Author Archives: Caleb McDaniel

Getting Ads from our Spreadsheets

Over the weekend I wrote up a script called to get our Texas ads out of the Google Drive spreadsheet where we’ve been collecting them. To use the script, I first downloaded each sheet of our spreadsheet into a separate CSV (comma-separated value) file. (This is a text-based spreadsheet file format that can be easily opened in Microsoft Excel, by the way.) The script then iterates over the CSV files and generates a ZIP file containing each transcribed ad in a text file of its own.

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Wednesday Recap

Today in class we stepped back for a moment to think about the various methods we could use to compare runaway ads from different states. Our current, still subject to change job is to build a site that would compare different methods for answering the question: "Were Texas runaway slave ads different from slave ads in other Southern states?"

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Progress Report #1 Tasks

As indicated on the syllabus, your first Progress Report on our class project is due this Monday, March 17, by the end of class. The progress report should take the form of a correctly formatted, hyperlink-rich post to this blog. Each group needs to make only one post, but you should work together on the post and will be assigned a grade on the report as a group. Note that the report needs to show your progress, even if you haven’t yet completed all the tasks assigned to you. The groups/tasks we assigned last Monday are as follows, but keep in mind that groups and tasks will shift as we move forward.

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Don’t Forget …

Just a quick reminder that our primary assignment for this week is to transcribe the unique advertisements that you found for your assigned year in Homework #2. I’ve decided that during class tomorrow we’ll just make time to start tracking down leads for the group assignments made on Monday, so please bring your laptop computer if you have one.

Some Text Mining Resources

Today in class I briefly mentioned TF-IDF (Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency) as a possible way for us to identify "give away" words that might appear more frequently in a particular document. Here are some introductory explanations of the method:

And here’s a cool visualization experiment using TF-IDF made by Tim Sherratt, who also made the Real Face of White Australia and Headline Roulette sites shown in class today.

I also mentioned Named Entity Recognition in class; this is the same library used by the Rezo Viz tool that Daniel and Alyssa showed us in their Voyant Tools presentation. It may be possible for us simply to use Voyant as an interface for NER and export a list of place and person names from our ads, but we need to look into this further.

Syllabus Tweaks

Hope everyone is having a good Spring Break! I’m looking forward to seeing you back in class in Monday.

This is just a quick note to point out that I have made a few tweaks to the syllabus. Some of the assignments were initially drafted with a much larger class enrollment in mind. Since we have a smaller group and have developed some more informal ways of working together, I’ve tried to adjust the syllabus accordingly.

I will talk more about these tweaks on Monday, but the most important changes are:

  • We won’t be using CATME to evaluate teamwork, but we will be using informal questionnaires that I will send you two times in the remaining weeks of the semester.
  • Rather than assigning each of you to only one small group, your small groups will shift shape depending on the tasks that need to be done each week.
  • Progress Reports will be written collaboratively and be assigned one grade for all students, but they will detail what each student in your group has done each week.

Enjoy the weekend, and don’t forget to set your clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time!

Slides from Tool Presentations

Thanks for the great job that you all did on your presentations about digital tools that might be helpful for our project with runaway slave ads! I’m posting here the slides that were shown in class so that we can reference them. Click the image to get the whole PDF.

First, Alyssa and Daniel talked with us about Voyant Tools:

Clare and Kaitlyn talked about using Google Maps and Google Fusion Tables, together with Social Explorer:

Thanks for sharing!

Group Presentation Schedule

  • Monday, 2pm: Alyssa and Daniel
  • Monday, 2:25pm: Aaron (and Franco)
  • Wednesday, 2pm: Clare and Kaitlyn

Meetings Tomorrow

Just a reminder that we will not have our regular class tomorrow. Instead, I will meet with each small group individually in my office (Humanities Building 330) at the time we agreed on yesterday.

Homework #5: Tool Presentation Progress Report

Before class this Wednesday, your homework assignment is to publish a post to this course blog reporting on what you, individually, have been working on and thinking about in preparation for your small group presentations next week. Be sure to include not only what you’ve done, but what you’re planning to do next (i.e., in class on Wednesday).

Your post should be informal, but substantive, and should take advantage of the blogging medium. For example, if an image or screen shot would help to illustrate your progress, you should embed an image in your post. If you are referring to other websites (for example, the tutorials you are using, or examples of other sites), then the reader would probably appreciate a hyperlink. Providing these relevant enrichments to your test will improve your homework score; a post that provides nothing but text will have a maximum score of 7, whereas posts that provide relevant media and links can achieve the maximum score of 10.

You should also think about your audience for this post, which is potentially Internet-wide. Although you are writing to students in our class, your experience may also be valuable for other would-be digital historians wanting to know how you used these tutorials and what difficulties or successes you are encountering. So aim your post at a potential audience that could include students in the UNT course and other history students or historians interested in using digital tools like these.