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Before yesterdayProfHacker

We’re Moving!

By Prof. Hacker

photo of a packed-up office with lots of moving boxes

Some personal news: All things have a life cycle, and in this instance it is time for ProfHacker to return to its independent roots. Beginning on October 1, 2018, you’ll find new posts by our merry crew at (as well as archived material), and, as always, @ProfHacker on Twitter.

Many thanks to the Chronicle of Higher Education for hosting us since 2009, and indeed for continuing to host our archived material! It has been an exciting 9 years!

Most important, thanks to everyone who’s read, clicked a link, or RTed anything written here, and we look forward to seeing you next month!

Weekend Reading: Good Luck This Semester Edition

By Jason B. Jones

boat painted "you don't need luck if u r good"

By this time next week I think just about everyone on the semester system will have started classes, which means the summer’s over and campuses are once again full of activity. Whether you’ve been teaching or working all summer, doing research, or recharging for the long winter, here’s hoping everything goes well in 2018-19!

On to this week’s links:

  • Miriam Elizabeth Burstein did some quiet looking into the question of superstar advisors and their advisees’ placements: The American letter of reference is a notoriously bizarre genre, because of course you are not supposed to say anything negative about one’s student. (Also notoriously, letters from the UK and the Continent, perhaps sensibly enough, do not adhere to this protocol. Tales of the accidentally disastrous results are legion.)
  • Austin Kleon’s very simple rule gets harder as the nights get longer, but it does make sense: Don’t think too much about your life after dinnertime. Thinking too much at the end of the day is a recipe for despair.
  • Paris Martineau recommends putting your phone in Do Not Disturb mode . . . forever. (Which not every one can do, obviously, but it is amazing that people have notifications on for, hypothetically, Instagram likes.): long-term use of Do Not Disturb mode doesn’t leave me stuck bouncing from app to app in order to gauge what I missed. All of the dumb texts, emails, and reminders are there, waiting to be read; they just look a little different a couple of hours after the fact. They feel less overwhelmingly urgent and more like what they actually are: words on a screen that can be dealt, according to urgency, when you have the time.
  • I really like Supercomputer, a new podcast by Alex Cox and Matthew Cassinelli. The most recent episode, on morning routines, was pretty helpful!
  • Also, and though I don’t usually recommend paywalled articles here, Paige Morgan’s “The Consequences of Framing Digital Humanities Tools As Easy to Use” strikes too close to home for me not to link (Update: Thanks to friend-of-ProfHacker Paige for providing an open-access link as well!: It argues that attempts to couch powerful tools in what is often false familiarity, directly undermines the goal of encouraging scholarly innovation and risk taking. The consequences of framing digital tools as either easy or more difficult shapes the relationship between librarians and the students and faculty whose research they support, and, more broadly, the role and viability of libraries as spaces devoted to skill acquisition.
  • For this week’s video, here’s Julien Baker’s cover of The Mountain Goats’s “No Children”:

    Alt track: Ibeyi’s #hamildrop track, “Rise Up Wise Up Eyes Up”

    Photo “You Don’t Need Luck if U R Good” by Flickr user momo / Creative Commons licensed BY-2.0

Genius as an Alternative Social Media

By Prof. Hacker

sign that says "genius"

Kate Holterhoff @KateHolterhoff is a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research areas include nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century British literature, visual culture, digital humanities, and the history of science. She directs and edits the literary and art historical resource, which has recently become a federated archive with with NINES, the Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-Century Electronic Scholarship.She’s previously written for ProfHacker on “Using Digital Archives to Teach Data Set Creation and Visualization Design.”

That many academics rely on social media goes without saying. Not only is social media integral to the research, pedagogy, and public identities of academics, online communication permits us to share thoughts, accomplishments, notifications (book publications, conference CFPs, syllabus questions) with colleagues across the globe. Yet, I am dissatisfied with my social media. Twitter can often be overwhelming, and in my experience it fails to foster engaged discussion. In fact, Theresa MacPhail complains of "Twitter's brand of shallow scholarship" in her recent piece "Why I Quit Twitter." Both personally and professionally I get the most out of Facebook. However, like others at ProfHacker, the recent revelations concerning Cambridge Analytica have spurred me to reconsider my relationship to this app.

Is there another option for social engagement that aligns with the unique needs, interests, and skill sets of academics? Of course, numerous apps targeted to academic audiences have sprung up. Academia, LinkedIn, HASTAC, and Humanities Commons among others, all lobby to provide a forum for academics to socialize online. However, in my experience these niche sites all fall short of my need to engage meaningfully with peers, while establishing myself as a public intellectual.

