THATCamp-in-a-Box

May 10th, 2010 |

UPDATE 6/21: Are you building a THATCamp website? We’ve put some resources at thatcamp.org/plan/website.

As you probably know, we received funding from Mellon to support regional THATCamps. One of the things we plan to do in this effort is develop a package we can give regional organizers to get a THATCamp started. What we’ve currently been doing is giving organizers a list of plugins I’ve used on the THATCamp site and the theme we use if they’d like to use it.

So, I’d like to lead a discussion on “THATCamp-in-a-Box.” It would be an idea-gathering, pie-in-the-sky chat about what we should offer regional THATCamp coordinators to get a camp started. The package itself could take on any number of forms: some custom WordPress plugins and a theme for managing applications, registrations, badges, scheduling. Or we could find some plugins already out there and bundle those with some instructions. Or we could just develop and launch a WordPress/BuddyPress/Mediawiki service, where sites for regional camps would be hosted by us, and attendees would have a BuddyPress profile and  use one registration for multiple camps. I’m think of something almost as hot as what Matt GoldBoone Gorges and others have developed for the CUNY Academic Commons. But, there are questions as to how much centralization we’d want to do with THATCamp. Regional organizers wouldn’t have to use the package, of course; Its just a way to make setting a THATCamp a little easier.

So, in this session, I’d love to bring together past regional coordinators, potential coordinators, or just anyone interested in contributing some ideas to this effort. We’ll be working on this more over the summer, so it’d be really great to have your input!

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10 Responses to “THATCamp-in-a-Box”

  1. Lincoln Mullen Says:

    This would be a very useful session. The THATCamp-in-a-Box theme you’ve already provided was very useful for starting the website for THATCamp New England, and improving it even more would be a great help.

    I’m especially interested in the idea for a WordPress/BuddyPress/Mediawiki service. Besides the added value of simplicity, that kind of a service would ensure that archives of past THATCamps were preserved as the coordinators of regional THATCamps change over time.

  2. Boone Gorges Says:

    My ears are burning.

    One cool thing about central hosting for regional THATCamps is that it’d allow frequent attendees to develop something of a THATCamp portfolio, where all their blog posts and comments from various events would be collected together in their profile. That’s on top of the independent value of the archive that Lincoln mentions above.

    Sounds like an interesting idea for a session, and potentially useful even for people who aren’t interested in hosting THATCamps per se.

  3. JM Says:

    I’m there!

  4. Erin Bell Says:

    Sadly, I won’t be at THATCamp this year, but I figured I’d throw in my two cents. I’m with Lincoln and Boone re: preservation/aggregation. I think that’s potentially a big issue. It seems the sites are being listed as single URLs and that works well for now, but I occasionally wonder what will become of the posts on thatcampcolumbus.org (and other regional camps) when no one is around to renew the domain, etc. It would be a shame to lose them when people switch jobs and/or move on to other things. Plus, whatever you guys might host would surely look and act sweeter than the site we created on our own in our free time. (I wish we had had the benefit of a boxed site, if only to solve the problem of reproducing the expensive fonts used for the THATCamp logo!). Even if you didn’t want to centralize hosting via MU or whatever, it might nevertheless be beneficial to ask that all regional camps submit the DB for their event for archiving. If at any point, this master network gets set up, I would love to send you a WXR export file for THATCamp Columbus. In fact, I might just do it whether you want it or not! Anyway, sounds like a great session. Have fun.

  5. Lincoln Mullen Says:

    Discussing THATCamp-in-a-Box might be a great way to get at the larger question of how to create an online academic community.

  6. Amanda French Says:

    I had this possibly heretical thought the other day: What if we just said, “Screw preservation”? (Please pretend I said that more professionally.) What if we emphasized the experience rather than the content? I really think that’s what THATCamp is about, ya know: the experience.

    I mean, sure, here I am for two years, and I want to earn my salary, so I was thinking that I might need to set up some process or something for preserving the THATCamp sites, which, as y’all have pointed out, are all over the place and could easily decay. But the problem is that once I set up some kind of process, it then becomes somehow magically required, which means that it’s an added burden, which means that it becomes that much harder to start a THATCamp.

