Scholarly Smackdown: Google Keep vs. Trello

Looking for a very basic project management tool to create to-do lists, stay on-track, and maybe even get things done? On today’s Scholarly Smackdown we will discuss two possible options: Google Keep and Trello.

Both tools feature:

  • Bulletin board format that shows a page of lists
  • No cost options
  • Online-only web application with neither a desktop version nor a way to work offline
  • Good usability
  • Mobile versions for iOS/Android that you can sync across platforms
  • Limited customization

Both allow users to:

  • Make to-do lists and checklists
  • Incorporate images into lists
  • Collaborate with groups — with unlimited team members
  • Add due dates for list items to be completed
  • Archive your lists when you’re done
  • Pin lists to be a priority
  • Put all the things needed for a project in one place and share with folks who need to see it

Google Keep is Google’s app for note-taking and task managing for yourself and your groups.

Google Keep screenshot

Google Keep’s advantages are:

  • Built-in and included in Google Apps so it’s ready to use and available to Illinois students
  • The app version for Chrome has a web scraper capability, which allows you to attach things you’ve scraped to your lists
  • Integrates with Google Docs, so it is easy to send work you have in Keep to Google Docs
  • Allows you to draw in your notes
  • Fairly intuitive
  • Reminders and Notes are separate; Reminders are notes that include a time stamp
  • Voice notes on Android

Trello was developed by Fog Creek Software and is now owned by Atlassian, the wizards behind our wiki. It is a great software for staying on top of things.

Screenshot of Trello

Trello free version advantages are:

  • Easy to sign up for and get started
  • Easy-to-access documentation and instructions
  • Much more granularity possible at the free level than Google Keep; you can create cards within lists within boards
  • Attach files up to 10 MB to your boards
  • Due dates on cards
  • One Power-up which is a special feature and there are a lot to choose from, such as integration with Slack

The paid versions of Trello are:

Overall, both Google Keep and Trello are great products for basic task management for both yourself and your groups. If you want something simple and love all things Google then Google Keep is probably your best option. However, if you are planning something with a lot of sub-steps and you want to be able to create really detailed checklists then you probably will prefer Trello. And of course, let us know about your favorite digital tools for preventing scholarly smackdowns in the comments!

TiddlyWiki Review

Here at Commons Knowledge we like to talk about all of the various options out there for personal and information management tools, so today we’re talking about TiddlyWiki!

“It’s like a hypertext card index system from the future” -Jeremy Ruston, in the TiddlyWiki intro video

To summarize: this is a British, somewhat tricky to use, free and open source note taking and information management linked web wiki platform made in Javascript. TiddlyWiki is mostly used for task management. Still, if you’re looking for a way to manage all of your information and feeling particularly adventurous (and not at all into aesthetics, as TiddlyWiki is an ugly website — though CSS customization is possible) you might enjoy TiddlyWiki.

Everything in TiddlyWiki is a small piece, a tiddler —  a British word for a small fish — which you can stack, arrange, and link however you like. Tiddlers are individual units that you can incorporate into larger tiddlers through a process called “transclusion.” To have a tiddler all you need is a title. This is very similar to Scalar CMS where all content is equal, and can be linked or embedded in each other to tell both linear and nonlinear stories. However, TiddlyWiki is not as pretty and is focused more on note-taking and information management than presentation.

An example of a Tiddler

There are a lot of options for customization, as well as an active community that keeps the project alive and adds new customization options for different purposes (such as for writing a thesis). There is a WYSIWYG editor and formatting options, though you will still need to become familiar with the WikiText language in order to use more interesting formatting and customization. The WikiText language is similar to Markdown. There is also a plugin that will let you write your tiddlers in Markdown if you are more familiar and comfortable with that. You can add images and scribble all over them, as well as save links to websites with a download and some difficulty. TiddlyWiki includes search functionality and tagging, which is especially useful, as you can click on a tag you get a list of pages that have that tag. There are encryption plugins, which I have not tested, to create password-protected tiddlers and offer some basic security (though neither I nor the creators of TiddlyWiki endorse putting sensitive information on one of these sites).

You can use TiddlyWiki with TiddlySpot, Tiddly Desktop, or various browsers as well as node.js or a variety of other options for saving the program. Get started here.