This spring I decided to become more engaged with (formerly Rap Genius), in part by thinking of it as a form of social media. Although Genius offers no substitute to Facebook for sharing birthday well-wishes, and no Instagram-like experience for posting photos of brunch, there remains much to recommend the site. For those unfamiliar with it, Genius is a platform for annotating poetry, speeches, song lyrics, news stories, critical theory… pretty much any written media. Beyond song lyrics, these include such disparate texts as bell hooks's "Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance;" the 2016 Presidential debates; and the manifesto "My Twisted World" by Elliot Rodgers, the perpetrator of the 2014 Isla Vista shootings. The ongoing conceit of Genius is that registered users may add new or correct existing annotations for "I.Q." points. While the nonprofit app offers a similar service permitting users to "hold discussions, read socially, organize your research, and take personal notes," it lacks Genius's community as well as its sheer volume and caliber of visitors. I admit to being starstruck knowing that, if not necessarily active in the community, artists Lin-Manuel Miranda, Junot Diaz, and Michael Chabon are all verified users who have contributed annotations to the site.

Much of the fun of Genius for me is its low-stakes facilitation of creativity and critical thinking. As a crowdsourced project, the quality of annotations (or "tates," as the community terms them) is not always exceptional, and rarely academic, but it has proven seductive for academics. For good or ill, with the numerous and varied poems and critical theory pieces available on Genius instructors have been using the site in their pedagogy for years. Tom Morgan, Associate Professor at the University of Dayton, uses Genius as part of his 300-level hip hop course. In order "to get them thinking about writing for a non-academic audience, but to still write in a way that emphasizes analysis over summary," students write five annotations (100-words minimum per post) and tag their professor @poeticimmunity. Especially in a course centered on music, there is good reason to incorporate Genius into the classroom. However, Dr. Morgan finds something else enticing about the site on a personal level. As a moderator and author of over 850 annotations, including a coveted "tate of the week," Genius forms a significant part of his identity.

My interest in Genius also extends beyond the classroom, but not beyond my work as a scholar. In fact, so far my use of the platform has been wholly self-indulgent—although, I like to think it contributes to a communal good. The exercise of writing "tates" permits me to flex the muscles I use regularly as a writer, critic, and teacher, but in a low stakes format. What I get from Genius is a validation of my skill-set at the end of the day, when all of my sharpest brain cells are exhausted. For many academics, the idea of writing annotations for fun may not jump out as an obvious avenue for recreation, community, or building up a public identity. Yet for music enthusiasts in particular, of which many academics certainly number, it is surprisingly pleasant to reflect on the songs that touch us. What is more, by attracting over 100 million visitors each month, I take some satisfaction knowing that these annotations will likely reach a broader audience than the majority of the academic essays I have published.

What has surprised me most about the experience, is that I have also gained from the social aspect of Genius. After posting a greeting and introduction to the editorial forum following my elevation to the role of editor, I received a number of kind messages, privately and on the forum, from enthusiastic members of the community offering to show me the ropes. There is also a cooperative aspect to the annotation writing process. I have enjoyed the exercise of reviewing, adding to, and collaborating on annotations with other users. In this way, the creation of annotations serves the similar function of community building found in other comment and post-centered online forums like Reddit. Although, in a sense, Genius's reliance on unpaid labor is reprehensible, I get paid as little for my "tates" as my peer-reviewed scholarly writing (especially as a non-tenured academic laborer).

Genius is not for everyone, but it has opened my eyes to the factors which I value in an online community. Now, when I find myself becoming overwhelmed by tweets or depressed by Facebook, I make the conscious decision to use Genius to revisit an artist I enjoy, or perhaps see if the new song I recently discovered in Spotify needs attention.

Do you have a favorite alternative form of social media? Let us know in comments!

Photo “Genius” by Flickr user mihimaru / Creative Commons licensed BY-ND-2.0

How to do Rapid Response Research

By Jason B. Jones

I’ve written before about the good folks* behind the Nimble Tents Toolkit, a set of strategies and templates for helping mobilize academic and related workers in support of urgent crises. The first project was last fall’s mapathon for Puerto Rico, and they have had more successes since.

Their fierce recent work, Torn Apart / Separados visualizes data related to the deeply antidemocratic and antihuman policies being enacted in the United States by ICE. Volume 1 focused on the astonishing breadth of ICE’s carceral apparatus; this week brought Volume 2, which makes visible the flows of money and resources that make such an apparatus functional.

