#229 SAA2014 Wrap-Up

Click on the image to go to the book's page where you can download and/or read!

Click on the image to go to the book's page where you can download and/or read!

I'm just back from the Society for American Archaeology meetings in Austin, Texas and there is a lot to cover.

Blogging Archaeology, Again

I chaired this year’s blogging archaeology session and I have to say, it was a great success. We had only six presenters—Terry Brock couldn't make it—and one discussant at the end, but, the room was full most of the time. At one point I counted about 60 people with a sizable crowd standing in the back. 

After the session there was a lively round of questions and discussion between the presenters and the audience. I only wish we could get those kinds of comments on our blogs! When we were about to be kicked out of the room a fair number of us adjourned to lunch at the Easy Tiger where the conversation continued. 

I thought about mentioning this earlier, but, decided to wait and see how the session, and my presentation, went. Here it goes: I've never presented at a conference—no posters either—and I've never chaired a session. I've seen enough to know what to do and what not to do. A number of people have congratulated me on a great session, but of course, all the credit goes to the presenters and their engaging content.

Blogging Archaeology eBook

A few months ago Doug Rocks-MacQueen and I decided to publish an eBook of the papers presented at the conference. When we asked the presenters if they'd be up for it, several declined because they were publishing elsewhere. Down to just a few papers, we opened it up to the blogosphere. We ended up with a total of 16 papers from bloggers around the world. The papers covered a wide variety of topics ranging from mortuary archaeology to social media to issues related to looting, among others. 

Since we'd planned to release the book at the beginning of the Blogging Archaeology session there were a lot of last minute tasks that needed to be attended to. That meant some intense editing and formatting time for Doug and some really long nights in Austin for me. We got it done, though, and the book is available on my website as a free download. As more people download it, access will get even better.

Blogging Archaeology, The Brand

The day before the release of the eBook, Doug and I were alerted to a possible issue with the title. We simply called the book "Blogging Archaeology" and thought no more of it. There was some concern that the title would cause confusion with the previous Blogging Archaeology session in Sacramento, the associated bogging carnival, and a publication that is yet to be released. It was too late to make a change and we went with it as is. Does it need a change, however?

At most I would add a year to the title. The phrase, "Blogging Archaeology", however, has become synonymous with this blogging and social media blitz that we’re all in. I see it the way I see tissue paper. Most people in the U.S. call tissue paper Kleenex. It’s not Kleenex, however. Kleenex is a brand. It’s the most popular brand, but, still a brand. This is similar to how some people annoyingly call all soda “coke”. In some parts of the country you can ask for a coke at a restaurant and the wait staff will ask “What kind?”.

So, “Blogging Archaeology” it is.

Papers, or lack of

There were a lot of things I would have liked to see this year. That being said, there was a distinct lack of papers I would liked to have seen as well. I felt that I was running all over the place in Hawaii last year. This year, however, my schedule was a lot lighter. Between my book release, the booth I ran for my new company, Field Tech Designs, LLC, the eBook prep, and the Blogging Archaeology session prep, I didn’t have much time for papers. But, like I said, there just wasn’t a lot I wanted to see.

When I did make it to the Great Basin session on Sunday there were a grand total of about 10 people in the room. I could hardly believe it! It’s usually quite full! Of course, since the SAAs don’t have conference tracks, many people were at the associated poster session that took place at exactly the same time. Nice job.


This year’s conference was amazing for meeting online friends, making new friends, and reconnecting with old friends. I met, for the first time, two of the people that have been recording the CRM Archaeology Podcast with me for over a year: Bill White and Stephen Wagner. Initial impressions? Bill is freakishly tall and Stephan is as snappy a dresser as he alluded to on a previous episode of the podcast!

John Lowe organized a #blogarch tweetup at one of his favorite haunts, The Liberty, for Thursday evening. A lot of people were there and it was great meeting some of the names I’ve come to know online. I even met Mr. Shovelbums himself!

Future Sessions

As I’m writing this, the submission system for #SAA2015 in San Francisco is now open. I need to submit the next #blogarch abstract, but, I’m at a loss for a title. As some have noted, the session isn’t just about blogging anymore. It’s about the broad implications of blogging and social media. To me, blogging is a form of social media anyway. So, I want a title that includes blogging and social media.

I discussed this with some people in Austin and a few thought we could take blogging out of the title. I disagree. We’re still trying to reach an audience that is unfamiliar with blogging and with social media. Until blogging becomes mainstream in professional and academic archaeology, we need it in the title.

Suggestions? Comment HERE ON THE BLOG (!) with title suggestions and abstract suggestions.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at #SAA2015!