Setting up where your files save so you can find them again is probably the hardest part of setting up a TiddlyWiki. It creates one HTML file that you update as you save. If you’re using Firefox and using the Firefox plugin I recommend downloading an empty wiki and copying it from your Downloads and pasting it to your G:Drive or another place where files aren’t deleted automatically. After, you can click on the cat icon and set it to automatically save your changes to your file on the Desktop.

Clicking on

Note: Don’t save things to the Desktop on Scholarly Commons computers long-term, as files are routinely erased.

Let us know in the comments if you have any other personal information management systems that need more love!

Learn Python Summer 2017

Are you sitting around thinking to yourself, golly, the bloggers at Commons Knowledge have not tried to convince me to learn Python in a few weeks, what’s going on over there? Well, no worries! We’re back with another post going over the reasons why you should learn Python. And to answer your next question no, the constant Python promotion isn’t us taking orders from some sinister serpentine society. We just really like playing with Python and coding here at the Scholarly Commons.

Why should I learn Python?

Python is a coding language with many applications for data science, bioinformatics, digital humanities, GIS, and even video games! Python is a great way to get started with coding and beef up your resume. It’s also considered one of the easier coding languages to learn and whether or not you are a student in LIS 452, we have resources here for you! And if you need help you can always email the Scholarly Commons with questions!

Where can I get started at Scholarly Commons?

We have a small section of great books aimed at new coders and those working on specific projects here in the space and online through the library catalog. Along with the classic Think Python book, some highlights include:

Python Crash Course: A Hands on Project-Based Introduction to Programming

Python Crash Course is an introductory textbook for Python, which goes over programming concepts and is full of examples and practice exercises. One unique feature of this book is that it also includes three multi-step longer projects: a game, a data visualization, and a web app, which you can follow for further practice. One nice thing is that with these instructions available you have something to base your own long term Python projects on, whether for your research or a course. Don’t forget to check out the updates to the book at at their website.

Automate Boring Stuff with Python: Practical Programming for Total Beginners

Automate Boring Stuff with Python is a solid introduction to Python with lots of examples. The target audience is non-programmers who plan to stay non-programmers; the author aims to provide the minimum amount of information necessary so that users can ultimately use Python for useful tasks, such as batch organizing files. It is still a lot of information and I feel some of the visual metaphors are more confusing than helpful. Of course, having a programming background helps, despite the premise of the book.

This book can also be found online for free on this website.

Learn Python the Hard Way: A Very Simple Introduction to the Terrifyingly Beautiful World of Computers and Code

Although focused on Python 2, this is a book about teaching programming skills to newbie coders. Although the author does not specifically use this term this book is based on what is known in psychology as deliberate practice or “the hard way,” which is described in Cal Newport’s blog post “The Grandmaster in the Corner Office” (Newport, 2010).  And Learn Python the Hard Way certainly lives up to the title. Even the basic command line instructions prove difficult. But based on my own learning experiences with deliberate practice, if you follow the instructions I imagine you will have a solid understanding of Python, programming, and from what I’ve read in the book definitely some of your more techie friends’ programming jokes.

Online Resources

If the command line makes you scared or if you want to get started right away, definitely check out PythonAnywhere, which offers a basic plan that allows users to create and run Python programs in their browser. If PythonAnywhere isn’t your speed, check out this article, which lists the 45 best places to learn to code online.

Interested in joining an online Python learning group this summer?

Definitely check out, Advent of Python, an online Python co-learning group through The Digital Humanities Slack. It started Tuesday May 30 with introductions, and every week  there will be Python puzzles for you to help you develop your skills. IT IS NOT TOO LATE TO JOIN! The first check-in and puzzle solutions will be June 6. The solutions and check-ins are going to be every Tuesday, except the Fourth of July — that meeting will be on Wednesday, July 5.  There is a Slack, a Google Doc, and subreddits.

Living in Champaign-Urbana?

Be sure to check out Py-CU a Maker/Hacker group in Urbana welcome to coders with all levels of experience with the next meeting on June 3rd. And obligatory heads up, the Urbana Makerspace is pretty much located in Narnia.

Question for the comments, how did you learn to code? What websites, books and resources do you recommend for the newbie coder? 

