Tag Archives: tools

Archiving for the longue durée (Tools we use)

Do you backup? Good. But not good enough.

First, lets talk about backup. A good backup strategy should be regular, redundant, and involve multiple locations. Regular, so that you don’t have to worry about whether or not you backed up your data the day, week, or month before you accidentally spill your soup on your keyboard. It should be redundant, so that if your backup drive was shorted out by the same thunderstorm that destroyed your computer you still have another copy. And it should involve multiple locations so that if a fire burns down your house there is still a copy of your most important stuff at your parent’s house.

There are lots of ways to make sure you meet these basic requirements. My solution involves:

I feel pretty good about this system. It may not be perfect, but it meets the minimal requirements I listed above. However, it isn’t good enough for me, and it might not be good enough for you either… Continue reading

Paperpile (Tools We Use)

About a year ago I wrote a long post that discussed both my general approach to working with academic PDFs as well as the specific Apple (OS X/iOS) software I use to manage my own workflow: Sente. I still consider Sente to be a kind of gold standard for reference management software, but there are a couple of things about it that lead me to regularly check out the competition. One is that it only works on Apple products and many of my students are Windows users. The other is that, even on the Mac, it does not work within the web browser itself, but forces you to launch the app and use its own built-in web browser, which always interrupts my workflow. In my last post I mentioned a few other issues and briefly surveyed the competition; however my current work environment has me on a Windows 7 computer and so I decided to look again at the competition, especially cross-platform solutions. The first one I discovered is ReadCube but I found it just didn’t meet my needs. It didn’t do a very good job getting citation information (I had lots of errors in my metadata) and the iPad app was too limited for my needs. However, another service turned out to be more promising: Paperpile, and I thought I’d write a short post about how I’m using that.

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anthropology + design: anne galloway.

[This post is part of a two-week series featuring interviews with designers reflecting on anthropology and design.]

ANNE GALLOWAY. designer. ethnographer. archaeologist.


My sense of anthropology is very materialist so I think it made a lot of sense for me to gravitate towards design. I originally trained as an archaeologist and did ethnographic fieldwork on Andean textile production, so I’ve always been interested in the things that people make. Of course, as anthropologists we’re taught the importance of context and I think that bringing anthropology and design together really stresses contextual meanings. For me, the most interesting connection between anthropology and design can be found in how each practice enhances the other. Anthropology provides a kind of thick description that contextualises design processes and products, and design offers anthropology creative means of exploring and representing what it means to be human. I also enjoy the explicit combination of thinking, doing, and making—of blurring boundaries between analytical and creative practice, between rational and emotional experience.

Sometimes, in design, we talk about research about, for, and through design—and I think that anthropology is well suited to contribute to each endeavour. As we know, ethnography (including material, visual, and discursive culture) can tell us a lot about the roles of design in everyday life. Ethnography also provides us with valuable information that can be used to design “better” things—or to design nothing at all. And although research through design is perhaps less obviously related to anthropology, I think that every kind of anthropological research could create and employ objects and images with as much nuance as we’ve come to use words.

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anthropology + design.

Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger, Rachel Carmen Ceasar.

Chances are you know nothing about design.

Me neither.

nicolas_objects_big (1)

So when I was introduced to designer Laura Forlano at the Society for Social Studies of Science meeting in Sunny San Diego last fall, my interest in what design could do for anthropology–and vice-versa–was piqued.

For the next two weeks, I will be running a short series that features interviews with design researchers, ethnographic hackers, and field work makers with their take on anthropology and design. For the first interview, we will be talking with design researcher and ethnographer Nicolas Nova (that’s his toolkit in the photo above).

Rachel Carmen Ceasar (@rceasara) is a doctoral candidate in the Joint Medical Anthropology Program at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco (California, USA). She writes about the subjective and scientific stakes in exhuming mass graves from the Spanish Civil War and dictatorship in Spain today.

