Web Publishing for Pirates

Or, Reusing Common, Open, and/or Minimal Technologies to Get Your Stuff on the Web

Francesca Giannetti

February 25, 2022

Central Provocations

Digital work is hard, and a bit broken

It suffers from the societal devaluing of maintenance and care work

Reliance on an institution to “help” reduces our control over the means of production

The Finite Usefulness of the Book Metaphor

Big Maintainer Energy

Source: Shane Lin

Reality Check

Introducing Pirate Care

  1. Caring is not intrinsically “nice”, it always involves power relations.
  2. Care labour holds the capacity to disobey power and increase our collective freedom. […]
  3. Caring labour needs full access to resources, knowledge, tools and technologies. When these are taken away, we must claim them back.

Source: Pirate Care


Where infrastructures are absent or unreliable, the gaps are filled by illegal water taps, grafted cables, pirate radio stations, backyard boreholes, shadow networks, and so forth. Many regions have their own distinctive “repair ecologies,”

Source: Shannon Mattern, “Maintenance and Care”

What does that look like?

  • Pirate care is about fiddling in the gray areas between official policy and de facto practice
  • It involves collective, grass-roots action
  • It can be about setting up Nimble Tents, using ready-to-hand tools and infrastructures to deal with urgencies
  • It may also use minimal computing tech combined with short sprints of effort

Summary of Talk

I will discuss two projects in which I used minimal computing technologies, and describe the workflow involved in each

I’ll ask you to respond to a brief survey about your web publishing habits and wishes, with the goal of establishing some concrete practices that can foster more widespread use of digital tech

Music DH

Site: https://rutgersdh.github.io/musicdh/

More recent DH directories…

  • pursue focused topics
  • are updated infrequently
  • use readily available technologies that don’t cost extra money

Wax Workflow

What do we need?

My own posing of the question “what do we need?” comes from an acknowledgement of the hybrid and global future we see being shaped for the scholarly record: parts digital, parts analog. In this new mediatic environment we continue to protect, study and renew the analog, as we attempt to harness the new media in smart, ethical and sustainable ways. For several reasons, this implies learning how to produce, disseminate and preserve digital scholarship ourselves, without the help we can’t get, even as we fight to build the infrastructures we need at the intersection of and beyond our libraries and schools. This means that my minimal computing does not stand in as a universal call, but rather as a space for new questions and practices, an injunction to constantly repeat the question, “what do we need?”

Source: Alex Gil, “THe User, the Learner, and the Machines We Make”

What DO we need?

  • Useful, findable information
  • Nice (authoritative?) presentation
  • Outreach to contributors
  • Short sprint of effort
  • Core group of volunteers for (small) data curation

Correspondence of the War Service Bureau

Site: https://rutgersdh.github.io/warservicebureau/

Ed Workflow

The Student Assignment

  • Introduces students to the theory and practice of scholarly digital editing
  • Analytic annotations initiate students into the work of the scholarly editor
  • Letter metadata, containing sender and addressee names, locations, and dates, may be extracted for visualization

My Side of Things

So, admittedly, this project isn’t so minimal. The instructions for student participation are semi-elaborate. I then edit the students’ work. There’s a required pre-processing step to go from TEI XML to what Ed/Jekyll needs to generate the website’s files. I research the alumni to write their bios and write messy JavaScript for correspondence maps. I am still actively looking for corners to cut to speed up the pipeline between student encoding and web publication.


  • Curatorial changes to the data do not get reflected in the website until the next build
  • Minimal/open technologies front-load the labor on the developer
  • Single point of failure (me)


Thank you!

Francesca Giannetti
Digital Humanities Librarian

@jo_frankie | fg162@rutgers.edu

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