Works Cited:

Newport, C. (2010, January 6). The Grandmaster in the Corner Office: What the Study of Chess Experts Teaches Us about Building a Remarkable Life. Retrieved May 30, 2017, from http://calnewport.com/blog/2010/01/06/the-grandmaster-in-the-corner-office-what-the-study-of-chess-experts-teaches-us-about-building-a-remarkable-life/

“Fact Check Yourself Before You Fact Wreck Yourself”: A Primer on Information Literacy Resources

We have all fallen for fake news at some point in our lives and we can all learn skills to help prevent that from happening again. Technology can change our world for the better and help us combat the problem of fake news. Facebook and Google are increasingly incorporating fact checking and ways to see if sources are verified into their platforms, and we even have Illinois students working hard to solve the problem of fake news in social media from a technological perspective.

Snopes, Politifact, and Washington Post Fact Checker, are all great places to start. Plus, Snopes for example, has pulled pranks to make sure you aren’t too reliant on one source, which may sound bad but they want you to remain skeptical of all sources, and not become too dependent on one source.

However,  it’s more important to really learn that just because something sounds like it could be true does not mean that it isn’t complete baloney. My friend Jesse E., a playwright based in New York City, came up with a clever saying to think about before sharing any news stories on social media: “Fact check yourself before you fact wreck yourself”. Overall, you need to attain a certain level of information literacy.

What is information literacy?

  • Critically thinking about your sources of information, where they come from, and why they were created.
    • Even when that requires extra effort
      • Even when you are just scrolling through headlines on social media

How old is this problem?

Older than you may think!

The first fake photograph, was created in 1840 by Hippolyte Bayard, an early pioneer of photography. Specifically, in his Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man — a very meta demonstration of his photography process — he claimed he was a photography pioneer who committed suicide over getting overlooked for Daguerre and his Daguerrotype.

And of course feel free to debate or suggest more media literacy must reads in the comments!

What else hasn’t changed?

Statistics are still hard and people do crazy things with numbers all the time. Luckily, you can get a good overview of statistics and common errors here through our small but mighty non-circulating collection of stats books. And don’t be afraid to ask your wildest stats questions to our experts here!

Interested in becoming more information literate or helping your students become more information literate?

Digital Zombies

Inspired by Max Brooks’ World War Z, “Digital Zombies” is a hybrid online and in person information literacy scavenger hunt where players learn about and eventually make their own fake historical sources. This resource was created by history and information science researchers based in California and Ontario originally for students in the University of California system, but easily adapted to other locales.

“Sleeping with the Enemy: Wikipedia in the College Classroom.”

This provocatively titled article focuses on research done at Lycoming College, where professors decided to confront Wikipedia and online source use issues in a creative way, by having students actually write their own Wikipedia articles. This study shows a great way to get students interested in how sources are created and contribute to a source that the public often relies on for general reference information.

A great journalism LibGuide from FIU chock full of good tips can be found here at http://libguides.fiu.edu/c.php?g=626398&p=4374383 for those who enjoy LibGuides.

The Programming Librarian (ALA) has also recently put out a list of fake news fighting resources!

And of course our very own information literacy information portal!

SourceLab is a course sequence and digital history initiative here on campus!

And remember, Scholarly Commons is a great place to begin your quest for the truth!

Telling Your Story With StoryMap JS

Earlier on the blog, we talked about ways to create story maps so we’re following that up with a tutorial for one of the options on there, StoryMapJS.

StoryMapJS is a web-hosted program that lets you create interactive maps by adding Google slides and images onto a map layout from OpenStreetMap. More advanced users can overlay their own map using the Gigapixel mode. But today we are keeping it simple and creating a map giving an around the world tour of cookies.

Getting Started:

  1. Click “Make a Story Map” and sign in with your Google account and come up with a snazzy title!

Name your map

2. If you come up with an even snazzier title you can change it by clicking “My Maps” and choosing the map and the settings option.

arrow pointing to My Maps in top left corner and arrow pointint to gear icon on

Finally, remember to save your work. StoryMapJS can get a little confusing and better to be safe than sorry.

