#270 Invest in Yourself

DIGTECH has been busy. In the last two years, DIGTECH did half a million dollars in business, employed 10 different people, started the Archaeology Podcast Network, started Professional Certifications for Scientists, and entered into a consulting relationship to design and develop Codifi CRM. Yes, busy indeed.

As DIGTECH's founder, and currently sole employee, I've always been primarily interested in the quality of life for field technicians and along the way make significant improvements in the field. DIGTECH has had a multi-pronged vision of the future that is starting to play out on a number of fronts. Like everything, though, I can't do it alone. If I had the money to hire the people to help me early on, I would have. In fact, if anyone knows a wealthy benefactor that want's to take a chance, but experience massive returns, let me know!

Before I go over the ways you can invest in yourself, consider this...There is a place in the Bitterroot Mountains where you can straddle the Missouri River. The Missouri River at over 2,400 miles long is the longest river in North America. And yet, at one place you can straddle the river. Right next to that stream is another stream. That stream ends in a pond not far away. By pour geological chance, the Missouri's origins trace through the right patterns of rock to continue unbroken for over 2,400 miles while this other stream ends in a pond.

Before you can invest in yourself, you have to decide what you want to be: The Massive Missouri, or the small stream that ends abruptly and without having much influence on it's surroundings. We all start from nothing - it's where we end up that defines us.

The Archaeology Podcast Network

Starting from near-Missouri River-like proportions in December of 2014, the APN has grown to over 20,000 monthly listeners, over 17 hours of monthly content, and 14 educational audio streams. All of our shows aim to teach you something related to archaeology. The APN staff and our hosts, one in the same on a more than a few shows, are passionate about not just archaeology but in telling people about archaeology. From Cultural Resource Management to pseudo-archaeology to archaeological anarchy, we want to teach you something, make you think, and start a conversation. Invest in yourself, listen to some podcasts, and join the conversation.

Professional Certifications for Scientists

So, shortly after I got into archaeology I started looking for a reference to learn from. I didn't need to know about features, artifacts, or excavation procedures. Don't get me wrong, I DID need to know those things but there are plenty of books and on-the-job training to get you through. There wasn't, however, a resource that could tell me how to screen dirt using a standing shaker screen; or how to trowel a floor in 5-cm levels; or how to live on the road without wanting to kill myself from depression. Because none of this existed I tried to write one.

I filled out an outline and wrote a sample chapter for the Rough Guide series. My vision was The Rough Guide to Shovelbums. Apparently Shovelbums are too rough even for them and the passed on the topic. I pretty much dropped it from that point. Didn't know what else to do. So, I continued to shovelbum across the southeast and northeast, learning from the best along the way.

A few years later I started to blog. Almost immediately I started the Shovelbums Guide Series. They were posts that I would have put in a book. Eventually I did: Field Archaeologist's Survival Guide: Getting a Job and Working in Cultural Resource Management (Left Coast Press 2014). It wasn't enough and the podcast network pretty much killed my blogging since everything I wanted to say was through those shows.

So, last year I started a 30,000 acre survey in Southern California. The people I had working for me were experienced and dedicated. I figured this was the perfect opportunity for collaboration on something like PCS. I was right.

With PCS we will raise the quality of life for all archaeologists and other field scientists across the board. We'll do it by providing training through short instructional videos and online tests. We'll provide certification for all levels of professionals and through that certification add more legitimacy to the field.

If you're reading this, head over to PCS and check out the videos. Watch them, learn from them, and invest in yourself.


A few years ago, I believe at the SAAs in Hawaii, I attended a session where Dr. Michael Ashley presented a recording system called Codifi. The presentation represented one of the most promising systems for archaeological site recording that I'd seen to date. Unfortunately, I didn't know Michael and wouldn't know him for a while.

Along the way, I started using TapForms to record sites. I've had a lot of success with TapForms over the years. The system does have it's problems, though. I have no control over the software, for one, so I have to work within it's limitations. Fortunately, I was introduced to Michael a short time after.

