Thing Eleven

This is an easy week for me as I already use both Dropbox and Google Drive (although I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t realise it was no longer Google Docs). It’s useful though to think about how I use each one and clarify what I find irritating.

Overall I am a huge fan of Dropbox. I signed up almost two years ago now when my computer hard drive self-distructed. By incredible good luck (you might say providence) I had backed up on my external hard drive the night before, but the experience was nonetheless sufficiently harrowing for me to decide I needed another back up as well. The peace of mind which is created by watching the tiny green tick appear on the Dropbox desktop icon, showing all your work is saved in the cloud, is a daily comfort to me!

So, I started out with Dropbox as a simple back up option, but it’s since become useful in two other ways as my working methods have developed. Firstly, when I became involved in running the ‘Things‘ seminar at CRASSH it allowed us to create a shared folder so we can work on budgets, advertising, email templates etc as a group. It’s quite satisfying to watch other people work as the update icons flash up on your screen! Secondly, as I got an iPad and a decent smart phone, Dropbox has enabled me to access my work anywhere. You might say this is dangerous given how PhDs take over your life in any case, but it means I can go on short library trips with just my iPad and still access all of my work, as well as checking things on my phone in an emergency. This is especially useful since the iPad app has been updated to allow you to upload directly to Dropbox. Working on the train is now my most productive time.

However, there is one big annoyance with Dropbox, which I don’t seem to be able to solve. With a shared folder, there is nothing to stop multiple people opening and editing a document at the same time, meaning you end up with conflicted copies. Dropbox saves these but then it seems to be impossible to delete them. However hard we try they magically reappear! This is a problem which Google Drive doesn’t have as all editing happens online allowing multiple edits to be saved at once. I’ve used this particularly for spreadsheets when planning events with multiple people. I think this is useful in such circumstances when you only need the one document, but for more complex sharing like ‘Things’ Dropbox is still more useful. Also (as Helen says), Dropbox allows you to edit offline, and I like the fact that the documents are still on my computer.

Overall, I think I’m happy with my current strategies. One of the joys of a MacBook is having Time Machine backup which likewise automatically keeps regular copies of your entire computer system. But as my PhD draws to a close, and every painful word written becomes more important, maybe I’ll put it all on Google Drive too. The less opportunity for my human error the better!

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Thing Ten

As a historian of science, art and material culture I’m well aware of how people think with things. But it wasn’t until the info for this digital thing came through that I realised how I now completely think with my computer! The whole way that my PhD research, my blog writing, my choices of media to interact with the world, and my commitments in general are organised in my brain is based around how they work on my computer! No wonder when it broke 2 years ago it felt like someone had chopped off a limb, or even carried out a lobotomy on me.

I wrote in my last post, and in my reply to Helen’s comment, about how I need to limit my use of tools in this module to what is immediately useful, and about how I need to keep my systems of information management limited or I get confused and lose things. So, I’m afraid after a brief look at Scrivener it hasn’t made the team this time. But, I don’t want to stop interacting with the DH23 programme as it’s so interesting and stimulating. What, therefore, I thought it worth writing here, was how my short look at Scrivener made me realise how I currently process and present information, as well as my worrying reliance on my laptop. I only use the basic Microsoft programmes for Mac for things like word processing, spreadsheets and powerpoint. I have folders to keep different activities separate – PhD, teaching, seminar organisation, blog writing, photographs, personal things etc – and I try to organise my emails and web bookmarks into similar folder structures although that is a little less systematic.

Obviously the thing that takes up most space and organisation is for my PhD. Luckily fairly early on I decided to make a spreadsheet of all my source material which records where in my many word files the notes are as well as what chapter it’s relevant to. It works quite well, although I increasingly seem to have to use the Mac search function (which is a god send) so maybe it’s time to rethink. The thought of doing that before finishing the PhD (6 months to go!) fills me with dread, but maybe when I move on to pastures new I’ll have a clean sweep and give Scrivener another go. Thanks for pointing it out Helen.