Creating Your Title Slide:

Slide editing mode StoryMapJS

This is the title slide editing page but it’s not that different from the page to create your slides for the map. You can write a title — I’ve chosen “Cookies, Biscuits and Other Circular Treats” — in the “Headline” section and either write or paste your writing on the right side. You can  use the “Media” side to upload an image, but you also change the background of the slide itself by clicking Slide Background and uploading an image into StoryMapJS. To see how your map is coming so far you can check it out in the Preview section as seen here:

cookies in a plastic bag as background image of title page

If you’ve ever wondered who makes sure that cookies leftover from library events get eaten, you can thank the brave and dedicated graduate assistants of Scholarly Commons for providing this service.

Don’t want it to say “Start Exploring” for your title page instructions? Don’t worry — you can change that, too! Click Options and check “Yes” for “Call to Action” and add a custom call. This is also where you can change the type of map (such as creating a Gigapixel) and other important features.

Options in StoryMap JS

Creating Your First Map Point 

Click “Add Slide”

We’re going to start this journey off knowing that various versions of cookies originated in the ancient world, with National Geographic, a trusted source, saying the first cookies appeared in Persia during the 7th century (B. Patrick, & J. Thompson, 2009). Since there’s no mural, painting or visual documentation of “The First Cookie” (like there should be for such a historically significant event), I am not using an image here, making this similar to a title slide. However, this time we’re using a location!  If you’re not sure exactly where something happened simply search the country and click on the correct date.

Adding a location on the map

Creating A Map Point With Images and More!

Unlike many types of cookies, we know exactly where chocolate chip cookies were invented and we can even look up coordinates in Google Maps. Specifically, they were invented by Ruth Graves Wakefield and were originally sold in Whitman, Massachusetts at the Toll House Inn, which has since burned down (Michaud, 2013). However, we have an address! Simply search the address on the map and it will place a point on the map approximating that location.

Typing in Whitman MA address in StoryMapJS

Upload media into your slide:

For this slide, I will be using a picture of a chocolate chip cookie in the GA office that I took myself. Since I took the picture myself I am the copyright holder, please take at least a minute to think about copyright law especially if you are using your StoryMap as part of, or in lieu of, an article. Go to the “Media” section and simply paste a link to your photo from your preferred photo cloud storage (make sure it you have the share settings so that it is public) or the source hosting the photo or upload an image from your computer. You can write where the photo comes from in the next box and can add a caption below that.

Uploaded media demo

Sharing Your Work:

Alright, so you’ve told your story through slides and map points. You’ve moved your slides into the order you want by dragging and dropping them on the side bar. You’ve edited your text, attributed your photos to their sources, and are ready to go. Simply hit “Share” in the top right corner and choose whether you want to embed your map on your website or share the link itself. A word of warning, these sites use aspects through Google and may have issues with link rot so make sure to back up your text and images elsewhere as well!

For Further GIS Assistance

If you’re looking for a more in-depth approach to GIS, please contact James Whitacre, our GIS specialist.

Works Cited:
Drop Cookies – Oxford Reference. 2017. 1st ed. Oxford University Press. Accessed April 17. doi:10.1093/acref/9780199313396.013.0166.

Michaud, Jon. 2013. “Sweet Morsels: A History of the Chocolate-Chip Cookie.” The New Yorker. The New Yorker. December 19. http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/sweet-morsels-a-history-of-the-chocolate-chip-cookie.

Olver, Lynne. 2017. “Food Timeline: Food History Research Service.” Accessed April 17. http://www.foodtimeline.org/index.html.

Stradley, Linda. 2015. “History Of Cookies, Whats Cooking America.” What’s Cooking America. June 28. https://whatscookingamerica.net/History/CookieHistory.htm.

Sweets. (2009). In B. Patrick, & J. Thompson, An Uncommon History of Common Things. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society. Retrieved from http://proxy2.library.illinois.edu/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/ngeouc/sweets/0?institutionId=386

Toll house cookie. (2014). In J. F. Mariani, The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink (2nd ed.). London, UK: Bloomsbury. Retrieved from http://proxy2.library.illinois.edu/login?url=http://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/bloomfood/toll_house_cookie/0?institutionId=386

Writing the next great American novel, or realistically, finding the “write” tools to finish your thesis

The Scholarly Commons is a great place to write the next great American novel; in fact, I’m surprised it has not happened yet (no pressure dear patrons — we understand that you have a lot on your plates). We’re open Monday-Friday from 9-6 and enjoy a well-lit, fairly quiet, and overall ideal working space, with Espresso Royale and the Writing Center nearby. But actually getting that writing done, that’s the real challenge. Luckily, we have suggestions for tools and software you can use to keep writing and stay on track this semester!