Following a couple years of following each other's progress, Michael and I started to realize that our futures and goals were aligned. I knew that Codifi was a better system than TapForms and Michael new that Codifi was capable of so much. We eventually started working together and now, Codifi CRM is taking shape.

Codifi CRM isn't just a recording software either - it's a system and a philosophy. With Codifi, you won't have to buy a tablet - we'll provide it. With Codifi, you won't have to deal with databases or coding - we'll do it. With Codifi, you won't have to do anything but focus on archaeology - we'll do the rest.

Yes, DIGTECH has been busy and I don't plan on giving up any time soon.


Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field!!

#269 Giving it 110%


Recently, I was involved in what's known as a "near miss" in aviation. I still don't understand what this means since it was ACTUALLY a miss. A near miss sounds more like a collision to me. Either way, that's what it's called.

We were flying in a Cessna 206 and doing maneuvers at around 1500 - 2000 ft above ground level. There were four of us in the plane and I was in the front right seat. Since we were paying attention to the ground for these particular maneuvers, we weren't really looking around for traffic. Our pilot was looking for traffic, and, reporting our position on a general frequency so others would know as well. However, he couldn't see everything. I didn't see the other plane until it went UNDER us by about 50-100 ft. In the world of aviation, that's pretty close.

After the incident, I didn't think much about it. I got over it and kept doing my job. That evening, and now today (the next day), I thought about it a lot more.


For about the past 10-12 years of my life I've been working very hard. At some point I realized I pretty much wasted my 20s and just worked. Sure, I was in the Navy and contributed that way, but when I came home I focused on selfish activities that didn't even really improve me, let alone anyone else.

Now, though, I'm more interested in doing things that help others as well. Part of the reason for this is that I don't believe in an afterlife. If there IS an afterlife I certainly wouldn't be able to help anyone in this world anyway. So, I try to do things that not only satisfy myself, but, can be a benefit to anyone else. In recent years, this imperative has become much more real and much more important to me.

Over the last four years I've seen several people die WAY too early. They never even saw it coming and they weren't ready for it. I've seen relatives die, some old, some not, and I've heard of others that died way too young and without warning or preparation. At 40, soon to be 41, I figure I'm on borrowed time. Sure, I might live until 80, but, there is certainly no guarantee of that and no way to prevent accidents caused by others. So, I do the best I can to be helpful and to contribute to the greater good.

Being a Good Citizen

I've got some friends, and some really close friends, that are die-hard Bernie Sanders supporters. I myself am one. Bernie is known for being a Democratic Socialist. The basic idea here is that we do things for the greater good. We do things that help and benefit not just ourselves but our communities as well. These friends go out and vote, they do some things in their communities, and they also tell me that I'm going to die if I don't slow down.

How can I slow down when there is so much to do? What if I'd have died yesterday in a fiery plane crash with so many projects left unfinished? That thought, much more than death, scares the crap out of me.

To me, "being a good citizen" means that I contribute my skills and abilities to the greater good. First, I had to find out what I'm good at, or at least passionate about. Now that I've figured that out, I want to share what I can with others. There isn't really an end point or goal in mind. I just want to keep doing what I'm doing for as long as I can. I'll probably stop when I get cancer and have six months to live. That's when I'll pull off my complicated, high-tech, art heist with a team of professionals. It's really the only thing on my "bucket list".

What's the Point of All This?

I guess my point here is that I'm right. Ha! No, really. That "near miss" was just one more wake-up call in a series of wake-up calls over the last few years. Sometimes you need that sort of thing to wake you up and get you moving again. I hope you're happy doing what you're doing. If you're not, change it. There's no time to waste. You likely won't live until retirement, or at least, live like you won't. Do at least one thing in your life that benefits someone else. If we all did that, the world would be a pretty amazing place.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field!!

​#268 The Driver - Pedestrian Problem


You all know what I'm talking about. You've done it. You've been on both sides of the problem. I'm talking about what I call the Driver-Pedestrian problem. I'll explain how this relates to archaeology later. First, what is it?

