When I talk with researchers about a cool tool such as Zotero, they often ask, “Hey, how did you find out about that?” Not everyone has the time or inclination to read blogs, software reviews, and listserv announcements obsessively, but now researchers can quickly identify relevant tools by checking out the newly-launched Digital Research Tools (DiRT) wiki: http://digitalresearchtools.pbwiki.com/. DiRT lists dozens of useful tools for discovering, organizing, analyzing, visualizing, sharing and disseminating information, such as tools for compiling bibliographies, taking notes, analyzing texts, and visualizing data. We also offer software reviews that not only describe the tool’s features, strengths, and weaknesses, but also provide usage tips, links to training resources, and suggestions for how it might be implemented by researchers. So that DiRT is accessible to non-techies and techies alike, we try to avoid jargon and categorize tools by their functions. Although the acronym DiRT might suggest that it’s a gossip site for academic software, dishing on bugs and dirty secrets about the software development process, we prefer a gardening metaphor, as we hope to help cultivate research projects by providing clear, concise information about tools that can help researchers do their more work more effectively or creatively.
DiRT is brand new, so we’re still in the process of creating content and figuring how best to present it; consider it to be in alpha release and expect to see it evolve. (We plan to announce DiRT more broadly in a few months, but we’re giving sneak previews right now in the hope that comments from members of the digital humanities community can help us to improve it.) Currently the DiRT editorial team includes me, my ever-innovative and enthusiastic colleague Debra Kolah, and three whip-smart librarians from Sam Houston State University with expertise in Web 2.0 technologies (as well as English, history, business, and ranching!): Tyler Manolovitz, Erin Dorris Cassidy, and Abe Korah. We’ve committed to provide at least 5 new tool reviews per month, but we can do even more if more people join us (hint, hint). We invite folks to recommend research tools or software categories, write reviews, sign on to be co-editors, and/or offer feedback on the wiki. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. [Update: You can also provide feedback via this form.]
By the way, playing with DiRT has convinced me yet again of the value of collaboration. Everyone on the team has contributed great ideas about what tools to cover, what form the reviews should take, and how to promote and sustain the wiki. Five people can sure do a heck of a lot more than one–and have fun in the process.