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!

 

Scholarly Smackdown: StoryMap JS vs. Story Maps

In today’s very spatial Scholarly Smackdown post we are covering two popular mapping visualization products, Story Maps and StoryMap JS.Yes they both have “story” and “map” in the name and they both let you create interactive multimedia maps without needing a server. However, they are different products!

StoryMap JS

StoryMap JS, from the Knight Lab at Northwestern, is a simple tool for creating interactive maps and timelines for journalists and historians with limited technical experience.

One  example of a project on StoryMap JS is “Hockey, hip-hop, and other Green Line highlights” by Andy Sturdevant for the Minneapolis Post, which connects the stops of the Green Line train to historical and cultural sites of St. Paul and Minneapolis Minnesota.

StoryMap JS uses Google products and map software from OpenStreetMap.

Using the StoryMap JS editor, you create slides with uploaded or linked media within their template. You then search the map and select a location and the slide will connect with the selected point. You can embed your finished map into your website, but Google-based links can deteriorate over time! So save copies of all your files!

More advanced users will enjoy the Gigapixel mode which allows users to create exhibits around an uploaded image or a historic map.

Story Maps

Story maps is a custom map-based exhibit tool based on ArcGIS online.

My favorite example of a project on Story Maps is The Great New Zealand Road Trip by Andrew Douglas-Clifford, which makes me want to drop everything and go to New Zealand (and learn to drive). But honestly, I can spend all day looking at the different examples in the Story Maps Gallery.

Story Maps offers a greater number of ways to display stories than StoryMap JS, especially in the paid version. The paid version even includes a crowdsourced Story Map where you can incorporate content from respondents, such as their 2016 GIS Day Events map.

With a free non-commercial public ArcGIS Online account you can create a variety of types of maps. Although it does not appear there is to overlay a historical map, there is a comparison tool which could be used to show changes over time. In the free edition of this software you have to use images hosted elsewhere, such as in Google Photos. Story Maps are created through their wizard where you add links to photos/videos, followed by information about these objects, and then search and add the location. It is very easy to use and almost as easy as StoryMap JS. However, since this is a proprietary software there are limits to what you can do with the free account and perhaps worries about pricing and accessing materials at a later date.

Overall, can’t really say there’s a clear winner. If you need to tell a story with a map, both software do a fine job, StoryMap JS is in my totally unscientific opinion slightly easier to use, but we have workshops for Story Maps here at Scholarly Commons!  Either way you will be fine even with limited technical or map making experience.

If you are interested in learning more about data visualization, ArcGIS Story Maps, or geopatial data in general, check out these upcoming workshops here at Scholarly Commons, or contact our GIS expert, James Whitacre!

Review: The Infographic History of the World by Valentina D’Efilippo and James Ball

The Infographic History of the World, created by Valentina D’Efilippo and James Ball, consists of various infographics with accompanying commentaries. You can find this book and read it at Scholarly Commons, near our other infographic and visualization books! You can also check it out from a nearby library!

Overall, this book is a compelling read and an interesting idea as a project and some of the infographics were really well done. This book demonstrates the power of infographics to help us present and break down important topics to wider audiences. Yes, this isn’t supposed to be a serious read, but there was a lot I did not like about this book, specifically throughout I got a sense that:

Statue of a person with hands over face. Located by the Main Library entrance facing the UGL

Somewhere a political scientist is crying…     Photo credit to E. Hardesty and the Main Library with the original image found at https://flic.kr/p/rw2Ldz

  • “The story of the last 4,000 years is one of nations being founded, breaking apart, going to war, and coming together” (D’Efilippo & Ball, 2013). For those confused why this is a problem, “nation” is a very modern term and concept so that’s a serious anachronism.
  • Why is the theocracy symbol notably non-Western and not used for the English Civil War, which was apparently about republicanism?
  • A history of the “Net” that doesn’t mention Minitel.
  • First flight goes to the Wright Brothers. No mention of Santos-Dumont or the controversy (for everyone who noticed that inexplicable early aircraft cameo at this year’s Olympic opening).
  • The book is very Anglo-centric.

Sloppy stats!