Writing Your First Draft:

Yes, MS Word can be accessed for free for University students through the Web Store and you can set it up to better address your research needs with features like the Zotero and Mendeley plugins to incorporate your references. And don’t forget you can go to Word > File > Options > Proofing > Writing Style and select Grammar and Style and Settings to set what Spellcheck will check for so that passive voice gets underline. However, believe it or not, there are word processors, other than MS Word, that are better for organizing and creating large writing projects, such as novels, theses, or even plays!

Scrivener

Scrivener is a word processor created with novelists in mind that lets you organize your research and notes while you are writing. With an education discount, a license for Scrivener costs $38.25. Scrivener is very popular and highly recommended by two of the GAs here at Scholarly Commons (you can email Claire Berman with any questions you may have about the software at cberman2 [at] illinois.edu). To really get started, check out our online copies of Scrivener: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide and  Scrivener for Dummies!

Mellel

Unfortunately, Mellel is only available on Mac. An educational license for the software costs $29. To some extent Mellel is similar in style and price to Pages for Mac, but also shares similarities with MS Word for Mac. However, this word processor offers more options for customizing your word processing experience than Pages or MS Word. It also provides more options for outlining your work and dividing sections in a way that even MS Word Notebook version does not, which is great if you have a large written work with many sections, such as a novel or a thesis! Mellel also partners with the citation managers Bookends and Sente.

Markdown Editors like Ulysses

Ulysses is a simple and straightforward word processor for Mac, but you do have to write in Markdown without a WYSIWYG editor. It costs $44.99 for Mac and $24.99 for iOS. However, it has many great features for writers (such as built in word count writing goals for sections of a paper, and Markdown makes outlining work very easy and simple). We have discussed the value and importance of Markdown elsewhere on the blog before, specifically in our posts Digital Preservation and the Power of Markdown and Getting Started with Markdown, and of course, want to remind all of our lovely readers to consider doing their writing in Markdown. Learning Markdown can open up writing and digital publishing opportunities across the web (for example: Programming Historian tutorials are written in Markdown). Plus, writing in Markdown converts easily for simple web design without the headache of having to write in HTML.

Staying Focused:

Maybe you don’t want to buy a whole new word processor. That’s fine! Here are some tools that can help creating the “write” environment to get work done:

Freedom : costs $2.50 a month, so Freedom is not free, indeed. This is an an app that allows you to block websites and even the internet, available for Mac, Windows, iOS devices. This app also has a lock feature that will not allow you to make changes to what is blocked for a set period of time.

RescueTime : another app option. Taking a slightly different approach to the rest here, the lite version of this app helps you track how you use your time and what apps and websites you use the most so that you can have a better sense of what you are doing instead of writing. The premium version, which costs $54 a year, allows you to block distracting websites.

SelfControl: a Mac option but Open Source, with community built Linux and PC versions, and most importantly it’s free! This app allows you to block websites, based on their server, for a set period of time, in which there is basically NOTHING you can do on your computer to access these sites. So choose which sites to block and the time limit wisely.

Editing Tools:

Hemingway

Named after Ernest Hemingway, this text editor is supposed to help you adapt his style of writing, “bold and clear.” When you paste your text into the free web version, the applet gives you the text’s reading level as well as pointing out instances of awkward grammar, unnecessary or complicated words and adverbs, and sentences that are too long or too complicated.There’s a Desktop version available for $20 though I honestly don’t think it’s worth the money, though it does give another simple space on your computer to write and get feedback.