The Driver

You're in a university parking lot -- or a supermarket -- or a mall -- and you're looking for a spot. You're late. You don't have time for this. All you want to do is park. It would be easier to find a spot if not for only one thing: THOSE DAMN PEDESTRIANS. Get out of the way! I have 2000 pounds of car and I know how to use it! Why are there so many people in the world? I just want to park!!

The Pedestrian

SLAM! You shut the door and become a pedestrian. All you want is to get to class; get to the front door; get out of the parking lot. Why are these people driving so slow? Why are so many cars in this parking lot? GET OUT OF MY WAY!!

How This Relates to Archaeology

I've told the story above to illustrate how our perceptions of a situation change as we change our roles. This is important for archaeological fieldwork in several ways. First, when resurveying previously recorded sites and second when going back to a site during a current project to either finish the recording or update your data in some way.

Previously Recorded Sites

How many crews have you been on where the crew discovers a previously recorded site on a survey and where you know which company recorded it? Probably more than a few times if you work in the West. What's always said, almost without fail? "This company does shit work." "This company doesn't  have a clue." It's often that people think sites were shoddily recorded or that they likely "missed a bunch of stuff." Sometimes this is true. Most of the time, though, the archaeologists probably did the best they could; just like you would.

It's important to remember that different sites are recorded in different ways. Sometimes, if their job is to evaluate the site under Section 106, archaeologists will limit a recording in the interest of time if it is very apparent that the site is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. This isn't necessarily what everyone does, or should do, but we live in a world where limited funds and time are available for projects and sometimes we don't get to spend the time on sites that we'd like to.

When I record a site I try to record as much information as possible and as is feasible. When I write the site record, I imagine another archaeologist coming to this site and trying to piece together what I did. Are they able to figure out the site and my determinations based on what I wrote? If they are, then I did my job. Is it likely, or even possible, that I recorded EVERYTHING on the site? Probably not. So, if you go back to the site, are you going to find something I didn't? Possibly. That's not a bad thing; it's a reality.

Revisiting Sites on a Project

This is an entirely different problem. I'll give you a scenario and then we'll talk about it.

Let's say you're on a project where you can't take pictures of ANYTHING without a representative of the client present. There are probably many ways to deal with this. One way is to record the sites while you have your full crew. For the photos, take photo points in the GPS device and, if you're digital, record the photo information on your tablet. You could do this on paper too. This way, if someone goes back out to take the photos, someone that wasn't on the site initially, they can quickly find what they need and move on to the next site.

Now, if I get to a complicated site and choose to cut corners by not taking photo points or by not writing up the records, then I'm doing my future self, or my colleague, a disservice and I'm causing them to waste needless time. In this case, I'm the Driver.

As the pedestrian, I come to a site and I've got to recreate what happened and figure out where everything is. I'm on the other side now and I'm looking at everything my colleagues did and I'm trying to reconstruct what happened. How do I react if there are inconsistencies?

On the one hand we have archaeologists trying to record a site as quick and as accurately as possible. Perhaps taking the photo points on a large site is too much. Perhaps there isn't time. "Ah, they can handle it when they come back to take photos." On the other hand we have someone coming back to the site, possibly months later, that has to find everything and take the photos. I assure you, there are good ways to do this and bad ways.

What does this all mean?

Essentially, think of your colleagues when you either record a site or re-record a site. Is what you're doing going to make sense to someone else? Maybe have someone else on your crew read your site record before you leave. Make sure it makes sense. Also, give someone the benefit of the doubt when you go back to a site. Remember those tough days you've had and remember that everyone has tough days. Also, remember that the earth and the earth's weather move things around. Things get covered up and other things get uncovered. Archaeology is fluid.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field!!

#267 Field Archaeologist Guide Reviews

This is just a quick post to relay some nice reviews I received for the ield Archaeologist's Survival Guide (Left Coast Press, 2014). 