 

  • I’m suspicious anytime Luxembourg wins something. Are they really the biggest drinkers or how does their small population make this data less meaningful?
  • “Absolute number of cannabis users by region” Absolute? Really?
  • Overall, not enough information on where and how a lot of the statistics were generated and why we should trust those sources. Yes, there is an appendix on the back that explains this to some extent in tiny text but not helpful for people who just glance at the infographic and assume it’s giving us useful information about the world.

Visualization issues!

 

  • Emphasizing form over function — much like the new Macbooks with so few ports they are practically landlocked — many of the infographics fail to present the information in a way that is appropriate for what they are trying to present. For example, the Mona Lisa paint by numbers probably would have been more effective as a timeline.
    • Maybe I’m just too attached to the idea of timelines being well on a line or perhaps maybe the spiral depicted on the book’s cover art.
    • Some of the infographics have way too many things going on and are trying to make too many points at once.
  • The colors on the mental illness brain are too close (and I can’t imagine how that would look to someone who is colorblind), and there are other examples where the colors are very close and render the infographic pretty, but hard to actually use to learn something from.

Finally, the authors’ claim of “not trying to be political” / “this is just for fun” is no excuse for not being thorough especially with information targeted to the public. Full disclosure or not, artists and journalists still need to be careful because what people see can influence the way they think about things. Infographics are not a neutral presentation of information, certain choices were made, and audiences need to think about who made these choices and why. Not as bad as some of the examples on this Visual Literacy and Infographics blog post, but still problematic. Please, do not be reckless when making infographics!

To learn more how to create infographics of your own check out our Savvy Researcher workshop: Introduction to Infographics Using Piktochart!

If you are an undergraduate interested in conducting research and becoming information and visual literate there is an entire set of classes in the history department for this through SourceLab. Take a look at their schedule or talk to Professor Randolph to learn more!

 

Review: Paperpile Citation Manager

Are you addicted to Google Docs and are looking for a citation manager, PDF reader, or research workflow system? Do you wish you could just cite while you write in Google docs like you do with Zotero or Mendeley in Word? Do you have an extra $36 a year to spare?

Then you might want to try Paperpile!

Paperpile App Main Menu

Paperpile is a simplified reference management system and research workflow program for Google Chrome created by three computational biologists based in Vienna.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Can organize your sources when you’re trying to write a paper or doing readings
  • A lot of explanatory text in the app
  • Allows you to import metadata and PDFs from your browser (similar to Zotero’s one click import) and asks you if you want to add the item (PDF and details) to Paperpile
  • The annotations feature makes readings and notes for classes a lot of fun with very pretty colors
  • When the PDF is not encrypted, if you highlight the text it will copy the highlighted text into notes with your annotations that you can then copy and paste when writing a paper
  • Wide range of document types and citation styles
  • You can cite while you write in Google Docs
  • Provides look up to find similar journal articles to what you are researching, which allows you to do research through the app, especially if you’re doing research from science databases
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • 15 GB of free space through Google
  • Good customer service
  • Thorough explanatory material
Highlighted text with annotations in the Paperpile app

Excerpt from Montesinos, Gary. 2015. “The Invisible (S)elf: Identity in House Elves and Harry Potter.” Re:Search: The Undergraduate Literary Criticism Journal 2 (1). https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/handle/2142/78004.
And check out Re:Search: The Undergraduate Literary Criticism Journal and more great undergraduate research in IDEALS!

Cons:

  • High cost ($36), especially compared to solid free options like Mendeley and Zotero
  • Requires Internet access
  • Although the company is in the process of developing a plugin for MS Word, currently, Paperpile is heavily reliant on Google and Google Drive
  • Paperpile is a proprietary software and a startup so there are risks that they will go out of business or be bought by a larger company
    • Though, should the worst happen Paperpile uses open standards that will allow you to get your PDFs, citations out — even if they are in an ugly format — as well as the highlighted text saved in your PDFs, which can be downloaded through Google Drive
  • Paperpile is a very new product and there are still a lot of features to be worked out
    • I will say however that it is a lot less buggy than a lot of comparable reference management / PDF annotation software that have been around longer and aren’t classified as in beta, like Readcube and Highlights

Paperpile is comparable to: Mendeley, iLibrarian, colwiz, Highlights.

Learn more about personal information management through our PIM Libguide, various Savvy Researcher workshops and more! Let us know about your strategies for keeping everything organized in the comments!

