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…
May 30, 2013, 11:02 am
Does this ever happen to you? Let’s say you’re writing an article or a chapter. It’s taking longer than you anticipated. (No surprise there.) Your editor or your dissertation advisor, or maybe just your writing group, is expecting to read a draft, but you think it’s not ready. It’s incomplete, it’s tentative, it doesn’t adequately review the secondary literature, it doesn’t take into account a source you haven’t read yet. So you put off sending out your work. Then another opportunity comes around to share your work. But in the intervening month, your draft hasn’t improved as much as you’d hoped, and surely your readers’ expectations have been raised. So you put off sending out your work until you’re convinced that your readers’ expectations are so high that you can’t show them your draft until the draft is worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.
This scenario probably describes the writing life …
May 28, 2013, 8:00 am
The rhythms of academic life have a certain predictability: no matter how grueling a particular semester may feel, it will eventually end. That end of semester crunch, which brings with it extra grading, meetings, and administrative tasks, will for many people temporarily override your usual research and writing routines for a week or two at the end of term. A particularly challenging semester may override those routines for much longer than that.
If you’ve been away from your research for a while, it can feel a bit daunting to know how to get back into it. You may have put aside the routines of your research life in the midst of teaching and service demands and have to figure them out anew. If you’ve been away from your research project for a while, it’s easy to lose touch with the deeper questions and ideas that motivate your research.
One of the best ways to get back to a re…
May 23, 2013, 8:00 am
Whether your summer plans involve writing, teaching, travel, or relaxing, we’ve got something in the ProfHacker archives to help.
Plan Your Time: Anastasia points out that we often fall prey to an illusion of an “Endless” Summer and suggests that “more unscheduled time or perceived freedom can be dangerous, with the temptation of grandiose planning and over-commitment.” Last summer she experimented with an alternative calendar app to help plan her summer.
In Summerproofing Your to-Do List, Jason usefully warns that
It can be very easy to reach August with May’s goals largely untouched. This is perhaps especially true when you’re not teaching
Jason lists several task manager tools and approaches in his post, pointing out that it’s worth spending time now to set up whatever system you’ll use to track your summer goals and actions. In Get the Most From Summer With Well-Made Deadlines,…
May 21, 2013, 8:00 am
It seems like new online services for collaborative writing are emerging all the time. After a series of postings about the powerful collaborative capabilities of the GitHub platform, used for writing code by programmers around the world, I suggested that this opens up the possibility for radical new ways to engage in academic scholarship and explore ways of forking the academy. For this to even stand a chance though, we need writing platforms that work better for our needs than the steep learning curve and some of the other limitations of Github. I offered my own list of suggestions about what that kind of platform might look like and in the next few weeks I’ll take a closer look at some of new options out there to consider. I begin with Draft, a new writing platform created by the extremely talented Nathan Kontny.
Draft is designed for drafting and collaborative writing of text. It is…
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, 8:00 am
In my last posting, I imagined what it might look like to fork the academy, that is, to create a space within the world of academic writing and publishing where we could directly reuse, adapt, and expand each other’s work. I also discussed some of the most significant obstacles that stand in the way, both at the disciplinary level and the kinds of personal concerns I have seen raised from friends and colleagues I have discussed the idea with.
In an earlier posting I looked at some of the reasons why GitHub.com, which has led the way in making the practice of "forking" repositories of code and text possible, is not really an ideal environment for scholars to use for writing and collaboration. It works, but it has been developed more for building software, than for writing books, academic papers, syllabi, and other the genres of writing we engage in.
Over the next few weeks we will take …
April 30, 2013, 8:00 am
I recently wrapped up a series on GitHub. Throughout the series I highlighted what I thought were some of the most powerful innovations that software developers and writers can take advantage of in GitHub. In particular I looked at two of its collaborative features, the ability to "fork" repositories of text that retain a connection to the original and the issuing of "pull requests" as a way to enable outside contributions in an decentralized environment which leaves everyone with full control over the texts they work on.
The social and collaborative potentials that GitHub provides makes it easier than ever for anyone to contribute to an open source project or adopt and adapt a repository for their own needs and pursue their own directions. If something like this caught on in the academic world, if we could fork the academy, we might move beyond merely referring to the work of others …
April 16, 2013, 11:00 am
This posting is the last in a series introducing the text hosting and version control service GitHub (See parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). Up until this posting I have talked about some of the great features of working with repositories of text in GitHub and the ways in which it facilitates collaboration even without direct collaboration. It is, in its own motto, a "social coding" environment that allows anyone to "fork" code, issue "pull requests" to propose improvements on someone else’s work, as well as keep a history of changes and improvements on work over time. I have argued that these innovations have much to teach us in our own worlds of scholarship.
GitHub, in its current form, can serve the needs of writers and scholars, just as it currently serves programmers, and more recently, groups adding laws and government regulations as repositories on the site. For many reasons, however,…
April 1, 2013, 8:00 am
This post continues a series here at ProfHacker on GitHub. The series began with the suggestion that this service, primarily used to host code repositories and facilitate collaboration between programmers, is also home to many innovations that offer powerful ways forward across the realm of academic scholarship.
As we saw in the last post, and several earlier posts by fellow ProfHackers, GitHub has a “social” element that ties a community of shared and replicated groups of text together through the process of a “fork.” Collaborators working together on a project can “push” and “pull” changes to a single repository, but GitHub also makes it trivial for complete strangers to find, fork, and then issue a “pull request” on, for example, a syllabus, an article, or other set of documents.
Unlike a wiki, where a single central “canonical” text usually dominates, GitHub is completely…