Oct. 31, 2006

Who's Searching?

When writing an essay, few moments are more brilliant than finally coming up with that sublime thesis or finding the ideal sources to build an argument on. In my case, forming the perfect thesis statement is a skill that has developed from years of practice and hours of staring at piles of research notes and scratch sheets. On the other hand, stumbling upon articles and primary documents that form the foundation of a good essay has been just that: a serendipitous find amidst hours of trolling through marginal information.

A search query on the Internet or in library catalogue comes up with a reasonable number of relevant results, but upon reading the abstract, introduction, or index, it is apparent that the book or article in question simply does not have the right information. Sound familiar? Of course! This is a common situation for researchers because computers do not yet have the ability to effectively search full texts and consistently come up with the best results. The critical analysis skills that people possess are still crucial for interpreting and bringing together bodies of text; therefore, it is pivotal that these skills continue to be nurtured by humanists.

Computers can identify themes but not necessarily a thesis; they can pick out text but cannot read subtext… yet. The shortcomings of current text-analysis tools should prompt researchers to add more descriptive mark-up to texts, whereby computers might be able to identify the more subtle elements in bodies of text. Programs that search for patterns within text already exist, and researchers are developing software that can identify sarcasm or humour in a dialogue. There is still a great deal of growth occurring that to make digital technology a more powerful tool for text analysis and scholarly research.

On the other hand, it is important (and perhaps a little reassuring) to realize that digital technology only aids critical analysis rather than replacing this process. For the past two weeks, we have been discussing technology that facilitates research. Pattern matching and visualization as well as using spiders to search through ever-growing databases offer sophisticated means for individuals to get answers to questions. The fact is though, that the bleary-eyed student, the amateur historian, the established academic, and the casual enthusiast all want quality results quickly. Is each person going through the same critical process, and if not, are the tools that are being created for all of them?

The digital tools that are being developed to facilitate research are for people who want an answer to a question. Experienced researchers want tools that can search through massive databases and aggregate and organize large bodies of information, and it seems that technological advances favour their work. If digital humanists ignore the other individuals needing quality tools to perform digital research though, they might be discouraging these budding researchers from practicing analytic skills. By making research tools available to researchers other than academics and making these tools accessible by explaining how these tools aid in doing research, digital humanists are not only democratizing the resources used for research but also encouraging the process of critical thinking itself.

As computers learn to how to do a better job of searching for and collecting data, individuals outside of academia will want to take advantage of improved access to information. Although (Or perhaps because) not everybody will go beyond the single-box search, digital humanists should be intentional in their efforts to promote critical analysis among members of the computer-using public. The availability of sophisticated digital research aids encourages critical thinking by making people aware that the single-box search is not the be-all-and-end-all of digital research. By using more specific search techniques, discovering that ideal source might feel less like rummaging and more like the result of practice and skill. Brilliant!

Oct. 29, 2006

Supertags

When thinking one day about how I have yet to add tags to my posts, I began to consider a limit of tagging anything on the Internet. In most cases, tags only link a post or photo to other posts or pictures in the same context. For example, when looking at pictures in Flickr, clicking on the tag “Quebec” takes the user to Flickr pictures tagged with “Quebec.”

As long as the user is interested in finding similar results, this sort of tagging is effective and appropriate. My thought, on the other hand, is that it should be possible for tags to lead to a number of contexts, as defined by either the user or the author. Let’s define a tag that can link to multiple search engines (ie. Google, the Library and Archives of Canada, Flickr, and del.icio.us) as a supertag.

An author using supertags should be able to choose what search engines the tag is run through. Perhaps the top three results from each search engine would appear in a separate window. In using supertags, the author would be able to direct users towards other relevant resources. Likewise, a user-controlled application might run a tag the user clicks on through previously specified search engines simultaneously, again bringing up the most relevant results in a separate window. A user-controlled application would enable individuals to always run tags through the engines that they most trusted.

Tagging is a subjective way of classifying and connecting information on the Internet, but supertagging might be one means to improving relevancy for users.

Let's Keep Libraries and Research Simple

I’ve always been told, “Don’t knock it before you try it.” I don’t have the time right now to perform a thorough investigation of Second Life, but I can’t help but make one criticism regarding access to the libraries that are being established on Second Life.

