EOT Harvest, part III: Getting to work

Before I begin describing our workflow, here is a brief recap of the previous blog posts:
Students taking the course in government information sources this semester are working to assist in capturing social media websites of the federal government. These websites will be archived by The Internet Archive.

After a presentation by the EOT team, we began to chart our course. The sixteen students in the class divided into four teams. Each team has at least one member that is versed in social media, and in many cases, more than one. Students selected names for their teams. While the names had no operational function, they were instrumental in building team spirit and generating jokes. We have the L4 nominators, with all members having first names that begin with L, the Obama-net Preservation Society, and two groups that paid homage to Adelaide Hasse, and they are Team Adelaide and the Hasse Harvesters.

The basic workflow was simple: divide the government agencies into four parts and have each team examine all the agencies in one part, locating which social media websites they use. Each team created a spreadsheet which lists the URL and other information requested on the nominating tool. Once I review and approve each nomination, students can begin live nominations.

The plethora of available social media websites meant that we had to narrow the scope and focus on the main venues: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube received first priority, followed by LinkdIn and Pinterest. Student were free to add other social media sites, and many students nominated agency blogs and some lesser-known sites like GitHub, a site for sharing and collaborating on computer code.

We debated over which agency list to use. While the most comprehensive and authoritative list is probably the U.S. Government Manual we chose to work from the A-Z agency list available on USA.gov, which offers a simpler interface and concise information.

There are approximately 500 agencies listed, so each team was assigned 125 agencies. In turn, each team divided the agencies amongst their own members, resulting in approximately 31 agencies per student. While the plan was to distribute the workload evenly among students, this proved to be all but impossible. Some agencies are self contained and do not branch out or down, for example, the Office of the Architect of the Capitol; whereas others have a deep organizational structure where each division in the chart includes additional sites that need to be checked. A classic example would be the State Department with embassies throughout the world, each with its own social media presence. Following a discussion with students who drew these short straws, we decided that students will select a few embassies to nominate for the harvest, focusing on contentious locations such as Afghanistan or Syria and not nominate countries like Canada and Finland.

In addition to agency website, we were asked to nominate social media of elected individuals currently serving in the Senate or the House, who are not running to reelection, and this list too was divided between the four groups.

Once students began work, we began to encounter problems regarding the status of agencies (are they official or quasi-official?) and multiple pages on a particular social media website.

Detailed descriptions of the problems we encountered will follow in the next post.

And a final note, I would love to receive your comments or thoughts on this project, you can leave comments here or email me.

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