Desk: Elephants to Catch Eels

Locally, we’re ending a semester and with a new season comes the need (!) for a new blogging app. This one is Desk , with good reviews on its paper-on-a-desktop interface. Writes in markdown. Handles image embeds and placement well – very easy. Affordances of headings, styles, quotation and lists are hidden away a little: select the text and a popup selection bar appears (it visually wars with PopClip for a moment). They’re available by keyboard, too. Preview and publishing options, too, are tucked away until you want them.

I enjoy – yep: enjoy – the minimalist writing interface (sans scrollbar) and appreciate the single-window design over floating palettes. I appreciate, too, the stats: characters, words, and reading time. And because I work across two Macs, using iCloud Drive to store drafts is welcome. There’s also some welcome legibility intelligence built into the interface: Re-sizing the editing window re-sizes the text for drafting.

The weblog setup is a little geeky, asking for the xmlrpc.php address. Not a problem for me, and perhaps a feature to teach a few users what is necessary for logging into a weblog. I approach new apps with the mind that the developers are going to show me something new, and I’m ready to let them, so I don’t balk at geek or new interface moves. Every app another way to think about what we’re doing. Every app a machine to think with.

There are a few things that push towards re-learning. Like the minimalist interface that removes the context. Like the disappearing publishing information that redraws the text when it’s called up and again when it’s hidden. The difficulty in seeing paragraph breaks in the draft window where everything is single-spaced.

It’s a v 1.0 release, so by the time I get used to these new gestures, the developer will have changed things anyway.

The promotional website is over-kill for the understatement of the actual app – a blast of marketing hype on story and empowerment and mission and passion. The first-grade marketing silliness creeps into the app. Publishing a post is rewarded with a gold-star, “Success! Great Job!” Using hyperbole to market understatement is a nice rhetorical irony, well-taken, but when it creeps into interface design, annoyance lies in wait. To get the best feel for the app, look at John's blog.

Update: Editing and resending a post doesn't update the original post but creates a new one. After publishing this post, I edited it further and then updated – I thought. I ended up with seven versions. Desk uses the old-school way of thinking about publishing and updating: Get it right before you publish, then publish once and commit! I'm more of the wiki-habit of development in situ. I deleted the six earlier versions and all is fine.

Update: Turns out I was editing and repeatedly uploading a local copy of the post rather than editing the already-uploaded version. The uploaded post is editable. Look over the navigation bar closely and select the version to edit. Desk is slippery, but flexible.

on pinboard for November 21st, 2014 through November 23rd, 2014

  • DS106: Enabling Open, Public, Participatory Learning | Connected Learning – – (dh weblogs social )
  • Sente for PDF – and the centrality of taking notes – "The Centrality of Note Taking in Academic Thinking and Research

    Note taking is one of the most important and fundamental practices in academic research. Not only does it help you to record, capture, and the collect ideas of others, but the benefits of dialectical thinking truly spring from annotating texts while reading them. The practice and habit of annotation for the majority of academic readers–whether on a separate sheet of paper, sticky notes, subject notebooks, in margins of a book, or in an index-card system of cross-references like Luhmann’s infamous and innovative Zettelkasten, ends up being one’s personal archive of thought and the wellspring for creative intellectual endeavors on the page. Thus note taking is not merely something we do to index and keep track of the ideas of others, but it is an important, deep-seated practice for most academic researchers that ought to be systematized as a kind of extended memory that will serve a lifetime of intellectual work. – (notetaking research sent DH e-learning )

on pinboard for November 17th, 2014

  • Hack Your Life With A Private Wiki Notebook Getting Things Done And Other Systems – WebSeitz/wiki – Many people associate wikis with Wikipedia, but Wikipedia is really more of an exception. There are many thousands of wiki spaces in existence. Many of them are restricted to a specific group of people. Many business project teams use wikis as a way to accumulate plans and progress notes. Many classrooms use wikis for group projects, or for individual student or teacher notebooks.
    But you can also create your own private wiki: nobody else will be able to read it or change it. I've been doing this for over a decade, and I think it's the best type of Notebook to keep. Using a wiki the right way gives you the best chance to refine and connect your thoughts over time, and connect your daily issues to big themes and choices in your life.
    This also allows you to follow multiple systems of self-improvement, such as "Getting Things Done". You can use multiple systems at the same time and connect their commonalities, or switch across systems over time without forgetting everything you learned. And so you can evolve your own personal style of life management that takes the pieces of multiple systems that work best for you.
    So half this book will pitch the general process I believe in, and half will lay out a specific process you can immediately follow to start making progress. – (notebook wiki notetaking )
  • What Iterative Writing Looks Like (and why it’s important) | Hapgood – I’ve been talking a lot about our fascination with “StreamMode”, the current dominant mode of social media. StreamMode is the approach to organizing your thoughts as a history, integrated primarily as a sequence of events. You know that you are in StreamMode if you never return to edit the things you are posting on the web. – (wiki composing wcw )

week 6 in e-rhet: project: the use of links in personal weblogs

A couple weeks ago, we started the second project in this semester’s E-Rhetoric course: how bloggers use links in personal weblogs. Myers introduces the idea and does some preliminary work on the question in Chap 3 of The Discourse of Blogs and Wikis. Bloggers link to material and websites outside of the blog; the link is one of the features that defines weblogs as weblogs (Myers, chap 2). They use blogrolls as a way of positioning their blog with respect to others – identifying a sphericule – but they also include links in their posts. And, of course, they don’t just write,  Here’s a link!, or copy and paste urls into the post. A cursory glance at a weblog illustrates that bloggers use links rhetorically – to “more or less intentionally influence social attitudes, values, beliefs, and actions,” in S&P’s all-purpose definition of rhetoric.