Since I began taking the Digital History class in the fall, I have been learning on a weekly basis about how much I don’t know about the Internet. One thing that I have learned though is that it is important to me that information be shared on the Internet rather being locked away under a password.

Although anybody can create a character on Second Life, this virtual world is still password protected. A couple weeks ago, our class read that libraries and teaching institutions were setting up virtual equivalents in Second Life. My criticism is this: are we not making things more complicated for ourselves by creating a virtual world within the World Wide Web? Entering Second Life to access library materials seems like an unnecessary hurdle considering that a number of these resources are likely available online elsewhere. Hopefully institutions putting resources and services on Second Life are already established on the parts of the web that are searchable!

Maybe when I get a chance, I’ll search around on Second Life a bit to see if my mind can be changed, but for now, Second Life does not seem to be a very effective research tool!

Layers of History

When considering how to make a digital resource with a democratic quality, it seems that many web designers have chosen to layer their information. In doing so, they have attempted to give the history being presented a broad appeal while at the same time making the information valuable for more advanced researchers. Nevertheless, there still appears to be disparity between the site for visitors and the site for researchers.

Museums are concerned with attracting people to their website and institution, so the information that is presented should be easy to access and have a visual appeal. HistoryWired is an example of a compelling website that shows the user what items in the online exhibit are the most popular (indicated by the size of the box for that item) while also providing access to layers of more detailed information. The site is equipped with buttons that can highlight certain themes or time periods, which allow the user to search for patterns within the items being presented. HistoryWired thus democratizes history by making information easily-accessible while also providing some value to researchers as well.

On the other hand, the Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History online exhibit renders the historical process more transparent by putting all the primary documents at the disposal of the blooming researcher. By contextualizing the documents for mysteries that haven’t been solved, the site allows anybody to be a researcher and come to their own conclusions based on the evidence that they choose to use.

Is it possible to focus these resources more towards sophisticated research though? The Text Encoding Initiative is an effort to standardize mark-up that would allow computers to more effectively “read” a text. Mark-up involves bolding text or creating headers and footnotes, but it can also be adding definitions to words, indicating St. John as a person rather than a city in one case or that Animal refers to a Muppet rather than a creature found in nature.

We can imagine the results if research institutions using TEI collaborated with museums creating publicly-accessed and publicized digital exhibits. Institutions would be able to connect their research to a popular institution and reinforce the idea that research should have a public value. At the same time, museums could demonstrate the research value that they have in their institutions.

By creating layered websites, we are succeeding as public historians in creating history that is accessible to people outside of the profession, without cheapening the selling short this information.

Oct. 28, 2006

Museum Remix

In this week's readings for Public History, Tony Bennett argues that museums developed in the 19th century from a middle-class and elite desire to give the working class an education in proper social behaviour; from a tradition of public spectacles, fairs, executions, and exhibitions; and from a need on the part of the nation to demonstrate its power. The individual reading this post may not see any traces of such roots in modern museums but have you ever asked yourself why you speak in a lower voice in a museum or don’t touch the items being exhibited? These expectations are some of the vestiges of those founding intentions.

Alan MacEachern posed the question in class that if the museum is not a natural institution (having been created for a specific purpose and out of a particular tradition), would it be possible to conceptualize the museum in a way more in line with the goals of today’s historians and curators? Should conscientious, intentional public historians continue this history of museums or take museums in a radically new direction?

Class discussion has frequently turned upon the idea that museums should be places where visitors can enter into some sort of dialogue with the items being presented, regardless of any formal or informal training that these individuals might have in history. Since such a dialogue is voluntary, it is important to be able to draw people into such a discussion. What follows is a list of ways in which “museum” could be re-conceptualized that try to keep in mind the desire for this dialogue to occur.

The History Dealer / The History Agent
A knowledgeable agent guides a small group of visitors to the items in the museum that the group is interested in seeing, contextualizing each item and drawing relationships between the different items. The group determines the speed at which it moves and is able to direct the conversation. The experience is similar to looking for and buying a house or car.

The Lecture / The Documentary
Visitors watch a presentation that guides them through a set group of items in an exhibit, clearly presenting the items within different historical narratives and guiding the visitors towards a straightforward take-home message.