For those wondering “how in the name of Mother Rhoyne do they do such work so quickly?,” Nimble Tents–in this instance, Christina L. Boyles, Alex Gil, Erin Rose Glass, Roopika Risam, Danica Savonick, and Angelika Strohmayer–have produced a how-to guide, “Rapid Response Research”, which walks through the process and offers recommendations for best practices:

Together, teams of researchers, technologists, librarians, faculty, and students can pool their existing skills and knowledges to make swift and thoughtful contributions through digital scholarship in these times of crisis. The temporality of a rapid response is relative and will vary depending on the situation, from a matter of days, to a week, or several weeks. Our model below is relevant to the variable timelines a situation might require, but it bears remembering that a crisis itself has an immediacy, and that RRR projects, accordingly, bring with them a pressure to respond with intensity and speed.

It really is a terrific place to start for anyone contemplating an intervention in any of the crises that seem daily to overwhelm us. Read the whole thing, bookmark it, share it widely!

Photo “Hummingbird – infrared” by Flickr user fortherock / Creative Commons licensed BY-SA-2.0

*I’m listed on the editorial board, but it’s the others who are good folks, obviously.

How to Value Labor in Digital Projects

By Jason B. Jones

Bookshelf with Digital Labor

Digital projects often bring together many different members of an institution, or several institutions, and those members often have very different statuses: students (undergraduate or graduate), workers in precarious positions, those with permanent positions, etc. Understanding and properly valuing all of this work, and the disparate effects such work has on the different people who perform it, is an ongoing challenge.

To help people begin to approach this problem, the Digital Library Federation‘s Working Group on Labor in Digital Libraries has produced an invaluable Research Agenda: Valuing Labor in Digital Libraries.

The Research Agenda identifies a variety of topics related to labor, some of which are directly practical (e.g., organized labor) while others seem more of a conceptual intervention (maintenance vs. innovation). For each topic, there’s a brief prose description of the issue, a list of possible research questions and projects, and a splendid bibliography. It’s a remarkable resource for anyone involved in the creation, maintenance, or preservation of digital projects in libraries or library-adjacent organizations.

Produced by Amy Wickner, Karly Wildenhaus, Hillel Arnold, and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, the Research Agenda pulls together insights from many fields in order to make the problematics of digital labor more visible, so that they can be addressed systematically. It’s well worth a read.

Photo “Digital Labor sighting in Berlin bookstore!!” by Flickr user Trebor Scholz / Creative Commons licensed BY-ND-2.0

Weekend Reading – Rediscovering Blogging Edition

By Lee Skallerup Bessette


Blogs are back! At least, they seem to be making a resurgence as we try to disentangle ourselves from the predatory social media platforms that took all the words many of us used to write on blogs. I’ll admit, I started my own tinyletter in part because I wanted to find an audience again that was a little more personal that what gets lost in the algorithmic facebook feed and the firehose that is Twitter.  My blog (which is my domain) is kind of an experiment in long-form writing now. I’m working at another Domains school, so we are thinking about how students are using their domains, owning their own data, and writing publicly.

  • Dan Cohen wrote about going Back to The Blog as well as Going Indie on Social Media: “Meanwhile, thinking globally but acting locally is the little bit that we can personally do. Teaching young people how to set up sites and maintain their own identities is one good way to increase and reinforce the open web. And for those of us who are no longer young, writing more under our own banner may model a better way for those who are to come.”

  • Mark Sample, on how Facebook Killed the Feed: “Facebook killed the feed. The feed was a metaphorical thing. I’m not talking about RSS feeds, the way blog posts could be detected and read by offsite readers. I’m talking about sustenance. What nourished critical minds. The feed. The food that fed our minds. There’s a “feed” on Facebook, but it doesn’t offer sustenance. It’s empty calories. Junk food. Junk feeds.”

  • Kathleen Fitzpatrick on Connections and Feeds and Gardens: “These are real challenges, I think, a few among the many that social media platforms have utterly fumbled: finding ways to be open to the web while safe from harassment; finding ways to maintain ownership of one’s content while being open to discussion; finding ways to develop and extend community without endangering the very thing we’re trying to create. Finding ways to care for one’s plot, in other words, without winding up in a walled garden. I’m looking forward to seeing how a decentralized, distributed, interconnected web might find new ways to approach these challenges.”