 

Book Review: Visual Explanations by Edward R. Tufte

tufte-booksI recently read Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative by Edward R. Tufte. This is one of the books available for perusal in our Scholarly Commons non-circulating library. Books from our non-circulating library can be read in the Scholarly Commons, but not taken out of the room. There are four other copies of this book in the University of Illinois library system; though, at the time of writing, all other copies are checked out. So, while you cannot check our book out, you’ll always know that it’s there!

A bit about the author: Edward Tufte received his Ph.D. in political science from Yale University and taught at Princeton and then Yale, where he is currently a Professor Emeritus. He taught courses on statistical graphics, information design, and research methods among others.[i] In 2010 President Obama appointed Tufte to the Recovery Independent Advisory Panel “to advise stimulus board officials on how to better explain the complexities of the economic stimulus to the general public.”[ii] Tufte is also an artist and has a tree farm and sculpture garden in Connecticut.

I was fascinated by Visual Explanations right away. At the beginning Tufte spotlights two instances of displaying and analyzing quantitative evidence with real-world, life-or-death consequences. The first is the successful mapping of an 1854 cholera epidemic in London by Dr. John Snow that led to the discovery that cholera spread through contaminated water. The second is the weak, unconvincing presentation of data that failed to convince NASA to postpone the Challenger Space Shuttle launch in 1986 and led to deaths of 7 astronauts when the shuttle exploded. I have no background in data visualization and so had never even thought about how the arrangement of a chart can misrepresent information, and in some cases have such dire consequences. The examples that he chose to illustrate his points were gripping, and the book is extremely well-written and easy to understand.

One of the reasons this book was so pleasant to read is that the author has a personality, strong opinions, and a sense of humor! I actually laughed out loud while reading this book. One of my favorite parts was from the chapter on visual confections, which Tufte describes as a reassembling of many visual components, both real and imagined, to tell a story or illustrate an argument. Here is one of Tufte’s examples of a failed confection:

visual-explanations-photo

Tufte, Edward R. Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press, 1997.

Visual Explanations is also just a plain beautiful book. Tufte self-published all his books because he wanted control over their design. He states in the introduction to Visual Explanations, “These books are meant to be self-exemplifying: the objects themselves embody the ideas written about. Enchanted by the elegant and precise beauty of the best displays of information, and also inspired by the idea of self-exemplification, I have come to write, design, and publish the three books myself.” I didn’t know when I started reading it that this is the third in a series of books about data visualization that Tufte has written. We have all (now four) of his books here at the Scholarly Commons and I am definitely looking forward to reading the rest of them.

[i] Tufte, Edward. (2014, December). Edward R. Tufte Resume. Retrieved from http://www.edwardtufte.com/files/ETresume.pdf.

[ii] O’Keefe, Ed. “Obama Taps Infographics Guru for Stimulus Board.” Washington Post. March 9, 2010. Accessed November 18, 2016. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2010/03/obama_taps_designer_for_stimul.html.

 

Book Review: Infographics: The Power of Visual Storytelling

A quick infographic I created for free using Piktochart. Learn about Piktochart in our Savvy Researcher workshops!

A quick infographic I created for free using Piktochart. Learn about Piktochart in our Savvy Researcher workshops!

Getting your content noticed int he Digital Age can be a difficult thing. Since the rise of social media, infographics have risen in popularity, becoming a popular way of sharing information. In their book Infographics: The Power of Visual Storytelling, Jason Lankow, Josh Ritchie, and Ross Crooks — cofounders of Column Five, a creative agency specializing in infographic design — outline how infographics became so popular, why they are an effective medium, and how to use them to express different types of information.

According to Column Five, effective communication consists of three aspects: appeal, comprehension, and retention. Infographics, when done well, have the potential to be a great method of communication, as visuals on the screen connect to information already stored in the human brain, allowing quick comprehension and better retention of what we’re seeing. The focus of Infographics is on how to utilize infographics for business or editorial purposes, but many of their conclusions about best practices will be useful to a researcher or digital humanist who wants to disseminate their data online.

