March 2011 Archives

I visited with World Campus Instructional Design staff earlier this week, and shared in a great discussion on the rewards and challenges of blogging professionally.  This group launched a pilot project centered on blogging---each staff member created a Penn State blog, and was encouraged to use the blog on a regular basis to record reflections, archive work-related artifacts, record work achievements, and more.

I spoke with some members of this group over two years ago as they were just getting started with the idea, and it was very interesting to come back and see how their project evolved over time.  Our discussion this week centered on online identity, and how we can each set comfortable parameters for what we reflect on publicly.

I stressed to the group that for me, blogging is an entirely selfish act.  I blog here to record information for myself, to flesh out less than fully-formed thoughts in my head, to begin germinating research ideas.  My most successful posts (and the ones that generate the most traffic on my blog) have been essentially technical writing---recording how to do something (almost always written so that I myself won't forget it later, and can just look it up again.)

I stressed to the group that these selfish posts can serve a secondary purpose, connecting with a larger community of other people interested in / pursuing similar interests.  After our session, I thought of a post I wrote a few years ago, titled, Why I blog.  My ideas on this topic haven't changed, and can essentially be distilled down to the following points:

  • My blog is a notetaking mechanism and idea farm for my research.
  • My blog is an outlet for publicizing new projects, publications and presentations (and, I would add, for archiving artifacts relevant to those new initiatives).
  • My blog can function as a space for community discussion.
  • My blog encourages me to write on a regular basis.
  • My blog helps me pull together multiple, disparate views on a specific issue, for later use.
  • My blog is a forum for reflections on teaching, research and service.
As this blog has aged, my purposes for it have gotten more and more self-centered.  It has become a conduit to my portfolio.  Artifacts often rest here before they are more formally linked in my portfolio.  I showed the group Chris Long's post on scholarly curation from the Day of Digital Humanities blog, and encouraged them to think broadly about the artifacts that they can and should aggressively collect and archive for future use.  Chris's acts of intentional documentation and curation seemed to truly resonate with the group.

As the act of blogging itself matures, perhaps the best advice I could share with the group is to simply use it for their own needs. Adhere to your comfort zone.  Be selfish, write often, and create a vibrant record of your work that suits you and communicates your many professional contributions.
I am lucky to be part of a small Sente user community at Penn State, based in the College of Education.  This week, we got together to work through some of the basic capabilities of the software.  In advance, I identified some of the (in my opinion) most integral, unique, or simply showstopping citation management functions Sente provides.  And here they are (below) for you! (Please note that many of these answers can be found in the Sente 6.2 User's Manual.)

Q:  How can I integrate Sente with Microsoft Word 2011?
A:  The information here explains how to integrate Sente with Microsoft Word in general.  I found that in order to successfully install it in MS Word 2011, I needed to download the .dot template file separately (from within Sente preferences / bibliography) and then install it within the Templates / Add-in's menu in MS Word 2011.  Once installed, the Sente menu items were available in MS Word under 'Tools.'

Q:  How can I import (and gain citation data from) a folder of PDFs?
A:  This is a really neat capability of Sente---to glean citation data from article metadata, or assist you with finding that data out on the web, and matching it with the PDF.  This Sente support page provides great information on how to finesse this process.

Q:  How can I create automated searches (i.e., Web of Knowledge, etc...)?
A:  This Sente function allows the user to pre-identify specific searches that Sente will automatically run each time the program is opened (and your computer is connected online).  Records relevant to your search will be retrieved but not placed within your References library unless you select them.  This is a great way to maintain current searches without any work on your part.
This help page identifies how to set up the search.  Penn State users will also need to have the LIAS-VPN running in the background (while Sente is running) so that Web of Knowledge will recognize you as a Penn State user and retrieve your search results.

Q:  How can I customize my bookmarks for Penn State searches?
A:  --Open the built-in browser in Sente (the little world icon in the lower right corner)
--Open the bookmarks in the lower right corner of the browser
--At the bottom of the bookmarks menu, click on Configure Bookmarks...
--Add a new bookmark (+)
--Along with the title of the database that you want, add in the corresponding URL from this page

Q:  How can I share my library (with my other computers or with other users)?
A:  This one is a show-stopper (or as Scott McDonald says, it is "auto-magical.")   This help page will tell you exactly how to synchronize (i.e., share) your library.  (Just don't do as I do and save it in Dropbox.  Save it somewhere more static, so that data conflicts don't arise.

Do you have additional Sente tips?  Feel free to share them in the comments, and my thanks to my College of Ed friends for working through some of Sente's essential capabilities with me!

You can see the presentation that Scott McDonald and I shared at the 2011 Personal Digital Archiving conference below.  I need to rein in my tendency to own the stage---Scott had the right idea in actually standing behind the podium.


Edited to add:  This post was written yesterday before news of the Onward State / State College.com partnership was released.  A great development for our local news community!

I love local news.  Some of my best childhood memories center on our local newspaper--waiting each afternoon for the Telegraph Herald to arrive so that I could read the comics, serving on the youth advisory board of the Telegraph Herald, and even learning where we were moving in the context of the local newspaper (my dad asked me if I would like having the Boston Globe to read every day).

A new report from Pew on 'How Mobile Devices are Changing Community Information Environments' provides a great opportunity to reflect on how local news is changing in my local, college town community.  In the report, they note the following profile of mobile news consumers:

Compared with other adults, these mobile local news consumers are younger, live in higher income households, are newer residents of their communities, live in nonrural areas, and tend to be parents of minor children. Adults who get local news and information on mobile devices are more likely than others to feel they can have on impact on their communities, more likely to use a variety of media platforms, feel more plugged into the media environment than they did a few years ago, and are more likely to use social media.

In my small college town, I can see a renaissance happening with local news, all via Twitter.  I get the #centrecast weather report (and community discussion about weather) via @jamieober.  @OnwardState and @scnewsdesk do an absolutely terrific job of providing Penn State and local news coverage and discussion.  While I still am likely a huge anomaly in that I do subscribe to the local newspaper, I am increasingly dependent on the local Twitter news feeds to get fast coverage of local news.  This means that when black ice appeared on the roads, unexpectedly around noon on a winter weekend, I knew (and thanks to @scnewsdesk, I knew where all the accidents were, as well).  When President Obama visited campus last month, I knew moment to moment where his motorcade was thanks to @scnewsdesk and @onwardstate, and what was happening in Rec Hall.  When I am sharing updates with my less Twitter-connected coworkers and family, I know they are wondering how I am managing to get my news so quickly.  Being up on local news is always a tremendous advantage. 

Is Twitter (or something like Twitter) the future of local news?  I think so.  It is dynamic, instantaneous, collaborative, and communal.  As Jeff Jarvis noted, however (somewhere on his Twitter and I can't find it again), we are starting to need an authority system for hashtags that allows us to see more than just discussion of a news events, but to parse out the truly authoritative posts relaying new information on a breaking event.  The Twitter news stream is maturing.  Creating a truly dynamic web and mobile local news presence, as perhaps @scnewsdesk and @onwardstate are doing  is already a game changer for our local news.  For the present, I am pleased the our static and stagnant local news-scape is changing, and I am grateful to my Twitter news friends for their continuing coverage and unflagging enthusiasm for sharing the latest locally.   I love our local news community.