  • Chris Aldrich, responding to Kathleen: “I’ll suspect she’ll be even more impressed when she realizes that there’s a forthcoming wave of feed readers that will allow her to read others’ content in a reader which has an integrated micropub client in it so that she can reply to posts directly in her feed reader, then the responses get posted directly to her own website which then, in turn, send webmentions to the sites she’s responding to so that the conversational loop can be completely closed.”

  • And finally, because it is alluded to in Kathleen’s title, and he says himself that this is one of the best things he’s written, Mike Caulfield on The Garden and The Stream: “Whereas the garden is integrative, the Stream is self-assertive. It’s persuasion, it’s argument, it’s advocacy. It’s personal and personalized and immediate. It’s invigorating. And as we may see in a minute it’s also profoundly unsuited to some of the uses we put it to.”

Sing along to Rainbow Connection to start your weekend!

Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash

Getting Ready for Teaching This Fall

By Lee Skallerup Bessette


How is it already MID-AUGUST?!?!?!

I just got back from Digital Pedagogy Lab, a week full of people sharing resources that can be implemented in our classes, if we start thinking about it [looks at calendar - weeps] now. But in order of ease, here are some things to get you started thinking about your teaching in the (sigh) fall.


Thinking about “non-traditional” students:

Incorporating Digital Literacy:

Want to talk to students about the currently digital landscape? We have resources! and and #dpl2018 #digped @DigPedLab

— Dr. Lee Skallerup Bessette (@readywriting) August 2, 2018

Please share your suggestions in the comments!

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

Weekend Reading: What Do You Mean, “Late Summer”? Edition

By Jason B. Jones

landscape photo with stunning sky

The World Cup is over. Transfer season is well and truly upon us . . . it can only mean that there’s about six weeks left until Labor Day and the traditional start of the fall semester. Hmm. You know what? Let’s just try to get through the weekend–have a good one!

  • Donna Laclos gave a keynote talk last month called “Who Gets to Use ILL?”, and it’s an interesting look at the assumptions any library makes about its users and resources: Who is the “user?”–there are internal and external systems, and scholars usually only see the latter. But the ways the former works have an impact on the work that’s done. The limits of the internal systems can be passed on in the form of policies, even if those limits are not inherent to the practices of scholarship per se. . . . I continue to hear in library and edtech circles about the value of “seamlessness”–But the “seamless” delivery of material, regardless of how you get it, has its own cost, of invisibility and–devalued labor.
  • Ute Kreplin casts a discerning eye over the scientific evidence for meditation’s benefits: The utilisation of meditation techniques by large corporations such as Google or Nike has created growing tensions within the wider community of individuals who practise and endorse its benefits. Those of a more traditional bent argue that meditation without the ethical teachings can lead into the wrong kind of meditation . . . . But what if meditation doesn’t work for you? Or worse, what if it makes you feel depressed, anxious or psychotic?
  • Automators 2 is a great new podcast by David Sparks and Rose Orchid about automating digital tasks. The show notes from the second episode, about automating email, give a good flavor of the kind of support and detail they provide.
  • Reading Dr. Rubella’s post about “Post-Doc-ing While Pregnant” gave me a *lot* of flashbacks: I say all of this to say if you have a pregnant student or postdoc or other early career researcher in your lab or building, be kind because its likely they are having similar feelings, thoughts and emotions and a little extra kindness goes a long way.
  • Douglas Rushkoff explains that the rich don’t really have the same concerns as the rest of us: They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless? What would stop the guards from choosing their own leader? The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew. Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for their survival. Or maybe building robots to serve as guards and workers — if that technology could be developed in time.

“Bruises: The Data We Don’t See” is a compelling work of “data humanism” by Kaki King and Giorgia Lupi. It’s distressing in places, but well worth a listen/watch:

In lieu of a bonus video, a couple of trailers: I’m really looking forward to hosting screenings of two movies this fall: Paywall: The Business of Scholarship” and Ex Libris: The New York Public Library

Photo “36273306_1136839243125542_8865018296596955136_n” by Flickr user Keresztényi Péter Photography / Public Domain

An Itty Bitty Post

By Jason B. Jones

Dog with disc in water

As we casually dip our toes back into regular posting after a week to accommodate the midweek American holiday + realities of summer, it makes sense to start out small . . . itty bitty, in fact. itty bitty is a service that renders a web page–even an entire (simple) app–entirely within the link itself.

In other words, this link contains within it the first paragraph of Paul Clifford, compressed via the Lempel-Ziv-Markov algorithm, which if you tell me is a real thing I’ll believe you.

