Finding a balance

As you can see, my blog has been rather quiet this year. This is mainly because I’ve tried to scale back on talks and presentations. I’ve also been posting elsewhere — listing projects on my portfolio site, documenting workshops in my digital heritage handbook, and adding bibs and bobs to my research notebook. I’m glad that I’ve managed to say ‘no’ to a few things. With two academics in the house it can be a bit of a challenge coordinating schedules to ensure that there’s at least one adult at home with the kids.

But no matter how I try to adjust my working arrangements, I struggle to get the balance right. The thing I feel I should be doing is making things — useful things, weird things, political things; things that help people see our history and our cultural heritage collections in different ways. I really don’t care if it’s classed as research, as infrastructure, or as a ‘service’. I just think it’s important to help people get a broader sense of the possibilities brought by digital technologies — to be creators, not just consumers.

But how do I find the time? And earn a living?

In yet another attempt to shift the balance I’ve recently adjusted my contract position at the University of Canberra to work part-time, three days per week. I’m hoping to spend the other two days working on a variety of projects, both paid and unpaid — so yes, I’m available for hire. But I also want to explore other funding models. Why should digital research infrastructure always be big, national, centralised, and expensive? Are there ways of supporting the creation of useful tools that aren’t dependent on large grants and multi-institutional partners? Let’s find out.

A couple of weeks ago I set up a Patreon site. If you use any of the tools I’ve created, or think that what I do is interesting, perhaps you’d like to become a supporter. My first goal is to try and cover the hosting costs of my various online projects. My current job is not secure, and I don’t want to be in a position of having to turn things off because I can’t afford to keep paying the bills. Thanks to some wonderful and generous people, I’m already about 40% of the way. Beyond that, I’m hoping that more supporters will give me more time, more motivation, and more ideas.

I don’t know if I’ll find the balance I’m seeking, but it’s worth a try.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Kate just gave me a new keyring for my birthday…


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Tim Sherratt Written by:


Leave a Reply