November 8, 2012, 8:00 am
In the past few months there has been a lot of attention paid to a Zotero plugin called Paper Machines.
Created by Brown grad student Chris Johnson-Roberson as a Google Summer of Code project, Paper machines was coded by Brown grad student Chris Johnson-Roberson, and Jo Guldi and Matthew Battles directed the project. Paper Machines uses the data in a Zotero collection to generate analyses and visualizations. If you have a sizeable collection of documents with good metadata and full text (for example, PDFs with text layers) then Paper Machines can run its analysis. The most basic output is a word cloud. More advanced analyses provide phrases matching a pattern, maps of place names, annotations of people, places, and organizations. Paper Machines can also perform topic modeling using MALLET.
I ran Paper Machines on the digitized primary sources for a chapter of my dissertation. I…
September 27, 2012, 11:00 am
Every day, returning home after writing ten pages and inspiring young minds with my teaching, I prepare a lovely three-course meal, often cooking my artisanal hand-rolled pasta made from grandma’s recipe, served with vegetables I pick each evening from my hand-tended garden.
Wait, that’s not true of me. I’m guessing that sometimes it’s not true of you either. Some nights there is work yet to do and no time for cooking, so we order takeout.
I’ve use two websites when I’m looking to order takeout or delivery: GrubHub and Eat24. The two services are almost identical. You search by location for the restaurant or cuisine that you want, select your order from the menu, and either pay online or when the food is delivered or picked up. Paying online (including tip) is a nice feature of both, especially if like me you often don’t have cash handy. Neither service charges a fee, though…
September 20, 2012, 11:00 am
Of the perennial ProfHacker favorites, WordPress is probably neck and neck with Zotero as our most written about topic. From course blogs to department websites to ProfHacker itself, we like WordPress for just about any kind of website that you might run. In fact, other than the barest mention, I don’t think we’ve even acknowledged the existence of WordPress competitors like Blogger, Typepad, and MoveableType. WordPress really is that much better than the competition. (Jason does like About.me for profile pages, and if you’re comfortable on the command line Jekyll or Octopress are great choices.)
But if for academic purposes there isn’t much choice between WordPress and its competitors, you do have a choice between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. With WordPress.org, you host your own installation of WordPress and can install plugins and themes however you wish. With WordPress.com,…
September 13, 2012, 11:00 am
A lot of productivity advice, especially about technology, is about making things easier to do. For example, in the last few days at ProfHacker, George has asked about paperless promotion portfolios, Mark has shown us an easier Zotero workflow with Zotpad, Adeline has reviewed a geo-tagging journal, and I have written about hacking URLs for faster searches.
But recently I’m finding that I need to make some things harder on myself. It’s easy to fall into habits or routines, whether technological or otherwise, that keep you doing things that you wouldn’t choose to do if you thought about it rationally. But to get to the place where you’re making better decisions, you have to break the habit by making things harder on yourself. There is no point in having a shortcut to something that isn’t worth doing.
Here’s an example: Amazon has a patent on “1-Click” shopping. If you turn on the…
September 6, 2012, 11:00 am
A very large part of my work involves searching. I enter queries into library catalogs, into dictionaries, into search engines, and into academic databases. Anything I can do to reduce the number of steps it takes to perform a search will save me lots of time in the long run. So here is a way to set up custom search engines in your browser. For example, suppose I want to search for a word in JSTOR. In my browser I could
- click my JSTOR bookmark,
- click the search box,
- type my query and hit enter.
But using this hack, I can reduce that process by one step, so that I
- go to search box (in Google Chrome, CMD + L gets you there fast) and
- type ‘JSTOR’ plus tab plus my query and hit enter.
To make this work, you have to know a little bit about how URLs work. URLs can hold all sorts of useful (and hackable) information. For example, suppose I go to JSTOR and search for …
August 28, 2012, 11:00 am
’Tis the season for department functions, such as new faculty or graduate student orientations. I look forward to these gatherings at the start of the year as a chance to get reacquainted with colleagues and meet new ones before the pressure of the semester shortens (though never dispenses with) social pleasantries.
Let me suggest a hack you might try at the next academic gathering you attend: go out of your way to talk to the least important person in the room.
From ProfHacker, the Chronicle, Inside Higher Ed, or virtually any publication that dispenses professional advice, you can get tips on how to talk to important people—networking, it’s called. Those people might be important because they share some connection to your work (what else could be important?). Or they might be important because they are weighty in the prestige scale of the academy (by what other measure…
August 23, 2012, 11:00 am
At its simplest, Alfred App is a utility for Macs. You press a hotkey (the default is OPT + spacebar), a box appears on your screen, and you type the name of the application that you want.
There is no shortage of ways to launch applications in Mac OS X. You can click an icon on the dock, you can open Launchpad, you can search for the Application in Spotlight, or you could double-click on the icon in the Applications folder. Why would you want another application launcher?
The simplest reason is that Alfred is faster than most of the other options (except using Spotlight). You keep your hands on the keyboard, and typing “zot” is easier than searching for the Zotero icon in a page or three of icons that all look the same.
But the second, more powerful reason to use Alfred is that it is much more than an application launcher. Instead, you can think of it as a way to tell…
August 16, 2012, 11:00 am
This summer I had the good fortune, thanks to the generosity of a number of institutions, to make several trips to archives and libraries to do dissertation research. (Not to mention the good graces of a wife who is herself a graduate student and a baby who has spent two of her eleven months away from home.) I spent as much as two weeks at some institutions, as little as an afternoon at others. The mode was probably a week.
At every archive or library, the staff was unstintingly generous and helpful. I even met one archivist who was a ProfHacker reader. The expressions of gratitude in the acknowledgements of all the books I read (and one day in mine, I hope) are no less sincere for being commonplace.
Still, I have the feeling that I didn’t get to know the archivists and librarians as well as I ought to have, and that the shortcoming was my fault. I am not particularly outgoing….
April 30, 2012, 3:00 pm
When I was an undergraduate taking a class on writing history, and again when I was a graduate student, a professor assigned me to read Samuel Eliot Morison’s essay “History As a Literary Art.” Morison, more than most, was a credible source of writing advice. When he wrote the essay in 1946 he had already won the Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Christopher Columbus, Admiral of the Ocean Sea. By the end of his life, he would pick up another Pulitzer and two Bancroft Prizes. Morison was a professional historian, but he wrote squarely in the tradition of amateur, literary historians like Francis Parkman—perhaps unsurprisingly, since both were Boston blue bloods.
Morison was glad for the gains of academic history, but deplored the writing of only “dull, solid, valuable monographs,” leaving “journalists, novelists, and freelance writers” to ”extract the gold.” The question of…
April 24, 2012, 3:00 pm
There are any number of web services and apps that let you save something online to read later. Several ProfHacker authors use these services. Brian introduced us to the concept with his post back in 2009 on “Asynchronous Reading.” Amy, Natalie, and Jason have mentioned Instapaper; Erin wrote about Zite (a related application); Brian and I have written about Read It Later; and George mentioned Readability.
Read It Later recently rebranded itself as Pocket and released a substantial update. Pocket lets you save items like articles and videos to their web service. You can then read or watch the things you’ve saved on their website, or on apps for iPhone, iPad, Android devices, and the Kindle Fire. You can get a fuller overview on Pocket’s website.
Screen shot of Pocket's web app
The upgrade has…