The Right Mindset for Learning Challenging New Skills

In today’s post, I wanted to pick up again on a topic I had adressed previously in The most important book to read if you want to learn Digital Humanities, Computer Science, Maths, Programming or LaTeX. The general gist was that when you want to learn a new skill which you perceive as challenging or difficult, maybe even anxiety-inducing (up to a degree that you’re seriously doubting your ability to learn it all), the most important thing to work on before doing anything else is changing your mindset. Today I will elaborate what your self-image and/or identity has to do with that and how you can use it to your advantage when learning daunting new skills. Do you enjoy posts on learning and skill building? Let me know! I feel that people are actually enjoying my posts on learning how to learn because they generate likes months after they have been posted. I guess there really isn’t enough material out

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How to maintain Twitter with little effort as an academic: The Ninja’s “How to better promote your content on Twitter” Guide. Part 5

Academic Twitter can be an important tool for networking, we get it. But I’ve talked to more and more colleagues who have given up on Twitter because they felt that they couldn’t make it work and also didn’t want to spend unreasonable amounts of time on it. I get that too. Apart from the Twitter experiment I did in November 2020 and times where there’s relevant stuff going on, I also want to minimize time spent on social media/Twitter as much as possible. But, to my great surprise, I realized my accounts are still growing even though I’m not doing much. That’s when I thought “Wait, this could be relevant for my readers” and decided to explain to you what I did. The goal: Setting your Twitter account up right for a relatively low-maintenance Twitter presence with some growth In my experience, many academics sign up for Twitter and then never get on Twitter again because they don’t know how

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Why is it so normalized to make snarky side comments about LaTeX?

Actually I wanted to write about something different today and had a post already prepared. But then I came across yet another instance of people making negative comments about LaTeX (for apparently no reason and without explaining why they think so) and I guess that made me angry, so here’s today’s post about today’s topic: Why is it so normalized to make snarky side comments about LaTeX? Both in the DH community and otherwise. What is people’s problem with LaTeX? So the offending post, in this case, was this – but I really don’t mean to shit on it because it’s a great post otherwise (I have actually written something similar in Where can I *actually learn* programming? (as DH and otherwise). I guess that’s part of the reason why it makes me so angry. It’s an overall great post by people who are influential in the DH, with a considerable audience and otherwise doing great work. And then a

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Preparing your literature review and excerpting: My workflow in LaTeX

It’s Halloween and while for me, this is a holiday which usually pretty much passed me by unnoticed, I know that many of you probably care and celebrate. So I thought: What topics in Academia or academic writing especially are spooky? The honest anwer is probably: Way too many. But one stood out in particular and that’s the dreaded part of the writing process which lends itself to procrastination like no other: The literature review and excerpting process. Without it, not a lot of writing can happen (except maybe if you start working on a case study or use our Article Outline Template to sharpen your argument). So anyway, I thought this counts as a sufficiently scary activity for Halloween 😉 Info: I think I might end up not having proper code formatting in this post. Sorry for the inconvenience but it seems that the backtick on my keyboard is broken and WordPress has long since removed the keyboard shortcut

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How to get started using LaTeX for academic writing? A book review of “S. Kottwitz, LaTeX Beginner’s Guide (2nd ed., Packt 2021)

Many prospective LaTeX users wonder: How do I get started? How to find my way in the jungle that learning LaTeX often seems to be to a first time user? Today I wanted to share my review of Stefan Kottwitz, LaTeX. A Beginner’s Guide (Packt 2021) with you. This book can help you find your way and get started using LaTeX after just the first chapter. Acknowledgement: I was sent a free reviewer’s copy of this book and asked to write a review about it which I happily agreed to do. Disclaimer: My book review policy Probably related to my upbringing in Germany, I don’t think a review can call itself a proper/serious review if it doesn’t contain criticism. I’m aware this is relatively different from reviews in the American style (especially on the covers of books) to just praise the book and not mention any criticism – but sadly, this also is becoming the norm in many an academic

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Top 5 magic LaTeX packages you didn’t know about

In the process of coming up with the archaeological catalogue from CSV solution which you all seem to have loved, I had a realization: There are some packages which are just ‘magic’ in that they can make your life so much easier in just an instant. That is, if you know about them. So I decided to come up with a top 5 which reflect my own preferences because, ultimately, this choice is pretty personal. I researched some blogposts and online resources as well as checking in with the Twitter #TeXLaTeX community. I summarized the results of this extensive search in the following post 😉 So why did I choose the topic of today’s post? I think the answer is very close to the overall purpose of this blog: There are lots of great resources on LaTeX on the internet, almost unlimited amounts of documentation – but how is a newbie supposed to know which information to read first or

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Applying deliberate practice to online learning using a learning diary?