The only non-technological information management system I use these days is my massive diary, which is always full of to do lists, tickets, print outs of workshop and meeting agendas, as well as deadline reminders, birthdays, important phone numbers and addresses. Without it I would just stay in bed as I’d have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing! So maybe I do still have some connection to the world outside digital things …

Module Two and Things 8-9

I’ve got a bit behind on my DH23 posts in this module. Other commitments have got in the way this term, so I’m going to have to be selective and only try out the ‘things’ which I know will help me in some way. Annotating tools don’t make the list I’m afraid, as I already synch my notes simply with dropbox and can’t face the thought of adding another tool through which I have to search to find work at this point in my PhD!

RSS feeds, on the other hand, I love and have been using for some time. I use them in two ways. Firstly, on my Spoons on Trays blog, I keep a blogroll at the side featuring blogs on objects, museums and projects which interest me. The RSS feeds automatically update these to the most recent post. Secondly, I subscribe to the RSS feeds for a number of blogs that I follow personally. That means that the new posts appear in my email programme on my computer and, as I use my inbox as a sort of to-do list, it means that I make sure I read them. I changed to this fairly recently from subscribing by email, which played the same function for me. Importantly, as a blogger myself, I realised that the email subscription sends you the whole post so you don’t visit the site, whereas the RSS feed gives you a link, so you contribute to the blog’s visitor stats. Just doing my bit for my fellow bloggers!

Gearing up for Module Two

I think I’ve been a little spoilt with DH23 so far, as a lot of Module One dealt with digital tools that I had engaged with already – blogs, twitter, storify etc. But I found it really helpful to think about my online identity as a coherent whole and establish what exactly I want out of it. I now feel more confident about using ‘Spoons on Trays’ as a clear identity, and linking that to my PhD research and the project of which I am part. With that more academic aspect in mind, It’s been really helpful to have the impetus to set up Academia.edu and Google Citation profiles, which in turn encouraged me to overhaul my blog as a tool to advertise myself as an academic, and set up my ‘About Me‘ page.

I feel that I use all of these tools pretty well now, but I find the group environment of DH23 invaluable for thinking through the wider implications of digital research and communication, such as the #Twittergate discussions. It’s so important that we use these tools in the right way. With this next module I am looking forward to moving outside of my comfort zone with new tools, and to thinking more about the implications, possibilities and drawbacks of being a digital humanist.

Thing Seven

So, we’ve reached the end of Module One, a nice opportunity to reflect back on what I’ve learnt. This module has probably been less of a learning curve for me that some others, as I was already engaged with at least some of the tools which we’ve explored, but having the impetus to think about one every week has given me the chance to add new ones, and to streamline what I use. Most importantly, it’s got me to think coherently about my online identity, how I want to shape it, and what I need to do to engage with the audiences I want to reach. I’ve found this really helpful so thanks Helen!

Most useful in a practical sense, for me, have been the bibliometrics and the professional networks. Both were tools of which I was aware, and that I had kept meaning to set up, but this gave me the reason to do so. Now I have a nice professional Academia.edu site and can proudly look at my Google Scholar citations. But, this module also got me looking at other people’s blogs, and so inspired me to re-design my Spoons on Trays blog, and galvanised me into creating a proper ‘About Me‘ page. Again I had wanted to do this for a while. When I started the blog, I wanted to keep it separate from me the Longitude PhD student, to see how it went down, but as I’ve got more confident, I’ve had good feedback, and especially as this module has helped me to think about it as part of my identity, I’ve worked to tie up the different things I do online and to make ‘Spoons on Trays’ a part of that. Thus, making this a digital counterpart to my blog.

This module has also encouraged me to use Twitter more, and to start using Storify, thanks to CRASSH’s excellent example. I’ve found both of those useful ways to tie together the different things I do online, using Twitter as the single voice to communicate each one, and Storify as a means to store them. The main thing that DH23 has helped to convince me of, is to keep my Facebook profile separate from the others, that is personal not professional, and it’s also encouraged me to establish ‘Spoons on Trays’ as a professional sort of nom de plume. After Helen’s excellent warnings, I’ve also been careful to delete the accounts that I created on sites that I haven’t found useful, like Pinterest and Scoop.it. So, I’m trying to keep my digital house in order! I already save my Spoons on Trays posts in a word document, so I will always at least have the text, but this has been a timely reminder to do the same with these posts. I’ve enjoyed having this blog as a separate but linked space on which to reflect on this process, and am looking forward to learning more in Module Two!

