Things you cannot see

Let me tell you about some progress and why I miraculously managed to put a new letter online yesterday (all by myself).

While I have not been able to work on the digital edition for a while, Alex has been developing much of the non-visible part of it. He created an internal work interface, which turned out to be a relief to everyone. To him of course, for not having to take care of all the uploading. In general, when you think you are done encoding a letter, you upload/send the file and then you find at least 3 or 4 details that you also want to improve. Hence the typically 4 e-mails to Alex entitled “This version is the right one”, then “This version is *really* the right one”, “This is the final version”, and finally “OK, last time I bug you today, promise”. Then he would have to check for absurdities (ids given twice or wrong ids for instance), and e-mail me back “Can you please change the id on line 155”. I would have to do the change, send the file back again… not one bit economical.

What is more, we have more and more data needing to be stocked, versioned and visualized properly in order to progress: the work on the collation, the work on the pdf version, the students’ assignments, bigger documents like the Schlemihl which will be put online at once in a couple of weeks but has been in the pipes for six months. It had become necessary to have a working space where we could do all that and not (something that had become a bit difficult in my fuzzy and daily growing mailbox) by trying to find the e-mail from December when Alex had sent the sample or the link to this or that. The internal work interface is not particularly cute, but perfectly functional and clear. Alex knows Anna, Sabine and me good enough to know which kind of information we need to use it properly. In the part where we upload new XML-files, he has integrated an automatic check whether it is well-formed or not, thus disabling us to upload a file that would not be fit for visualization.

This really is a new step for the work in the team. It is the recognition of the fact that Sabine, Anna and I are now able to take more active responsibility for uploading “final” versions by ourselves. It is the result of the discussions with the Schleiermacher team from the Academy of Sciences and with Peter Stadler on the solidity, valuability and functionality of an internal work environment. It is also, hopefully, a step towards the change of scale in the corpora I have been wishing for a year now (we just need more corpus!). From April on, the two students working for the project will be paid to do encoding. The work force will then be dispatched differently. Sabine, Anna (who will be on maternity leave for a year soon) and I will be able to upload, but not the students, so that we will have to work on the workflow on that level.

A big change of the webinterface has also been in the pipeline for a few months now and should be finalized soon as well. General wish was to have something cleaner, more traditional. There certainly are some design absurdities in the actual form of the webinterface, and we will very likely end up with a white background (that will tear my heart apart – but hopefully not my eyes). The voice of reason tells me this is the best way to go. I will regret the warm colors though, and an interface that was so original that it had a great visual recognition effect, even if not totally professional in the conception.

It is a great pleasure to see that things have been progressing after all. I know I can see it and you can’t. Don’t worry: I will let you know, with trumpets and tweets, when you can enjoy the new interface, the new texts, and the new August Boeckh manuscripts portal (also close to being published).


Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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