Monthly Archives: March 2012

Adding an iPad to the workflow: initial observations

After dithering back and forth and weighing the options for literally two years, I finally bought an iPad. Not the fancy new one with the crisp screen and the camera that I would never use, because who wants to take a picture with something the size of an iPad?, but the old iPad 2, smallest capacity, no 3G, and refurbished to boot.

This thing is the perfect device for browsing the web while sitting on the couch, scrolling through RSS feeds, and keeping up with Twitter. I’m particularly fond of the Twitter app. The virtual keyboard is big enough and user-friendly enough that I’m actually able to reply to emails, something I do rarely with my iPod. The iPad, then, eliminates the need for me to cart my laptop around with me. That might sound minor, but the laptop weighs several pounds and I almost always have it with me when I’m going to class, meetings, the writing center, etc. It’s unwieldy and a bit disruptive at times, and I suspect it’s the root cause of the chronic shoulder soreness I experience when I’m on campus regularly.

So far, so good, and pretty much what I’d expected the iPad to deliver. What I didn’t expect, though, was the monumental effort it would require to integrate the iPad into my writing workflow. I’m still trying to figure out how best to make that work.

I’d initially expected that I’d buy Pages and be done with it. But before I got around to it, I learned that Scrivener is finally, blessedly developing an iPad app. If it were available right now, I’d buy it and be done, because what I want from an iPad writing app is for it to play nice with the way I draft on my desktop and laptop. I don’t need it to produce spiffy pamphlets, or even print anything, I just want it to let me pick up whatever work I’ve been doing in other settings and advance it a bit. And since I do almost all of my writing in Scrivener, Scrivener on my iPad would pretty much solve all my problems.

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You know that moment when the pieces of your argument finally come together and you start to understand what it is you want to say? I think I just got there with this chapter.

Now I just have to write it. Sigh.

Learn to code?

As I’ve said, I’m often on the fringes of digital humanities. I try to follow what’s going on (although, in the interest of not being on the internet all the time, not as closely as I might), partly because digital archives are important to the way I work, and partly because I think there’s interesting and important stuff going on over there. But I have to admit, I’ve mostly ignored the calls to make 2012 the year of coding. I read references to Codeacademy and moved on because, well, I’m busy.

And then there was a bit of a kerfluffle over gender and the exhortation that digital humanists learn to code. Miriam Posner said it first and best here. Follow-up is here. Both are right on, and I’m not going to bother linking or recapping to the inevitable back-and-forth on gender and coding that followed because, well, I’m lazy.

But Posner’s discussion of gender and coding, particularly the part about how men are more likely to have been given access to a computer and encouraged to learn to use it at a young age, got me thinking. I think she’s right. That’s certainly been what I observed, both of the people I know, and in my experience as a woman (girl at the time) who did have computer access and tech skills. It’s something I often forget about myself, but I do know how to code. I learned BASIC and C++ at computer camp in high school, Unix for my first job, HTML from years of using the internet, and tiny bits of CSS during the two years I was hosting my own knitting blog (I also know how to knit, spin, quilt, sew, and participate in the overwhelmingly female DIY online communities Posner talks about in her follow-up). My freshman year of high school, I won the state-wide math and science fair with a project on Benford’s law. I wrote some code to test data sets for first- and second-digit distribution, which would be beyond laughable today, but which was a bit more impressive before everyone had access to high-powered computers on their phones. I wrote the code in C++ and it was a pain in the butt, and then a year and a half later I learned Unix scripting and realized how much quicker it would have made the whole thing.

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