I finally finished my own #100DaysofDH – Here’s the wisdom!

Like the title says, I finally finished my own #100DaysofDH challenge. And I haven’t kept my promise to you guys. I (think I) said I would continue blogging every second week but now I’ve left you hanging for a whole month! I’m so sorry. I will try to get back into a regular posting schedule (still reduced until the dissertation is done but I’ll try to at least post every once in a while).

Anyways, as I’m nearing the end of my #100DaysofDH challenge (and having declared myself as the worst challenge founder ever in history), I’m starting to get philosophical and the wisdom is coming in. Since I couldn’t deprive you of that, here it comes. (It really isn’t that bad, actually!)

Wisdom 1: Read error messages, it works!

This one is kind of self-explanatory but once you’re in those long coding sessions, you sometimes forget to do the most obvious stuff.

I just recently coded on some stuff for hours (the fact that it was already night and I was sleepy surely didn’t help) and I didn’t realize until the next day (and a good night’s sleep later) that my shit had stopped compiling hours ago the night before (and tons of commits before).

I was so stuck in my head that I never bothered to check if the code still worked. I’m sure that I’m not the only person who tests their code too little. But I can get pretty extreme with it. Don’t make my mistakes. Read error messages – it works.

Wisdom 2: Coding is messier than writing, but it’s also more uplifting!

This summer has been a huge writing phase for me. But also, I have to admit that I fell deeper and deeper into all sorts of rabbit holes because writing (without ever doing anything else really) made me lose perspective. I was so stuck that I didn’t feel like starting to work with my data again until I had solved my writing mess.

I should have gone back to coding much earlier! Sure, it makes you feel dumb when shit doesn’t compile. It’s humbling in many ways. But the fact that you’re guaranteed to make mistakes can be so liberating after having fallen into a perfectionist hole of academic writing where you feel like you can’t make mistakes.

Coding gets you grounded. But it’s also naturally gamified and fun. Coding is so addictive to those who like to code because it humbles you but then also gives you the feeling of accomplishment when stuff works again. A feeling I haven’t felt in a long time in my writing phase. Getting my hands dirty working with data is what made me wake up again and I’m glad that I did.

So I guess doing a #100DaysofDH challenge that forces you to work with data daily might actually make more sense than combining it with academic writing. Maybe it would be better to keep #100DaysofDissertation and #100DaysofDH seperate, unlike what I had planned in the first blog post on it.

There are so many cool things you can accomplish! To get inspired, why not look at [Guest Post] Reflection on my #100DaysOfDH challenge experience (by Philip Allfrey)?

What I learned about the challenge from doing the challenge (or not really doing it successfully)

Learning 1: I didn’t have a real goal which made the challenge kind of pointless

That said, I kind of had the goal of finishing my dissertation and was in a writing phase, so maybe that wasn’t to be avoided. However, I found that overall, with my dissertation writing as well, I need to get better at formulating motivating sub-goals for those big projects.

If I don’t have them, I get demotivated and/or desperate. But I’m also finding it relatively difficult to set those goals for myself and actually work on each step (and nothing else) until that step is done. I juggle way too many things at the same time which makes this clear goal-focus difficult. This is definitely something I want to get better at for the future. Maybe that’s a behaviour-goal for the next #100DaysofDH.

It’s not like this way of doing things doens’t work for me. But it also means that there are hardly ever any sub-results before the big projects all get finished at the same time and then I feel like I’m not accomplishing anything. I need clear action steps towards my goals and actually stick to them, as to reap the rewarding feeling of moving closer to the completion of a project, one step at a time.

Learning 2: I’ve spent so much time writing the dissertation that I almost forgot how much I enjoy coding

It seems weird but I was so stuck writing – maybe I should have gone back to active coding earlier but I had this internal barrier in my head. I felt I needed to finish the chapters I was working on before going back to the code. This was the worst idea ever. When I finally went back to the code, I realized how much I had missed it. And how staying in the (writing) place/mindset where I had gotten stuck (probably weeks ago) was a really bad idea.

They say you should avoid excessive task switching but I can tell you, me personally, when I get stuck I don’t remember to switch things up. I bite into where I’m stuck and then I remain frozen into place. I don’t even remember what made me change my mind back then but I’m glad I did. Things started to go uphill again from there. I’m now looking forward to starting a new #100DaysofDH challenge at some point in the future. Actually, I would even be motivated to start rightaway but I’m not sure that’s a good idea. I think that this time, I should come up with a better plan and goals for what I actually want to do.

I think (/feel?) I have finally entered that real final phase of my dissertation (writing and coding). Basically ever since I started my fellowship in Mainz in July, I felt that I should have entered that phase. I did get some work done too. But I never had that hard-to-describe feeling/drive which always comes eventually at the end of (writing) projects. (You probably know it too)

It has come now and I hope it has come to stay. I need to put this dissertation behind me. Maybe my next #100DaysofDH will be finishing the digital edition, OCR corrections, etc. for my dissertation.

Learning 3: I don’t want to share too much on Twitter and public pressure to go through with the challenge doesn’t work for me

Also pretty self-explanatory. I just wanted to inform you about this, in case you were planning to use a public challenge as a way of pressuring yourself to keep going. Depending on your personality, this might work for you. But it certainly didn’t do anything for me (and you can read more about it in this Epigrammetry post).

Learning 4: Use my prinout template for progress tracking

Honestly, shameless self-promotion. This was one part I truly enjoyed about the challenge. Who doesn’t love getting to cross off something on your calender? Gotta love it!

Conclusion

I still didn’t fix the bot which is why it still retweets its own tweets. Tant pis, for now. I also submitted a Tweetup for the vDHd2021 conference, indicating I had enabled the bot to retweet #vDHd2021 which, I have come to realize, I really doesn’t. Well, I guess #100DaysofDH is also sharing when things don’t go as planned. And realizing that there’s beauty in that too.

Hoping you are well in these crazy times,

the Ninja

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I like LaTeX, the Humanities and the Digital Humanities. Here I post tutorials and other adventures.

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