Myers is not just describing what bloggers do but analysing what they do – and that’s where his work fits in with S&P’s chap 5 on analysis:

In this chapter we help you learn how to do analysis by showing you two parts to this thinking process: (1) naming the parts of a message and (2) looking for rhetorical patterns within and among messages.

To do this, we start with a search model:

Search models are derived from theories about rhetorical communication that identify different rhetorical properties or components of messages (e.g., visual style, type of argument, language style, or parts of a story). Each search model causes you to take a particular point of View when analyzing a message, leading you to focus on particular rhetorical properties and not others. So, different search models will enable you to see different rhetorical properties in a given message, somewhat like sunglasses with different colored lenses. (71)

Our search model is the one that Myers uses in chap 3, in which he starts to construct a taxonomy of how bloggers use links. A specialized vocabulary and specialized concepts mark a search model as a serach model, so the taxonomy will look a little technical at first. For our work, I adapted and organized his taxonomy in the project page Rhetorical Uses of Links in Personal Weblogs. With this taxonomy, we can build on what Myers has found, add to it, and modify and refine it –  according to what we see, using the same lenses that Myers used.

Myers uses another search model inside his own (not uncommon. S&P do it too). Myers discovered that some of the bloggers he was looking at were using links in ways that involved more than straight-to-the-point communication. Bloggers were making jokes with links, misleading readers, and seemingly playing with links, So he drew on Grice’s theory of communication to define a way of working with flouts. Myers covers Grice in chapter 3 but I gave you a link to some more detailed explanation of Grice on flouts so we can use the same search model in our work.

And, finally, I added a category to Myers’s developing taxonomy, What is the link doing rhetorically. Myers noticed that bloggers were using flouts in their links, but other rhetorical critics and casual readers have noticed that bloggers also use rhetorical figures in links. More concisely, they use the link text and the link target to create a rhetorical figure or trope.

For example, I’ve seen an interesting way bloggers will present links in an argument about the value of taking notes:

Don’t believe me? See here, here, and here.

What’s going on here? The links lead to three different quotes each of which gives evidence for the argument. But the “Don’t believe me?” is a rhetorical question, and it’s followed by three links that repeat the same word – a figure of repetition called an isocolon.  (I came, I saw, I conquered). The argument behind this figure is something like this: “There is plenty of evidence available that support my claim. Here are three obvious, self-explanatory examples. Support is so easy to find that it doesn’t warrant doing more than gesturing: here, here, here …”

So, in addition to using Myers’s straightforward categories of what’s being linked to and how the link is interated in the text, we are also taking a focus on the rhetorical moves we see.

This sounds like a lot but because we’re using a method, it’s not. What you need to do is make multiple passes, being methodical in your notetaking.

In the specific blog posts, look at

  • What the rhetor links to
  • How the rhetor incorporates the link into the text
  • How we can characterize the relationship of link context to target
  • What the link is doing rhetorically

And outside of links in the posts, look at blogroll and other links on the page: Are they present? What sites are linked to? How is the sidebar collection titled?

Two more elements go into analysis, and they are here to make the task easier and more robust:

Watch for patterns. Patterns in analyses are detailed in S&P, chap 5, and I also list them on the project page. It’s patterns where things become interesting and signficant.

Record your thinking in notes. Again, this is detailed in S&P. chap 5 and elsewhere. You’re not writing an essay but collecting examples and considerting them. Use the categories and the bullet points in the taxonomy as a starting point, until you can start adding other examples. See a link? Copy and paste the link and surrounding text into your notes page and consider it. Seeking different ways of integrating linktext into the post? Add those to the taxonmy, with a sample to illustrate. You’ll know you’re enaged in the method when you start to add to the options in the taxonomy. Any single link may show up in more than one area, as you consider what is linked to, how the text is handled, the relation of the linktext to the target, and what the link is doing rhetorically. So, make multiple passes as you identify patterns, come across interesting moves, and add to the taxonomy as you work.

In making multiple passes with this search model, you’re doing analysis. This is what it looks like when you’re in the middle of it: messy at first, but becoming more and more refined as patterns start to surface, and as you start to refine and adapt the taxonomy.

Later, when we all have sets of notes, I’ll ask you to refine your ideas by composing a few extended paragraphs from your notes on what you have found so far, a kind of overview, so we can compare findings and prepare to interpret them.

This post was adapted from the presention I gave in class 16 Oct 2014.

on pinboard for October 9th, 2014 through October 18th, 2014

on pinboard for September 22nd, 2014 through October 4th, 2014

on pinboard for September 20th, 2014