The ingenuity of itty bitty is that nothing is stored on the server: The entirety of the web page is contained in the URL, encoded and compressed. It will hold about a page of text, emoji, or ASCII characters. Despite/because of its simplicity, there are already some pretty cool examples. As these examples suggest, in addition to doing light editing directly on the itty bitty site itself, you can also drop HTML files directly onto it for conversion in this format.

What might you make with a server-free microsite? Let us know in comments!

Photo “Dippin’ his toes in the water” by Flickr user m01229 / Creative Commons licensed BY-2.0

Revisiting a Summer Writing Challenge

By Anastasia Salter

A couple years ago, my colleague Emily Johnson wrote a post about an experimental “gamified” writing challenge she designed for our Games Research Group. We’ve run variants on this challenge in the group from time to time, but summer seems to be the most productive. This year, we’re incorporating a few social elements designed to help push back against the isolation of summer writing. Many of our group members aren’t actually on campus during the summer, and those faculty not involved in administration or summer teaching frequently make summer an intense time of research — which can mean a lot of days spent alone at a computer.

To resist some of the fatigue, we created a Slack channel for our group’s summer writing challenge, running for the month of June as a way to inspire writing tracking and perhaps some friendly competition with oneself or others in the group. If you haven’t used Slack, it’s essentially a team chatroom that many of us at ProfHacker  use for collaboration and community discussions. Participants track daily writing in a simple google spreadsheet set up with individual sheets for tracking: I’ve built a simple model of this on Google Sheets, which works well for collaborations of this kind.

A lot of the fun social elements begin when the spreadsheet is hooked up to Slack: one of our group members, Rudy McDaniel, built two bots for enhancing the Slack side of the writing challenge. The code for these bots is up on GitHub if you want to try them out for yourself:

  • Wrigley -  Our link between the Google Sheet and Slack, Wrigley tracks events in the spreadsheet and posts them as an update to Slack when they happen. This makes progress updates simple, and puts them in the group chat in the context of whatever bot-and-human conversations are already ongoing.

  • Taunt Engine – Rudy’s Taunt Engine is a Slackbot with a crowdsourced collection of taunts used by the more competitively-minded members of the group for automated taunting. The same format could of course be used for encouraging remarks or general writing commentary (which is currently the role of our main Slackbot.)

If you’re feeling isolated on your summer projects, making writing into this type of communal practice can be a small way to change the mood. I personally benefit from the increased sense of accountability: while I’m already in the habit of daily writing to some extent, I find it more difficult to sustain productivity when I’m away from urgent deadlines. There’s a lot of contradictory advice on getting into a good writing flow out there, and we’ve discussed the topic at length here at ProfHacker, but if you find daily activity helpful building a community is one of the best strategies I know. I’ve definitely noticed an increase in the number of days I spend writing during the challenge.

Do you have a collaborative summer writing habit or strategy? Share it in the comments!

["Gato "Untitled" 3 - "Untitled" Cat 3" by Agent 1994 is licensed under CC BY]

Make Wikipedia Even Better (And Support a Great Cause!)

By Lee Skallerup Bessette


If you know anything about me by now during my time here at ProfHacker, it’s that I’ll promote and share the heck out of anything Mike Caulfield is doing in order to clean up the internet environment. Seriously, if you are doing ANYTHING related to digital literacy/fluency, you should read his blog. All of it.

His latest project is the #NOW Challenge:

I am announcing a project to get students and faculty to produce 1,000 new Wikipedia articles on significant English-language local newspapers by October 12, 2018. This will represent a substantial increase in Wikipedia coverage of these papers (An increase of 1,000 U.S. papers would be almost a 40% increase in U.S. coverage, for example). Join by doing it and telling me.

The idea is to help readers identify newspapers of record to help filter out fake news sites. It gets better, though:

Donors Paul Haahr and Susan Karp have offered to give $25 per page completed towards the goal to the Room to Read charity, up to a total of $25,000. The amount will be tallied up based purely on pages completed by project participants by December 15, 2018. For example, if we finish 938 pages the amount of the donation will be $23,450. The donation will be in the donors’ names, though we encourage people to note they contributed work toward the challenge on their user page, and to broadcast their participation through blogging, Twitter, and any other suitable means.

So, you and your students can help clean up the digital environment and help a charity. Caulfield has a helpful getting started post (as he always does, because he REALLY wants people to participate). As you plan for your course in the fall, think about ways your could incorporate this into your syllabus!

