Where in the hell am I?

May 19, 2014

My SAA 2014 talk summarized

Filed under: archaeology — Tags: , , — John @ 9:42 am

Hi everyone,

It’s been a while, although long-time readers aren’t surprised.

Anyway, I was asked by the people behind Maney (Publishing) Archaeology social media and promotions to write a guest blog post about my SAA 2014 talk “Building a Community of Archaeologists through Social Media”. It was published today, and you can read it here:


It was an honor to be asked to write a guest post and summarzie my work, and I thank them for letting me be a little wordy.

I hope to get the text of my talk cleaned up and then uploaded to academia.edu, along with the Powerpoint. When I do so, I’ll post a link here


January 28, 2014

Blogging Archaeology #blogarch Carnival 2014: Best and Worst

Here it is, late January. I’m on a 4-hour weather delay at work, as the Austin roads are iced over and there are scores of accidents and closures. I have on April March and Los Cincos, my go-to “gray, wet, and cold” weather album. Seems as good a time as any to write my January post for Doug’s Blogging Archaeology 2014 Carnival.


Click here for a link to a summary of the December responses, which was on “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly”. At the bottom of the page, Doug has the January question: “What are your best (or if you want your worst) post(s) and why? Compare and contrast your different bests/worsts.”

As Doug mentioned in the comments to my December post, I basically anticipated (and already answered) this question:

“My stats are pretty depressing, even when I was blogging pretty regularly. I have less than 15,000 total views. My most popular post, which  detailed some of the section 106 process and talked about how sites are both a dream and a nightmare, has 390 views. My favorite post has 113. I have gotten a lot of recent views for my Rising Star Expedition post, helped in part by Twitter promotion and retweets”

So my most viewed post is a pretty good one, and I’m happy that it has so many views. In terms of using my blog for outreach and public archaeology, it’s an excellent example of what CRM archaeologists do, and what our discoveries can mean for our clients. I felt like I did a good job of sharing the excitement of discovery and the disappointment most CRM archaeologists get knowing that finding a cool site doesn’t mean you get to dig on it (and for the sites in the blog post, the client opted to do a very long, expensive directional drill underneath them as an avoidance measure). I suspect that some of the hits come from the fact that I’ve pinged back to it in several other posts, and that it was shared on Colleen’s Four Stone Hearth compendium. But maybe some came from people looking for info on Section 106.

My favorite post is named after my favorite Ice Cube song: Today was a Good Day. It describes a typical day in the field that turns into a wonderful, atypical adventure. It’s my favorite for several reasons. First of all, it was just an excellent little adventure, getting to ride around in a WWII surplus jeep with an old rodeo cowboy (spoiler, if you didn’t read the original). Secondly, I felt like it gave a sense of what kind of people you can run into in the field, and that they’re not all bad. This is especially important to me for Texas, because so much of the country has a low opinion of Texas, particularly outside of Austin. Even a lot of Austinites can be snobbish about the rest of the state. Finally, I feel like I did an excellent job of telling the story (he says immodestly), especially once I remembered to add the punchline. I suppose I should also add that that particular day was probably the first good day for me in weeks, following a terrible stretch of fieldwork that almost broke me AND then getting separated from my now ex-wife.

My worst post could be any of the placeholders I put up promising to blog more soon, and then not following up. One might think these would motivate me to actually post more.

But in my December post, I specifically mentioned a post I made that was a little more emotional and personal than usual, and directly referenced a co-worker (although not by name). It related to concepts of masculinity, and feeling like I was occasionally slighted for not being traditionally masculine (in the big strapping lad sense) and treated differently for my slight stature (even though I’m pretty much at the median height and below weight). The bad part was that another co-worker saw it and replied, and defended the other person and essentially said I was making a big deal out of nothing (my interpretation, not necessarily their intention). It made things a little rougher and more awkward at work at a time when I was already struggling. It also reminded me that I needed to be careful what I said about work and co-workers, which essentially made me stop blogging during my really negative stretch at work (when realistically I really could have used the outlet). I didn’t link back to the original post because I’m over it, I’m sure you can find it if you really want.

Looking forward to next month’s question! Meanwhile, stay tuned for more of my “Austinite’s Guide to #SAA2014”


December 4, 2013

Blogging Archaeology 2014 Carnival: Good, Bad, Ugly

Filed under: archaeology — Tags: , , , , , , — John @ 1:44 pm


It’s month 2 of the #blogarch Blogging Archaeology Carnival 2014, leading up to the Blogging Archaeology session at the 2014 SAA meetings in my hometown of Austin, Texas. Note that this session will be on Saturday morning, and I’ll see what I can do about having some coffee for everyone!

