Collaborators Wanted for Historical Research Software

August 5, 2013 10:08 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Kozyra_K_piramidaI’d like to build a piece of research software for historians, and I’m looking for collaborators.

I do not have the technical skills to do this on my own, nor do I work in a climate where production of this software would be considered ‘research’ and thus, it is nearly impossible to fund through traditional UK-based grants available to Humanities scholars like myself.

Please read the software description below, and if you are interested in helping bring this to life, I’d be very keen to hear from you. You might be able to offer support in terms of technical skills, design, funding, project management, or any number of other areas of value. Whatever the case, I’d love to hear from you for a no-pressure discussion (

Software Description:

Historians increasingly need to structure or organize digital data, or extract specific bits of information from lots of similar sources – historical criminal record trials, or image sets, for example.

Sometimes this work can be done automatically, but there are many instances where a human judgment is still required. Or thousands of individual judgments. These simple classification tasks (eg, this document contains X or does not contain Y) are simple; almost mindless.

They are precisely the type of task that you can do on a train, or in an airport lounge, while waiting around. The ability to do ten entries here or fifty there can make light work of a large task.

The challenge is that there is as yet no interface to make this type of historical source classification easy in a situation where an internet connection is often lacking, the screen is typically very small (phone / tablet), and swapping between windows on the device in order to keep notes is inefficient.

The proposed software would allow scholars using a mobile device (and without access to the Internet), to look at a set of pre-downloaded historical sources (texts/images), and quickly classify each one based on criteria defined by the user. This might involve typing in a keyword, selecting or tagging a passage of text, or swiping left or right to signify yes/no or some other x/y choice by the researcher.

Once the researcher has made their classification for that particular source, a new one randomly appears from amongst the unclassified remaining items, and the choice they made on the previous entry is recorded in a simple CSV format which can be uploaded / sync’d to the researcher’s main computer the next time they have access to the Internet.

This research software is for people with a commute or who have periods of downtime and who could benefit from an easy way to do a bit of research on digital sources.

What I need in a collaborator

I am a competent programmer in Python, HTML, CSS, and can do JavaScript tollerably well (though it’s not my forté). I have tried a number of times to get something like this working using Python, but I have absolutely no experience building Python-based Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) that would allow for a non-mouse/keyboard interaction. I also have no experience designing for mobile devices, or syncing/sending the data once collected.

I’m looking for someone who can fill in where I am deficient and help bring this to life.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to hear from you.

Image Credit: Katarzyna KozyraZachęta National Gallery of Art (Warsaw, Poland)

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