A note about Grammarly 

This is an alternative to MS Word spell check with a free version to add to your browser. As a browser add-in, it checks automatically for critical spelling and grammar mistakes (advanced ones cost a monthly fee) everywhere you write except situations where you’d really want extra spell check such as Google Docs and can be wonky with WordPress. You can always copy and paste into the Grammarly window, but at that point, you’re probably better doing spell check in MS Word. There are also only two versions of English available, American and British (take that Australia!). If you are trying to learn English and want instantaneous feedback while writing on the internet, or studying for high school standardized tests, or perhaps a frequent YouTube commenter in need of a quick check before posting, then Grammarly is for you. For most people at Scholarly Commons, this is a plugin they can skip, though I can’t speak for the paid version which is supposed to be a little bit better. If you uninstall the app they try to guilt trip you, so heads up.

SpellCheckPlus: It’s BonPatron in English! Brought to you by Nadaclair Language Technologies, this web-based text editor goes beyond MS Word’s spellcheck to help identify grammar errors and ways to make your writing sound more normal to a native (Canadian) English speaker. There is a version that costs money but if you don’t import more than the allotted 250 words of text at one time you will be fine using the free version.

Let us know what you think and any tools we may have missed! Happy writing!

And to learn more and find more great productivity tools, check out:

Personal Information Management LibGuide

Learning how to present with Michael Alley’s The Craft of Scientific Presentations

Slideshows are serious business, and bad slides can kill. Many books, including the one I will review today, discuss the role that Morton Thiokol’s poorly designed and overly complicated slides about the Challenger O-rings played in why the shuttle was allowed to launch despite its flaws. PowerPoint has become the default presentation style in a wide range of fields — regardless of whether or not that is a good idea, see the 2014 Slate article “PowerPointLess” by Rebecca Schuman.  With all that being said, in order to learn a bit more about how to present, I read The Craft of Scientific Presentations by Michael Alley, an engineering communications professor at Penn State.

To start, what did Lise Meitner, Barbara McClintock, and Rosalind Franklin have in common? According to Michael Alley, their weak science communication skills meant they were not taken as seriously even though they had great ideas and did great research… Yes, the author discusses how Niels Bohr was a very weak speaker (which only somewhat had to do with English being his third language) but it’s mostly in the context of his Nobel Prize speech or trying to talk to Winston Churchill; in other words, the kinds of opportunities that many great women in science never got… Let’s just say the decontextualized history of science factoids weaken some of the author’s arguments…

This is not to say that science communication is not important but these are some important ideas to remember:

Things presentation skills can help you with:

  • Communicating your ideas with a variety of audiences more effectively
  • Marketing your research and yourself as a researcher more effectively
  • Creating engaging presentations that people pay attention to

Things presentation skills cannot help you with:

  • Overcoming systemic inequality in academia and society at large, though speaking out about your experiences and calling out injustice when you see it can help in a very long term way
  • Not feeling nervous especially if you have an underlying anxiety disorder, though practice can potentially reduce that feeling

For any presentation:  know your topic well, be very prepared, and actually practice giving your talk more than you do anything else (such as making slides). But like any skill, the key is practice practice practice!

For the most part, this book is a great review of the common sense advice that’s easy to forget when you are standing in front of a large audience with everyone looking at you expectantly. The author also offers a lot of great critiques of the default presentations you can churn out with PowerPoint and of PowerPoint itself. PowerPoint has the advantage of being the most common type of slideshow presentation software, though alternatives exist and have been discussed in depth elsewhere on the blog and in university resources. Alley introduces the Assertion-Evidence approach in which you reach people through presenting your research as memes images with text statement overlay. Specifically, you use one sentence summaries and replace bullet points with visualizations. Also you have to keep in account Murphy’s Law, where slide color or a  standard font not being supported can throw off a presentation. Since Murphy’s Law does not disappear when you create a presentation around visuals, especially custom-made images and video, you may need more preparation time for this style of presentation.

Creating visualizations and one sentence summaries as well as practicing your speech to prepare for these things not working is a great strategy for preparing for a research talk. One interesting thing to think about is if Alley admits that less tested methods like TED (Technology-Entertainment-Design) and pecha kucha work for effective presentations, how much of the success of this method has to do with people caring and putting time into their presentation than a change in presentation style?

Overall this book was a good review of public speaking advice specifically targeted towards a science and engineering audience and hopefully will get people taking more time and thinking more about their presentations.

