Minimizing distractions

Contributed by: Joeri Bruyninckx (FASOS)

Perhaps you are browsing this post while checking your email, liking your friends´ status updates and editing that paper that is long overdue. For many of us, such multitasking is just the way we work. But it is not always more efficient, some studies show. A recent opinion piece even called for designers to take the need to work uninterruptedly seriously. Until that happens, this post reviews some tools to help you lock your computer in ‘concentrated work mode’ and let you get on with ‘just’ writing (or whatever single task you were doing).

For although your computer is packed with distractions, there are several ways to cut the noise out.

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Klok 2: Keeping overview of time spent on research projects

Contributed by: Joeri Bruyninckx (FASOS)

Have you ever found yourself wondering how time just seems to ‘leak’, even though your calendar displays only fully blocked work days for the past weeks? This is where the free software program Klok2 may be a helpful tool.

Most commonly used planning instruments, such as the Calendar function in MS Outlook, are convenient tools for planning time ahead. But they do not keep detailed oversight of the actual time spent on your work projects. Knowing how your planning has matched your actual time spending on each of your tasks, however, provides very helpful information for early-career researchers: it may help you to adjust your future planning for similar projects or to identify general inefficiencies in your work patterns.

This is exactly what Klok2 allows you to do.

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Marktplaats: an unconventional site for finding historical sources

Contributed by: Karin Bijsterveld (FASoS)

In the Summer of 2007, I visited antiquarian book shop after book shop in search for car driver manuals published between the 1920s and the 1970s. Why? From other historical sources I knew that engineers and mechanics used to listen to the sound of cars in order to detect and diagnose engine problems. I was curious to know whether everyday car drivers had been told to listen to their engines as well, as this was relevant for a project on the history of car sound and car radio.

The 1920s were important because at that time “self-driving” or driving without having a chauffeur doing the work for you became increasingly common. “How to” (drive and repair your car) manuals thus became more widely published. The answer to my question happened to be “yes”: the manuals taught the drivers how to listen to their engines, at least initially. In the summer of 2007, however, I did not know this yet since I was still searching for those manuals.

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Deliver web-based presentations with Swipe

Contributed by: Stijn Bannier (UNU-MERIT)

swipe

At conferences we all bring our laptop, smartphone and/or tablet nowadays, but still we have to look at a screen behind or next to the presenter. Simultaneously, when seeing an interesting slide on this screen we have to take a picture of it or write some notes really fast, since you are never sure whether the presentation will be shared.

Swipe overcomes these issues. Swipe allows you to build and deliver web-based presentations in a new way. No apps or installations are necessary. The website broadcasts a presentation live for anyone to see, no matter where they are. The opportunities that Swipe creates are immense. A presenter is able to show the presentation simultaneously on the big screen and on every participant’s own screen. Participants are able to make screenshots of interesting slides and – even more interesting – to interact in the presentation with the presenter.

Currently, Swipe is in beta only, but one might already register to test the application or to stay updated about it. You can sign up for beta here.

Watch an introduction video here. Click here to watch an example presentation.

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Turning Ideas Into Literature

Contributed by: Ad Notten (UNU-MERIT)

At the beginning of your (PhD) research, you will most probably start off with an embryonic idea of what you would like to investigate and perhaps you might even have some literature from which you have gotten your inspiration. The challenge is now – how can I turn my ideas into literature? One important step in this process is to get a short and structured overview of what has already been done in the applicable field of research. In other words, you are likely to start your research project with a literature review, which requires a certain degree of information literacy. Already in 1989 the ALA Presidential Committee on Information Literacy (Washington, D.C) stated that “Ultimately, information literate people are those who have learned how to learn. They know how to learn because they know how knowledge is organized, how to find information, and how to use information in such a way that others can learn from them. They are people prepared for lifelong learning, because they can always find the information needed for any task or decision at hand.” (http://www.ala.org/acrl/issues/infolit/overview/intro)

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Using a flipbook for research purposes: manual or display results

Contributed by: Nynke de Jong (FHML)

In research you often have to distribute information, for example to patients or health care professionals. Why are you not using a digital system which looks very professional and is quite quickly to make: a flipbook! Moreover, it saves a lot of paper.

What is a flipbook? A flipbook is a digital magazine in which videos, sound files and links to websites can be integrated. Click on the link for an example of a flipbook: the Lephie Manual. A flipbook can be made by using the program 3D Issue . This is a program that you will have to buy. You can get a license for one computer or for more computers. Before you buy the program ask the webmaster for advice with respect to the license and the possibilities to upload the flipbook to a website.ScreenHunter_19 Apr. 26 18.30

The use of the program 3D Issues is quite simple. I advise you to watch all tutorial videos before starting. The procedure in short: You have to prepare slides in for example PowerPoint. You save the file as a PDF which you upload in the program 3D Issue. In the program you must add the extras: videos, sound and so forth. These media files should be saved on your computer beforehand. In the program you have to make a link to these media files. When you are ready you can ‘build’ the flipbook.

The complete flipbook (includes different files) must be handed over to the webmaster. This might be a disadvantage. Once you made the flipbook you cannot adjust it online. You have to adjust it in the program itself and send all files to the webmaster again. An advantage is that the layout will not change. You can open the flipbook on your IPAD without any problems, which is another advantage.

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Google Trends: Locating and analysing hypes

Contributed by: Maarten Michielse (FASoS)

With the current interest for viral media and viral marketing in academic research it can be helpful to be able to locate and analyse trends or hypes online. You might wonder, for example, when a certain video, image, or slogan became popular, when it reached its peak, and how long it took before the hype settled down again. In such a case, Google Trends can be a helpful tool to visually represent the course of a hype in the form of a graph.

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Wayback Machine

Contributed by: Koen Beumer (FASoS)

Websites can provide a lot of useful data for researchers but they can also be troublesome to rely on. An earlier post already explained how you can archive websites that you want to use in your research or refer to. But what if you want to know what a website looked like before you first visited it?

This is where the Wayback Machine comes in. The tool is very simple: you go to the Internet Archive (archive.org) and you enter the URL of the website that you want to see. You click on ‘take me back’, and, voila, you can see what the website looked like at various moments in the past.

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SlideRocket – “The New Way To Present”

Contributed by: Irina Burlacu (MGSoG)

Since I discovered SlideRocket, I kept on recommending it to my peer-colleagues, who do not use Latex, Prezi, or Mac for fancy presentations, but instead use the standard Power Point slide presentations.

There are few clear advantages of using this tool to present your work at a conference:

  • illustrative up-to-date graphic design of the tables and graphs;
  • electronic sharing, editing and comfortable comments windows; networking with other sliderocket users;
  • up to 50 people can host a meeting to view a presentation at the same time;

The disadvantages are:

  • it is not well known, that is why your co-workers might be resistant to edit your presentation;
  • in case the presentation is not converted in .pdf-format and is used online, some conference centers might not have internet access (even if less likely), which could hamper your presentation;
  • for advanced features of the presentation, a yearly fee needs to be paid :-)
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LaTeX – An (attractive) alternative to Word and/or PowerPoint?

Contributed by: Kristine Farla (MGSoG)

Microsoft Word® and PowerPoint® are the most commonly used typesetting products around. And while using them offers a lot of advantages, everyone knows that formatting the layout of a document can be time consuming and quite a hassle. If you are frustrated with Microsoft Word® and PowerPoint® and you are running out of patience you may be interested in switching to LaTeX.

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