The Museum Party
Lots of activity is going on across the large hall in which items of the exhibit are placed. Visitors can move from exhibit to exhibit and from group to group, sharing ideas and opinions with the people they meet. There is period music playing and activities going on in different corners of the room that help to reinforce some of the ideas being conveyed in the exhibits. Museum employees are the life of the party, engaging individuals and stirring up excitement about history. The mood and atmosphere should be similar to a house party.

Museum Camp
Visitors come to the museum for an extended period of time. History counsellors take visitors through a program of discussions and activities meant to develop trust between individuals, whereby visitors feel more comfortable to share their opinions of the items and historical events being discussed. Visitors leave the museum with an understanding of a variety of historical perspectives on the exhibit in question.

Museum Ikea
Visitors move through the showroom, which consists of a number of exhibits created by the museum curator. By looking at the items contained in these exhibits, visitors can learn about different events or movements in history. Simultaneously, visitors pick up tickets representing the items they are most interested in (similar to getting a ticket at Ikea that tells you where to find a particular item in the warehouse). These can then be taken to the History Cashier at the end of the showroom, who compares and contrasts the items the visitor has shown interest in. Visitors thus are able to identify their interests and have somebody else help them to tie these interests together.

The Laboratory
Historical research becomes a more transparent process as visitors are allowed behind the scenes to watch researchers in action. Visitors wander among museum researchers’ benches and cabinets of curiosity; while the researchers themselves work away on whatever item they are currently assigned to. These historians are more than willing to explain their current project or discuss any of the items in their cabinet, and they sketch out broader historical narratives or themes by drawing visitors’ attention to related items. This concept is based on the idea of telling a person, “Hey – this is really cool! You can try it too, and I’ll help you along the way!” and is a mix of Bill Nye the Science Guy and comments that Bill Turkel made regarding teaching people how to do new things using computers.

The Ultimate Interactive History Experience
In this museum, visitors travel along a moving sidewalk that moves through different historical events acted out by automated characters (similar to being on the ride “Pirates of the Caribbean” at Walt Disney World). Visitors interested in learning more about a particular exhibit can hop off the sidewalk and walk past the automated figures to a backroom set. The set is a larger version of the automated scene, and museum employees take the interested visitors through a series of interactive activities. The employees, highlighting the different perspectives that particular groups held regarding the event in question, first sketch the movement or event out. Next, visitors get to be a part of a re-enactment of the event. Each visitor chooses a character to be, is dressed up as necessary, and is given a few key lines. Museum employees play the critical figures and include the visitors in acting out the event, which is recorded by other employees. Visitors leave with a DVD containing the recorded historical event (including any flubbed takes) as well as supplementary material regarding the exhibit. In a sense, the visitor takes the exhibit with him or her. This experience is a mix between the Indiana Jones interactive presentation at MGM Studios and the idea of having your picture taken while riding a roller coaster.

Responding to Oral History

When I was younger, I once had the opportunity to be toured around a southwestern-Ontario courthouse by a judge who frequently held court there. Upon entering the empty library, which held the volumes documenting court proceedings in Ontario and Canada stretching deep in to the past, the judge had motioned for us to be silent.

“If you listen carefully,” he said in a low, mysterious voice, “you can almost hear the voices of past lawyers and judges speaking…”

Imagine being able to hear and to communicate with voices from the past! To interrogate and cross-examine historical voices speaking from within the context of the event or movement being studied would enable a vastly more complete and nuanced historical record! Since this is not the case though, historians are left with the option of examining different source documents or perhaps listening to recordings or interviews from the period being studied in order to discern what the voices from the past were saying; however, oral tradition offers the researcher a means of interacting, to a certain degree, with the past.

Oral history gives more information than a document because the researcher can hear emphasis, hesitation, and intonation in the speaker’s voice. Speakers tell their stories with a bias that comes out of their life experience. (Portelli, The Peculiarities of Oral History) The researcher or listener can agree or disagree with what is said, but in either case, a reaction makes that history more tangible.

What is it that makes history less dusty? A feeling of nostalgia might give greater significance to a part of history; intrigue, tangibility, or relevance can bring history to life though. As a visitor to museums, I learn the most from and get the most excited about exhibits that I can interact with and probe. These are the elements that make me ask questions to better understand the historical narrative. Oral history is one of these hooks that draw me in.

