June 17, 2013, 11:00 am
We’re now well into summer, when many of us have ambitions of getting a fair amount of writing done. As seems to be not uncommon, a good number of the members of Team ProfHacker find regular writing both a pleasure and a challenge, so we’ve spilled a lot of digital ink on the subject. Here’s a rundown of past posts that may be of interest:
Getting into the writing habit
Trying to kick-start a summer writing habit? Check out Billie’s Writers’ Boot Camp: Summer Writing Edition 2012. Better yet, check out the whole Writers’ Boot Camp series.
Readers looking to do some collaborative writing (and who are looking for something other than Google Drive) might want to peruse Konrad’s Wish List for a Powerful Collaborative Writing Platform, and check out his review of Draft.
Whether writing solo or in collaboration with others, it’s important…
June 13, 2013, 8:00 am
GMail has received more than a few mentions in this space since ProfHacker first launched in 2009. Google has made a number of changes to the service since then, including the introduction of a new inbox that began rolling out to users at the end of May.
The primary feature of the new inbox is the automatic filtering of messages into tabs: primary, social (for notifications from your social networks), promotions (ads), and updates (for mailing lists). The updated apps for iOS and Android function similarly.
I’ve been using the new features for several days now, and I’ve been reasonably impressed so far. The categorization has been accurate, and the labels and filters I’d set up previously have continued to work well.
Though I still prefer to use Postbox when working at my own computer, I’ve appreciated using the web interface when using someone else’s, and I’ve definitely found the…
May 22, 2013, 11:00 am
Over the last few years, we’ve spilled a fair amount of digital ink on the importance of keeping good records. We’ve talked about what to keep, since good documentation is important whether you’re writing an annual review or going through the “tenure box” in preparation for a bid for tenure and/or promotion.
We’ve also noted the importance of keeping records up to date.
What I’m learning is that I’m likely to be able to update my records more accurately — and without it feeling like a huge task — if I’m regularly documenting the work I’m doing. And by “regularly” I mean at least weekly.
Such regular documentation isn’t something I’ve been at all good at this past year (though fortunately I have concrete examples of course work I can point to, as well as a transcript). One of my goals for the coming academic year is to document my work regularly.
What I’ve yet to determine…
May 15, 2013, 8:00 am
Recently, I witnessed a Twitter conversation that pretty clearly demonstrated that the participants weren’t understanding one another very well on a key point. They worked things out, and the discussion ended with no hard feelings, but for a while the atmosphere seemed pretty tense, at least to those of us watching the conversation unfold.
Who the participants were in this particular instance really doesn’t matter, but the incident got me thinking about both the importance of effective communication and some of the difficulties involved in achieving it. Both the attitude we bring to a conversation and the means by which it takes place are vitally important.
In the Twitter conversation mentioned above, the two principal participants were able to work things out in part because there’s already a relationship—one involving mutual liking and respect—between them. They were…
May 6, 2013, 11:00 am
During the last few weeks of April, I was working on a couple of end-of-semester projects for class. To help clarify my thinking, I really needed to sketch out how the various pieces of the project fit together, just so I could visualize it.
I suppose I could have gone to the local office supply store and purchased several large sheets of newsprint, but the later part of April happened to be when the team at Literature and Latte released Scapple.
Scapple is a completely free-form editor that lets you get ideas down quickly, move them around (or not), and make connections between them (or not). In short, you can place any item anywhere on the page that you like, and connect it to any other item—or just leave it to stand by itself.
It’s a great tool for mindmapping, though it’s not limited to that. It was certainly ideal for my purposes. I downloaded the trial version, installed it, a…
April 24, 2013, 8:00 am
We’ve all had those days. Nothing goes right. A project we’re working on takes far longer than we thought it would — in large part because nothing’s going right. The code we thought would work doesn’t. We thought we knew how to proceed with the project, but we don’t. We feel like we’re in over our heads, and we’re ready to pull our hair out.
It’s enormously frustrating. Yet, two experiences this year with course assignments suggest (at least to me) that frustration isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The first assignment involved hand-coding the beginnings (just a few basic pages) of a web site using HTML and CSS. I pretty quickly found out that I didn’t have quite as good a grasp of HTML and CSS as I thought I did. I spent a lot of time looking things up, trying to figure out how to get the site to do what I wanted it to do.
The second assignment involved setting up a site that was…
April 17, 2013, 8:00 am
I’ll admit it: I’m something of an app junkie—especially when the app in question is free. So when I came across a notice about Incredimail while reading through my news feeds recently, I had to give it a try. (Had I remembered that there was a desktop version of Incredimail, I might have thought the app wasn’t for me, but I didn’t remember that, so . . . .)
Since CNet gives a fairly detailed overview of the application, I’ll skip those details here, and instead give my overall impressions. Visually, the application looks fantastic (though I’d skip the stationery when composing a new message). It’s easy to connect to any IMAP account, and the Facebook integration is also nice, though hardly essential.
I quickly decided, though, that the application wasn’t for me, and that the official GMail client better suits the way I work. That’s for two main reasons.
April 10, 2013, 8:00 am
Not long ago, Google did some spring housecleaning. Among other things, they announced the the demise of Google Reader, effective on July 1 of this year.
To say that this caused quite a stir would be an understatement; my Twitter stream more or less exploded in response to the news. Reader itself has received more than a few mentions in this space, and many of the applications we use depend on it.
One of those is Zite, which Erin reviewed a little over a year ago. I personally rely heavily on Zite for my regular reading, so I was glad to see its creators move very quickly in response to Google’s announcement. The very next day, they released a re-working of the way their service interacts with Google, which they’d managed to put together in just six hours.
There are some limitations, which they note in their announcement (there’s no automatic syncing of feeds, for instance), but…
March 20, 2013, 8:00 am
No doubt many of our readers do a significant proportion of their work in a browser window; that’s certainly true of many of the members of the ProfHacker team.
Extensions can make our browsers more useful for us, or at least help us to accomplish some of our browser-based tasks a little more efficiently. A recent ZDNet article took a quick look at several extensions for Chrome; though many of the extensions listed there are most suited to web developers, the article prompted me to take a look at my own Chrome extensions.
What I discovered was that, while I don’t use very many extensions, I use the relatively few I have a lot, often in combination with one another. Here’s what I’ve got installed:
- Evernote Web Clipper. Evernote’s a big part of my workflow; being able to add materials without having to leave my browser is very handy.
- Pocket. Pocket is my reading…
March 13, 2013, 8:00 am
Over the last few years, we’ve written a lot about maintaining an online presence. When that presence takes the form of a website, WordPress is one of the most commonly used tools for building (whether you download and install it yourself or decide to use wordpress.com instead). It’s certainly a ProfHacker favorite.
There are times, though, when creating a web presence involves not only running a blog and/or posting relevant professional information, but also hosting a full-blown digital project. WordPress might be sufficiently robust to handle what’s needed—or it might not. In a lot of instances, Drupal might be a better choice. Drupal for Humanists does a good job of explaining both what Drupal can do, and when it might be better to use something else.
The site also has links to tools for getting started with developing a Drupal site, including Acquia Drupal and Pantheon…