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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“Learning LaTeX – Why should you care?” Series Part 1: Common Objections against learning LaTeX

Since some common objections why some people think learning LaTeX is not worth it or why the oppose LaTeX generally came up again in the Twitter discussion surrounding the recent post LaTeX for Philosophers? Logic and other Shenannigans, I quickly wanted to discuss the three most common objections agains LaTeX (in my experience) and why I think they’re not necessarily valid. Let’s get straight to it! 1) The “I can’t both be a good [insert job title/area of expertise here] AND spend time learning to code” aka the “LaTeX is hard to learn” objection A common argument used against LaTeX, not only in the Humanities, is “I already need all my energy being good at my job and now you want me to learn a new technology to distract me from it?”, like expressed in the following Tweet. But it’s really an extremely common one.  The argument is interesting to me because you also had to learn how to use

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The question of questions: Am I ‘techie’ enough for (a) Digital Humanities (degree)?

For the last two years, I had the responsibility to mentor master’s degree students in the Digital Humanities or to advise those interested in a DH degree. Today I wanted to discuss the most frequently asked question and that is: “Am I ‘techie’ enough for (a) Digital Humanities (degree)?” and partly also “How much math is there in a DH degree?”. This is my Christmas present to you. I’m hoping to do something LaTeX-related again soon but LaTeX templates are currently a go-to relax thing for times when I really need relaxing. And feeling obliged to write about that takes the fun out of it for me at the moment, so sorry, yet another DH post for now. Let’s get straight to it. Part of this post consists of the text of an informational video I made in my responsibility as a mentor for the DH degree programm in Graz. You can watch the video instead, if you like. However,

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Where can I *actually learn* programming? (as DH and otherwise)

To my great surprise, lots of people regularly ask me where I learned to program. I have lots of posts on the subject and even multiple categories on the blog concerning the topic but maybe they’re “too disguised” under obscure titles for willing learners to actually find them. So I decided to give you a short summary with the key takeaways of what I’ve written on the topic so far and the most important links – boths to my other detailled blogposts and also on the resoures I would recommend as of now. However, before the “short summary” of takeaways and suggestions for willing learners, let me start with a deep dive into the very personal side of the question “Where did you actually learn to program?”. Now where did I actually learn to code? A Disclaimer To answer the question “Where did I actually learn to program?”, we need to talk about my journey first. And.. Well, in order

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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

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Machine Learning for the Humanities: A very short introduction and a not-so-short reflection

Machine Learning is one of those hot topics at the moment. It’s even starting to become a really hot topic in the Humanities and, of course, also in the DH. But Humanities and Machine Learning are not the most obvious combination for many reasons. Tutorials on how to run machine learning algorithms on your data are starting to pop up in large quantities, even for the DH. But I find it problematic that they often just use those methods, just show you those few lines of code to type in and that’s it. Frameworks have made sure that ML algorithms are easy to use. They actually have a super-low entry level programming-wise thanks to all those libraries. But the actual thing about ML is that you need to understand it or it’s good for nothing. (Ok, I admit there are some uses which are pretty straightforward and don’t need to be fully understood by users, such as Deep Learning powered

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Transdisciplinary crossovers into the DH – The Don’ts and what can go wrong

Dear friends, today I want to illustrate some trans-disciplinary crossovers (into the DH) gone wrong. In earlier posts, I have already explained some of the dos (Looking at data with the eyes of a Humanist: How to apply digital skills to your Humanities research questions and Formulating Research Questions For Using DH Methods and What are ‘real’ Digital Humanities and how to get started?), so I assume I have you covered in that area. This is all very happy and positive – but I think I also owe it to you guys to give you an honest opinion of where you probably fucked up. It always hurts to learn these things and it’s more butterflies and rainbow-sprinkles to list all the empowering things you can do. But there are some traps as well and we don’t want you to fall into them. And if you already have, at least now you’ll have the closure to understand why you maybe have gotten rejected

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Does LaTeX count as “programming”?

Today I wanted to talk about a common question I come across: Does LaTeX count as programming? Many people dismiss this question directly with a no. But I say the answer is not that simple and depending on how you practice LaTeX can definitely be ‘yes’ much more than you might think! Also, something I really don’t appreciate is people meaning to  degrade LaTeX when saying using LaTeX has nothing to do with programming (because it does and most people who think that way have just never seen LaTeX being used more like programming). LaTeX is, strictly speaking, a programming language and Turing-complete. Or rather, LaTeX is a macro package for TeX which is the actual Turing complete programming language. The typesetting-specific tools LaTeX provides probably can’t, however, be considered a full programming language on their own anymore. You could theoretically do anything with it, though it might just not be the easiest possible way to accomplish your ends (unless

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The Computational Humanities and Toxic Masculinity? A (long) reflection

Today, I want to talk about the Computational Humanities discussion from last year and finally say something with regard to the gender issues in it. I called this post ‘Toxic Masculinity?’ and maybe that’s provocative to you. But maybe it also correctly describes a situation which could come to pass in the DH – a discipline which considers itself so forward-thinking – if we don’t take lurking issues seriously. So this is my reaction. Some disclaimers and considerations I wanted to respond to this discussion when it originally came up. Then I didn’t dare  to post it because I was kind of afraid there would be a bad reaction, especially as the slightly-shitstorm-like situation was still fresh and I didn’t want to offend anyone. So I didn’t and now it’s all kind of too late and not up-to-date anymore. But since the general subject is still relevant to me, I decided to use this Corona situation to write up this

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The LaTeX Ninja is nominated for the DH Awards for 2019! Please vote!