Are you there Internets? It’s me NAD*

*North American Dialogue; with apologies in advance for acronym abundance

Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Lindsay A. Bell

I recently became the Associate Editor of North American Dialogue (NAD). Part of the AAA Wiley-Blackwell basket of goodies, NAD is the peer reviewed journal of the Society for the Anthropology of North America (SANA). I was brought on to help with the journal’s “brand issues”; namely its recent conversion to a peer reviewed publication and its history as being, um, well CUNY-centric. I am pretty excited about working with SANA on NAD. As a relatively recent section of the AAA, SANA has done much in the way of establishing anthropologies of North America as politically and theoretically important. As the incoming Associate Editor, I am hoping to pick your savage minds about publishing, social media and related issues. In particular, for those of you whose work is North American (and we mean that as broadly as possible), what would you like to see from this publication? From the digital gurus in the crowd, I want to hear about how or if social media should be used to draw a broader public to scholarly work?

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Conference Chic, or, How to Dress Like an Anthropologist

By Carole McGranahan with Kate Fischer, Rachel Fleming, Willi Lempert, and Marnie Thomson

Wondering what to wear to the AAAs? We’ve got you covered. For women: throw a few scarves in your suitcase, a suitable range of black clothes, a kick-ass pair of shoes or boots, and some anthropological “flair,” and you should be good to go. Men need to pack their nice jeans, a good buttoned shirt, and the pièce de résistance: a stylish jacket. Unless you’re an archaeologist. Then all you need are jeans.

Anthropologists around the world are packing for the annual American Anthropological Association meetings (“the AAAs”) being held this year in balmy Chicago from November 20-24. What, you might wonder, are they packing? What look do anthropologists go for at the AAAs where thousands of anthropologists gather each year? We’ve turned to our social media networks to find out, posting this question on Twitter and on multiple Facebook accounts to learn just what fashion choices anthropologists are making this week. Continue reading

Tools for the field: Digital audio recorders

My digital voice recorder died a slow death this year.  It was a Zoom H2.  I bought it about 5 years ago and used it all last year for fieldwork in Baja.  I think the salt air may have something to do with its death–or maybe a battery leaked, I am not really sure.  There is some greenish crud on the back near the battery compartment, and it has been acting up in all sorts of ways lately–giving error messages, not wanting to shut off, and so on.  It has also been eating batteries like, like, like something really, really hungry for batteries!  My wife has been using it for her interviews and now it’s burning through two AA batteries in about an hour and a half, which is not good.  But the battery life of the H2 has never been great.  That’s been a problem from the start.

So, long story short this means I ended up looking around for a new voice recorder.  Looking back, the H2 was an ok investment.  It had great sound quality, but the user interface was really clunky, and the construction of the unit itself felt pretty shoddy.  It looked and felt pretty cheap to me.  I spent about 250 bucks on that thing and I definitely would not buy another one. Continue reading

Getting Reading Done With Sente (Tools We Use)

Some of you may be aware of the productivity cult known as “Getting Things Done” (GTD). Although I find the full-blown GTD approach doesn’t really fit well with an academic lifestyle (what’s the use of using “contexts” when your work follows you everywhere?), reading about GTD taught me a few basic principles that make me feel less stressed out by allowing me to focus better on the work at hand. I mention GTD because I intend to use it as a framework to discuss reference management software, especially Sente for the iPad which recently got a significant upgrade. This review consists of three sections: 1. Applying GTD principles to academic reading with Sente. 2. Some comments about new features and continued limitations in the latest version of Sente for the iPad. And 3. Other options for reading and managing references on the iPad.

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Living in a Plain Text World (Tools We Use)

If you look through the archives of Savage Minds you will find a lot of posts that are seemingly unformatted. Most of these are by Rex, who was an early fan of Markdown, a “a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers” developed by John Gruber. Unfortunately, the plugin we were using to make those posts appear pretty was sucking up a lot of server resources so we disabled it until we could find something better. There are probably better options out there now, but we haven’t looked at them. I personally write my blog posts in raw HTML and never saw the advantage of learning Markdown… until now.