What digital literacy assignments are you planning for your course?

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Instant Maps with

By Lee Skallerup Bessette


I like things that are native in my browser and allow me to just drag and drop things (hence my undying love of Voyant). Now, there’s a voyant-style solution to making maps and visualizing spatial data: From the site:

Showing geospatial data in a single web interface, helps users quickly validate ideas and glean insights from these visualizations. Using, a user can drag and drop a CSV or GeoJSON file into the browser, visualize it with different map layers, explore it by filtering and aggregating it, and eventually export the final visualization as a static map or an animated video. Instead of spanning multiple browsers and consuming weeks of work at a time, the entire trial and error process occurs place in one user interface and can take as little as 10 minutes!

I mean…Who doesn’t want to make maps and visualize data in as little as 10 minutes! But more importantly, it makes powerful visualization methods to students and academics who might not otherwise have access:

We’ve also seen academics use the software, such as architecture student Diego Crescêncio from Estácio de Sá in Rio De Janeiro. For his research, Diego works with open crime data in to better understand the built environment for urban design research. He’s been using 2D and 3D visualizations of data pertaining to city-wide crime rates to understand how urban design can improve safety within favelas. According to Diego, urbanists in Brazil rarely use geo-analytics software. Since adopting, Diego, his professors, and other collaborators on the UNIGIS network have been able to achieve powerful and quick data analysis for this project.

As always, the visualization is only as good as the data you upload, but given the wide availability of open data, this would be a great tool to get students (and your research) started with maps and visualization.

How would you use

[Photo by delfi de la Rua on Unsplash]

Weekend Reading: Midsummer Edition

By Anastasia Salter

For those of us on a May-August academic calendar, summer is quickly vanishing: I for one cannot believe July is nearly upon us. This time of year is a great opportunity to reflect on the spring semester at a comfortable distance, and start ramping up for next year. If you’re contemplating changes in your work, profession, or policy in the coming term, here’s a few recent articles that might be of interest:

  • A series of guests posts from Dr. Terri Givens on The Professor Is In addresses her experience leaving academia, and particularly some of the challenges she observed when operating within academic and administrative spaces: “It is true that the opportunities for public scholarship have improved greatly, but I will feel much more comfortable about being outspoken regarding current issues when I’m no longer in an institution that frowns on such actions. I have felt even more constrained when I have been in administrative positions where the things that I say may be construed as official positions of the college. It will take me a while to develop the muscles that will allow me to be more vocal, and to figure out how I want to use the platform that I have in a positive way.”

  • An article by Stephen Noonoo at EdSurge looks at recent research on Makerspaces, and particularly the lack of diversity and challenges these spaces face for meaningful success: “In general, the most successful makerspaces were the ones that approached these topics intentionally and had a plan in place that takes into account realities around funding and physical space. Kim likens the process to building a house from scratch and knowing where to start. ‘If you don’t think about culture when you’re building a makerspace, you’re forgetting the foundation,’ he says. ‘You might have something that’s visible but not very solid.’”

  • Alexandra Witze’s article in Nature on recent research on sexual harassment in academic science department includes many suggestions for moving forward: “The report’s many recommendations include: that research institutions should act to reduce the power differential between students and faculty members, perhaps by introducing group-based advising; that the government should prohibit confidentiality in settlement agreements, so that harassers cannot switch jobs without their new employer knowing about past behaviour; and that research organizations should treat sexual harassment at least as seriously as research misconduct.”

  • In an article in The Atlanic, Carolina A. Miranda examines the transformative consequences of automated labor: “Sometimes, this can result in an awkward dance between the human world and the automated one. At many supermarkets and big box stores, for example, space once allotted to a checkout station has been replaced by a row of self-checkout systems. The cashier, who previously had a designated spot behind the counter, now stands at the end of this row, ready to assist when customers get confused or if the machines fail. At stores such as Target, the staffer often has no dedicated workstation. A position once tied to a physical location has become unmoored.”

Have a favorite recent academic read? Share it in the comments!

["Deskboarding." by Matt_Briston is licensed under CC PDM]

Being a Better Mentor

By Jason B. Jones

Figurines of force ghost Obi-Wan Kenobi and holographic Jor-El
While it’s customary–for! good! reason!–to lament the long list of awful things about 2018, one thing that’s legitimately good is that Tenure, She Wrote is up and running again. This week’s post, by the arguably-pseudonymous beckymcboatface, is a good example of TSW’s return is exciting: “An Elephant in the Room: How We Set Ourselves Up to Be Bad at Mentoring” is a really clarifying & helpful post, with printable good/bad templates to boot!

