data using the application.

Background

The Federated Archaeological Information Management System (FAIMS) project is an open source software project by the University of New South Wales in Australia. The project is a subset of the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (NeCTAR) program, which aims to build new infrastructure for Australian researchers. The goal of FAIMS is to build a comprehensive information system for archaeology that allows archaeologists to collect digital data from sites using mobile devices, process them in local databases, archive data in digital repositories for long-term storage and future reanalysis, and easily exchange data with researchers across the world. The FAIMS mobile app runs on Android devices running version 4.0 or higher of the Android operating system.

 I recently worked on a project customizing the FAIMS data collector for a US CRM company  and creating data entry forms on the mobile application. I worked through the FAIMS cookbook, which explains how to create the different kinds of data entry fields, such as text boxes, calendars, dropdown menus, radio buttons, and even how to add in map layers and shapes using the FAIMS app’s internal vector GIS system (Figure 1).  Continue reading #8 Hands-On: FAIMS Mobile Data Collector App

My camera

#7 Supercharge your Field Camera with CHDK

Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras have loads of features that make it easier to take great photographs like the ability to take RAW images, use intervalometers, or take bracketed shots. The price and size of DSLRs, however, make them somewhat impractable for every field crew to carry one on every project. Instead, companies often send crews out with cheap and easily replaceable point and shoot cameras. Point and shoot cameras with some DLSR features are available, but are more expensive. Few companies are probably willing to pony up for an expensive point and shoot when the dust, weather, and grimy/slippery fingers combo on survey and excavation projects tends to destroy a lot of field cameras. I usually discover this when I go to turn on the camera and find that the shutter refuses to open and the lens extends at a 30 degree angle.

 

Picture of a broken point and shoot camera.
Figure 1. A broken lens, a typical kind of field damage. Picture from flickr user tanakawho.

Do you ever wish that you could supercharge your field camera with some of these advanced features? It turns out that if your camera is a Canon, you can. Let me introduce you to the Canon Hack Development Kit (CHDK). CHDK is a custom firmware (software that runs embedded on a device, think of the software in a car GPS or in a WiFi router) that can unlock these kinds of advanced features, as well as give you a way to program your camera using scripts to add your own custom features.

Continue reading #7 Supercharge your Field Camera with CHDK

Digital and analog archaeology tools shown in the field.

#6 Archaeology Digital Data Tools

For today’s blog post, I wanted to share a table comparing some of the digital tools available to collect, organize, track, and begin analyzing archaeological data. This table is by no means complete, so please add comments of projects not yet listed! If you have personal experience working with one of these programs, feel free to also comment on your experience. I plan to update this table periodically as I get the chance to install and test each one.

(Click through to view the table)

Images of the two digitization games: Mole Hunt and Mole Bridge

#5 Digitizing Fieldnotes through Crowdsourcing and Games

I was recently talking with a university librarian about ways that he could digitize some of his collections. In our conversation, I brought up two “crowdsourcing” projects I knew of where librarians and archaeologists were soliciting help from the public in order to digitize large bodies of text documents from both a library collection and large archaeological projects.

The output of digitization projects, machine-readable documents, make fast searching and indexing of archaeological information possible, as well as allow researchers to conduct text-mining analyses that extract patterns from the digitized information. Actually digitizing past documents, especially handwritten documents, is tedious work however, and many organizations do not have the resources to complete this work. While archaeologists are collecting more and more data digitally, a vast body of archaeological information exists only in paper: books, reports, articles, forms, and field notebooks. Even if we assume that anything published may have been digitized by the publisher (if they still exist), that still leaves a large body of archaeological data and analyses trapped in paper. One way archaeologists and others can digitize paper documents is to use optical character recognition (OCR) software to analyze scanned pages and match image shapes to text characters and words. While OCR programs have improved a lot over the years, the programs still make errors, especially when converting text that uses specialized language and OCR programs are generally pretty bad at recognizing handwritten characters. Often, humans need to carefully proofread and double check OCR transcriptions to ensure the text matches the original documents.  Several organizations are pursuing crowdsourcing projects to invite volunteers to help verify digitized documents or even transcribe documents too complex for OCR software to digitize.

Screen capture from the UrCrowdsource website where you can transcribe archaeology documents.
Transcribing archaeological descriptions in UrCrowdsource.

Continue reading #5 Digitizing Fieldnotes through Crowdsourcing and Games

Picture of a database form in FileMaker.

#4 Day of Archaeology: Building an Archaeology Data Recording App

I wrote this post for the Day of Archaeology 2013 blogging project. I have reposted it here with only minor changes to fix typos in the original. You can read the original post here, along with some comments by archaeologists at the Center for Digital Archaeology and the FAIMS project.

” Today, I’m working at the Western Washington University archaeology lab, but since I wrote about that for Day of Digital Humanities a few months ago, I thought instead I’d write about the work I do with my company where I create software and tutorials for archaeologists. Continue reading #4 Day of Archaeology: Building an Archaeology Data Recording App

#3 Diachronic Design on the CRM Archaeology Podcast

Over the last few weeks, I was lucky to participate in a couple episodes of the CRM Archaeology Podcast. In episode 2, I spoke with Serra Head, from Archy Fantasies http://archyfantasies.wordpress.com/, Doug Rocks-Macqueen, from Doug’s Archaeology http://dougsarchaeology.wordpress.com/, Bill White, from Succinct Research http://www.succinctresearch.com/, Chris Webster, from DigTech LLC http://www.digtech-llc.com/, and special guest Eric Kansa, from Open Context http://opencontext.org/, about journal access and open access publishing in archaeology.  This last weekend, I participated in the fourth episode talking about cultural resource management with some of the same folks and Tom King, the noted CRM specialist, who blogs at http://crmplus.blogspot.com/. Check out the episodes below!

Episode 2: Open Access

http://www.digtech-llc.com/podcast/4b0422yijnbtz89cvd7tliqahhx51c

Episode 4: Interview with Tom King

http://www.digtech-llc.com/podcast/episode-004-interview-with-tom-king

Creating MailMerge Labels in Word

#2 The First Diachronic Design Tutorial: Mail Merge Object Labels

Hello folks! I am happy to announce that the first Diachronic Design tutorial: Making Mail Merge Object Labels, is available for purchase and download through DiachronicDesign.com and for free streaming through Diachronic Design’s YouTube channel.

Mail Merge is a function commonly found in word processing software, including multiple versions of Microsoft Word, but also free, open-source word processors like LibreOffice. With Mail Merge, you can set up a document template and then automatically insert values from a spreadsheet or database file. Mail Merge can be used to create and fill out form letters, address envelopes, or, as I show here, you can use Mail Merge to create individualized object labels for every artifact in an excavation database.

Mail Merge can be used in many different ways, so if you know a different, or perhaps better way to use Mail Merge, please post a comment on the YouTube page!