Canadian Journal of Archaeology 39:148-151 (2015)

American Reference Books Annual (ARBA) Reviews

Webster, Chris. Field Archaeologist's Survival Guide: Getting a Job and Working in Cultural Resource Management. Walnut Creek, Calif., Left Coast Press, Inc., 2014. 157p. illus. index. $24.95; $24.95 (e-book). ISBN 13: 978-1-61132-928-5; 978-1-61132-930-8 (e-book).

            Are you a librarian at a college or university that offers archaeology courses?  Do you work in a college or university career office that maintains a collection of career resources?  Do you want to help your college students find their dream job?  If so, then consider adding this honest and straightforward guide to working in the field as an archaeologist to your collections.

            Chris Webster's Field Archaeologist's Survival Guide covers advice on working as an archaeologist, from which classes college students should take, how to choose participating in a field school, how to prepare curriculum vitae (CV), to how to cook meat on a shovel on a campfire.  Webster's guide begins with how to prepare for the working world as an archaeologist for college students and ends with what to do during the winter season when there is no outdoor fieldwork in the colder climates.  There are detailed chapters on how to develop a CV, resumes, and cover letters, including how to describe various types of military experience on a CV or a resume.  Webster provides advice on where to find job listings, how to respond to job advertisements, and how to send resumes and cover letters to companies that do not have current job openings listed.

            Supplying invaluable career advice not usually discussed in archaeology classes, Webster describes equipment, projects, lodging, and other logistical considerations.  Webster lists the type of equipment needed for archaeology and provides explanations as to why the gear is important.  Next, the author describes different types of archaeological projects and jobs in cultural resource management so prospective employees know what to expect if hired.  With real-world experience and a knack for storytelling, Webster gives a myriad of suggestions on types of lodging, such as living out of a van, camping, and staying in hotels.  He includes several recipes and recommendations on how to cook in hotel rooms.   

            Additionally, the author explains how to use information to be successful as an archaeologist, with the perspective of a seasoned archaeologist imparting wisdom not learned in the classroom to future archaeologists.  For example, he describes the University Transverse Mercator (UTM) grid, the township and range system, and the Smithsonian Trinomial System.  He also introduces drawing maps, lumber sizing, and the Munsell Book of Color adapted to soil samples. Becoming successful may pose challenges, however, and the author devotes an entire chapter to unemployment.  Although specific to the state of Nevada, he believes his information about the unemployment process can be applicable to other states.  

            The author closes with the reminder that becoming an archaeologist is really a dream job.  Telling a story about a wealthy investment banker he met, the author wrote that the banker said that he wished he had the job as the archaeologist.  Lastly, short but thorough appendixes correspond to the chapters and provide sample CVs, examples of cover letters, equipment and clothing checklists for fieldwork, sample interview questions to ask, and a checklist for what to do during the winter off-season.—Kay Shelton

#266 Small Business and the Nightmare of Payroll

When I started my company three years ago I thought, this is my change to show everyone how it can be done. This is my chance to do it right! I probably thought that owning a CRM firm was really just doing good, ethical archaeology. Right? Isn’t that all it is? Everything else will fall in line and just — happen?

Not so much.

Sleeping - Or Not

Up until 2015 I only really had one employee — me. For one project I had help from a friend but that was only for a few weeks. In April I hired six people, mostly friends, for a 15,000 acre survey in an area in which I’d never worked. To start the project with some working capital (aka lots of money) I took out an SBA loan for $50,000.

That lasted about a month.

After the money was gone I had to essentially beg my prime contractor to pay on invoices quicker than they usually do. If they hadn’t been good about sending me checks every couple weeks over the past nine months then I’d be in a world of trouble. Still, though, sleeping is tough.

My payroll runs every two weeks and pays on a Friday. On the Tuesday before, I log in to the system and enter all the hours. By Wednesday I get the report that says how much I need to put into my payroll account for the direct deposit withdrawals. That amount not only includes the net amount for each check but the taxes that everyone pays, the taxes I pay (which are equal to what my employees pay) and the fees to the payroll company to keep it all straight.