But does oral history always tell the correct or accepted narrative? Of course not, but it then becomes the responsibility of the historian or curator to put these stories into their context. The person hearing or reading an oral history should understand both the historical context of the events being described as well as the point of view and bias that the speaker is coming from. By contextualizing an oral history in both the past and present, the historian is creating an opportunity for the reader or listener to draw connections between the present and the past.

Public historians should also be aware of conclusions they want a reader or visitor walk away with. The tangible, such as an oral history, might be the highlight that allows somebody to recall the message that the historian was trying to create. In researching for a paper I was working on recently, I read an article (which I cannot reference – I didn’t write down the quote because it didn’t relate to my immediate research) in which the author stated: “what is kept in the mind is kept in mind.” The lessons that public historians convey lose their relevance if an exhibit has no tangible or remarkable element that will help the reader or visitor remember those lessons.

Oct. 21, 2006

Creating New Connections

One of the most diverting assignments that I have continually returned to over the past couple weeks has been looking at different network interfaces. A network interface is basically a visual way to organize and connect a lot of information, and there are definitely applications for these interfaces in the context of historical research.

The McCord Museum’s virtual exhibit offers a network interface that allows users to see the connections between different artifacts held by the museum. Clicking on different topics or items brings up more information on specific artifacts, creating a really neat way to explore the museum’s holdings. Unfortunately, the actual interface is constantly moving around, it doesn’t show the entire web of connections very well, and it isn’t very aesthetically-pleasing, especially when compared to other network interfaces.

Visual Complexity is an online database for network interfaces. Although many of the applications in this database are oriented towards the sciences, there are a couple interesting examples that could imitate what the McCord is doing.

Tracking the Threat is an interface that connects suspected terrorists to countries, terrorist activities, and organizations. The icons that represent these different entities can be moved around, and more information can be brought up by double-clicking on an icon. The maps that are created can also be focused by removing entities that the user is uninterested in. If this site was applied in a historical context and had its name changed to “Finding the Figure,” the interface could be used to connect historical figures to events, places, movements, organizations, or other individuals. Alternatively, one might call the site “Search for Scholarship” and create a network of information regarding historians. Scholars could be connected to institutions, topics of study, and publications. Such a tool might be useful for discovering potential research partners, employers or scholarly works on a desired subject.

LivePlasma is a site that uses information regarding music purchases from Amazon.com to create a network indicating what artists are the most popular and what other artist consumers bought albums from at the same time. The site also allows the networks that are generated to be saved or emailed. Such an interface might be used to track what pages were most popular in a website or what resources students were most interested in when doing library research for a history paper.

As a general application for historians, network interfaces have the potential to allow historians to organize and see information in novel ways. Names of people or places might be layered with historical information that can be accessed with a click of the mouse. References to journal articles or books might also be included in this layer of information. Alternatively, it might be possible to periodize history in different ways by starting from a generated network.

A general problem with many network interfaces seems to be that there can be so much information that it becomes difficult to see the forest for the trees, but this problem could easily be rectified by creating a zooming tool that eliminated broader connections or by creating a number of smaller networks that focused on more specific topics.

Network interfaces offer a very tangible way to manipulate data, which makes these interfaces useful for looking at historical information in a creative way.

Aggregating History

One of the assignments for Digital History from two weeks ago was to learn about and make use of an RSS aggregator. An aggregator is essentially a program that informs the user when a specific website has been updated. Who cares when websites are updated? Well, when you’re a Public History student with the blogs of sixteen peers and instructors to keep up with, you do! As soon as I got Feedreader up and running, I immediately realized the benefit of an aggregator. Every time a blog is updated, I am immediately notified with a Messenger-type box. When I open Feedreader to see who has posted, I need only click on the title of the new post to have the text pop up in another section of the program, without having to connect to the blog itself. As a result, keeping track of who has been blogging has transformed into a much more efficient task.

It seems that historians could use aggregators in a number of different ways. It might be easier to stay up-to-date with colleagues’ research if an aggregator was collecting the RSS feed (the data that a website generates when it is updated) from those individuals’ blogs or websites. For example, I might add the RSS feeds of digital historians’ blogs in order to keep abreast of new developments in this field.

Aggregating information from e-journals or newspapers’ websites might be important for some historians, but this might lead to an information overload. (Carling experienced such a problem when she began using an aggregator) It would be useful to hack an aggregator so that it could search larger sources for key terms or authors to reduce such an overload from occurring.

