Agenda items for next meeting

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    Micah Vandegrift

    Had a call with a friend who attended a camp recently. brought up some really helpful comments. Brief notes from our call below.

    Major website issues for THATCamp AARSBL 2015. had to move to their own server last minute to even be able to make it work –

    how ok to use the name/conversations in continuity
    — (micah suggestion) can we use proceedings for this?
    — need a model for how that might look! (Micah – DH+Lib issue?)
    — can we have one site for camps at the same conference/organization over time?

    So many humanities scholars that are not technically literate, so basing everything around the site is problematic.

    How do we deal with third party vendors who want to repackage or build related content to THATCamps?

    Amanda French

    Minutes from THATCamp Council meeting, 12/7/15
    Present: Frédéric Clavert, Amanda French, Anastasia Salter

    * Amanda apologized for neglecting to send out reminders last week and/or post an agenda — we’ll schedule the next meeting early next semester, say in mid-January, to make up for it

    * Amanda reported that he website had major issues a couple of weeks ago because of access logs filling up our disk space on the server. Patrick submitted the issue to Reclaim Hosting and we’ve taken steps to prevent it in the future. We’re also troubleshooting the number of spam users, which may be contributing to the large access logs; we’ve reimplemented a captcha on the registration page, for instance, and are continuing testing. As of now everything seems to be functioning great.

    * Several users complained about having to log in to the forums to report issues, which doesn’t work out when the issue is not being able to log in! Amanda therefore set up a Contact form on the site that will email queries from the form to the Council’s group account.

    * Amanda answers Micah’s query from his agenda: It is theoretically possible to have one site for the same THATCamp over time, but we haven’t usually done that so that we can keep a copy of old sites for future reference. Frédéric points out that THATCamp Paris uses categories, not sites, to link separate events together. People can use the Contact form to request this service.

    * Amanda also answers Micah’s question: THATCamp organizers aren’t at all required to use the THATCamp website — they just register their event here so that the list on the THATCamp home page is accurate. The THATCamp Registration form currently says “If you plan to host your own THATCamp site, first complete and submit this form, then see the instructions for redirecting a site to a stand-alone THATCamp website on our website Help page.”

    * Some discussion of older THATCamp website: some THATCamp organizers who do host their sites elsewhere cease paying for the domains, e.g., and Amanda will write a help page and/or blog post for organizers asking them to make sure to transfer the domains to us and/or give us a copy of their content if they can.

    * Some discussion of third-party uses. Micah might need to clarify if there’s a case in point at next meeting, but Amanda reports that basically the name THATCamp is trademarked by George Mason University, so third-party uses of the *name* would have to be cleared by RRCHNM. See the About page at All content on all THATCamp sites is marked with a Creative Commons CC-BY license, so in theory a third party could acquire and repackage and even sell the content. That being said, there is currently no clickthrough agreement by which all contributors acknowledge that CC license, although we think we’ve made it clear to THATCamp organizers at least that almost all content is open and shareable on the web (email addresses and so on excepted; the individual registration forms are very clear on that head). Amanda recommends that we wait until there is a problem or case on the table before we make changes that might prevent people from posting: so far no case has been reported of content providers objecting to reuse of their content.

    * Ana recommends that we ask Boone to turn off or throttle @horse_thatbooks, since it’s filling up the #thatcamp hashtag. Amanda agrees (Note: I’ve written Boone and he’s happy to turn it off altogether, although I’ve asked him to throttle it to tweeting just once a week or so. — Amanda)

    * Amanda will schedule another meeting fairly soon and will set herself reminders to post an agenda, call for items in advance from the community, and remind the Council!

    John Crow

    I was the person that Micah spoke to so I can clarify some of the things he said, especially since it seems he was not at the 12/7 meeting in which his notes were discussed.

    First the server issues. We understand that this time there was a log issue that prevented site access. But this is not the first time server issues have seriously hampered our registration and promotion efforts in particular. In the year previous to this one, different server issues prevented registration and additional problems resulted in the inability to log into the website and get the list of registrants on the day of the event! So two out of three years the THATCamp has existed, the site’s technical issues have hampered efforts to encourage humanities scholars from engaging in the core mission of THATCamp. To make matters worse, when there are server problems, users like me seem powerless to get in touch with someone to either report the problem or to find out the status if the problem is known. This was especially frustrating as an organizer unable to tell my participants when they could access the site again. It seems that the THATCamp server, and subsequent problems, is a low priority for the RRCHNM. This is a problem since it is the main vehicle by which these events take place. Finally, regarding the server, there is a perception concern. If we are supposed to be technologists, how does that look when we can’t get our technology to work, and when there are problems, for it to take so long to fix them?

    This is why we registered (NB: AAR = American Academy of Religion, SBL = Society of Biblical Literature.) We had to address the registration and information dissemination issue immediately. Right now the domain is hosted on my shared server space at HostGator. This bring us to two more issues, the continuity of annual events, and the one site for the annual event allowing for community building.