For a staff of six people, including per diem of $130 a day for that project and $110 for the following project, my bi-weekly payout was about $23,000. So, for the 11 days before I had to submit payroll on Tuesday (I allowed myself one day to not think about it — never worked) my thoughts before going to bed and while trying to sleep were:

payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll payroll…

Hiring your Friends

CRM is a small industry and chances are you know someone in just about every region that you can call on for help. I haven’t had to hire too many people that I don’t know, which is really nice. You get a quality person that you know you can count on. However, it piles on that much more guilt and anxiety when you know they’re counting on you to pay their bills and support their family. They’re counting on that paycheck to be on time and that per diem to be there at the beginning of the session. I know. I’ve been there.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t hire friends again, but, I might wait until things are a little more stable so I don't feel guilty when my heart stops in bed from anxiety and no one gets paid.

The Solution

If I knew the solution I wouldn’t have had to write this post! Seriously though, the solution is to have the money it will take to cover expenses for a project in the account BEFORE the project starts. This is where large engineering firms have an advantage. They can shuffle money between departments quite easily and can keep projects going. Invoices often take a while to get paid and often they’re not paid out until the fieldwork, or even the final report, are completed. That can be a massive financial strain for any small business.

My Priorities

Simply put, my priorities have always been my people. I put money in the payroll account and get the cash out for per diem before I pay my bills, my credit cards, and myself. If you don’t pay your people, what do you have? I can’t do this by myself. I guess I use the Vulcan theory on this one (yes, huge Star Trek nerd), “The good of the many outweighs the good of the one.” So, if I can relieve my employee’s financial worries and take it on myself, that’s fine. If I can always ensure that their pay is on time and their per diem is on time then they have no reason to think anything is amiss. That’s how I’d prefer it. They have a job to do and they don’t need any distractions.

I hope I can get the Archaeology Podcast Network and a couple other side projects monetized so DIGTECH doesn’t have to rely on CRM as it’s sole source of income. I have no desire to be a large engineering or environmental firm so I can’t count on that. Diversifying and increasing income in other departments is the way to go, though.

Also, hiring someone, anyone, that really knows anything about business development is a top priority for DIGTECH.crm. Problem is, I can’t afford to pay them what they deserve right now. That’s a real crappy situation. I need money to pay the person that will bring in the money. WTF? Any business developers out there work on commission???

Any other small business owners out there experiencing the same thing? I can’t be the only one that doesn’t have a clue!

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!!


#265 CRMArch's Grand Challenge

Grand Challenges in Archaeology

This post is part of a blogging carnival taking place at Doug’s Archaeology during the month of January, 2016. The question is, what are the grand challenges in your archaeology?

What is My Archaeology?

I consider “my” archaeology to be what Tom King calls, “CRM Archaeology”. Ha! Just kidding, Tom. Actually, most of us practitioners of the archaeology part of CRM do call it CRM Archaeology. There is a debate, however, that archaeology is not CRM and CRM is not archaeology. I’m not going to argue either way here, suffice it to say that field technicians that work in CRM generally just do the archaeology part. So, we call it CRM Archaeology.

The Grand Challenge

After editing and listening to Episode 76 of the CRM Archaeology Podcast where Chris, Doug, Bill, and Stephen discussed their ideas of the “grand challenges” to archaeology I realized that my idea isn’t really even an archaeological one. My grand challenge is this:

CRM Archaeology needs to join the 21st century before we can even have a discussion of what archaeology will look like in the future. If we don’t evolve our ideas, our tech, and our procedures then lobbying and litigation will simply destroy our field and we’ll be left discussing what when wrong while standing in the welfare line waiting for powdered milk.


Anyone that reads this blog or listens to my podcasts (here, here, here, and here) have heard me talk about technology and it’s applications to archaeology. I don’t champion different tech methods because I’m obsessed with Apple or because I don’t like to get my hands dirty. I do it because I fear for the future of our field and our livelihood.

