A Reflection on the Tech

I feel like this second blog post is going to saturated with negatives, so I’ll try to keep mine a little brighter by starting with the fact that this initially pain-staking process has really grown on me. At first it was a total chore, slowly trouble shooting every single issue that I had with the multiple programs I had no familiarity with (Oxygen, ABBYY Finereader, and Github), wishing that my advisor would’ve warned better beforehand of such things and hoping that I would have a free weekend again.

But after about 3 solid weeks of working, something clicked. I started enjoying this previously arduous work. The trouble-shooting became enjoyable, as every issue came to me as an interesting puzzle rather than a pace-breaking wall. Also, the whole philosophy behind this encoding became much clearer to me, and in a way, inspired me to take special care when it came to encoding.

Some things on the tech side that I believe led me to enjoying this process more were:

  • Having a larger monitor to work on: I like having all the information I need to encode in view all at once, it helps me keep things in order and it just keeps things more accurate. Having a monitor that is larger than a standard 13-15-17 in laptop screen really helped me. I was able to pull up boilerplates, have oxygen open, and have a reference scanned image open all in sizes that I could view easily. This expedited the process greatly

  • Using a mouse: After trying to encode and OCR on my Surface and comparing it to my work on my desktop, I noticed a night and day difference in quality of pages and general frustration. The mouse allows you to have more exact control of your cursor and gives a less clunky access to your keyboard whilst moving your cursor between multiple points quickly.

…and some other technical mishaps/advice

  • Make sure you take the highest quality scans of your microfilm as possible: Because I was foolish and decided to separate my scanning sessions into different days, I ended up getting two different qualities of scans. This made OCR’ing extremely frustrating as it made some pages correctable in about 20 minutes and other pages taking over an hour and a half. In short, SCAN HIGHEST DPI POSSIBLE AND MAKE SURE THE SCANNER GLASS DOES NOT HAVE EXCESSIVE SMUDGING.

  • Always press Ctrl+S or “Save” after every page you finish in your issues: It’s been about 3 times that I’ve been so caught up in encoding that I forget to save for a few pages. Inevitably my computer updates or Oxygen crashes, and all that work is lost, leading to one too many instances of my palm colliding with my forehead.

  • The TEI webpage should be considered the holy text of this class. It is referenced by Dr. Hanley, and simple guides are available on dig-eg-gaz. But if you need find anything specific, get spiritual and make a journey into the rabbit hole.

Will Hanley
Associate Professor of History

I study the legal history of the Middle East and teach at Florida State University.