|Don't ask to ask, just ask|
Many of you may remember How to Teach Perl to Scholars in the Humanities a post that I did quite a while ago about teaching Perl in the Humanities. Well, I took all of your suggestions and tried my best to use some of them.
I only had an hour and my department (Celtic Studies) was mashed together with Scottish Ethenology so I had to cater to both groups of people. The first thing I had to decide was what about Perl I wanted to convey to them. I decided that what I do as an academic was manipulate texts so that I could get the information out of them that I needed. Perl is perfect at this with its regular expression engine. I decided that instead of showing all of Perl off that I would only show how to use the regular expression engine to break up texts in a complex but meaningful manner. In this vein, I choose to take the Annals of Ulster, which is our most reliable historical text for early Ireland from the Celt (the link is currently not working because the entire University College Cork site is down) project at the University College Cork to split this up by year, entry for that year, and entry text. This would show off Perl's regular expression engine at the same time as it would show something useful for researchers.
Explaining what a computer program is ("it's only a text file...etc..") and what Perl is then showing off the regex and how they work (I skipped trying to explain Perl syntax and stuck to the regular expression syntax because of time contraints) took up the first half hour. I know that this was probably shorter than it really needed to be and I talked very quickly through it. From the questions at the end, they seemed to understand what I was trying to say.
The next half hour was taken up with showing different tools for capturing interviews on a computer and what kind of digital audio information is out there. I also showed them how to use blogs for doing modern Scottish studies (there is a tendancy at the department to focus strongly on the Western Isles and ignore the "Central Belt" (Edinbrugh and Glasgow)) I also gave them a hand-out with different web sites on it for them to check out (including this one).
While I was showing them Perl, I also took them on a tour of the command-line. I know in my last meditation that some of you said that showing them the command-line was a mistake and I should have some pretty GUI thingy. I went with the notion that many of these people speak multiple languages, which I used to my advange, telling them that Perl was a language like any other langauge and that they had nothing to fear if they already knew Latin or Gaelic then learning Perl was even easier since computers always stick to the rules unlike humans. They are smart people and if I reassured them that I would be around to answer their questions if they hand any problems then they would respond to me.
I think overall they were interested and will be following up some of the stuff that I gave them. The downside was the time constraint because I could not cover anything worthwhile in depth. I have a feeling that they have half-baked ideas that are going to need some more feedback from me before they go ahead. On the plus side, I have already talked to one person who does Onomastics (placenames) and showed him how to use MySQL to speed up his searches so he does not spend a bunch of time doing that and can get to his proper research.
I would like to thank everyone who responded to the last meditiation. The ideas were great and I wish I could have implemented all of them but I had a hard time constraint to work with. Thanks again, Perlmonks.
Update: fixed second link as it was broken (no http://) and used PerlMonk reference in first link. Thanks Joost!