Just about every other field that archaeology comes in contact with has advanced their field practices to include current and applicable technology. They’re staying relevant, and more importantly, they’re keeping their clients happy. When your field practices slow you down or take away your market advantage then someone else will step in and take your place. In the case of archaeology, they’ll just repeal the NHPA and then we’ll all be in a world of trouble.

I’m not going to go on and on here. It’s pretty simple, really. If we keep showing up on million dollar projects with clipboards, pencils, ripped up pants and shirts that should have been retired long ago then we’ll soon find ourselves working at a Starbuck’s. That’s a simple fact.

There won’t be time for pontificating on the latest theory to replace the Disco Archaeology (from Twitter, not me…) of the 70s if we’re all trying to figure out what went wrong. We need to be proactive and constantly seeking out better, more efficient ways to get our jobs done. However, we need to do it in a way that serves our purposes as well. Budget in conferences, papers, publications, public talks, and whatnot if you’re saving your client money with your use of efficient tech. Don’t just low-ball to get the project. Show your client that you can make them look good by doing the archaeology justice. It’ll work if we all do it.

The Real Grand Challenge

That last sentence is key to this entire enterprise. We’ve got to stop fighting amongst ourselves. I know of a few large firms, and a few smaller ones, that are trying to use tablets in the field and are trying to become more efficient. This field, however, isn’t a retail business and we shouldn’t be looking at our “competition” like that. That’s difficult to say when you’re just trying to make payroll; trust me, I understand. If we don’t work together, though, we’ll all fall behind.

Rather than develop apps in-house so you can gain market advantage, market your methods so others can use them. Level the playing field so we can all benefit. DIGTECH will never develop something that just stays at DIGTECH. That’s not how a harmonious society works. I believe in working together for our mutual benefit.

What do you think? Am I off the mark? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!!


#264 DIGTECH - 2015 By the Numbers

Well, DIGTECH is dangerously close to celebrating three years since founding (January 8th). How have we done so far? Let's run down the numbers for this year:

  • Payroll - $167,114
  • Per Diem - $69,911
  • Employees - 10
  • Permanent Employees - 1 (No, not me)
  • Acres Surveyed - 45,000
  • Sites Recorded - About 250
  • Isolates - About 1200
  • iPads - 9
  • iPads given to employees - 7
  • Trimbles - 2
  • Trimbles destroyed - 1 ($550 repair cost)
  • Overall, we didn't do too bad.

In 2013 DIGTECH did about $13,000 in business. In 2014 we did about $40,000. This year we did about $407,000. Doing the simple math from above you'll see that there is about $170,000 left from the project budgets. A little lesson in business will tell you that much of that went to other expenses and payroll taxes. There will be about $50,000 left to pay me, finally, and to be prepared for more work. Also, I had to take out a $50,000 SBA loan to start the season and I had to buy a new field vehicle. So yeah...not too much of a profit, but, we don't do this for the money.

What do I get out of this?

What do I get? I get to hire my friends and see them pay their bills, enjoy themselves, and get one step closer to fulfilling their dreams. That's what I get and that's why I do this.

What's in store for 2016?

Well, we've got a few irons in the fire for DIGTECH.crm. I really think that this is the year that DIGTECH.media will be on fire, though. The Archaeology Podcast Network has over 16,000 monthly subscribers as of December 2015 and our numbers keep going up. We're poised to get some real money from advertising which will allow us to pursue more show opportunities. My focus has always been on education and outreach. The APN is my outlet for this.

I've also got plans for a new book, published in a new way. More details on that are to come soon.

New Chief of Operations

This blog post will stand as the official announcement of our new Chief of Operations: Deanna Dytchkowskyj! I've known Deanna for about five years now. She's a great person that is very organized and detail oriented. As the COO she'll eventually be in charge of making sure all the departments within DIGTECH are on track with their missions and that things are proceeding according to plan.

Hear's to 2016 and great things to come!

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in the field!!