Thing Six

This week is another great one for me, I am so enjoying this whole programme. As Helen says, CRASSH is particularly brilliant about Storifying their events, so I got interested when Ruth Rushworth did one for our ‘Things’ Conference at the end of September. The thing that has annoyed me about Twitter is the way that all your thoughts and effort disappear, so I really like this possibility of archiving your tweets along with relevant resources, as well as taking some sort of ownership of events. So, thanks to Ruth’s encouragement I have started Storifying our ‘Things’ seminars with my tweets, the audios and websites. I then tweet these and email the link out to our seminar mailing list.

I thought about how I wanted to create the account, and I decided that it made sense to link it to my Twitter, and thus through the name to my main blog, as I want the three to work together, and I use Twitter only professionally. That decision is fairly easy for events like our ‘Things’ seminars where I am the only one tweeting, of course. So, inspired, by this week’s DH23Thing, I decided to branch out with my Storifying. On Tuesday I attended a blogger’s preview of the new Renaissance exhibition at the Queens’ Gallery, so I decided to storify all of the tweets, many by other people, and to use the facility which Storify offers to tell everyone involved that I had done so. This led to some interesting and useful interactions after the event, and to some new followers! Plus a useful resource for me in writing my blog review. So all in all I am sold on Storify.

Scoop.it on the other hand I am less sold on. I hadn’t used it before so had a little play now for this post. It may well be that my keywords are too broad, but I couldn’t get it to find anything that seemed relevant to what I was trying to create and therefore I couldn’t get any further, just ended up with four empty spaces for content. I think what I like about Storify is the very immediate use which I can make of it, so far event specific. These are events in which I have an investment, and therefore are an obvious source of interest and content for me. But scoop.it is more for general information and I therefore find the selection process difficult. If I know what I want to put together, why not use Pinterest? If I don’t why use scoop.it to search rather than Google? I’m not convinced that the end product will be useful to me. I’ve also had a little look at Paper.li. I think I just haven’t found the write content to pull together yet. I’ll stay open-minded and try again with these two in a few months.

But lastly, why do we call this ‘curation’? Where are the objects? But that’s a whole different post (one I wrote, in fact, on the Arts Pages).

Thing Five

This week’s thing is a great one for me as I have been meaning to establish a profile on academia.edu for a while, and I needed to spend some time updating my CV so the two tied in nicely. I’ve always been drawn to that rather than to LinkedIn because I can see an obvious use for it as a tool for advancing my career, whereas LinkedIn seems more like just another social media site, and Facebook and Twitter take up plenty of time already.

Remembering Helen’s comments at the CRASSH ‘Building your Online Identity‘ event, I was careful not to log-in using Facebook as I’ve always been clear that I want to keep that a personal network and open to only my friends. Otherwise, it was a fairly simple process to set up. Putting in my talks, papers etc was a little time consuming but I expected that. Then it was quite fun looking at fellow scholars who are on there and working out who to follow. Sadly, I also feel academically validated now each time I gain a new follower!

I can see that this is a straight-forwardly useful space through which to gain visibility online and promote my academic activities, it’s also more authoritative than my personal blog as a space to present these. I am aware, however, that I have just created another site for myself that will need to be kept up-to-date and, given that doing my CV took a good few hours, which then needed to be updated on my blog already, that is no small consideration. The two are linked, though, and my academia page can connect me to people who may not be aware of my blog. I’ll be interested to see how my followers and page views develop over the next weeks, and what impact this in turn has on my blog and twitter impact.

Thing Four

Finally we get to Twitter, one of my new favourite things! While I’ve been on Twitter for well over 18 months now, I have only really got into using it since July. I started by solely tweeting my blog posts each time I wrote one, and was careful to keep both my twitter and blogging identity separate from ‘me’ the PhD student (etc.) until I saw that it was a useful exercise. The process of live tweeting the 3 Societies conference in July changed all that. I really enjoyed the fast paced interaction, and the different way of engaging with the conference material. I gained new followers and, because I was on Twitter all day, I saw much more of the content that I was interested in. In fact, I wrote a blog post about the impact that experience had on me when I got back. Now I have the Twitter app on my laptop, and tweet regularly.