Before I go on, a word of warning. Usually I only write my “Tools We Use” posts about software I feel confident about. That means it is bug-free, already has all the promised features, and can be easily used even by those who are less tech-savvy (with a bit of effort). However, some (but not all) of the tools discussed in this post aren’t really ready for prime time.

So what changed? Why did I come around to Markdown (MD)? Well, the main thing for me was my discovery of FoldingText. I know a lot of academics, Rex included, really like Scrivener (“the first and only word processing program designed specifically for the messy, non-linear way writers really work”), but despite trying really hard to like it, it just never “clicked’ for me. Mainly because I don’t like how it works as an outliner. FoldingText, on the other hand, is a great outliner. Yes, the current version is still missing some important features one would expect from an outliner, but I already love it. In this post I will write a bit about why I like FoldingText so much, as well as some of the other MD tools I’ve found helpful, including a way of writing powerpoint-style presentations in MD, and a new proposed syntax for annotating documents in MD. All this and more after the fold… Continue reading

Reading Academic PDFs on the iPad (Tools We Use)

[UPDATE: Sente is currently undergoing major changes in their sync engine; however, they have yet to update their iPad software. Once the iOS version of Sente is updated I will write a new post about the changes. Till then, please be aware that this post is out of date.]

Last December I wrote a post, Reading Fast, Reading Slow, which covered the various tools I use in my digital workflow depending on the kind of reading I’m doing. Today I want to update that with an in-depth look at what I had referred to as “slow” reading, focusing especially on texts which I have available in PDF format. This workflow assumes you have an Apple desktop computer, an iPad and the following software: Sente for OS X, Sente for iOS, Goodreader for iOS, a Dropbox account and an Evernote account. This is not a review of any of these tools, although the strengths and limitations of Sente are discussed in terms of how they help or hinder this specific workflow. I don’t by any means consider this to be an ideal workflow, but after having experimented and researched numerous options based on the tools which are currently available, this is the one that works best for me.

As I’ve explained before, it would be best if one could search and add PDFs to Sente directly from the system’s default browser, as one can do with Zotero or Mendeley, but despite this limitation, I still find Sente to be the best software out there for organising one’s citations. Zotero, for instance, lacks the “status labels” feature of Sente which is so central to the workflow I describe below. Moreover, for this workflow to work, you just need to download the PDF itself from your browser, and Sente will take care of the rest. And the iPad apps currently available for Zotero and Mendeley are sorely lacking compared with what Sente offers. (Other options are Papers and Bookends, but I find Sente compares favourably to those as well.)
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Reading Fast, Reading Slow (Tools We Use)

Over the course of a single day I engage in a number of different activities for which the word “reading” doesn’t seem to do justice: I scan my social networks, I check my email, I review student work, I browse articles and books related to my research, and I engage in deep sustained examination of a single text. Each of these tasks require a different frame of mind and, increasingly, different technologies. To simplify matters, I will talk about only three types of reading, each of which encompasses several of these reading-related activities: scanning, browsing and devouring.


I spend too much time doing this. The dopamine hit one gets from finding something new is immediate and gratifying. I have my email, Google Reader, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. each of which is sending me a steady stream of new links. (Follow our SavageMinds Twitter feed or Facebook account for the results of this time-wasting activity.) I check all of them throughout the day. Especially Twitter.

One of my favorite ways to browse all this in one place (excluding Google+ for now, but I’m sure that will change) is Flipboard for iOS. Google tried to buy Flipboard and when they failed made their own app called Currents. Currently Flipboard is still way ahead of the Google, as well as other competitors like Pulse, Zite, etc. (Here is a post from Lifehacker reviewing several of the options.)

To make the best use of Flipboard, you want to group your favorite Twitter sources into “lists” so that each list can have it’s own magazine on Flipboard. I haven’t been doing a great job of updating my various lists, but you can see mine here (or post your own in the comments.) You can do the same thing with Google Reader folders and Facebook “Friends Lists.”