The Column Five separate infographic design into two approaches: explorative and narrative. Narrative infographics tend to be illustrative and design focused and intended to inform or entertain. Explorative infographics — which are more likely to be useful to someone displaying research data — tend to be more minimalist. Their goal is to communicate information concisely using visuals that represent their data.

Several of the main takeaways of Infographics, however, are universal. First, that you need to have a specific audience in mind when creating an infographic. While you may want to shout, “I want everyone to see and love my data!” the fact of the matter is that your work will be more appreciated by certain people, and you should tailor your infographic to that audience. Second, that your infographic must have a specific purpose. Rather than throwing everything you have on your study into one infographic, take a smaller chunk of data and use it to communicate one particular message. Third, that a good infographic has beauty, soundness, and utility. No matter what the topic, if your infographic has those aspects, you’re set.

While the book is aimed towards businesses, many researchers — digital humanists, especially — can learn from the Column Five’s book when trying to communicate on the Internet. If you can create a quick infographic that follows best practices, it could make a huge difference about your audience and reach.

If you have questions about infographics, or you want to get started on making some yourself, the Scholarly Commons has the resources you need, including Adobe Photoshop CC and InDesign. You can also email Sarah Christensen (schrstn@illinois.edu) for any questions you may have about infographics, or digital images.

Scholarly Smackdown: Scalar vs. Omeka

Scholarly Smackdown is the Scholarly Commons’ new review series comparing popular online research tools and resources. This week we’ll be taking a look at Scalar and Omeka, resources for presenting research digitally.

No scholars were harmed in the making of this column.

Scalar

Scalar is a content management system for creating digital books of media scholarship from The Alliance for Networking Visual Culture, based out of University of Southern California. It features a WYSISWYG editor that allows you to edit different types of pages within a digital book. You choose how and in what way these pages connect. It’s free and you can create as many Scalar books as you want. It makes it easy to incorporate content from partner archives such as the Internet Archive and Critical Commons. The biggest selling point to Scalar, especially for media scholars, is that it lets you present media without having to host the media yourself, which is especially relevant for those analyzing media that is still under copyright. However, please do not let all of this potential power go to your head, and instead check out our copyright resources and feel free to contact the Copyright Librarian, Sara Benson with questions you may have.
In my opinion, Scalar is not as easy or intuitive to use as the people who created it seem to think it is, though USC provides some instructions for Scalar 2. The latest update has been buggy, and while ANVC/Scalar GitHub is very helpful, Scalar is clearly still a work in progress. If you do have any experience with web development, there is very limited customization, and I was not able to find specific instructions for CSS styling for Scalar 2. Finally, you cannot import  your own files larger than 2 MB, which can be frustrating if you want to use your own very high quality scans of items.

Omeka

Omeka.net is a content management system designed for creating online exhibits from the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and Corporation for Digital Scholarship, the people behind  Zotero and THAT Camp.
Omeka basic features a WYSIWYG Editor and 500MB of file storage. The biggest advantage of Omeka is that it makes it very easy to add a lot of metadata about items that you want to display in an exhibit and create and arrange collections of these items. It also features lots of plugins (such as a CSS editor and a PDF embedded documents viewer), and the website provides very clear and thorough instructions. However, you can create only one Omeka site per account on the free version. If you contact the Scholarly Commons we can set up an Omeka site for you through the library institutional account, and you can learn more information and request an Omeka site here. 
One major difference between Omeka and Scalar is that with more storage, comes more responsibility; specifically, making sure that you have the permission to use items so that your research does not get taken down. Once again — please check out our copyright resources. Other notable drawbacks include the fact that customization is limited and Omeka.net is not great at creating things that aren’t online exhibits or exhibit-like sites.

Conclusion
Omeka and Scalar are two options of many for creating digital humanities projects. For specific questions and to learn more about Scalar and Omeka and other digital humanities resources at Scholarly Commons email us, and don’t forget to join us for a Savvy Research workshop about Scalar October 17 from 1-2 pm.

Let us know in the comments about your Scalar and Omeka experiences! Which do you prefer and why?