In terms of tracking traffic on a website, it seems that aggregators might give a false impression that sites are not very popular. If a blog was scanned solely by aggregating programs, then traffic-observing software would note only a brief visit to the site, even though the human reader might thoroughly read each post. Nevertheless, RSS aggregators aresimple yet useful tools for gathering information from a variety of sources.

Oct. 5, 2006

The Public Historian in the Intellectual Commons

The Intellectual Commons: a place where knowledge can be shared by all. Individuals who come to the intellectual commons are free to deposit new information or make use of what is already available. Some will be great contributors; others will make use of the commons without ever contributing. Where are these commons? All around us: in classrooms and conferences, in books and blogs, in museums and movies, in editorials and educational television (perhaps even in some un-educational television).

The unifying quality of the intellectual commons that remains constant regardless of the medium is that the intellectual commons is always sought by people who wish to engage in an exchange of knowledge. How can the budding public historian employ this knowledge as he or she engages in a pursuit to share good history with others?

In this week’s readings for Public History, one author argued that Canadians were in need of a dominant historical narrative in order to develop a unified Canadian identity, while two other authors outlined research indicating that Americans put a different personal emphasis on the dominant American historical narrative, thus making their own. Aren’t these two authors commenting on the same phenomena? People are taking an interest in the elements of history that they are able to identify with. As people identify more strongly with particular elements of history, they take on a greater sense of ownership for those elements. Historians are the perfect example of this idea: they have taken such an interest in the subject of history that they have built a profession around the study of history and carved out niches of expertise, jealously protecting or arguing for what they accept as the proper narrative or theory. Conversely, the genealogist researching her roots at the time of First Contact will have little regard for how many soldiers and artillery pieces the North and the South brought to the Battle of Gettysburg.

“So what?” The communication of factual information, current research, and ideas supplementing what is already known should be a responsibility of those who choose to study history. Interestingly, the ownership that that non-historians have shown towards elements of the past has created intellectual commons outside of academia. Wikipedia is an example of such a common, and its design and content do not keep to accepted scholarly forms.

The public historian needs to be aware of these competing (or at least, co-existing) commons and create a space (be it exhibit, virtual exhibit, blog, database) that encompasses the needs of everybody who has ownership of and wishes to exchange knowledge regarding the past. Exhibits, for example, should be accessible, compelling to a variety of audiences, and open to interpretation at the same time that they are factual and indicative of the best-argued-for narratives. Content does not need to be cheapened (nor should it) for a public audience, but it may need to be presented in a different way.

Creating an exhibit that meets all of these specifications is challenging in and of itself, but it seems that it would be particularly difficult to hint at historical narratives without pigeon-holing that exhibit. Here are two suggestions: Could the text next to exhibit pieces and pictures ask questions instead of merely giving facts? Could a space be created at the end of the exhibit where the guest could become the creator and add a comment or an idea or a theme for subsequent guests to read and evaluate? It is vital to recognize that individuals coming to the intellectual commons can and do have a significant part to play in telling history; therefore, it is the public historian’s job to encourage dialogue from all parties within the commons.

Oct. 2, 2006

From the Digital History Trenches

At the beginning of September, I never would have imagined that in a month’s time I would be explaining the basic uses of data structures. Is “data structure” even a term that should be part of a historian’s vocabulary?

In my effort to empathize with and understand where computer scientists are coming from, I went through the tutorial explaining the use of data structures. Data structures are basically the different ways that packages of information can be stored inside a computer. Let me give outline the quick-and-dirty explanation of data structures: When a computer is searching for a particular piece of information, it is performing the same process that a person running their finger down a book index looking for a particular heading would do. Using different data structures in a computer though, information can be ordered and accessed in a number of different ways, and shortcuts between information packets can also be created to accelerate this process. As far as how this information affects historians, I think that it is important to understand that data structures can take different forms, so it is possible to make information access more efficient.

The development and troubleshooting of data structures seemed a technical Everest to me though, and so I was glad to complete my basic training in data structures and move on to experimenting with different tagging websites.