Presentation resources on campus:

  • For science specific, the definitely check out our new science communication certificate through the 21st Century Scientists Working Group and the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. They offer a variety of workshops and opportunities for students develop their skills as science communicators. There’s also science communication workshops throughout the country over the summer.
  • If you have time join a speech or debate team (Mock Trial or parliamentary style debate in particular)  it’s the best way to learn how to speak extemporaneously, answer hostile questions on the fly, and get coaching and feedback on what you need to work on. If you’re feeling really bold, performing improv comedy can help with these skills as well.
  • If you don’t have time to be part of a debate team or you can’t say “yes and…” to joining an improv comedy troupe take advantage of opportunities to present when you can at various events around campus. For example, this year’s Pecha Kucha Night is going to be June 10th at Krannert Center and applications are due by April 30!  If this is still too much find someone, whether in your unit, the Career Center, etc. who will listen to you talk about your research. Or if you have motivation and don’t mind cringe get one of your friends to record you presenting (if you don’t want to use your phone for this check out the loanable tech at the UGL!)

And for further reading take a look at:

http://guides.library.illinois.edu/presentation/getting_started

Hope this helps, and good luck with your research presentations!

Scholarly Smackdown: Ulysses vs. Mellel

On today’s edition of Scholarly Smackdown we are looking at Mellel and Ulysses, two word processors for Mac created with novelists, playwrights, and thesis writers in mind. Both of these programs let you control and customize aspects of your documents and give you control over your word processing experience in ways that MS Word and Google Docs do not. Both also have features such as easy-to-configure automatic saving, version control, outlining, and are adaptable for languages other than English.

The Basics:

Mellel actually is probably most similar to Pages for Mac but with less default templates to work from or MS Word for Mac 2011.

Blank document in Mellel

I’m not sure what the hieroglyphs in the top left corner mean, or my general feelings about the user-friendliness of Mellel.

Mellel blue and yellow document with font tab open

A lot of options for customization!

Mellel features  a WYSIWYG editor. For example, in Mellel if you drag and drop photos into the window they appear and can be edited there. However, you can’t see the videos or other media content when dragged and dropped in Ulysses.

Yet despite lacking a WYSIWYG editor, Ulysses is much easier to use. Ulysses’ documentation is incorporated right into the app itself while Mellel forces you to scroll through its user guide (which, to its credit, is well written and accessible). Yes, as much as we praise Markdown here at Scholarly Commons, before Ulysses I felt pretty indifferent to Markdown, but now I may convert. This is a great Markdown editor for people who have never used Markdown before — it includes a plethora of instructions on how to use Markdown, shortcuts for using Markdown, and other useful features. Plus, Ulysses has lots of neat features like setting writing goals, and it lets you preview how your document will look in different formats.

HTML view of Markdown text in Ulysses and example of writing goal feature

Text in Markdown in the background, HTML version in the foreground! Easily set easy to see writing goals!

Typewriter mode allows you to focus on the sentence you are writing and encourage you to keep your writing and your story moving forward, instead of getting stuck editing the same sentence again and again. Also, typewriter mode is fun if you miss using typewriters (especially since one of the few places on campus that still had typewriters available back when I was an undergraduate has had its original building condemned and is being rebuilt).

For Your Thesis:

But I know what you really want to know: can I use this to write my thesis? Well, to get a better idea I inputted my thesis outline into the software from MS Word for Mac 2011 Notebook layout. I can see, though from playing around with the titles/headings/etc., how useful Mellel’s features would be for creating outlines for a thesis structure. It may even present said outlines even more effectively than Microsoft Notebook. Mellel, unlike Ulysses, is known for allowing users to have multiple types of footnotes/endnotes. However, when I imported my MS Word Notebook into Mellel it did not keep my endnotes or acknowledge the sections.

When I repeated this experiment, and opened my thesis outline on Ulysses, it also was clear some of the usefulness of this program. To start, it preserved my Notebook document’s structure and linked the endnotes in the HTML view which was beautiful to behold.

Levels of text with example of a linked footnote

Look at that linked endnote, absolutely gorgeous.