The first month had an overwhelming response, now over 60 posts. Some new blogs were created for the carnival, and some inactive ones revived (ahem, kinda like mine). It seems like there are either a lot more archaeology blogs now than there were 3 years ago, during the first #blogarch carnival, or that Doug did a better job of spreading the word and recruiting people. You can see the summary of the first month’s action, as well as the December question, by clicking HERE or this link: http://dougsarchaeology.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/blogging-archaeology-blogarch-all-of-the-responses-to-why/

December’s theme is an excellent one: The good, the bad, and the ugly of blogging. In some ways, it’s a follow-up to November. Discussion points include Good: “anything and everything positive about blogging…You could even share what you hope blogging will do for you in the future.” Bad: “What are your disappointments with blogging? What are your frustrations? What do you hate about blogging? What would you like to see changed about blogging?” Ugly: “Your worst experiences with blogging- trolls, getting fired, etc.”

For some extra fun, enjoy this playlist (click it! click it!) I made of some reggae, rock steady, and dub jams inspired by The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and other spaghetti western flicks.

Here we go!

The Good –

  • I’ve had a chance to share a few excellent stories from the field (although when I looked at my site stats, none of those are among my most viewed posts). In some ways, it was nice to document them this way, so I can remember some of the details later. I think the few people that have read them have enjoyed them.
  • I’ve had a couple of opportunities to answer questions for people about CRM archaeology, what and how and why we do it. I’m heartened that my most popular single post is about this.
  • I’ve been able to share some semi-fleshed out thoughts and opinions and participate in the debate about some of the hot topics in the world of archaeology, such as crowdfunding and #freearchaeology.
  • I’ve gotten to attend one SAA conference and will be attending another, where I’ll continue to meet awesome new people as well as some amazing online friends in the flesh.
  • I was able to participate in the Day of Archaeology for the last three years, and my post this year got a really good response from my bosses and people in general…which leads me to
  • Positive responses at work to my blog, my Twitter, and my Instagram have helped convince my bosses to recommend me as a contributor to the social media group at my job, although they don’t have any blog set up…yet 🙂

The bad:

  • As always, feel like I’m talking to a wall most of the time. Very rare comments, although sometimes I get Twitter or Facebook or IRL comments and feedback.
  • My stats are pretty depressing, even when I was blogging pretty regularly. I have less than 15,000 total views. My most popular post, which  detailed some of the section 106 process and talked about how sites are both a dream and a nightmare, has 390 views. My favorite post has 113. I have gotten a lot of recent views for my Rising Star Expedition post, helped in part by Twitter promotion and retweets
  • I just have a hard time keeping up, and it makes me feel guilty. Believe it or not, I put a lot of time into these posts! Even a very brief one might take me over an hour of thinking, writing, rewriting, finding links to make it more interesting. This makes the “talking to the wall” aspect that much worse.
  • And this can make me feel, well, a little worthless (for want of a better word), I’m putting an awful lot of myself out here.
  • The old Impostor Syndrome. I don’t do real research, I don’t keep up very well with the research, I’m afraid to take speak up or take a strong stand on issues related to my actual area of work. There are also some other topics I have really strong feelings about that I’m afraid to blog about/take a public stance on, for fear of losing my job or future opportunities (I’ll gladly talk about them with you in person, though).

The Ugly:

  • While I didn’t get fired, I did have to make private delete one of my best, most well-received blog posts, that also happened to be topical to the day it was posted. One of the client representatives saw it and demanded it be taken down and that I not mention/blog about that particular project. Not only that, but as a result one of my old company’s offices (not the one I was based in) banned their people from blogging about work, period.
  • I posted something a little more personal and emotional than maybe I should have, and one of my (now ex-) coworkers saw it and commented in a way that wasn’t entirely positive or reassuring. This turned me off of blogging for a while, because I feel like one of the strengths of this blog and my writing is the attached, personal element of it. I mean, I could just post news story links with a couple of dry comments.
  • See Impostor Syndrome, above.

November 20, 2013

Blogging Archaeology 2014 Carnival Month 1: WHY?





So, at the 2014 Society for American Archaeology meetings in my lovely home city of Austin, Texas, we’ll be doing another Blogging Archaeology session entitled, appropriately enough, Blogging Archaeology Again. It’s not exactly a follow-up, more of an update with new ideas and almost all new people (I may in fact be the only holdover).

Anyway, as a contribution to the discussion  Doug Rocks-Macqueen (an excellent archaeology blogger [an excellent blogger who can’t make it, read his blog here!) is running a Blogging Archaeology blog carnival. Last time, Colleen hosted one and it was a lot of fun, got some good discussion going before and at the session.

So I’ll play along again. It also helps me because I’m not good about updating, so at least there will be a monthly post by me from now until April 🙂 This is even funnier because of question 3! So here we go!!

Question 1: Why blogging? – Why did you, or if it was a group- the group, start a blog?

