DDIG dissemination

With the thought that this scheme might be useful to someone else working under similar constraints, here is my tale of the DDIG website.

Back in April, Kelsey Noack Myers and I took the reins as Co-Chairs of the Society for American Archaeology’s Digital Data Interest Group, and one of our first orders of business was to sort out communications. The group is one of the largest within SAA, with over 1000 members. Since 2012, group communications traveled via listserv maintained by DDIG member Ethan Watrall at Michigan State University. But MSU was retiring the listserv infrastructure and recent SAA policy prohibited us from collecting email addresses or other identifying information about our members. We were instructed that if we had any messages for the group members, we could email them to our organization contact for forwarding along. We also wanted a website and we already maintain a Twitter account. Posting in three places is less than optimal.

I know myself fairly well in this dimension, and I can tell you that reliably forwarding emails back and forth is not my strong suit. Add a co-chair to the mix and I’m going to get disorganized and forget something.

So here’s what we came up with:

Screenshot of the DDIG website home page

At the core of the system is a website, https://saaddig.github.io/news/. It’s hosted for free on GitHub, with permissions set up to easily shift ownership as time goes on. It’s a static site built Jekyll on GitHub, that is, it’s mostly a series of plain text markdown documents. GitHub does its magic to render everything together into html without much fuss. Each time we want to add a new post, we just create a new text file, add what we want (including media embeds), and there we have it. There are no cookies or analytics on the site, although embedding media like tweets or YouTube videos will bring along some pesky trackers.

screenshot of the text markdown file

The site has an RSS feed, which is critical to making all the other pieces work. Each time we add a new post, it gets translated to an RSS item, and then the IFTTT service forwards it along as a “DDIG News” email to our SAA contact (it could go to the full list if that were an option). A link to the post also gets tweeted through our @SAA_DDIG Twitter account with an IFTTT trigger.

email including the content of the web post

So, one post -> three ways to consume it, no email addresses collected. Since it’s hosted on GitHub, we don’t need to worry about institutional benevolence. And if GitHub turns evil or shuts down, we can easily move somewhere else since the markdown files are very portable.

Maybe this will be handy to someone else. We’ll see how it works for us in the years to come.