There’s a lot of discussion online, still, in 2018, about the idea that graduate students aren’t taught how to teach. This claim is pretty college- and discipline-dependent. For example, I had 6 credits in pedagogy classes, 2 different week-long bootcamp-type situations, teaching mentors, and then a postdoctoral certificate. I accept in advance that this is not the normal experience; for example, doctoral students in the sciences at some of the schools in question only got the bootcamp. But I think we can all agree that few of us got (or get) much direct training in how to be a good mentor to advanced undergrads or grad students.

As beckymcboatface explains, “The lack of training in mentorship brings with it a lack of general agreement about what ‘mentorship’ means. For some, it means that the mentee can expect weekly meetings and availability for deep personal conversations. For others, it means that the mentee can expect a spot at a lab bench and funding to do projects, which will be coauthored with the mentor, though little other interaction will take place.” And sometimes, of course, these meanings can shift for unpredictable reasons. It’s really not great.

beckymcboatface is especially good about laying out the easily-forgotten privilege gap between even the most amazing mentors and mentees:

And the operative power differential is not the one we perceive—privilege foreshortens how we perceive this differential: it’s like there’s a spyglass between us, and for us the mentee appears close, but to them, we seem to be very, very far away. So for us it may seem like just two people having a discussion on some random day, for our mentee it could be That Day That My Mentor Made That Joke About Me And I Was So Ashamed That I Decided To Not Take That Class I Was Considering.

To be fair, she’s putting all the burden on the mentor, here, whereas it would also sometimes help if the mentee decathected a bit from the relationship and recognized that even mentors are just people. *That said*, she’s correct to suggest that the power differential means the vast majority of this burden should probably fall to the mentor.

And she’s great at explaining why the proper question about “what makes someone a good mentor?” isn’t “do they care about their mentees?,” but rather are they able to help their mentees find success, broadly construed. (So, not just–”well, they’re ‘successful’ but they’re a wreck.”)

As promised, she ends the post with a couple of suitable-for-printing sheets of “good mentoring statements” and “bad mentoring statements.” It’s a really interesting post, so do read the whole thing! .

Do you have a favorite resource for learning how to be a better mentor? Let us know in comments! Also, there’s an obligatory Friends reference when discussing mentors, so here it is.

Photo “Spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi vs Holographic Jor-El (9/365)” by Flickr user JD Hancock / Creative Commons licensed BY-2.0

Teaching Choice-Based Narratives with ink

By Anastasia Salter

As I noted in a post a few weeks ago, one of the simplest platforms for getting started with interactive narratives, inklewriter, is shutting down. Several people at the conference I was attending recommended trying the scripting language behind inklewriter, ink, as an alternative. I hadn’t worked with ink much before, but I’ve been looking for teaching options that help students translate interactive narrative concepts from web-based projects into potential larger projects. The flexibility of ink makes it a great candidate for this type of teaching.

To get started with ink, download the open source editor, Inky: it’s cross platform, which is great if you have students using both Mac and PC. The Inky editor has a lot of features that make it friendly to new coders, including error highlighting and a “play as you write” mode that helps with testing. The generated output is web-friendly, or it’s possible to export to JSON for use in another context (including Unity).

The provided tutorial on “Writing with ink” is comprehensive but perhaps a bit daunting to get used to — it is similar to the well-structured syntax of Ren’Py, a visual novel engine. I recommend the “Teach Me How to Ink” YouTube series if the wall of text in the tutorial doesn’t suit your learning style.

ink works conceptually on a flow that is redirected based on reader’s choices: a basic story is really a long text file with markup that indicated choices and branches linking knots, or story sections, together based on where the player directs it. For instance, a basic choice appears in the code as a “knot” that leads to other knots, as shown below:

== paragraph_1 ===
You are in a classroom, facing a group of students.
* [Give a lecture] -> paragraph_2
* [Start an activity] -> paragraph_3
* [Run away] -> paragraph_4

=== paragraph_2 ===
You begin to speak, wishing your remembered your notes....

The syntax is straightforward if relatively unforgiving, making it a good introduction to coding practices and expectations for students without a background in procedural work. More classic logic elements, like conditionals, functions, and variables, can also be added for more advanced projects.

This can also work well for non-narrative text: the clearly marked, numbered choices and structured headings would translate well to a hypertextual essay or argument.