Further Reading:
Omeka Libguide: http://guides.library.illinois.edu/omeka
Scalar Libguide: http://guides.library.illinois.edu/scalar

Sources:

“Alliance for Networking Visual Culture » Overview.” Accessed October 12, 2016. http://scalar.usc.edu/features/overview/.
Marcotte, Alison and Alex Villanueva. “Red Cross Work on Mutilés, At Paris (1918).” SourceLab Prototype Series 1, no. 1 (2015). http://scalar.usc.edu/works/red-cross-work-1918/index.
“Image of Research” Accessed October 12, 2016.  http://imageofresearch.omeka.net/

Book Review: The Design of Everyday Things

Designer, psychologist, and respected industry expert Don Norman wants to change your life and the way you see the world and his classic book The Design of Everyday Things might just do that. This book is available for reading in the Scholarly Commons and online through the University Library Catalog.

“People are flexible, versatile, and creative. Machines are rigid, precise, and relatively fixed in their operations. There is a mismatch between the two, one that can lead to enhanced capability if used properly” –  (Norman, 2013)

An update on his 1988 book, The Psychology of Everyday Things, this book continues on the themes of designing for human imperfection and imprecision with new examples. Norman makes a clear, concise, if a little repetitive at times, argument for how we can make the world a better place through better design through a combination of psychology research, jokes, anecdotes, and serious industry examples, peppered with Norman’s rules to live by from his years of design experience, such as his rule of consulting: “I never solve the problem I am asked to solve. Why such a counter-intuitive rule? Because, invariably, the problem I am asked to solve is not the real, fundamental, root problem. It is usually a symptom.” (Norman, 2013)

Undergraduate Library

This book is the reason why doors that don’t work the way we expect them to are now called “Norman doors.”  This blog post was made in loving memory of campus’s favorite “Norman doors,” the former UGL Doors, 1969-2016.

He combines psychology and technology in design principles emphasized throughout the book such as:

  • Don’t force people to rely on their memory, which is limited and easily distracted, to be able to use a machine or system
  • Try to make what the technology does make sense to people so they can figure out what it can be used for from the way it is built and what they would know about other technologies
  • Give people ways to figure out if they are using the machine for what they think they are using the machine for
  • Instead of punishing people for making errors we should find ways to figure out why such an error was possible and how to prevent the same errors from being made again

Some questions this book raises include:

  • What factors contribute to creating positive user experience and how can a designer improve products to make them work better for people?
  • To what extent are problems attributed to human error really examples of bad design?
  • How do we better design the tools that shape our lives so that they can be used by a wider variety of people despite differences in ability and culture?
  • How do we counteract a culture that rewards dangerous behavior and punishes people who make mistakes when trying to develop safer technologies? Why don’t more industries have a semi-anonymous self-reporting system for errors like the airline industry and NASA to find problems that pilots are having and improve designs and systems?
  • How do we best combine best practices for human-centered design, a circular process of observation, idea generation, prototyping, and testing, with the realities of the difficulties of product development, including Don Norman’s Law of Product Development: “The day a product development process starts, it is behind schedule and above budget” (Norman, 2013) as well as managing interdisciplinary teams, which prefer a more linear process?
  • And more!

Feeling inspired yet? Want to innovate the way things are done in your field or at least think about new ways of looking at problems? Here at Scholarly Commons we have books, and workshops, as well as consultations with the experts you need to find the tools you need to clarify and answer your research questions!

Explore coding and other technical skills with free online resources

Computer programming and other technical skills are increasingly in demand, both in academia and the private sector. Fortunately, as these skills have become more central to all sectors and industries, a wide variety of resources for learning these skills have emerged. In this post, we’d like to highlight just a few resources for getting started with programming

Codecademy is one of the better known online resources for learning programming languages and other technical skills. When you explore the site, you’ll see that it has courses divided into different categories, including web developer skills, languages, and simple projects (for instance, how to create an animation of your name). Each course is divided into several units, which are further divided into lessons that are built in a step-by-step manner. Lessons often begin by introducing the basics of a concept, and then having you apply the concept by walking through a simple procedure. For instance, the JavaScript course introduces functions, and then has you create a simple “rock, paper, scissors” game that is built out of functions.

One downside to Codeacademy is that, due to its step by step design, you may feel that you aren’t acquiring an understanding of the relevant concepts at the level you desire. So depending on your learning style, you might want to consider supplementing Codecademy with other resources.

