01 October 2006

The Launch Occurred Without Me

I feel like an astronaut who overslept and made it to the launch-pad just in time to watch the space shuttle lift off without me. But wait a minute- I just want to read books, take my own notes, and then package it all together and let you read a version of history according to Dieter Stenger! Unfortunately, it is no longer that simple. The assigned readings for this week WERE of particular interest to me, considering I have all these great plans for my upcoming website, which includes a database. Dan Cohen's article on application programming interface (API) appears to be a "no brainer" and theoretically sound. However, I am not a programmer and I have had absolutely kein biƟchen (zero) experience with APIs. I am positive that ways of searching and pulling together disparate data by way of APIs is an already fulfilling fact of life. If I had the time to cobble together an API, I would begin right away!

The reality is above my head. Cohen stresses that the world of APIs is a grass-roots and third-party development. It fosters a wide range of esoteric micro-applications, which computer scientists are developing and are insanely unique but also very helpful in areas never imagined possible. Does that mean I can do it? I hope so, but I am happy just knowing what's available to me. I believe APIs should be available to historians, but don't ask me to make you one (at least not right now). I do not believe that historians of a specific niche will be able to tackle this 1000-pound gorilla, but hopefully they will understand how to use APIs and what they offer, especially when considering interoperability.

Paul Miller's article on interoperability was convincing enough that I too should have one. One what? I plan on releasing all the data I have accumulated over the years about the European theater during World War II. Perhaps someone will data-mine enough of my data that I can buy it in a books store with someone else's name on it. I would very much like to join the growing trend toward openness, maximize the value, and reuse potential of information under my control. Again, I believe these ideas are geared less to the individual micro-historian, but rather government agencies and big business.

The article by Lee, " Working With Remix Culture", and Semantic Humanities on Digital Humanities (the latter should be renamed to "Embrace the Chaos of Knowledge"), was far more encouraging, especially when the latter discussed how to help others, by releasing data, rather than asking users to help you. Even more interesting was the material concerning forms, another gorilla I hope to pin to the floor. I realize now, more than ever, how far behind I am and the road ahead of me.