I don’t usually do self-promotional posts, but today I’ll make an exception: The LaTeX Ninja blog’s DH category was nominated for the DH Awards 2019. So I warmly encourage you to vote for the Ninja and share this – because, as the site’s 2019 FAQ state quite clearly – in the end, the DH awards are a popularity contest. So this is the reason for some shameless self-promotion today. I’ll be back with useful content soon. But this also serves me well in terms of my own blog time management since I’m currently too busy with conference organization to able to provide an insightful thoughtful blog entry. Generally, anyone can vote – you don’t even need to be in the DH yourself! So please do vote and get your grandma to vote too 😉 Am I allowed to vote? Everyone is allowed to vote, voting is entirely open to the public. You do not even have to view yourself as

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A Book Review of ‘Ultralearning’

Today, I wanted to share a little book review: Scott Young, Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career, Harper Business 2019. (Book website) It won’t be an exhaustive review, but mostly about my one key insight and some reflection on it. If you want a summary, there are countless ones readily available out there already. The following quote sums up the spirit (and main claims) of the book quite well, but it’s really a book packed with solid methods, not just promises: Is it really possible to get an MIT-level education without attending MIT? Or to learn a new language to the point of becoming fluent and conversant in just three months? Or to develop your own video game from scratch and make it a commercial success without being a professional game developer working for a big studio? (source) Apart from the fact that the whole philosophy of ‘Ultralearning’ can be seen as somewhat problematic (see

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An ‘Inline’ bib. file using filecontents

In this post, I will explain how you can use the filecontents package to create an ‘inline’ .bib file inside your main document.tex . This can, for example, be useful if your LaTeX gets compiled on a server and your method only allows you to pass one single document. If you wanted to pass a .bib file with it, this wouldn’t work out. Also, for LaTeX releases past fall 2019, the package is no longer required for this functionality, you can use it directly as an environment. I’ll still keep this the way I wrote it. See the documentation here. Premlinaries: How I ended up writing this That’s what I initially wrote this little method for: Our publication system archives data following the single source principle: This means that all representations you want, such as a web site or an output PDF, will be generated from one single document. In our content management system, my data are encoded in TEI

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Tracking your progress to make New Year’s Resolutions stick

Many people make New Year’s resolutions. Whether they are to lose weight, exercise more or learn a new skill, they often fail. In this post I want to show what pitfalls can be and suggest some good ways of making resolutions stick. Problem: Not having clear actionable goals If you’re not following through on your goals, that might simply be due to a lack of clarity about what they are. For example, “Learn X” is a bad goal because it doesn’t state what exactly you’ll do to learn X, which methods you use, how long you’ll practice or when and where. Swap unclear goals like these with something very concrete and plan when you’ll do it. Is it supposed to become a habit part of your pre-existing daily routine (recommened) or do you see it like an appointment? Then put it in your calender (on auto-repeat so it gets scheduled every week). (You can read some more about this here.)

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Learning from ‘Computer Books’

I just uncovered this book review on William E. Shotts Jr., The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction (No Starch Press 2012) I left as a half-done draft months ago. In it, I found a long collection of thoughts on learning programming from books and what common problems are. The book review will still follow at some point, but these are some of the examples of common problems with ‘computer books’. The typical computer book: a long detail-rich, reference-like read I like the Intro to the Linux commandline a lot, but also found that it was very long in pages but the content isn’t super dense. So it was a very long read and I’m always ambivalent about books which are reference-like and super-long. I am a person who likes to read and even I put off reading this book for a long time. I read a chapter every morning while having breakfast. Some chapters I just skimmed because they didn’t contain

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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

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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

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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

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A systematic training progression for programming?

As some of you might know, I am currently a fellow, aka at my personal writing retreat at Wolfenbüttel. And I decided to combine this with some sort of a training camp for my bouldering progress because you do need to have some breaks from writing during the day anyway and I can’t always watch Bones or create CV templates. You might have been following some of my bouldering on epigrammetry, the blog, or epigrammetry, the Twitter.   Training progressions in sports Also very few of you might know as well, I used to train a lot for long-distance running (10k) during my teens. So I know what training progressions are. I used to have detailled training plans, eating regimes, supplements to take and all that jazz. I stopped at some point because my immune system kept bullshitting me and as an ambitious person, I couldn’t take the idea of having to start from scratch after a half-year of being

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