Category Archives: Productivity

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Google Suite Alternative: sandstorm.io

chiara-ferroni-17441

I love Google Docs. I’m composing this blog post in a google doc. And I love Slack (I wrote about it here first!). But, given the economics of google and questions of privacy, as well as Slack’s new Terms of Service, more and more institutions are turning to alternatives.

Enter sandstorm.io. It is a “self-hostable productivity suite.” It is proving particularly popular at Canadian institutions because of laws that prevent student data from being housed on servers outside the country.

Many of th…

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Tell a Story with your Data with StorylineJS

pietro-jeng-266017

Knight Lab has done it again. Creators of the popular tool TimelineJS and StoryMap have just introduced StorylineJS, which allows you to essentially annotate a data set.

As described in the announcement from Knight Lab,

StorylineJS makes it easy to tell the story behind a dataset, without the need for programming or data visualization expertise. Just upload your data to Google Sheets, add two columns, and fill in the story on the rows you want to highlight. Set a few configuration options and …

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Backup for Back to School

lock box

Cloud-based backup provider Crashplan (which we mentioned in Do You Have a Backup Plan? announced in August that it would no longer offer subscriptions designed for home or personal use. Current users’ plans would continue to run for a little over a year, until October 2018 when the Home version of their product would be shuttered completely. (Crashplan will continue to offer their Small Business package.)

Although this news is understandably frustrating to current Crashplan users, there are a …

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Like Privacy? Try Brave

The swing of a soccer player

Serendipitous discovery is not just for apocryphally wandering through library stacks–sometimes you can stumble across a cool tool, as well. Friday offered just such an occasion: I was working through Moacier P. de Sá Pereira’s The Javascripting English Major (recommended in Weekend Reading), and in the first chapter I discovered a new-to-me-web browser: Brave.

Brave is a recent-ish browser (1.0 release last year), developed by a team led by Brendan Eich (who invented JavaScript) and Brian Bond…

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Participating in the Digital Polarization Initiative is now ‘Ridiculously Easy’

When I was at the Domains 2017 conference earlier this summer, Jon Udell issued a challenge – what are you doing to help the fight again digital polarization, “fake news,” and general media illiteracy? He has been working hard with Mike Caulfield on the Digital Polarization Initiative (which I’ve already written about), and they’ve come up with a new way to make it easier for teachers to incorporate the project into their classes.

(By the way, my part is using the platforms that I have access t…

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The Dark Truth of Email Tips

The poet who couldn't write poetry

Once again, xkcd has gotten pretty directly at the truth of those of us with email struggles:


Merlin Mann has always suggested that people focused on the wrong parts of his somewhere-between-legendary-and-notorious “Inbox Zero” talk–that it was always about the psychology of email triage as much as tips and tricks for getting through email faster.

Photo probably “The Poet Who Couldn’t Write Poetry” (“Image from page 173 of ‘St. Nicholas’ (1873)”) by Flickr user Internet Archive Book Images /

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On Writing: Anne Lamott

laptop and notebook

One of the things that most frequently causes writers to feel stuck or frustrated is trying to write and edit at the same time. These are two very different cognitive activities, and examining your last three sentences for flaws is a sure way to block the creative impulse that might lead to the next sentence.

The answer, of course, is to write what Anne Lamott calls “a shitty first draft” in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life:

Very few writers really know what they are doing un…

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10 Things We Learned Producing a Podcast at a University

reel to reel tape

This is a guest post by Carol Jackson, the digital content strategist at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and lead producer, with Alison Jones and Karen Kemp, of the school's podcast_ Ways & Means Show. She also produces the podcast Policy 360 .

In the last two years, we launched two podcasts at our school, the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. We've had terrific successes and made some mistakes. What we've learned may help others who are considering …

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Checklists in Late Summer

graffiti of checklist

It seems harsh to call it “late summer” when it’s not even quite August yet, but there it is. At some point, items related to the fall semester will start to move to the forefront of one’s mind, even as one’s trying to wrap up summer projects, vanish for a vacation, or just try to keep up with who’s the White House communications director.

Checklists can help keep track of things, especially at such transitional moments. (See Heather’s checklist for a new semester as an example.)

Last week, Gab…

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Fight the Fear/Procrastination Cycle With Small Tasks

inward spiral
I learned this weekend that, in the northern hemisphere, July 22 is typically the date where temperatures start trending down for the year. In addition to the obvious Game of Thrones joke, it means that there’s more or less no getting around the fact that summer is passing quickly, along with the more grandiose ambitions found in one’s summer project list.

With that in mind, I wanted to link to Jenni Berrett’s post on perfectionism, “You Aren’t Lazy–You’re Just Terrified: On Paralysis and Perfe…