["ink" by Arnolds Auziņš is licensed under CC BY]

Want To Write Just One Thing Down? Try Edit

By Jason B. Jones

blank sheet of paper on a table

The desire to capture something quickly on one’s phone is a pretty common one. As I mentioned back in April, one of my favorite iOS apps is Drafts 5, which somehow combines both great quickness with a relatively easy-to-learn automation scheme. It’s terrific.

Yet, as great as Drafts is, it lends itself to a proliferation of little scraps of notes, potentially turning it into Yet Another Inbox that needs to be managed/weeded/curated/shunned in fear. That’s because just about every time you launch it, it gives you a fresh clean note, moving whatever you were working on last time to an archive that’s a tap or two away. (You can modify this behavior in settings, but most people don’t change the defaults on their apps.)

Sometimes, though, you just want to write one thing down, and have it sit there until you decide to do something with it. Edit, by K.Q. Dreger, aims to do exactly this: It gives you exactly one note, and it’ll sit there until you apply an action to it from the iOS share sheet. It is completely unfussy, and convenient.

screen shot of Edit for iOS

Edit is available for $2 on the iOS App Store. Dreger’s even included a guarantee that the app will work for 10 years, or he’ll open-source the code. If you’re in the market for a simple, focused phone app, this is a great place to start. Do you have a favorite one-shot text editor? Let us know in comments!

Photo Blank Paper on Table by / Creative Commons licensed BY-2.0


Digital Mappa 1.0: A New, User-Friendly Platform for Digital Scholarship

By Lee Skallerup Bessette

April is a busy month, so things tend to get lost in the innumerable number of tabs I have open on my browser, meaning to get to later. Launched in April, Digital Mappa is a “Digital Humanities workspaces, editions, scholarship, collaboration & publications for the rest of us.”

From the press release:

The premise of DM is simple: if you have a collection of digital images and/or texts, you should be able to produce an online resource that links together specific moments on these images and texts together, annotate these moments as much as you want, collaborate with others on this work, have the content you produce be searchable, and make this work available to others as you wish. And you should be able to do this with little technical expertise.

A truly collaborative project, funded and supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, the Council of Library and Information Resources, the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, the British Library, UW-Madison’s Department of English and the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture. It gives a really great history of how the project came to be on the main page, tracing the various inspirations and iterations of the platform.

There are examples of how it’s being used, a sandbox to play in, great getting started guides, and supportive forums. It is, however, very much still in beta, as they keep saying on the site, and installation is still a bit of a challenge (ie click install and VOILA!). Digital Mappa 2.0 will be launching sometime in 2019. But for me, this could be the collaborative image annotation tool I’ve been looking for for a while.

Have you used Digital Mappa? How do you see using it?

[Image from Digital Mappa Press Release. ]

From Markdown to Word, With Citations

By George Williams

Here at ProfHacker, we’ve written several posts about Markdown — the “syntax you (probably) already know,” to quote Lincoln Mullen — and Zotero — the reference management software developed by George Mason’s Center for History and New Media. As our history of posts should make clear, Markdown is great for many things, but one of the the things it doesn’t handle well natively is integration with free citation management tools like Zotero.

Well, it turns out some someone has come up with a workaround that does just that, involving Markdown, the editor Ulysses, text conversion tool Pandoc, and Zotero.

Yesterday morning, Ryan Cordell tweeted thanks to Raphael Kolb (@lowercasename) for developing — and documenting — a workflow that involves “a beautiful interface Markdown editor paired w/robust citation management for longer writing projects.”

Kolb has written an admirably detailed, step-by-step guide to what he describes as “my workflow for transforming academic markdown into beautiful Word documents“:

Over the last few months, as I’ve been working on my PhD, I’ve set up a workflow to convert my writing (in everyone’s favourite simple markup language, Markdown), as if by magic, into Word documents which I can email to my supervisor… As a bonus, this workflow turns all your citations into automatic references according to whatever style you happen to be using (Chicago, MLA, APA, MHRA, anything), with all of the appropriate ibids. and page numbers and everything. Seriously. To that end, this guide – as much for my own future benefit as anyone else’s – lists everything that is required to allow me to transform what is on the left into what is on the right with a click of a … button. We do live in the future.

It’s a fairly involved process to set things up, but if you’re a Markdown fan and you often write things that require easy integration with your Zotero collection, this looks like it’s worth a try.

[Lead image by Raphael Kolb, licensed CC-BY-SA 4.0]