An on-going project is my effort to tag links that have been useful in my research regarding the archives of Canadian aboriginals. Using del.icio.us to collect and tag these websites feels like a repetitive and unnecessary step, especially considering that searching the sites tagged by other del.icio.us users has not yielded any particularly useful results. Nevertheless, the absence of useful links is one of the reasons that I want to continue this effort. Now that I am aware of this deficiency in del.icio.us, I feel like I have a certain responsibility as a discriminating researcher to bring useful links to the table. There is no system to how I tag websites though, which might decrease the usefulness of my efforts. My method for tagging sites is simply to put down whatever relevant words pop into my head. I will continue to tag resources for this essay as I come across them but will likely not make use of del.icio.us much after this assignment is over. It is not an effective research tool because tags are not assigned systematically (as I myself have demonstrated!).

My other experiment with tagging was a comparison of the results that del.icio.us, Flickr, and Technorati came up with using the same search terms. I will outline my observations and conclusions briefly. del.icio.us consistently came up with the least relevant results. The websites that were tagged were frequently trivial or completely off the desired topic. Flickr showed the most varied results; however, the tags were frequently appropriate for the pictures displayed. Technorati’s results were often the most informative, although tailoring the search results to show only the most authoritative blogs is what really improved these search results dramatically.

For the time being, none of these websites are particularly effective as researching tools. More relevant and authoritative results can more frequently be found by performing a Google search. On the other hand, I should note that there might be other applications for these sites. T. Mills Kelly and Joseph Ugoretz have both proposed ways in which students’ learning experience might be enhanced using sites such as Flickr. Dare we learn through what communities on the Internet share?

Emphasis on the History

Last week, the name of this blog changed from “Exercises in Humility” to “Humility in History.” The change was a result of reading Cohen and Rosenzweig’s chapter on building a virtual audience for a history website. The inclusion of the word history in the title will move me (marginally) higher in Google’s search results, which in turn could attract more readers to this blog. “Humility in History” also gives readers a better idea of the topics that this blog reflects upon. As public historians, it is important to be intentional even in how we advertise ourselves and the information that we are presenting to the public.

Compelling History

One of the pivotal skills that a public historian should possess is the ability to present history in a compelling and interesting way to an audience. Although blogging is a means by which to reflect on learning how to be a public historian, it seems that the blog also provides an excellent opportunity to practice be compelling and interesting.

Re-read the above paragraph. Does it fulfil the objective that it sets out? Is it an interesting or compelling passage to read? Maybe for instructors, classmates, family, or close friends, but that is only because all of those people have to read this blog. What would make this entry fascinating to the casual blog reader? Blogging brilliance is elusive, but as I got caught up on what my peers had been blogging about, I caught a few notable instances of inspiration.

Bryan has been struggling with two ideas that I have interpreted into these two questions: “Does Public History have a place in the Canadian context?” and “How do I create a significant place for myself within the sphere of Public History while remaining outside of the academy?” Bryan’s blogging caught my attention because the questions were very relevant to me. Relevance – this is a teachable moment.

Kris started off a post that considered what it meant to be involved in public history by relating how she answered the oft-heard question, “So what are you going to do with that degree?”

"Although I started the summer by telling people that I wanted to do "Museum work" (specific enough to stop the questions, vague enough to leave the possibilities open), I later adopted a comedic routine for my questioners. I told them I was going to open a history store, sell history and be wildly rich."
Inspired. I had a mental image of a store selling History-in-a-Box and Scoops of Historiography, with Kris throwing hundred-dollar bills into the air in the middle of the store. A wildly-rich historian? Does such a creature exist? Humour – another teachable moment.

On Alan MacEachern’s blog, my eyes were drawn to a link entitled “Old is the New New.” Rob McDougall, an assistant professor at the University of Western Ontario, has manages a far-reaching blog that not only touches on research interests but also highlights some of the quirkier sites related to history that can be found on the web. The entire site has been put together in a thoughtful, professional-looking manner while at the same time crying out, “Let’s not take ourselves too seriously here folks.” An inviting, professional, and fun feel – a third teachable moment.

As a public historian and a blogger, I have a lot of areas for improvement as I work towards presenting compelling and interesting history. By being relevant to my audience, employing humour, conveying professionalism, and creating an inviting forum in which to share history, I should be able to be a successful public historian.

Of course, these goals do not follow SMART guidelines (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Time-wise), which means these are ideas that need more thought. For the sake of my reader though, I leave goal-setting to another post and simply ask that you hold me to these vague and lofty goals for now.