If you have already started writing in MS Word and have documents to convert this could be one advantage of Ulysses, though it did put all of my Notebook as one very large document instead of giving each section it’s own page. However, it converts back to MS Word with very different formatting.  With Ulysses it’s easy to create outlines and formatting. Also because it’s easy to create sheets and connect them together moving around sections is a lot easier than in MS Word, even in Notebook layout.

The Verdict:

Ulysses is the clear winner here. But Mellel has some advantages especially if you’re a Bookends or Sente power user and are really attached to having a WYSIWG editor.

Learn more here:

Link for Mellel

Link for Ulysses

And remember Scholarly Commons is a great place to work on your writing and get expert help with your research!

Life after I Drive: Setting up a website for yourself or your project!

What happened to the I: Drive?

It’s been retired, everything on it is in read only, the hardware has been left to die and will be dead by January 3rd 2018, and everything will go where these things go when they die (that great server in the sky I suppose).

Always free options:

Weebly, Wix, etc. As we’ve discussed before on this blog, Weebly is one of the easiest to use, including WYSIWYG editor with customization based on dragging and dropping components, and still has a professional look. And to learn more about Weebly and other free website platforms, check out these site builder tutorials from the iSchool!

Are there still hosted options on campus?

Yes!

Basic hosted options on campus:

Google Apps
Don’t have a lot of experience building websites and looking for something really really simple?  Definitely check out Google Sites through your Illinois Google Apps. It is possible to get a hosted sites dot google dot illinois dot edu site/[yoursitename]/[pagename]  for yourself or or your organization. Google Sites has a WYSIWYG editor where you can drag and drop site elements such as text and image boxes as well as  elements from your Illinois Google Apps, such as Google Docs and YouTube videos. With Google Sites you have the option to publish either to the web or to Illinois users. For more information check out https://answers.uillinois.edu/illinois/page.php?id=55049

Reminder: Omeka.net

For all our digital humanists, virtual exhibit creators, and potentially anyone looking to make a snazzy portfolio website, we can set up an Omeka.net account through the Scholarly Commons that has more storage than the default account. To learn more and request a page check out http://www.library.illinois.edu/sc/services/Digital_Humanities/Omeka.html 

Publish @ Illinois.edu  (PIE)

To learn more click here for instructions and advice on using PIE at https://answers.uillinois.edu/illinois/page.php?id=54679

Although you or your group’s site will never reach the absolute stunning magnificence of the Commons Knowledge blog, you too can create a micro-site through WordPress at the University of Illinois. WordPress features a WYSIWYG editor and is fairly easy to learn even with limited programming experience. There is a limited amount of space available to save media, luckily you can attach links to images from Box in order to get around these limits. There are also custom designs available to University of Illinois units, these are especially important for meeting our state’s website accessibility standards! You can learn more and request your own small slice of the PIE at https://techservices.illinois.edu/services/publishillinoisedu/details Definitely check out the PIE blog and documentation pages and contact Technology Services for more help.

Setting up a Wiki with Confluence

Need to create a space for members of your team to collaborate on projects or want a site for a course beyond Moodle? Do you have team members from outside of the University of Illinois that you want allowed to contribute to content?  Technology Services can get you set up  with a wiki through Confluence. Check out https://wiki.illinois.edu/wiki/dashboard.action to request and https://wiki.illinois.edu//wiki/display/HELP/Getting+Started+and+Help to learn more and see what one of these wikis looks like in action!

Web services through your college’s IT department:

These sites also provide a lot of information about web resources on campus in general!

More advanced options:

Are you a web developer looking for a server?

Consider looking into the Virtual Server through Technology Services, yes this is a service that costs money and is based on how much space your site uses. However, if you want a more stable hosting solution for the long term this is a great option!

 

Certificate in Science Communication!

Are you a graduate student at the University of Illinois studying the sciences? Are you interested in working with the public and developing your skills in communicating your research to wider audiences?

Introducing the Certificate in Science Communication!

This is a new program offered by the 21st Century Scientists Working Group and the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning.

Students can earn this certificate by being an active member of the 21st Century Scientists Working Group, attending science communication conferences, creating a public engagement project and  reflecting on their experiences. Plus this looks like a way to have some of the wonderful things you learn here at Scholarly Commons count towards your diploma.

Learn more at http://21centurysci.com/science-communication-certificate/