A Primer on Version Control and Why You Need It

Today’s post is a quick introduction to version control as a concept and version control systems. It explains what they are and why you should be using them. I was just sending one of my best old-timey blogposts to a friend (How to quit MS Word for good), ended up re-reading it and realized that therein, I had promised that I would write a blog post on version control some day. And, if I’m not mistaken, I never followed up on that. So here you are, a short post on version control just to keep things going on the blog. What is Version Control? So I read this book a few years ago. The Complete Software Developer’s Career Guide: How to Learn Programming Languages Quickly, Ace Your Programming Interview, and Land Your Software Developer Dream Job by John Sonmez (Simple Programmer 2017). While I’m not that fond of its author anymore since I realized that he uses his platform to

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Failing just hard enough to learn [Learning & Teaching / Riding higher waves Pt. 2.1]

This post is another reflection on the relationship between teaching and self-directed learning. It focuses on how to find a balance with making learning too hard or not hard enough. Thus the title: How can we deliberately make ourselves and/or our students fail just hard enough to learn? Context: I just found this post in the huge number of unfinished drafts in my WordPress. It was almost done, supposedly from early fall 2021. Some of it are reflections on my own (online) teaching in the summer term of 2021. I thought this was an interesting reflection still, so I decided to fix it up a little and post it now, despite the text not being “new” and some of my thoughts on my own teaching having changed over the last year where I have been teaching more than before as a Postdoc. Because the draft of this post was already so long and got a little longer with some 2022

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First ever LaTeX Ninja workshop at Harvard: “Beyond TEI: Digital Editions with XPath and XSLT for the Web and in LaTeX”

It’s been awfully quiet on this blog but actually, there’s lots of Ninja activity going on right now: I’m excited to announce that I will give the first ever official LaTeX Ninja workshop, in person at Harvard in about two weeks! It’s called “Beyond TEI: Digital Editions with XPath and XSLT for the Web and in LaTeX”. (Apart from that, there’s a short book review coming up in TUGboat.) Since there probably are a good number of people who would be interested in such a workshop but can’t attend in person, I will share the slides and teaching materials on Github later on. That way, they can be reused for self-study. This blogpost gives somewhat of an outline of the contents of the workshop and contains links to related posts on this blog. Participants might want to read some of them in preparation or as an additional resource. [Get to the github repo with all the materials (`additional resources’ directory)

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Why I stopped my Twitter bots

As some of you might know, I have written about my Twitter bots on this blog a number of times. Now I decided to shut them all down and wanted to give at least a short explanation of why that was. TLDR: It got unexpectedly expensive and I reasoned the benefit wasn’t really worth the price. Off-topic note on posting schedule: As my devoted readers have probably noticed by now, we’re down to a bi-weekly posting schedule at the most. I have been thinking about it and I’m aiming for two posts per month for now. Actually that’s less than every second week. The point is, I have been reflecting about what makes this blog what it is and I think that’s the good posts I come up with every once in a while. When those add up, that makes the blog a useful resource for time to come. It’s these posts that I want to focus on. And frankly,

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How to write (Ancient) Greek in LaTeX

Because I’m a classicist by training, I have been wanting to broach the topic of how to typeset Ancient Greek in LaTeX for a long time. So today comes a short post on the topic. There are a number of ways you can approach this but most importantly, you need to decide whether you need just any Greek letters or Ancient Greek letters. Because Ancient Greek has diacritics which aren’t featured in all (“normal”) Greek keyboards. This blogpost covers the three sub-topics I deemed relevant to the question and they are: How do I get my Greek letters in the first place? (related to 1) How/Where do I get a Greek keyboard and which one to choose? How to typeset Greek in LaTeX? How to get your Greek letters If you’re just adding, say a note on the origin of a word to your text, you might not even need to install a Greek keyword at all. When I just

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The LaTeX Newbie’s Guide to Using Overleaf for Conference Paper Submissions

Conference paper submissions in LaTeX are becoming increasingly popular in fields outside the technical disciplines (which have embraced them a long time ago already). Be that the Digital Humanities or historians wanting to contribute to events such as HistoCrypt, LaTeX templates for submission are getting more widely adopted. That’s why I wanted to dedicate this first post of 2022 to this important topic, so you are ready for LaTeX conference paper/abstract submissions in 2022! How to get started quickly and what to be aware of Find the template to use. The conference will have probably prepared a template you’re supposed to do. Since a principle behind TeX/LaTeX is the separation of form and content, you really only need to focus on writing your text. The layout will be provided by the conference organizers in said template. If this template isn’t on Overleaf yet, download it and upload it as a new project in the online LaTeX editor Overleaf. This will

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The 33 most effective productivity hacks I’ve come across in 10 years

Most productivity advice is essentially always the same. If you’re new to self-help, you will be familiar with the most important concepts after reading this post. It will sum up the best advice I have found reading a ton of productivity books over the past ten years. More importantly, I have tried out many of the concepts suggested and these are my top picks. Different productivity methods generally won’t be equally beneficial for everybody. There are some which work for you and some just don’t. But the central aspects always remain the same. So here they are. The motivation: The best of productivity advice without the “hustle culture” In the post The Right Mindset for Learning Challenging New Skills, I menioned how some blogposts (like Steve Pavlina’s Do It Now) have massively influenced me when I first got into personal development and productivity books. I’m not on board with the “hustle culture” associated with the productivity movement any longer but

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How to use Deliberate Practice to reach your Peak [Book Review]

Have you heard of the concept of “deliberate practice”? It’s a method for rapid skill aquisition through practicing in a certain way. The concept is discussed in detail in a highly recommened book: Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by K. Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool (2016). So here it is. At last. The long promised book review and summary of the most important takeaways from Peak. Ever wonder why you’re not improving at skills despite using them every day? You’re not using deliberate practice is why. So what is deliberate practice anyway? […] deliberate practice [is a] a term coined by Ericsson to refer to the specific learning method used by experts to achieve superior performance in their fields, and mental representations. (Wikipedia entry on Peak) The book resulted from one of the top reserachers in the science of expertise, K. Anders Ericsson, cooperating with science communicator Robert Pool to make his research understandable to the masses. Malcom

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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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