The LaTeX Ninja: Topics and the pseudonym

Since starting this blog about a year ago, I am at a point where I think my choice of typical topics is more or less stable. I also have used the WordPress “categories” to add many of these topics and also hope to develop some of them into some sort of series. What these ‘series’ are for, is explained in the category descriptions now. The Ninja: A pseudonym Also, I wanted to quickly address another thing: My pseudonym. I have already talked about why I started this blog multiple times before. There is a basic mission statement in the about section. Long story short, the ‘LaTeX Ninja’ was a goal, not a label I put on myself. It doesn’t describe ultimate LaTeX wisdom (for that, I have sometimes used the term ‘LaTeX Guru’). If the LaTeX journey you can join on this blog were a computer game, you you start out as a ‘LaTeX Noob’. As you gain experience, you

read more The LaTeX Ninja: Topics and the pseudonym

Algorithms, Variables, Debugging? Intro to Programming Concepts

Since I am about to prepare a workshop on natural language processing and a pre-workshop-workshop where I need to quickly/crashcourse introduce my (non-digital) Classicist friends to some basics on programming, let me share a list of programming concepts I compiled with you. I would be happy for your suggestions and comments regarding mistakes. I will probably publish this together with some key concepts of quantitative text analysis (blogpost to come) on a cheatsheet or as slides for you later 😉 Intro to key concepts of programming This list of concepts is not super-structured and meant to work as a ‘reference tool’ as well as a text to be read, so I tried to give it a more or less useful ‘chronology’, meaning that later parts kind of build on earlier ones. I start off with what a computer program or algorithm actually is and how we translate between source code (the code we write) and the code which gets fed

read more Algorithms, Variables, Debugging? Intro to Programming Concepts

Three typical conflicts between DH and ‘Normal Humanities’

In this post, I wanted to name the three most important sources of conflict between DH and non-DH people, according to me. There would probably be many more things one could mention, but I wanted to discuss those three to show one thing: The first one is (almost) completely avoidable and the second and third ones nicely show the contradictory nature of thoughts which cause conflicts between Digital and ‘Normal’ Humanists. Disclaimer: Since they are written up by someone in the DH, it could sound to you like I’m saying it’s the NH’s (Normal Humanist’s) fault but that’s not at all what I’m trying to say. (Remember I feel like I’m half-NH myself anyway. And see the Epigrammetry discussion of the D and the H.) I’m just starting from the arguments I get thrown at me (thus from the Normal Humanists’ perspective) and respond why I think they’re not universally valid (DH perspective). However, it would work just the same

read more Three typical conflicts between DH and ‘Normal Humanities’

Is learning how to program like learning a foreign language?

Is learning how to program like learning a foreign language? Well, it’s a definite “yes and no” from me. I think many people oversimplify this. And then they say that their programmer friends think the same way to ‘prove the point’. Mostly I bite back the question of how many ‘real languages’ the programmer friends have learned or even learned to a native-like level. Because I think that there are some quite important differences. Since I just read this brilliant article The Ancient Case Against Programming “Languages” by Patrick J. Burns on Eidolon (Apr 24, 2017), I thought I could contribute some of my thoughts on the topic as well. They stem less from the interest in not losing funding for second language education, but rather from some of my own experiences in “second language programming education” or whatever one might call it – the act of learning programming (in your 20ies at earliest) after having learned multiple natural languages as

read more Is learning how to program like learning a foreign language?

Don’t call it a database!

When I started this blog, one of my promises and goals, apart from LaTeX-Ninja’ing, was to demystify the Digital Humanities for non-DH people. For a long time I have watched and I think one of the big mysteries of the DH still persists in Normal Humanists’ heads and thus, really needs demystifying. You might have guessed it, I want to explain why DH people will cringe if you call digital resources ‘databases’ which are not, technically speaking, databases. Is it ok to call any digital resource / corpus a ‘database’? We know, that’s what you tend to call a digital corpus. But in most cases it’s not correct, it’s a pars pro toto. A database is just one possible technical implementation, but the term is used more broadly for any ‘digital base of data’. By laypeople, at least. A pars pro toto stylistic device is a Humanities’ thing, right? You do get stilistic devices. So you can also understand why

read more Don’t call it a database!