#208 Blogging Carnival: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly


From Doug's Archaeology Blog: At this year’s SAA conference there is going to be an amazing Blogging in Archaeology session [which I'm chairing, incidentally]. It has been a few years since there has been one. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend the session and I know a couple of other archaeology bloggers who can’t either. My way of contributing is to widen the participation by hosting a blogging carnival (what’s a blogging carnival, click here) on archaeology and blogging. This was done for the last blogging session by Colleen and this is inspired by her work.

The Good

I've been blogging for a little over 2 1/2 years now and for the most part it's been really positive. Through the blog I engage with thousands of people on a weekly basis. As a result of the blog I've published a book, started a podcast, and enhanced my business.

The Bad

The one big downside with writing a blog is that you don't seem to receive many comments. Comments are the lifeblood of a blog. They keep you going and let you know that real people are out there. Nearly everyone involved in this blogging Carnival has said this exact same thing so I know I'm not alone here. I wish the different blogging sites, I use Squarespace, had a way to indicate that someone read the post, and, actually read it all the way through to the end. If you're not going to leave a comment, I’d at least like to know that you read the whole thing. Unless you're writing a journal, most of us write blogs to relay some sort of information or to help people out in some way. If it feels like we're talking to the wall then we can get disheartened and stop writing altogether, which has happened to a lot of people.

The Ugly

I've been fired twice for social media infractions, which is close to the title of my upcoming paper I’m giving for the blogging archaeology session at the SAAs in Austin this year. The first time I was fired was for a post I wrote about two months after starting my blog . I wrote the post regarding a project using publicly available information that I found on the client’s website. To begin with, my employer and I we're not exactly a good fit. They were stuck in the past and I was moving towards the future. Suggestions from all employees were routinely dismissed and there was no atmosphere for innovation and change. So, it really came as no surprise that I was fired as a result of a blog post. They said that I had violated confidentiality agreements that I signed when I was hired. I have to disagree on that point. I didn't say anything in the blog post that wasn't available on the Internet.

The second time I was fired was for writing a tweet. I know it’s not blogging, but, we’re really talking about social media anyway. I tweeted that I was on a mine. I tagged the mine in the tweet and my employer apparently saw it. It surprised me that they were even looking at Twitter and, I found out later, my tweets were the only ones they were looking at. My employer knew why I had been dismissed from my previous job and were probably worried that I’d do the same thing again. They were also questioning me about several blog post that I had written regarding projects I was on with that company. Again, I had used publicly available information and even showed them the posts before posting them. They didn't question them then and only later did they suggest that I change something or suggest I take them down.

After I wrote the tweet where I tagged the mine that I was working on, I found out that the company signed a seven page confidentiality agreement with the mine saying that they would never discuss anything on the mine or any projects associated with the mine. No one told us about this agreement.

The Solution

So, why are companies so afraid of bloggers and social media? Some would say that they're afraid looters will find the sites that are blogged and tweeted about. This is a valid concern. Bloggers, tweeters and people posting on Facebook and Instagram need to be aware of location information in posts and photographs. This includes mountain ranges and skylines that could potentially identify sites. Also, in some cases companies do sign agreements from the clients saying that they will not discuss anything regarding the client or the client’s products. If they would only ask, it's possible that the clients would relent and let companies discuss, at least partially, some of the projects they are on regarding the archaeological science involved. It never hurts to ask.

I also think that most archaeologists, and especially people working in the office, are completely ignorant about social media and its power. Some of them actually think that they're doing some good by publishing obscure reports that languish in a BLM field office for the next 50 years and never get seen by anyone but fellow archaeologists. They don't realize that the general public would appreciate even a mention of some archaeology on land that they own, BLM land, and would love to have any information about. They don't realize that as archaeologists we are not only the gatekeepers of this historical information but we are also the trumpeters of this information. We are the ones responsible for telling the public about it.

So, I would invite everyone reading this to ask their company about the company’s social media policies. They’ll likely refer you to the employee manual, which you signed, and say this is how we feel about social media. Don't stop there though. Ask them if there is any information that you can you give to the public. Ask if you can start a public, or, company blog or if there's anyway that information about sites can be given out. Tell them you'll spearhead this movement, that you'll start the blog, and that you'll show them everything that goes on it before goes out. Show them other company blogs from around the company. Let them know that this is already being done and that no new ground is being charted here.

I have one more comment regarding commenting on blog posts. I get roughly 300 to 500 unique visitors for each one of my posts. Actually, that’s for every day of my blog. Many people don't actually even go to the website to read the blog. They instead prefer to use a blog reader to read all the blogs. If you happen to be sitting in front of a computer and can actually go to the site, even if it's just to say, “good job” or, “you suck” or, “write something better next time,” please do. Comments show us that somebody is listening and that someone is paying attention. This will make bloggers write better material, be more consistent, and engage people in conversation.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the blogesphere.

