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Institute for Digital Archaeology Method & Practice

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Discussion group for the members and faculty of the NEH Funded Institute for Digital Archaeology Method & Practice ( organized by Michigan State University’s Department of Anthropology and MATRIX: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences

Virtual Valdivia

This topic contains 25 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  Eric Kansa 5 years, 10 months ago.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 26 total)
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    Sarah M. Rowe

    I’m hoping to get some feedback from my mentors, but comments from everyone else would be welcome as well.

    I’m running into a very basic issue with my project, namely the web space. I was hoping to host the project through my university’s servers, but I am finding that things on the technological side here are quite lacking. They don’t even yet have space for official department webpages, let alone a faculty bio page or server space to do a project like I’m trying to. I wanted to go through the university to have a bit more stability for the web presence (and someone else who could take care of things like server updates, etc.), but from everything I’m hearing I shouldn’t expect to a) have even faculty webspace any time soon, or b) to have enough access or flexibility to build the type of digital project I would like.

    So it looks like I’m going to have to look seriously at self-hosting a website. The biggest concern for me on this topic is the financial one – having to commit to hosting something for who knows how long out of my own pocket. Beyond that I’m worried about the technical maintenance and security of a site if I’m totally responsible for it.

    Is there a third option? If I do go the self-hosting route, what should I be looking for in terms of server space and security? I feel like I can handle designing a WordPress site, and having the background data clean, but in dealing with the web interface itself I worry that I don’t have the time or skills to do that in a responsible way.



    Tabitha Hillard

    I don’t remember, what is it you’re building? Don’t forget that msu matrix has offered to host our websites for us in the event that we run into a hosting problem! I’ve run into a similar issue and I’ve been asked by the people associated with my project to build a wordpress site, so they can easily just buy the domain and take it over once I’m done. That said- if my Twine deliverable stays on the web- It’ll probably need to be hosted by MSU because my partners are unable to host it for me.


    Ethan Watrall

    Always a challenge. Here are options:

    (1) Consider hosting on GitHub (this is only an option when your site is straight HTML/CSS/Javascript). This option is good because you’ve got the underlying repository which is generating the website – so, you just update the repo to update the site (well, you update the gh-pages branch of the repo). This is also good because the repo is visible by anyone, allowing you to call on the broader community to look at the site to help with technical issues (even fix technical issues

    (2) You get your own host/domain. If this is of interest, I would strongly suggest looking at Reclaim ( They were set up specifically to serve the scholarly world. They are run by academic (or former) academic types. Very (very) reasonable prices with lots and lots of features.

    (3) We host at MATRIX. This would mean that you’d have a domain. We’ll host PHP/mySQL-based web apps. We’ll also host Python things (though, setup might take a little longer). We will not host Ruby on Rails things. This is something MATRIX is committed to doing for those who don’t have access to their own digital infrastructure (or whose digital infrastructure is too complicated or limited to work with). We will maintain your project after the institute.


    Daniel Pett

    Hi Sarah,
    I’m sorry for not giving feedback sooner. I see you have asked a fundamental question over webhosting and have been given some sensible answers. You could also consider Heroku as a webhosting platform – you can see how much things will cost and run on their free tier – see for dev work use this and then you can see whether it is worth the $7 pcm outlay for hobby of further. All web hosting space is never really free, someone pays. It also integrates with Github really well. I used this for several of the things I ran up whilst at MSUDAI.

    In your vision doc you mention this ‘OpenAccessAPI’ what is that? Have you got a good metadata schema in place for your recording model or are you aiming to copy other people’s?


    Eric Kansa

    Sarah, when you wrote “open access API” in your vision doc, what that Open Context? If so, we’ll need to talk about what the data will be. Our time and effort vary greatly depending on complexity and data “cleanliness”. If the data are relatively simple, are consistent (numbers in numeric fields, controlled vocabularies used consistently), and if you don’t have lots of media to juggle (which can get messy, because file names sometimes don’t match what are in databases) then I can publish these relatively easily for use with the API. If not, you’ll have to invest some time to clean your data.

    GitHub would work fine for hosting static pages that pull on an external API. But you will have to do some javascript programming. That’s not rocket science, but it still requires time.

    I hope this helps!


    Sarah M. Rowe

    Gah! Yes, Open Context. But even with that clarification I think my project is having a bit of a Princess Bride moment (“I don’t think that word means what you think it means”). I’ve been going back through the other projects and reading updates, and I think what I’m trying to get at is the same type of work flow that Alice McMichael describes – have clean data supported somewhere and create a nice front page that allows interaction with it. Rather than build something from scratch (which I don’t have the skills to do), I should make use of existing things, like Open Context for the data hosting, and likely a MATRIX page for the project itself. I’m guessing this will necessitate a discussion between Eric and I about the data, structure, and cost, and with Ethan about initiating a website. Thoughts?


    Ethan Watrall

    MATRIX is more than happy to host the project site. Just give me the “something” in the

    I’ll also need to know if you need anything pre-installed


    Sarah M. Rowe

    I think would be ideal. About as easy to remember as possible.
    As for preinstalls, I don’t think there’s anything in particular that I will need (but that comes with a big question mark). I’m familiar with editing WordPress sites and adding plug-ins, and if that’s how it works then I can add stuff once I get in and start poking around.


    Ethan Watrall

    I’d looooove to see you to reach a little bit and forgo the WP website in favor of building something by hand (perhaps using a front-end HTML framework such as Bootstrap, Foundation, or Ink).


    Ethan Watrall

    …oh, and works perfectly fine regardless of what you use to build your website.



    I’ve just noticed that reclaim hosting has an installer now for something called ‘Grav’, which is a flat content management system (that is, no database), that draws all of its content from simple text files that use markdown formatting (so # to indicate a first level header, and so on). I’m just exploring it now, but I think it can also be tied to a github repository- so your text files are versioned, you can have collaborators, etc.

    This is probably not at all what you’re looking for, but Ethan’s comment about pushing beyond WordPress sparked this thought.


    Sarah M. Rowe

    Okay, I’ll look into what those take and dust off what I learned from Codecademy. Not going to lie, kind of scared.


    Ethan Watrall



    Eric Kansa

    That’s right Sarah. Go for it!

    For me the hardest part of coding is “feeling dumb” when something doesn’t work. I think the dirty secret is most people feel that way about coding, at least from time to time. When in doubt, try Stackexchange, since the vast majority of problems you are likely to face has already been faced by lots of other people, and usually, you can find some great tips.

    On the flip side, coding gives you lots of little rewards in terms of incremental progress.So make sure you enjoy yourself and revel in earning those rewards!


    Ethan Watrall

    Remember, if you use GitHub as the place to develop your project, other people can look at it if you run into trouble.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 26 total)

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