April 23, 2013, 11:00 am
Last Thursday at noon the Digital Public Library of America launched its website. The opening festivities, which had been booked solid with a long wait list for weeks, were canceled, since the venue at the main branch of the Boston Public Library was adjacent to the site of the bombing in Boston earlier that week. But the DPLA, which is a website and not a location, went ahead with the launch of the public service anyway.
The DPLA is a project that gathers together the digital collections from many partner institutions. The DPLA aggregates the metadata for these items and points users to the digital copies available at the partners’ websites. As more and more institutions join the DPLA, it will be the universal place to search for open digital resources. The DPLA itself gives a fuller explanation of what it does:
- A portal that delivers students, teachers, scholars, and the…
April 8, 2013, 11:00 am
We’ve written at ProfHacker about several different services that let you save webpages into a queue to read later: Brian wrote about “Asynchronous Reading.” Amy, Natalie, and Jason have mentioned Instapaper; I wrote about Pocket; and George mentioned Readability. These services are all basically the same. But Readability has created a new service, called Readlists.
According to their website, a Readlist is “a group of web pages—articles, recipes, course materials, anything—bundled into an e-book you can send to your Kindle, iPad, or iPhone.” Instead of adding items to a queue, you create a collection of articles with a common theme. Readlist will then create a single page with links to all of the items, with the titles and descriptions created automatically. The really useful feature is that Readlist will create an EPUB or Kindle e-book from the list, so that you or …
April 4, 2013, 11:00 am
We all know that e-mail is one of the great distractions of our profession, a never-ending source of things to do other than the thing you really should be doing. We’ve certainly written a lot about e-mail a lot here at ProfHacker. A lot of the advice people give about e-mail boils down to, check it less frequently, and process it sensibly. But if you want to send off an e-mail, say to a class list or to a collaborator, you have to open your e-mail program and check your mail. What happens next? You’re doing whatever is in your inbox because you can’t help yourself.
But if you’re a user of Gmail, there’s a simple solution. Open this URL, then bookmark it. Now you can open a compose e-mail window and hit send, all without having to see anything in your inbox.
To give credit where credit is due, I got this idea from
March 7, 2013, 11:00 am
The odds are good that there are multiple computers in your life. You might have a laptop along with a desktop computer in your office or at home. Or (like me) you might have an outmoded computer at home that could still be useful but which isn’t your primary machine. Or maybe you run a NASA launch center, or wish you did. If you have multiple computers, chances are you’d like to use them at the same time. For me, when I recently built a standing desk in hopes of avoiding undue health risks, it made sense to make a space both for my laptop and extra monitor and for an old Ubuntu desktop. (Yes, it’s pretty nice screen-real-estate-wise, if not good-taste-in-furniture-wise.)
The big problem* with using multiple computers is switching between keyboards and mice. This will drive you nuts about 10 seconds after you try to do it. That’s where Synergy comes in.
Synergy is open-source…
February 13, 2013, 8:00 am
Your computer’s user interface is based on one metaphor or another. (At least, it is if you’re not typing just 1s and 0s into your computer.) More than likely your computer operates on the “windows” metaphor, even if you use a Mac. Documents and applications float across the screen, and you click and drag to arrange the windows on your screen. The trouble with the window metaphor is that every second spent arranging windows is a waste of time. I find this to be a frequent source of frustration, and neither Windows nor Mac OS X handles it well. (The exception is xmonad, a tiling windows manager that is a true thing of beauty, but not one that you can use without Linux.) That’s why George wrote about Better Snap Tool, which Brian also likes in addition to Divvy, both of which add more powerful features to manage windows on a Mac. Either is a good, user-friendly option.
If you want a Mac…
February 8, 2013, 11:00 am
If you want to learn methods, techniques, or technologies that are outside your usual scholarly ambit, then you often have to learn them in small sections as you find time. That’s why I was glad to learn about R Twotorials.
R, according to the R Project’s website, “is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics.” It’s a programming language useful for analyzing data and creating graphics, especially if you’re using statistical methods.* It’s also the language that Matthew Jockers suggests you learn if you’re interested in digital humanities.
R Twotorials is a set of some ninety screencasts, each two minutes long, that teach you how to use R. Created by
graduate student Anthony Damico, a statistical analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation, the screencasts are fast-paced and entertainingly bombastic. You can get a flavor for the screencasts and a sense of how…
February 4, 2013, 8:00 am
A few weeks ago I did something which surprised my wife, and which surprised me: I bought a Kindle Paperwhite. Even more surprising, I like the Kindle a lot, and I find myself doing most of a certain kind of reading on the Kindle.
Here is a not-so-brief review of the device itself, followed by a few thoughts on the Kindle as an e-book ecosystem.
Size. First, the Paperwhite is light and small — less than half a pound, about the height and width of a small trade paperback, but a lot thinner. At that size, I never think about whether to bring the Kindle with me or not: the benefits of having it with me for the odd moment during the day outweighs the space and weight it takes up.
Screen. The Paperwhite’s screen is an e-ink display, like all of the Kindles except the Fire, and like e-readers such as the Barnes & Noble Nook. The advantage of the e-ink display over an…
February 1, 2013, 11:00 am
I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done five or six years ago, and it has more or less shaped the way I organize my work since then. I say more or less, because the elaborate system of projects, next actions, someday/maybe lists, and processing that makes up GTD is easy to slip away from. That’s probably for the best, since undue obsession with planning your work can take away from actually doing the work. I’ve noticed that I go through long cycles, at the end of which I return to organizing my work according to GTD.
I’ve recently gotten back to the Getting Things Done system, thanks to a series of episodes in the podcast Back to Work. Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discuss the high points of GTD, especially the sticking points where your system can fall apart. (A caveat: the hosts spend a lot of time talking about things that are off topic, especially comics. If you enjoy that,…
December 11, 2012, 8:00 am
For all the pleasures of teaching, grading is not one of them. We have a bunch of ProfHacker posts about this, and also a number of ways to make your grading process better or help you change the way you think about grading. I want to propose one more idea.
If it takes me on average 30–45 minutes to grade a research paper, only a small amount of that time is spent evaluating the student’s work in the sense of assigning a grade. I know the final grade of the paper with a high degree of certainty in about 5 minutes. It helps that I’ve read first drafts and discussed them in conferences with the students, and it helps that I’ve adopted Brian’s idea of giving only As, Bs, Cs, etc. (or in my case, As, high Bs, low Bs, Cs, etc.). But I suspect that most other teachers can give a ballpark grade very soon after starting to read a paper.
The implication is that for the remaining 25 to 40 …