One option would Lynda.com. Lynda offers video tutorials on a wide variety of topics and skills, with a focus on software and technical skills. For many topics, beginner level tutorials are offered. These provide a general overview of the subject matter, along with accessible explanations of key concepts. Lessons of this sort may serve as a nice complement to a more hands on, step by step, setup, such as that offered in Codecademy. University of Illinois students, faculty, and staff have free access to Lynda’s resources. To log in with your Illinois credentials, visit go.illinois.edu/lynda.

If you’re simply interested in familiarizing yourself with common programming terms and concepts, check out MIT’s Scratch. Scratch is a programming language and online community where you can create your own interactive stories, games, and animations. Scratch is, admittedly, designed with children in mind (in fact, it’s a project of the MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten group). Nevertheless, it can serve as a wonderful resource, especially for those completely new to coding (and I can report from first-hand experience that it is used in at least one class at the iSchool at Illinois). It can also be a lot of fun!

An image of a simple (and very clunky!) maze game I made for one of my classes using Scratch.

A simple (and very clunky!) game I made for one of my classes using Scratch. Scratch is developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. See http://scratch.mit.edu.

If you would like some one-on-one assistance with programming projects, you can drop by the Scholarly Commons for Data Help Open Hours, a joint service of the Scholarly Commons and the Research Data Service. In addition to getting help with Python coding, you can get help with R, SQL, and XML. If you’re ready to go more in-depth, check out our reference collection which contains books on Python, Java, R, and many more topics.

Do you know of any other good resources for learning to program? Let us know in the comments below!

Book Review: Statistics Done Wrong by Alex Reinhart

One book you can read (but not check out, sorry!) at Scholarly Commons is Statistics Done Wrong: The Woefully Complete Guide by Alex Reinhart, an expansion of the popular website.

Reinhart studied physics as an undergraduate but did a masters  in statistics after realizing problems that misunderstandings of statistics were causing in physics and science as a whole. He is now working on a PhD in statistics at Carnegie Mellon.

I don’t know if this would be the best book for someone who has no background knowledge whatsoever. While the author does a good job at explaining a lot of the concepts, his target audience is people who’ve encountered bad statistics in advanced level research, such as medical studies. This book is a good start for those who want insight into the mind of a statistician, even if their math skills aren’t quite there. Although the book isn’t numbers heavy, I still definitely got lost a few times and had to re-read some of the passages. However, I really like the writing style of the author. All I want is to be able to write and articulate difficult concepts in a way as clear, concise, and even funny as the author.

One of the main takeaways of the book was:

“Scientists may be superhumanly caffeinated, but they’re still human, and the constant pressure to publish means that thorough documentation and replication are ignored”(Reinhart, 2015).

I remember learning about the difficulty that psychologists have faced replicating their results (and glad to hear that they as a discipline are improving their efforts to make sure studies and results can be replicated.) and this book explained a lot of the factors at play. For example, Reinhart discussed statistical power, and how not all journals checked if researchers had enough data to determine if their results were statistically significant in the first place. And the book goes in depth into the various issues that can make finding statistical significance a poor measure of whether a phenomena is occurring or not. Furthermore, while I found the debate about publication bias of studies about publication bias as well as “False-Positive Psychology” by Joseph P. Simmons  (doi:10.1177/0956797611417632) hilarious, I too am now worried about the state of research.

One suggestion from Statistics Done Wrong  is more options for making scientific data more accessible so that people don’t try the same failed methods again and again and can learn from others’ experiences. In other words, ways to share the raw data and software code used, even in studies that did not get published in a journal, before the format they are in becomes obsolete. Even though that’s often a major pain to do. Research Data Service are the best people to talk to for learning more about the efforts on campus for solving this problem. They are  your best bet for learning about ways to store and make scientific data more available.

Another problem mentioned in the book is the overall lack of statistical knowledge and education. Here at Illinois, Scholarly Commons is just one of many resources available. For more specific technical questions, we recommend asking a statistician through consulting services through the statistics department, however, this service costs money unless you get the STAT 427 students during spring semester. There are also some free resources and workshops through ATLAS-CITL and online tutorials through Lynda.

Overall, Statistics Done Wrong is an interesting read and a good starting point for those interested in having a better understanding of what to look out for when using statistics in research and ways to improve the way research is done on a whole.