All posts by Jason B. Jones

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Looking for an Exchange Calendar for Mac? Try Fantastical 2.2

LEGO calendar
Like most of the apps Apple bundles with OS X, Calendar is very . . . eh. The best thing you can say about it is that plays pretty well with the various iDevices, and it can be used as a source of data for other calendaring apps.

Since 2010, one of the nicest calendar apps for OS X (and iOS) has been Fantastical, which has distinguished itself from the start with slick design and very nifty natural language parsing for adding events quickly and sensibly. It started as a menubar app, moved to t…

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Experimenting with Specifications Grading

Noted media scholar and friend-of-ProfHacker Jason Mittell has been experimenting with a new way of grading, called “specifications grading,” on the grounds that “figuring out a way to rethink the culture of grades would be the most effective and impactful reform” available at a school such as Middlebury.

Mittell borrows specifications grading from Linda Nilson (also see her book), and in Mittell’s description at least, it sounds very like what many of us know as contract grading (see also), ex…

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Syntax Highlighting for (English) Prose

rows of chairs in different colors

Programmers have long been used to text editors that offer syntax highlighting, a feature that does exactly what it says on the tin: it renders specific aspects of code in different colors, so that you’re better able to find relevant sections–or even just fix mistakes!

Syntax highlighting is mainly a thing for structured languages, such as ones for programming or markup. However, someone has built a little web app that will color-code short chunks of prose (via Gizmodo’s Jamie Condliffe, catchi…

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Turning Off the New, Worse Twitter

seagulls on a power line
As part of its own ongoing confusion about what it is (which is both a cause and consequence of this problem, Twitter has been on a campaign recently to worsen its service. The current version of this is to make Twitter more Facebook-ish by giving control of your timeline to its algorithms.

Until recently, the Twitter timeline was pretty easy to understand: it’s all the tweets, in reverse-chronological order (i.e., newest-on-top), that have been posted by people you follow. Then Twitter started…

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Go to Bed: Sleep Debt and Self-Deceit

sleeping cat

This weekend, at least in the US, Daylight Saving Time resumes, which means that next week everyone’s likely to be groggy and a little confused.

It turns out that this is only a slight exaggeration of our normal state.

Jill Duffy has a slightly terrifying post this week explaining that we probably under-estimate the effects of tiredness:

Subjects in a lab-based sleep study who were allowed to get only six hours of sleep a night for two weeks straight functioned as poorly as those who were for…

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Attending to Smartphone Apps

food
The app economy, we’re told, is “bigger than Hollywood.” Apple likes to boast of how many jobs its app store has created, and even the president exhorts the young folks to program their phones, not just play with them.

Yesterday, The Verge published a great story by Casey Newton on the collapse of the app store’s middle class, where all those “bigger than Hollywood” dollars go to an increasingly concentrated set of firms, mostly in gaming, messaging, and entertainment, and the vast majority of …

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Managing Slack

Photo of a street sign: "Slack End"

Over the past couple of years, the on-trend communication tool among technology types has, no doubt, been Slack. Lee wrote an introductory post about it in August, and Maha followed up a couple of weeks later with some thoughts about when to use it.

The past week saw two interesting posts that look at Slack from very different “management” angles:

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E-Portfolios Are Not the Fitbit of Higher Education

sketchbook

This month Jeff Young, Goldie Blumenstyk, and friends have launched a new section of the Chronicle, called “Re:Learning: Mapping the New Education Landscape”, which looks at some of the recent technological, economic, and political challenges to higher education. I think–and not just because it would be on brand to say so–that this is a potentially interesting refresh of the Wired Campus focus.

On their Facebook page yesterday, they shared a Forbes article arguing that e-portfolios are the Fit…

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Doing Focused Work in Distracted Times: Cal Newport’s Deep Work

Cat, staring intently

Although the book didn’t quite arrive in time for New Year’s resolutions (which are junk anyway), 2016 has already seen the publication of Cal Newport’s eagerly-awaited new title, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (Grand Central Publishing), which promises to offer research-driven guidelines for doing meaningful work. And it’s pretty successful at this goal!

Cal Newport is the prior author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work…