Today’s post is about using a learning diary to promote something like deliberate practice for (online) learning. Probably the biggest problem of my online teaching last year was not getting (soliciting?) enough feedback from my students. The only students who ended up ever really communicating with me were the few overachievers who had already had previous experience with the main learning goal of the class, i.e. SQL databases. At the very end of term, ergo after the semester and after I could make any changes, I received feedback from some students new to Digital Humanities that I had been going at a pace which was too fast for them. They were lacking certain information they needed from me to fully engage with the material. However, nobody told me as the class went along (and as you might imagine from knowing some of my teaching materials, I tend to provide very detailed info – so I assumed we were good in

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The Adventures of the Ninja

Today’s post is called “The Adventures of the Ninja” which really means sorry for the radio silence and here’s what happend in the meantime. And I think I’m not exaggerating when I say “It has been quite a ride!”. Let’s start at the beginning. The story of me not really being able to blog regularly due to third-year PhD sprint stress has been slowly starting back in Mainz in 2020 (where I was a DH fellow at IEG). However, the general PhD-related stress level only got worse on my subsequent Innsbruck fellowship (Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute for Neo-Latin Studies) and the weeks leading up to both the submission of my PhD thesis in late May 2021 and me leaving for my fellowhip at the Science History Institute in Philadelphia in early June (the visa process was quite something, to say the least…). Anyway, I ultimately arrived in Philadelphia and was feeling pretty burnt out to be honest. (I have written down some of

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Navigating interdisciplinarity (as a DH scholar)

Today’s post is something at the interface of rant and rambling. While I love being interdisciplinary, it’s also quite the hassle at times which is why I guess most interdisciplinary scholars sometimes wished they weren’t doing interdisciplinary work. There are so many negative stereotypes, like… “You have it easier being interdisciplinary” vs it’s actually twice the work So do you really think that we have it easier? I hate how we always get this reproach that we’re taking the easy route. Can somebody please explain to me what’s “easy” about having to follow the state of the art in multiple fields at the same time? And then not even knowing where to get published because scholars from discipline A don’t understand half of your research and the same in the other direction. I tend to be somewhat “too historical” for the Digital Humanities but then waaaay to technical for the “normal Humanities”. I think being in the DH and doing

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The most important book to read if you want to learn Digital Humanities, Computer Science, Maths, Programming or LaTeX

Today I wanted to share a tiny book review of the book I claim to be the most important book you should read if you want to learn any technical topic but are unsure if you are up for it. The book I’m talking about is not Donald Knuth (although his books are highly recommended, especially if you’re a (La)TeX nerd!). It’s not even a computer book! I’m talking about: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck (New York: Random House 2006). The fixed mindset versus the growth mindset This will be a short post because Dweck’s message is simple. There are two mindsets, the ‘fixed mindset’ and the ‘growth mindset’ and which one you have greatly impacts your success in learning and self-development. The ‘fixed mindset’ assumes your abilities and talents are fixed. Thus, you are proud of what you’re good at because you link it to your personality (“I’m a person who is good at…”). But

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LaTeX for thesis writing

Having re-read my LaTeX for PhD students post, I realized I hadn’t mentioned a lot of things I would like to impart to you. So here comes LaTeX for thesis writing – a few more arguments in favour of starting to learn LaTeX now. Just to sum up what has already been said in the last post: The main points speaking in favour of you typesetting your thesis in LaTeX are the citation management, tables, maths and images which can be more of a hastle in MS Word. In the aforementioned blogpost, I also added that you should take into account that a thesis will yield two PDF outputs with very different requirements from the same document – another reason to use LaTeX. But there are many more things to take into account. LaTeX for maths, images and the like (in short, everything MS Word isn’t good at) A lot of people say that the “LaTeX is great for maths”

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Learning to program: Debugging – Where to start?