#201 #SAA2014 #BlogArch Carnival November

BlogArch Logo.jpg

From Doug's Archaeology Blog: At this year’s SAA conference there is going to be an amazing Blogging in Archaeology session [which I'm chairing, incidentally]. It has been a few years since there has been one. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend the session and I know a couple of other archaeology bloggers who can’t either. My way of contributing is to widen the participation by hosting a blogging carnival (what’s a blogging carnival, click here) on archaeology and blogging. This was done for the last blogging session by Colleen and this is inspired by her work.

Question 1: Why blogging? Why did you start a blog?

I've written about this before. Actually I probably wrote about it in my very first post, as I suspect most people do. I'm going to write about it again, however, because of the importance of the circumstances.

Prior to the SAAs in Sacramento in 2011 I wasn't a blogger and I didn't even read any blogs. Blogs were pretty much off my radar. Since I wasn't on Twitter either, that was likely the reason. I was always very interested in blogging, however. I'm one of those arrogant bastards that thinks everything he says is important and profound. It's true. Just ask me.

Actually, my first thoughts about writing recreationally  about archaeology started on my very first project. I'm the type of person that reads instructions, reads technical manuals, and follows recipes. The fact that there wasn't a book I could read that would tell me how to be a CRM archaeologist really annoyed me. After a couple jobs I thought I should write one. I even went so far as to send in a table of contents and sample chapter to the people at Rough Guides. They said it was too much of a "niche" market. These are the same publishers with a "Rough Guide to Opera". Right.

Fast forward to 2011. I have a fresh MS degree in Archaeological Resource Management and I'm at the SAAs. I was starting to get more interested in talking about archaeology and was intrigued by the Blogging Archaeology session organized by Coleen Morgan. What I saw not only humbled me, but, blew me away.

While I was waiting for the session to start I opened a Twitter account because of the Twitter information on the projector screen at the front of the room. I was amazed at the behind-the-scenes activity going on! I was also pissed that I wasn't part of it.

After hearing some awesome papers by awesome people I immediately went back to my hotel room and started a blog. I wrote my first post that day and tweeted it out. I had an initial surge in followers to my twitter handle and my blog, but they fell off and things equalized. Now, my blog is read by about 2000-4000 unique visitors a month (about 10,000 page views a month) and I have over 560 Twitter followers.

My blog is designed to help fellow archaeologists. Occasionally I'll talk about a specific project, but, that's usually not allowed in CRM so I stay away from it. Also, being fired twice for blogging will make you a little gun shy. It's one of the reasons I started my own company. Ef those bastards. I'll just blog about my own projects.

I have a series of posts under the title, "Shovelbums Guide" where I give helpful information to new and experienced archaeologists. Recently I started a "Word for Archaeologists" series too. Many of us in report writing need all the formatting help we can get.

So, to make a long answer even longer: I blog because I'm the most interesting man in the world and I want all of you to know how much I know. Or, I just like to help people and I want everyone to learn from my spectacularly colossal mistakes.

Why are you still blogging?

In short, I'm still blogging because I feel like I still have something to say. When every field tech is informed and treated fairly I'll stop. I don't think that's ever going to happen, though, so I think I'll keep this going for a while.

I've tried to blog on a schedule, but, unfortunately life and other commitments get in the way. If I were getting paid for this I'd be able to devote more time to it (see subscription levels to the right!). It's not all free work, though. My Shovelbums Guide series is being turned into a book by Left Coast Press (click on the image above) and will be out for #SAA2014. Or, around then, at least. Because of the payment system, though, I won't see a dime until June of 2015. When I do get a check, I doubt I'll be quitting my day job. Books are more of a labor of love than a way to pay the bills. Well, archaeology books, anyway.

The blog has also turned into a podcast that me and some other great archaeologists put out every two weeks. I'd like to do it every week but I don't think I can ask for that sort of commitment from the panelists. Again, you can't look a free gift horse in the mouth.

The CRM firm I started back in January will eventually pay someone to blog, podcast, and make videos. I have to get some work, first, though. My savings have pretty much dried up and this week I'm working part time at my wife's workplace. Her boss is cool and came up from starting the business too. She's the ideal to strive for. I won't deny that working there part time during the winter feels a little bit like giving up and failing, though. Stupid bills. I have a meeting this week that could change everything, though, so we'll see.

If I get to the point where I have project archaeologists I'll expect them to blog. I think it's a great way to coalesce your thoughts so the public can understand them, I also think it's a necessary part of our job. Recording history is only the first half. Your job isn't done until you tell someone about what you found and your conclusions.

OK. That's enough for now. Thanks, Doug, for organizing this!

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

#195 #SAA2014 - Blogging Archaeology, Again

The second Blogging Archaeology session is in the bag. Well, it’s in the digital file that the SAA people have for reviewing and printing into the programs. For those of you that don’t know, the first Blogging Archaeology Session (page 19) took place in 2011 at the Annual Meeting in Sacramento. I attended the session and my online life was forever changed...