All posts by Lincoln Mullen


Ghostery on Your Machine: Stop Sites from Tracking You

Suppose that you visited the website of the New York Times this morning. If you were me, then you likely skimmed past ads for eyeglasses, an advertorial for Dell, a link to graduate programs at Columbia, and innumerable ads for home delivery of the Times. Those ads were targeted at me: I recently bought glasses, I recently looked for some computer hardware, and I’m a graduate student. Your ads were probably different, but they were almost certainly targeted at you in some way.

What’s going on h…


Learning How to Teach History in a Digital Age

Cover of Teaching History in a Digital AgeYou only have to read a few of Mills Kelly’s posts at his blog Edwired to pick up on his overarching argument: historians should pay as careful attention to scholarship on teaching as they do to the scholarship in their fields of research. There is a growing body of “Scholarship on Teaching and Learning,” demonstrating, for example, that lecturing is the least effective method of teaching. Kelly contends that historians “have remained stubbornly ignorant of the history of teaching and learning i…


Some Thoughts on Getting Started with Ubuntu Linux

ubuntuAbout a month ago, I came to the sad realization that my six-year-old white plastic MacBook was not going to see me to the end of my dissertation. Among the more serious of its ailments, its hard disk was about to fail, and doing any task took at least thirty seconds of waiting. (Going through the metal detector at an archives last summer, one of the security guards said, “I remember you; you’re the guy with the old laptop.”) Fortunately the funds for a replacement were at hand, and I needed to …


How to Make Prudent Choices About Your Tools

Image of toolsOne of the occupational hazards of being the kind of person who writes for or reads ProfHacker is the constant urge to try out new tools or techniques in the relentless search for “productivity.” Sharpening one’s tools might be a mark of a professional, yet constantly switching tools is the mark of someone who is just wasting time. As Jason has explained, ProfHacker is not interested in hacks for hacks’ sake.

Abraham Lincoln (almost certainly never) said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, …


Break Out of Your Lack-of-Feedback Loop

MicrophoneDoes this ever happen to you? Let’s say you’re writing an article or a chapter. It’s taking longer than you anticipated. (No surprise there.) Your editor or your dissertation advisor, or maybe just your writing group, is expecting to read a draft, but you think it’s not ready. It’s incomplete, it’s tentative, it doesn’t adequately review the secondary literature, it doesn’t take into account a source you haven’t read yet. So you put off sending out your work. Then another opportunity comes aroun…


Grab a Web Page in Plain Text with Markdownifier

Markdownifier screen shotWe’ve written a lot about plain text at ProfHacker, from an introduction to Markdown, to using Pandoc, to creating slides from plain text. One thing I’d like to be able to do with plain text is this: Often I’d like to grab some text from a website in plain text. Copying and pasting into a text editor loses links and italics, while pasting into a word processor brings a lot of junk formatting with it. It’d be nice to be able to copy a website’s text in Markdown.

Brett Terpstra, the creator of nvA…


Zotero Gets an Upgrade to Version 4.0

rFouThe ProfHacker perennial favorite Zotero got a significant upgrade last month with the release of version 4.0. (You can see this page for all the ProfHacker coverage on Zotero.) The Zotero website has a blog post detailing what’s new in the upgrade, but here are a few of the features that I’ve found most useful.

First, Zotero now lets you select a few tags that can mark items with a special color. This might seem minor, but it’s actually a big improvement to usability. One of the things that Zot…


A First Look at the Digital Public Library of America

dpla-logoLast Thursday at noon the Digital Public Library of America launched its website. The opening festivities, which had been booked solid with a long wait list for weeks, were canceled, since the venue at the main branch of the Boston Public Library was adjacent to the site of the bombing in Boston earlier that week. But the DPLA, which is a website and not a location, went ahead with the launch of the public service anyway.

The DPLA is a project that gathers together the digital collections from m…


Build Your Own (Affordable) Standing Desk

standing-deskRyan has been leading ProfHacker’s coverage of standing desks. If you’re curious why someone might want to want to stand at a desk, and what it’s like, you can check out his three-part series: Stand Up! (in Your Office)Stand (In the Place Where You Work): An Experiment Begins; and Stand (in the Place Where You Work): Month 2. Then Ryan reviewed the GeekDesk Max, which he liked well enough to buy for himself, and Konrad reviewed the more portable Ninja Standing Desk. I’m glad Ryan likes the Gee…


Easy E-Books from Your Readlist

Stack of newspapersWe’ve written at ProfHacker about several different services that let you save webpages into a queue to read later: Brian wrote about “Asynchronous Reading.” AmyNatalie, and Jason have mentioned Instapaper; I wrote about Pocket; and George mentioned Readability. These services are all basically the same. But Readability has created a new service, called  Readlists.

According to their website, a Readlist is “a group of web pages—articles, recipes, course materials, anything—bundled into an…