I use it for five different purposes I would say, 1. Still to advertise my blog posts, but now I advertise all posts on whatever blog, not just my ‘Spoons on Trays‘ ones; 2. To write short tweet reviews/comments of exhbibitions and cultural sites I visit for which I feel I don’t have enough to say for a full blog post; 3. To follow news and opinions in the museum and history of science sectors; 4. To interact with a group of museum and history of science professionals with whom I don’t have contact any other way; 5. To tweet conferences (I’m not sure how far this is distinct from the others), most recently my own ‘Things’ conference last week. I make a conscious choice to keep Twitter purely ‘business’ and rarely interact with my friends on there. Obviously as I befriend people in my ‘professional’ sectors those boundaries are getting blurred.

This ‘Thing’ has been useful in helping me think about ways to improve my Twitter use, it’s so easy to get lazy, and there’s so much information that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I’m going to start getting involved in #ff ‘follow friday’. I’ve updated my profile description, and I’ve streamlined (read unfollowed) some of the more personal interests I follow. I’m also wondering about starting to use Paper.li, but I think Storify is more useful for my purposes. Ruth Rushworth at CRASSH did one for our Things conference, so I’m going to follow her excellent example. I’m not entirely sure what the point of tweetbeep and tweetscan are when you can set Twitter to inform you by email whenever someone mentions you anyway, let alone using the relevant bits of the Twitter site/app. But I did rather enjoy generating a tweetcloud on which I’ll end. Good to see that most of my key words appear in my cloud!

Thing Three

This week we have got onto a digital ‘thing’ about which I’ve not thought before and it’s exciting. I was aware of course that there are digital citation systems etc but not that you could create your own profile within those and track your publications. Google Scholar was superbly easy to use. It took less than 10 minutes to set up my account, and it magically found my three publications instantly. That suggests to me that so far I don’t have the problem Helen mentions so that, at least at the moment, I am the only ‘Katy Barrett’ out there publishing under that name. That helps with some of the online identity discussions we were having last week.

Trying out ResearcherID, however, confirms my suspicion that using digital tools more and more is shortening my attention span and my patience. It took longer to set up a profile which at the end had fewer useful items in it – no keywords like in Google Scholar – and then it only gave me ‘K Barrett’ as a search option for articles, which came up with hundreds of hits and I got bored scrolling through them. It does add weight to the thought that I might be the only ‘Katy Barrett’ publishing at the moment, though. So, I’m afraid I gave up with ResearcherID. For the moment I think Google Scholar is enough for me, and I suspect also helps with boosting your profile in Google searching? I have added the link to my ‘Spoons on Trays’ blog so it’s become immediately useful. Incidentally, I’ve also redesigned the blog, inspired by one of the other dh23 contributors over last weekend.

I think this is an obviously immediately useful sort of tool which gives early career researchers like me the opportunity to build a profile, over which we have control, and which can move with us, but is still given some authority and security by being hosted by Google. It does amuse me, however, that there’s no space in this digital tool to input or link to digital publications!

Thing Two

There is something rather furtive about typing your own name into Google, but I’m pleased to say I got a clean bill of health this time. My name brings up a number of references related to me – my twitter account and blog, a number of posts I’ve written – and takes you to some photos, including ones of me, none of which are embarrassing. None of the Facebook links take you to me, and all but one of what I would consider the ‘proper’ hits on the first page are by me, so my presence isn’t looking bad. Although one of the blog posts that comes up is entitled ‘Foolish- Drunk – or Mad‘ which I might need to bump down the hits!

Personas doesn’t seem to be working right now, so I’ll have to re-try that. I’m also not sure what Google AdWords does for me, it seems to be mainly about product advertising and I found it rather confusing, so looking at how the Google search box completes terms was more useful. For instance, when I started typing my name, it suggested I add ‘Cambridge’ on the end. So Helen’s point about academic affiliation being useful seems to extend to search terms.

I’ve been thinking more about making my online presence more coherent and more useful to me, so I’ve added a ‘CV’ page to my blog to explain more about who I am and what I’ve done. This also links to my other projects, so hopefully explains how the various ways in which I appear online link together. But it’s good to see that words with which I would like to be associated, like ‘longitude’ ‘material culture’ and the identity ‘Spoons on Trays’ are showing an online connection to me. Now I’ll have to see what I can do about making ‘Digital Spoons’ more visible!