    Still, I’m all in favor of *optional* centralized hosting, particularly on some kind of BuddyPress system (especially with integrated MediaWiki, since I’m feeling the lack of a THATCamp wiki), because I do think that’ll make it easier for people, and I think that’s the most important thing. I like how symmetrical all the WordPress THATCamp sites currently are — they’re all so pretty! — but on the other hand I don’t want to make building a WordPress site with our software a *requirement.* THATCamp Chicago is so far being run on Tumblr ( thatcampchicago.tumblr.com/ ), and that’ll work just fine.

  7. Jeremy Boggs Says:

    @Amanda—I definitely agree that, whatever solution we come up with, we shouldn’t make using it a requirement. I think that should totally be up to the organizers and their audience.

    @Lincoln—I think you’re right that this could open up discussions about how academic communities are organized and fostered online. I think this is something major academic organizations like the AHA and the OAH are struggling with right now.

    The things I’m most concerned with for THATCamp-in-a-Box are the simple, logistical things:

    * Managing applications/proposals
    * Getting attendees registered, and getting their information
    * Getting the schedule of sessions up in a much more digestible/readable/sharable manner.
    * Getting a nice, presentable site for the event up and running.

    So, for me, if the organizer already has methods in place for doing the above, awesome. If they don’t, and want a package that does these things out of the box, that’s what THATCamp-in-a-Box should offer.

    One idea I’ve been tossing around in my head (and spurred on even more by a tweet from @williamjturkel) is to not actually have attendees use our blog to post session ideas or talk about them, if they don’t want to, but instead do that in their own blog space and aggregate those posts here. That way, users contributions to the camp are more closely tied to the personal publishing space for individual attendees, but aggregated on the camp site. THATCamp-in-a-Box could have a mechanism for doing this, where a camper could enter their blog URL, and enter a feed in a second field for whatever category or tag they’ll use to post about THATCamp from their own site. The, the camp WordPress site just pulls in those posts, and even routes them to the camper’s individual profile page. I wanted to set something up like this for this year’s camp but didn’t find time to do it (That Omeka thing keeps getting in the way.)

    Related, I’d say that, even if we didn’t centralize THATCamp sites, we could (and probably should) aggregate/archive the feeds directly from regional camp sites. We could even get the Tumblr feeds. :) But I’m not sure this is a job for THATCamp-in-a-Box.

    I personally like the idea of having hosted THATCamp sites, where campers have one registration, and they can apply to, and participate in, any camps with that one profile, as Boone suggests. They could even help organize regional camps more easily. WordCamp does somethign like this.

  8. Mark Sample Says:

    This question of centralization/decentralization reminds me of a similar debate concerning class blogs: should there be a single class blog that every student subscribes and posts to, or should the class blog be a hub that aggregates posts from individual blogs? There’s no right answer, of course, and both models have their advantages. A combination of both would be ideal (pulling in posts from users who already have blogs, but also have a dedicated space for participants without their own blogs).

    Personally, I like Boone’s suggestion too, for Many Camps/One Registration, but then maybe he’s just trying to get us to start using BuddyPress. 😉
    (Which actually wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.)

  9. LookBackMaps Says:

    There’s a lot of great stuff here, and the regional THATCamps may warrant a couple of sessions. Personally, as someone outside of the academy, I’d love to discuss what the boundaries of “digital humanities” are. Is there a place for technologists and enthusiasts like me that are working on technology-driven humanities projects?

    And there are great questions about growth and organizing that might be interesting to dig into. As more and more THATCamps are organized, issues of structure and authority may arise. Are we building a network or a community or both? What are the ramifications?

    As someone helping to organize a regional THATCamp in Northern California this fall, I’m very interesting in exploring these ideas and hearing more from other organizers about things that have worked or not worked, and why.

    I’d also love to share some fun tools I’ve used to look at the GLTHATCamp Twitter network before and after the event. See this short write-up I put together: blog.jumpslide.com/2010/05/twitter-network-visualization-to.html

  10. Participating in the Bazaar: Sharing Code in the Digital Humanities | ClioWeb Says:

    […] any Omeka or WordPress themes, plugins, just about anything we develop that we can share. (Expect THATCamp-in-a-Box to be up there in some form sometime this summer!) So if anyone wants to use the Hacking the […]

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