How to improve at programming when your current position doesn’t require it & Online Learning Resources

Have you ever felt like you would like to get better at programming, maybe even get a position involving more programming some day but the fact that you currently don’t really need it at your current position seems to hold you back? This post is for you. Daily practice is key for improvement You need daily practice if you actually want to improve. You already need daily practice just to keep your skills sharp during a time where you don’t need to use them. Also, if you don’t even have programming skills yet, you probably are too tired after work to sit down and work on a private programming project. But you should. Programming is a skill which takes a long time to learn. That is, if you want to reach a decent skill level. This means that you have to start regular practice long before you actually need that skill or need to apply for a job, if possible.

read more How to improve at programming when your current position doesn’t require it & Online Learning Resources

Should I start doing DH?

My non-DH colleagues and friends ask me more and more often if I think they should start doing Digital Humanities and if yes, where to start? Since this seems to be an interesting topic for many, I thought I’d quickly elaborate on it. Disclaimer: Even though I’ll  put on my “career advisor” hat right now, I want to remind you that I am in no way qualified to advise you on your career. So if it all goes downwards from now, I am not the one to blame. All opinions are my own and should be treated as such. So, now we got the legal part over with (essentially: don’t sue me), let’s get to my opinion on the topic. I think it is out of the question whether you should start doing DH. In my prognosis, almost all Humanities research is going to be at least part DH in the near future. If you ask me. And you did.

read more Should I start doing DH?

How do I get to do task XY for the first time at the job

Today I want to talk about how you convince others to let you do XY for the first time as an official job responsibility, even though you might not have experience or any formal training doing so. And also, why you have probably come across a situation where one of your colleagues has been chosen to do task XY and not you. Even though you are both equally qualification-less. Now you feel left out. New tasks are opportunities for growth you probably really need if you want to stay in academia. It is all the more detrimental that bosses often don’t take the personal/CV growth of their young colleagues into account and hardly ever give out those tasks strategically. You can end up the lucky one – or you end up left out.   Disclaimer: Again, as always, these are my personal opinions and they might not apply to your situation. Use your brain.   New skills are always needed

read more How do I get to do task XY for the first time at the job

[Guest Post] Confessions of a LaTeX Noob

I am happy to introduce my first guest post on this blog. It’s from my archaeologist friend whom we decided to call “the LaTeX Noob” here. She will give her perspective on how using LaTeX in the Humanities feels for her and the problems she has encountered. Like how getting help can be tricky, you don’t want to look like an idiot and how you constantly have to defend your choice to use LaTeX (to users and non-users alike). “Why would a Humanities person want to use LaTeX anyway? You don’t need it and you’re not up for it” are the most common insults a Humanities person might have to endure after choosing LaTeX.   Here come the confessions of a LaTeX Noob: Confessions of a LaTeX Noob Okay, here I am, the LaTeX noob. Well, not that noob-noob, but noob nonetheless. I am an archaeologist and I am trying to write my thesis in LaTeX. Well, my catalogue, to

read more [Guest Post] Confessions of a LaTeX Noob

Simple XML to LaTeX Transformation Tutorial

Today, I wanted to share this super simple XML to LaTeX tutorial. Using XSLT, you are going to transform XML data to LaTeX output which you can then go on to compile into your desired output PDF. There will be no fancy stuff whatsoever in this post, just the basics and what to keep in mind with these transformations. It is the quick intro to XML to LaTeX I did with my students a while ago which was done one day after they had their first contact with XSLT, so it should really be beginner-friendly. I labeled it “Advanced LaTeX” anyway because I think starting to automate things is always a step in the right direction 😉 Configuring the transformation scenario in Oxygen I am going to assume you use Oxygen now because that’s what a lot of people in the DH do and this post is directed towards my friends in the DH. Especially those who think print editions

read more Simple XML to LaTeX Transformation Tutorial

Planning your project for “service providers”