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Going Paperless (Tools We Use)

I’ve been trying to go paperless since graduate school, when I bought my first sheet-feed scanner. It was a slow, noisy, hulk of a machine which would jam half the time. But I’m not the kind of person to let reality get in the way when I know something is possible, even if that possibility is just over the horizon. 2010 is the year that going paperless became truly possible, and not just for those who dream of the future—for everyone. What’s amazing is that all of a sudden there are hundreds of choices depending on your own personal workflow, system preferences, etc. Here’s how I do it:

INPUT: If you aren’t starting with a digital document from JSTOR, you need to scan your paper. My school has a fancy photocopy machine which can chew up an article and spit out a nice small PDF file, but if you don’t have access to that you can get yourself a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 (or S1500M for the Mac) which can do the same thing. If you have a smartphone with a good camera you can also simply take a snapshot and use software like JotNot to convert those photos to something resembling a scanned document.

STORAGE: Once you’ve scanned something or downloaded it from the web, what do you do with it? Personally I am a big fan of Evernote which will do OCR on your (English) image and PDF files and which lets you do fulltext search on your entire library. It also can sync between your computer and mobile apps. But for academic texts I need structured metadata. I need to be able to pull out citations and insert them in my bibliography, etc. For that I use Sente. The iPad version of Sente pro finally came out and it is amazing. (See my review of the free version.) Unfortunately, Sente and Evernote still aren’t enough. I have some huge PDF files which aren’t handled well by either app so I also depend on Dropbox to sync those files across computers. And while all of these options have the ability to share with others, I find the easiest way to share files online is with Google Docs so I also use that, especially for teaching.

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Tools We Use: Sente Viewer for iPad

PDFs may be immoral, but we all live in sin. The free version of Sente for the iPad, the “Sente Viewer” is now available in the App Store. If you just want to sync PDFs to your iPad and annotate them can use GoodReader, ReaddleDocs, or iAnnotate PDF. The free Sente Viewer does not yet offer annotation, but there will be a full version which does (hopefully later this year). But Sente does something which the other apps do not, it syncs your reference library – much like iTunes lets you sync playlists and star ratings for your MP3 files. There are only two other iOS apps I know of which offer similar features: Papers, and Mendeley, but IMHO Sente is head and shoulders above both of them. (Eventually we can probably expect Zotero for iOS as well.)

Setup is a bit awkward, you have to create a special “synchronized library” which you copy to your iPad via iTunes. This creates an extraneous copy of your library on your desktop which you can delete after copying over. Once done, however, Sente’s servers keep all your data in sync between the iPad copy and the desktop copy of your library – even adding PDF attachments if you like. (You can also choose to have these downloaded manually.) Currently you can read these PDFs on your iPad, and you can “open in…” another application if you want to annotate them.

Personally, this is actually ideal for me, because up till now I haven’t been using Sente to keep track of my annotations and reading notes. That might change once the final version of Sente for the iPad comes out, but my preferred workflow is to use iAnnotate PDF to make annotations and then to mail the “annotation summary” and marked-up PDF to Evernote. iAnnotate’s “annotation summary” is a plain-text file with only the text you have highlighted. I actually like the annotation tools in GoodReader better, but only iAnnotate has the ability to make these annotation summaries which I find very useful as it makes it easier to search for text.

Annotation isn’t the only feature which will separate the free viewer version of Sente from the full (paid) version. The full version will also allow you to edit your references and add new ones on the go. This includes Sente’s “targeted browsing” which allows you to pull references from Google Scholar, JSTOR, and a host of other sources from within the built-in web browser. Personally I would actually prefer it if Sente worked more like Mendeley which lets you pull citations from your normal browser rather than having to switch to a special application to do this. Zotero is also working on a version which will work in any browser (currently it only works in Firefox). But in an imperfect (even sinful) world, we make do with what we have, and I’m very greatful to have Sente on my iPad.

UPDATE: I should probably mention that I’m a beta tester for Sente for iPad, and the developer is very responsive to customer feedback.