After a long hiatus, I’m back today with a post on how to develop the debugging skill. If you’re new to programming, we refer to the process of finding and solving errors in the code as “debugging”. It can be difficult to acquire this skill as a newbie when you have no idea what you should even look for. This post will help you out with a few hints. Why should I learn debugging? Most people who attend a programming class for the first time get quite the culture shock. Often, their identity had encompassed something like “good with computers”. Then they see what it’s actually like to interact with a computer as a superuser, i.e. someone who interacts with the computer not only in the way intended for users by product designers, i.e. mostly the Graphical User Interface (GUI). Often computer usage the superuser way means it’s entirely text-based (although you can learn the first steps to programming with

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The “Should I include Digital Humanities in my grant proposal?” Guide for Humanities people

Many Humanities scholars feel like you can’t get a project funded anymore if it doesn’t include DH. Some even ask me “Do I have to include DH to get funded?” Well, that answer lies outside of my expertise. I can, however, answer the probably even more important question of whether you should include DH in your grant proposal for the main purpose of improving your chances at getting funded. And if you decide to do so, how to do it right. In this post, I will give you my thoughts on the topic and also provide a checklist you might want to use to answer this question for yourself at the end. As I trust you have already figured out, I am not the person granting you funding neither am I in any way involved in the progress (at least as of now). So please take the thoughts I share here for what they are: my two cents. I’m just

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List of Resources for getting started with (teaching) digital methods

Having just attended a talk in an event on Digital Humanities and Neo-Latin, I was inspired to share a short list of introductory resources on DH, especially for teachers who feel more like Humanities scholars and don’t have tons of time to learn everything autodidactically. They can use those resources to learn for themselves and pass on this knowledge or pass on this link. But also, since you’ve found this blog, you’re already on a great path to learning DH! 🙂 I’ll try to keep this updated – and it’s not really done yet, so feel free to contribute. Discipline-independent DH dariahTeach: great MOOCs on many topics Source criticism in a digital age DARIAH-EU DH course registry EADH Courses List Digital Classics Article by yours truly in German: Digitale Lernplattformen und Open Educational Resources im Altsprachlichen Unterricht I. Technische Spielräume am Beispiel des ›Grazer Repositorium antiker Fabeln‹ (GRaF). It contains a few resources on digital resources and digital teaching, mostly

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Is the Ninja dead? No. But you deserve an update!

I’m not sure if anybody even realized I haven’t been posting lately but this is the longest hiatus we’ve ever had on this blog thus far. It was my normal practice to post pre-scheduled posts only every other week when on fellowships but now I totally went off the (WordPress) grid and I wanted to reconnect with you all. (And also, Easter greetings – if that’s something you care about!) As you might have imagined, I’m quite busy at the moment. I have some typesetting going on (my god, I’m not sure I will ever agree again to typeset a book that I’m also responsible for as an editor, it’s a crazy amount of work!), then I should finish my PhD thesis, I’m on a fellowship where I should finish a translation before heading off to the next fellowship which I hope I can actually get to because it’s in the US. So yeah, busy times. Although I have to

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The most important tip for confident LaTeX newbies: Don’t reinvent the wheel! (and try a Minimal Working Example instead)

Today I wanted to address a common issue I see in troubleshooting LaTeX errors, on StackOverflow and in personal questions. It usually stems from newbies who aren’t yet aware of all the functionality provided by standard packages and thus, try to reinvent the wheel when something doesn’t work the way they expect. Why reinventing the wheel is a problem In my experience, even from me helping people with packages that I’m not all that familiar with myself, it’s always best not to reinvent the wheel (even if you succeed, the result is likely sub-par unless you’re actually really good at what you’re doing). Ask yourself if the functionality you want is something that’s likely to be a common problem. Then maybe somebody has already solved it in a comprehensive way! That’s what packages are for and that’s why they’re (hopefully) maintained by people who have given the problem at hand a good bit of thought. It is very likely that

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Long-Term Twitter Strategizing: The Ninja’s “How to better promote your content on Twitter” Guide. Part 4

Twitter is an important professional networking platform for the Digital Humanities. But it’s not exactly self-evident how to make it work in your favour. This part explains long-term Twitter Strategy. This involves a few elements which might not seem so important at first but will be to keep your Twitter presence active and at a steady growth rate, without having to constantly put in lots of effort. This includes scheduled Tweets and using analytics and reflection to determine how to best cater to the interests of your followers. As some of you might remember, I did a Twitter Engagement Experiment at some time in autumn last year. Now I wanted to share my most important learnings, so you can make your Twitter presence more effective with just as little work as you want to put in. Actually, this was all just meant to be one post but it got so crazy long that I decided to make it into a

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