    In regard to the continuity of events, as Micah and I discussed, it is common for the same sessions to be suggested year after year. The current structure of the site is based on discontinuous event sites that operate independent of the previous events. It basically recreates the wheel, over and over each year. If there was a way to have one site that is used year after year, this would allow participants access to historical data, to see previous session suggestions, and to even post new session proposals building on previous sessions that took place at the unconference. I am not clear about what you mean regarding THATCamp Paris using categories on because they don’t host on, they host at Here I see they are doing exactly what I am talking about, archiving each THATCamp event on a single site so that there is a continuity. But they have to do it on another website, not My point is that it is unfortunate that forces the discontinuity and that to have continuity one has to go to another host and domain. As the site is currently designed, even if you wanted to have one site, for instance for us:, this would not work because the system is set up to have a single date associated with each website. After the first year, subsequent years will not be listed in the calendar. Unless there is a way to update the site date over time. Lastly about this issue, I don’t understand the statement about future reference because when the new site on starts out blank the old site is not engaged but forgotten. In contrast if there was one site that each year builds on, like the Paris site, the past session proposals and posts would be easily accessible for future reference. So while I know what I am talking about is possible, i.e. THATCamp Paris, the question I have is if should consider shifting its paradigm from discontinuous events to a model of continuity.

    The other benefit of having one site for events is that the site does not become abandoned after the event, but can be something that is continually engaged over the course of the year building up to each unconference. Again with each site being a blank slate as is now, it means starting from scratch. This extends to getting participants to register for the event each year. This process loses participants. If there was one site, then last year’s registration is good this year and participants can continually engage the community, indicate their likely attendance, suggest sessions, and have a long conversation about topics. When the conference is over, the participants can be referred to the site to continue and build on the ideas and enthusiasm that was generated at the unconference. Thus the site is not just for the single event, but serves the general needs of a particular community that comes together annual occasionally for an unconference.

    I’ll note this is different from what Micah suggested with the proceedings. I am in complete support of that effort and think it is a great way to bring discussions taking place in one series of THATCamps to another. But to be clear, I am talking about continuity of the mundane, such as looking up previous proposals, or last year’s schedule, or even where there was a meeting after the unconference in the previous years. All that data would be available is the site was continuous, year after year.

    The point about abandoned domain names is quite valid. Perhaps there could be a requirement that any domain that uses thatcamp in it be registered with the RRCHNM. That way if the address becomes abandoned, it can be redirected to This is not an unreasonable requirement for using the thatcamp name. Of course there would need to be someone at RRCHNM that handles this and they would have to be responsive to DNS changes, unless there was a cpanel that organizers could control themselves. This brings me to the last point, the test case you ask about.

    Over the last three years, the German Publisher, De Gruyter, has been a prominent sponsor of the AAR THATCamp events. In speaking with the representative this year, we talked about building on the new domain name to achieve some of the things I mention above, such as continuity, universal availability, reliable servers, and a responsive tech support process should problems arise. This proposal coincided with some new directions the company is looking to expand into, including blogs and other digital publishing initiatives. They are committed to digital humanities, even having the first book in a DH series coming out in Feb, The Digital Humanities and Islamic & Middle East Studies edited by Elias Muhanna ( So for them supporting THATCamp makes good marketing sense. They are active with one of the prominent DH initiatives in religious studies, and they can stay abreast of current topics and interact with people who could produce content for them. Moreover, hosting the website means they can take a more active role in supporting the DH community in religious studies and as a company with a long history, they can remain the constant presence for the unconference as individual organizers change over the years.

    The issues are, however, with the name, THATCamp, with the content, and with the domain, as already noted. This is why I reached out to Micah. In our conversation he expressed some very valid concerns. One important one he noted, and is mentioned in the minutes, is content ownership. There would have to be a clear understanding that De Gruyter does not own the content, the site, the name, etc. and is providing the service as a service to the community and cannot, in the future, charge access, repackage the content for sale or use it in anyway other than the way the creator of the content intended. These things, however, could be established contractually so that there is no ambiguity or miscommunication as organizers change over the years or management shifts at De Gruyter. I should note that this is not a done deal on the De Gruyter side. I said I would look into these issues with you all and the De Gruyter representative said she would look into the hosting and digital services side. So there is still much to be worked out. Nevertheless, before the technical part can be explored, the issues with name, etc. need to be determined.

    I apologize for the long reply. I felt it was necessary to clearly explain the issues—at least to the best of my abilities—that I discussed with Micah. Due to Micah’s inability to attend the meeting on the 7th, his agenda notes were not fully understood. I hope this response explains them more fully. I look forward to any questions, comments, or the results from a meeting early next year. Thank you for this opportunity to respond.

    John L. Crow
    Florida State University

    Personal site:


    Dear John (if I may),

    First, thanks for your detailed post. There are things that we weren’t sure to understand on Monday. We’ll be able to clearly discuss them during the next council thanks to your precisions.

    I will only give some elements of answer as THATCamp Paris 2015 organizer.

    A bit of history about THATCanp Paris: the first one was held in 2010. At that time, (an academic blogging platform edited by a unit from the CNRS called CLEO/OpenEdition) was quite young but already very legitimate within the French (and now European) academic community. So, choosing was obvious for us and not done as a counter choice to (I hope this last sentence is grammatically correct…). We could organize it in a way that allowed us to archive the three THATCamp Paris editions and that’s really great. But, as it is a blogging platform, there are lots of functionalities that we could not have: there isn’t any possibility to ask participants to register, for instance. We usually use either or google drive to ask people to register or to suggest sessions. For the sessions, the administrator (well, me for the 2015 edition) creates the blog posts from the texts future participants sent by mail or through a google drive form. So, it’s an ideal solution for archiving, but not for other aspects of the organisation. We’ll speak about this during the next meeting anyway.

    Concerning your probable cooperation with De Gruyter, we did in 2012 something which stands between thatcamp proceedings and your De Gruyter experiment: (we called that “non-actes” or “unproceedings”). It might be of some use for you. Unfortunately, concerning the legal issues, I’m not able to answer – but we’ll try to get you an answer as soon as possible.

    As member of the council, I apologize for the server issues. Hopefully, it seems that is properly working now.


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