Sunday, April 05, 2009

Brief Sunday Snippets - technology, writing etc

In response to my complaint in Depression on tidying up, Gordon smith wrote:

Purchase or borrow a decent scanner. Scan the material to your PC. Add appropriate keywords. Do a backup of your PC. Keep the backup elsewhere. Discard paper-based material (or put it into commercial storage space).

It's time consuming (sorry), but everything you have will be on hand and not take up too much space (OK, you may need a larger hard disk).

Gordon is largely right, of course. I should do something like this. It's just that the process is very time consuming. And I also find paper helpful.

For someone like me with broad interests and limited time, finding the best way of using new technology is quite important. Part of my problem is to find the time to learn how to use it.

Yesterday at work I was chatting with a colleague about bibliographies and references, finding a way to automate this process. She suggested the use of endnotes, or an equivalent package. This allows you to record and sort references and then to automate the process of inserting them in the text. You can use a variety of labels.

I had not come across this before, so its something else I have to learn. Sigh!

I am a technology lagger rather than leader, although the way I have worked in recent decades means that I am a very heavy technology user. Heavy to the point that it is quite difficult to stay in touch, upgrade, as things change.

One little thing that I have just discovered is that if I use endnotes in a word document I can then transfer it to Livewriter and post, preserving the endnotes. This is quite important from my viewpoint since I now want to move to a more academic form of writing - academic in terms of use of references, not style. This makes it easier to re-use material.

To get a feel for what I mean, have a look at New England in the Pleistocene Period.

This post took me quite a long time to write, it's part of my catch-up work.

Most of the pre-history material on New England really starts with the Holocene since this is the period of most sites. I wanted to get my mind around what New England might have looked before this.

To do this, I used the work of Mulvaney and Kamminga as a base. They tell a continent wide story, so I had to take this and apply it within a narrower geographic frame. This was quite time consuming; my train reading has stalled on one book while I took notes.   

By adding footnotes to the post, I hope that I have created something that other people can legitimately reference, while also making it easier for me to re-use.

My posts on this blog are going to continue to be skimpy for a little while I continue to catch up. However, I will continue to cross-link on this blog so that you can see what I am doing. 

Time to write my Express column.  


rummuser said...

It might also be a useful exercise to ask if you have bitten off more than you can chew!

Jim Belshaw said...

I greatly fear that you are right, RM!

Bobq said...


When in doubt, remember competitive advantage. You can hire a service to sort, scan and store your papers. Yes, you are still left with the indexing problem, but I daresay one of two situations applies.

Either (a) the papers are not currently indexed, in which case you can at least search them electronically and so are a little better off or (b) you have a paper based index system in which case you can instruct the service provide to use that system in tagging content.

The idea is worth exploring - my father in law eventually had his huge collection of Wordstar 5 files (on 5.25" floppies!) converted to Word 97. didn't know what to do with the space and held onto the disks for about two years until he had them backed up 4 times, one offsite, in several formats.

For all that, I like paper for some uses, particularly critical review of current work. I somehow read it better.