Context and objectives
What if Digital Humanities was missing a central platform in which digital humanists could present their projects, challenge their knowledge, share their tricks or compare their bots? The scope of our project is mainly to define the required features of such a web platform, DH-Central, but also to derive the whys and wherefores when building a crowdsourcing platform to make it emerge and sustainable. Having already presented the global design part and features during the first semester, this report will address the more strategic-oriented decisions we made regarding the guidelines to follow when launching DH-Central.
State of the art
Specifically, we first followed our initial schedule, analyzing the current existing platforms through a dense state of the art on Digital Humanities. Organizations working on the DH topic are pretty numerous : ADHO, EDAH, (…) but platforms rarely combine all the functions that we aim to gather in the DH-Central. For example, Clariah (http://www.clariah.nl/en/dodh/course-registry) focuses on indexing where to find courses covering DH topics : they are concerned with education & learning. DHnow (http://digitalhumanitiesnow.org/about/) is a publication that highlights and distributes informally published digital humanities scholarship and resources from the open web. Only one true similar concept was found in DHcommons (http://dhcommons.org/) but it seems it isn’t a widely used platform.
To evaluate the strength and properties of the DH community, we first used Google Trends, analyzing the popularity evolution of the query “Digital Humanities”. Apparently, the queries started around year 2006, and their amount almost doubled over last 10 years. Let’s assume that this means that the community is growing. This trend is observable on Twitter as well. These last weeks more than 300 tweets were tweeted per week.
Our initial schedule indicated to design smart surveys in order to ask the right persons what they would like to see on a DH platform, and feedbacks on how our current platform concept would fit their desires. But we quickly realized this was a difficult and hardly-promising task. Indeed, our state of the art didn’t enable us to gather enough influent DHists we could contact. Plus we struggled to design a survey that could be precise but not too long at the same time, otherwise people do never answer. We wanted to find another way, more modern, to get feedback and data from interested or potential users of a DH community platform such as DH-Central.
The big challenge of DH-Central is to (1) motivate people to join our platform, (2) keep them active, and (3) make them spread the word. So instead of first sending surveys, then design the platform, we think the best is to do both at the same time, so that the platform self-generates with continuous feedbacks and data aggregation. We have decided to implement a crowd-sourcing DH quiz platform for the basis of DH-Central. It is indeed the Minimum viable Product (MVP) of DH-Central. Users are proposed to either create forms, or answer forms. This appeared to us as the most spreadable strategy.
The first visit on the website is the bottleneck : the initial quiz has to be fillable very quickly (less than a minute) : the majority of websites have a very low AVD (Average Visit Duration), approximatively 2 minutes. More concretely, this quiz asks questions not only to check the user skills, but also his interests. That enables the platform to “classify” the user on what he knows, and what he’s curious of. Then a data visualization would appear, a map placing you as an IT expert for DH for instance… or any of the preset classifications (musician, historian, machine learning specialist, sport specialist, optimisation specialist etc). This self-generates contents and users will be likely to spread the concept and increase the community. Supplementary features would be slowly released, the key is to prevent users from getting disinterested and to incentivize their contributions with great rewardings for the whole community.
Once the platform has enough users and the contents can be self-generated, we consider to add a crowdfunding feature. DHists could then propose their own ideas and raise enough money between the users to fund their projects. We think that on this platform there would be some technical DHists but also some users passionated by DH and who could help realizing projects by investing money in it. This crowdfunding strategy would generate benefits enabling to maintain the quality of the website. Concerning revenues, targeted advertising would be practicable since we possess information on the users of the platform and this would help to handle the website costs.
Value Proposition Canvas
We wanted to summarize our study through a Value Proposition Canvas that we describe thereafter.
The added value of this platform is mainly to help DHists. That kind of platform that centralizes people who have common interests can be very helpful to share ideas, participate in interesting projects and grow one’s personal network. The main challenge when launching a new project is to find the people with good expertise and knowledge that could be useful and advantageous to the project. This platform would solve this kind of issues.
To sum up, we have highlighted the main features DH-Central should offer and a suggestion on, when the time comes, the best manner to launch the platform and maintain it. Especially, using initial web designs by Laurent Bolli, we isolated features we thought were essential : portfolio, quizzes, profile statistics, projects browser and news. We also derived a strategy that would involve launching first a Minimum Viable Product containing only quiz features (doing and answering). In our opinion, it is the most spreadable manner to start DH-Central. Using this MVP, we would aggregate enough data to use targeted advertisements and that would definitely raise enough money to make the platform sustainable. We also thought that one essential development scope may be to enable users to ask for crowdfunding on their projects. Taking a small contribution on the money transfers for crowdfunding is also a way to ensure financial sustainability. Finally, our market study was relentless, there is a need for this kind of platform!