When writing my last post on how to earn money with LaTeX I realized I actually had a lot of advice on planning and scheduling your project as well. So I will sum up my experiences with all sorts of “customers” (be it project partners or whatever you have). Motivation This is not to complain how horrible things are but just to sum up a few things you should take into account that an unexperienced person might not find self-evident. Seeing as my days of being unexperienced myself are not very far away, the learning process is still pretty fresh and I still remember the problems a beginner can face, so I hope to be able to provide valuable advice. Some of the advice is copied out of the earning money post, so don’t be confused if you feel like you might have already read some of this. Initially I had wanted to extend the old article but since it already

read more Planning your project for “service providers”

Didactical Reduction, Part II

In my first post on didactical reduction, I argued that reduction of learning materials to meaningslessness can be detrimental, that teachers should trust in their students’ ability to learn and rise to a challenge. In this post I want to discuss ways of reducing complexity which actually makes sense. The gist is: reduce unneccessary detail, not difficulty. Build complexity in a carefully chosen progression. Telling the difference between unnecessary detail and challenging complexity In my post on why programming classes fail and learning ‘algorithmic thinking’, a main example was that students starting out programmig don’t need to know about data types. I will stick with this example here because I just think it illustrates my point so well. The skill to learn I discussed in the post really wasn’t the ‘vocabulary’ of your first programming language, but ‘learning programming’ means successfully communicating with a computer and in order to do that, you need to develop the skill of algorithmic thinking. This

read more Didactical Reduction, Part II

Why most “learn programming” classes, books and attempts fail

This seems to be a bold claim. Let me explain… There are two reasons why I think most introductory programming classes fail ant that is a) because they never actually teach prorgramming (i.e. “algorithmic thinking”, not the syntax of one concrete language / “your first language”)) and b) because they bombard students with tons of complicated subjects which are not necessary at the beginning, so nobody remembers or understands them anyway. But they confuse the students and distract them from what they really should learn like how to interact with the machine and basic flow control. Use a visual language (like Scratch for PC or Catrobat for mobile devices) and thank me later. Algorithmic thinking When we want to learn or teach how to program, we first need to define what programming is. Like in a human language, knowing the words and the grammar is not enough – knowing a language means “knowing how to communicate using that language”. For

read more Why most “learn programming” classes, books and attempts fail

On Didactical Reduction (especially in the DH)

Didactical reduction means abstracting complexity to facilitate learning. It is the act of reducing and simplifying teaching material as to promote student learning. Sadly, I feel that didactical reduction doesn’t accomplish its ends most of the time. Here is why and how I think we could do better. The road to hell is paved with good intentions I have seen many classes where the content to be taught was reduced so drastically that is became simple and clear – but maybe **too simple and clear. It became meaningless.** The material became so easy to understand (or, even worse, a complex topic was made to seem like a banality), so that students stopped paying attention. “I already know this” or “I get this” are not necessarily thoughts a teacher wants to provoke. We use didactical reduction so that the complexity of a topic is hidden and we don’t scare our pupils. But fear isn’t always a bad thing. Fear means respect. And

read more On Didactical Reduction (especially in the DH)

The Name of the Game: How to pronounce LaTeX correctly (once and for all – or not)

In this post, I want to address the question of how to pronounce “LaTeX”. And explain to you, why this question cannot be answered if you want to take the investigation seriously. It turns out to be a classical Humanities’ style thinking kind of logical dilemma.  Unlike other explanations, I dont’ want to provide an answer (because there isn’t one) but rather explain why this question is not just a matter of “knowing how it’s pronounced” and thereby, show why we need the Humanities. Description of the current situation There are multiple pronounciations currently in use which are all considered to be more or less valid. But it can sometimes come to holy wars if you refuse to adopt the accepted pronounciation at large in your social or work environment. This is why I want to prove in this article that the question of how to pronounce “LaTeX” is actually a logical dilemma we can’t solve. I thus invite everyone

read more The Name of the Game: How to pronounce LaTeX correctly (once and for all – or not)