I first started blogging because I liked writing and sharing my ideas and opinions. In college, I did radio and in my first run at grad school I wrote for the newspaper (entertainment section). I did a few issues of a zine after (the namesake for my other blog http://alltheragezine.wordpress.com/) and was online. So when I found out about blogs, it was something of a natural thing for me to be interested in and try out. At first, I did a personal blog and enjoyed that, met a lot of new people in Austin and elsewhere that way.

When I back to grad school for archaeology, I would occasionally write about that on my blog (it was on Livejournal and I’m pretty sure I deleted it), and I wrote some about my first field school on there. When I went back in Spring 2004 I decided to start a blog dedicated to my field school and archaeology, partly inspired by what Colleen had started doing. First post was on January 14, 2004, right before I left. It was called Digstories and there’s probably some posts on there that were too honest or not well thought out.

I kept up with it as I moved into CRM, eventually moved the blog to a different host (the whole LJ stigma partly), and changed the name to Where in the Hell Am I, because that was one of the questions my friends would always ask me! It started with just stories, and then I would explain things to my friends who would ask specific questions about aspects of my work. I tried to develop it more as a tool for public outreach, but this somewhat coincided with me starting to be burned out on archaeology, which leads to…

Question 2: Why are you still blogging?  Have the reasons why changed since you first started blogging? Are there new reasons why you blog?

Well, I answered some of that in the paragraphs above. Sometimes I still tell stories here, and I’ve used it on occasion for outreach. Sometimes I use it to vent or discuss issues in archaeology such as #freearchaeology or machismo, which was always an element of my blogging (while trying to keep it professional). Mostly, I’ve switched to microblogging and photoblogging through Twitter and Instagram (which is what my presentation at SAA14 is about). Mostly because it’s easier and has more feedback.

I still feel guilty about not blogging more, and I honestly want to, but…

Question 3: Why have you stopped blogging?

One of the ironic things about blogging that I’ve mentioned in the past is that usually when I have lots to talk about, or good stories to share, I’m too busy from doing things to take the time to talk about them, or just too tired. As I got higher in the field hierarchy, especially with some of the pipeline projects, I had a lot to do after the fieldwork was done. It was not unusual to have a 9-10 hour field day and then 2 hours of post-field work, 6 days a week. Once I was done, I was tired and didn’t want to talk about my day again.

Also as I moved up, things got less interesting, in some ways. I was mostly running the GPS in the field, managing the techs while they did the actual digging. I was talking to clients and landowners (which could be interesting, of course). I was also doing a lot of survey report writing, which is repetitive and boring even to me. I tried to talk about analysis, but was afraid to expose my ignorance to the public and other archs.

I also had some very difficult periods in my life, and got very burned out on the field and archaeology. I always try and be positive on here, even if I don’t always succeed. When I was depressed, or hating my job, I just didn’t want to pretend on here.

Finally, my company got a couple of very large projects, with clients who were very protective and concerned about media and publicity. I started to worry about possibly getting in trouble or straight up fired for things I wrote here. And when I was mad or burned out or thought something was dumb, I DEFINITELY knew not to say so on here. Last year, I found out that even a very innocent post that doesn’t mention much of anything about a client or a project can get noticed and possibly lead to reprisals (although all I had to do was pull it and promise not to blog about or while on that job). That last thing happened right when I was thinking about getting back in to this.

And, now that I’m a public servant, I feel the same need to be extra cautious. That’s why I started a totally non-archaeology blog (which gathers as much dust as this!).

And thus ends my unsurprisingly long first contribution to the Blogging Archaeology Carnival!

October 1, 2013

My abstract for SAA14 Blogging Archaeology panel

Filed under: archaeology — Tags: , , , , , , — John @ 7:39 pm

I don’t remember what fancy title I gave my paper, but here’s the abstract.
I’d love to hear feedback, questions, and anecdotes from y’all about my vague notions presented here, as this will help me with the final presentation and ideally provide me supporting anecdotal material and references!

“More agencies, cultural resources management firms, and individual archaeologists are now using social media for promotion and outreach. However, the use of microblogging platforms such as Twitter and Instagram can also help in building a “community of archaeologists” that goes beyond typical job networking.

This community aspect is likely just as important, particularly for younger working archaeologists and those still in school. People can commiserate, seek support, share advice and suggestions, and forge friendships outside of a professional setting and beyond the field. It is also a way for archaeologists to join forces to discuss and act on serious issues affecting them, such as the recent fight concerning the use of volunteers and unpaid interns, known as #freearchaeology.

Microblogging also allows for a different perspective from the common top-down, expert, official narrative. Field and lab techs are able to share their photos and their opinions. Finally, it gives the public a glimpse into the daily lives of archaeologists and the challenges we face, in essence adding a different element of “humanity” to archaeology.”

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