We divide digital projects into five primary components:

  1. Data
  2. Products
  3. Processing
  4. Documentation
  5. Release management

Data

Data is the expression of the source information, knowledge, and expertise of our researchers. The following principles apply to data:

1.1 Data is stored only in formats which conform to open standards and which are amenable to processing (TEI XML, GML, ODF, TXT).

1.2 Data is subject to version control (Subversion, Git).

1.3 Data is continually subject to validation and diagnostic analysis.

Products

Products are the project output intended for end-users, typically in the form of websites or print documents. The following principles apply to products intended for the web:

2.1 No dependence on server-side software: build a static website with no databases, no PHP, no Python.

2.2 No boutique or fashionable technologies: use only standards with support across all platforms, whose long-term viability is assured. Our choices are HTML5, JavaScript and CSS.

2.3 No dependence on external libraries: no JQuery, no AngularJS, no Bootstrap.

2.4 No query strings: every entity in the site has a unique page with a simple URL.

2.5 Graceful failure: every page should still basically work even in the absence of JavaScript or CSS support.

2.6 Massive redundancy: every page contains all the components it needs, so that it will function without the rest of the site if necessary, even though this means duplicating information across the site.

2.7 Relentless validation: every site build involves validation of all input data (XML) and all output code (HTML5, JavaScript, CSS).

2.8 Inclusion of data: every site should include a documented copy of the source data, so that users of the site can repurpose the work easily.

These principles are tempered by the following concessions:

2.9 Once a fully-working static site is achieved, it may be enhanced by the use of other services such as a server-side indexing tool (Solr, eXist) to support searching and similar functionality.

2.10 The use of an external library may be necessary to support a specific complex function which is too complex to be coded locally (such as mapping or cryptography). Any such libraries must be open-source and widely-used, and must not themselves have dependencies.

Processing

Processing code is written and maintained by the project technical staff, and is also subject to version control. Processing code provides all the following functions:

3.1 Validation of data.

3.2 Diagnostics (analysis of data to identify issues, and to track and evaluate progress).

3.3 Generation of products.

3.4 Validation of products.

For larger projects, these processes should all be triggered automatically by any change to version-controlled resources, typically running on a continuous integration server. Processing code should be open-source where possible, and have minimal dependencies, but it is not expected to have significant longevity; data and products are designed to survive, but processing code is contingent.

Documentation

4.1 Data models, including field names, descriptions, and controlled values, should be clearly documented in a static document that is maintained with the data, and should also form part of the products.

4.2 All rights and intellectual property issues should be clearly documented. Where possible the Data and Products should be released under open licenses (Creative Commons, GNU, BSD, MPL).

Release Management

Release management handles the public release of products. Without good release management, a project can never end gracefully; it can only falter and die. These principles apply to release management:

5.1 Releases should be periodical and carefully planned. The “rolling release” model should be avoided.

5.2 A release should only be made when the entire product set is coherent, consistent and complete (passing all validation and diagnostic tests).

5.3 Like editions of print works, each release of a web resource should be clearly identified on every page by its build date and some kind of version number.

5.4 Web resources should include detailed instructions for citation, so that end-users can unambiguously cite a specific page from a specific edition.