Archives For productivity

A summary of 2013

January 4, 2014 — Leave a comment

DanaHere’s a quick run down on the annual stats for my blog according to Jetpack. For the complete report, go here.

This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2013. My teaching page is a subdomain of my main site, so I’m guessing that a good chunk of that 16,000 is a result of my students clicking around (but I’m not sure about that). In 2013, there were 29 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 63 posts.

The busiest day of the year was September 18th with 340 views. The most popular post that day was Free and Open-Source Textbooks.

The top five most viewed posts in 2013 were:

  1. LaTeX Homework Template, Aug 2012
  2. Mathematics Education on the arXiv?, Jul 2013
  3. Montessori Observations, Apr 2013
  4. An infinite non-cyclic group whose proper subgroups are cyclic, Dec 2013
  5. Euler’s Research Rules, Oct 2013

The top referring sites in 2013 were:

  1. Twitter
  2. Google+
  3. Facebook
  4. My Teaching Page
  5. Booles’ Rings

I would have expected Google+ to be the top referrer and I’m a bit surprised that Facebook made the list at all. I’m happy to see that being a part of Booles’ Rings (a network of academic home pages/blogs) is bringing some traffic this way and I hope that I’m reciprocating at least a little.

Visitors came from 114 different countries! Most visitors came from the United States, but Canada and the United Kingdom were not far behind.

The most commented on post in 2013 was Mathematics Education on the arXiv? with 26 comments. These were the 5 most active commenters on this blog:

  1. Dana Ernst, 26 Comments
  2. Fran├žois G. Dorais, 7 Comments
  3. Bret Benesh, 4 Comments
  4. Simon H., 3 Comments
  5. Peter Krautzberger, 2 Comments

I guess it’s no surprise that I was the top commenter. It is worth pointing out that Fran├žois and Peter are also members of Booles’ Rings.

Thanks for a fun year!

Stepping away from Twitter

December 20, 2012 — 2 Comments

Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, yada, yada, yada. Each of these social networking sites has something to offer and I have accounts on most of them. However, I think it may be time to streamline. Increasingly, I feel pressed for time to do all the things that I need and want to do. There’s an endless amount of work-related stuff to do, but I also want to be a good father and husband. Moreover, if I don’t squeeze in time for exercise, I’m not very good at anything. I’m like a dog. If I don’t get in a walk, I might chew the furniture.

I currently have two accounts on Twitter: @danaernst and @IBLMath. Why two accounts? Most of my tweets are math-related, but not all of them. I created @IBLMath for two main reasons. First, I wanted to increase awareness of inquiry-based learning in mathematics. Second, I thought it was a good idea to have an account that was solely devoted to tweeting about math and teaching-related content. At the time of writing this post, I’ve tweeted 4,445 times from @danaernst, and according to How long have you been tweeting?, I made my first tweet on March 4, 2009. Twitter has been an amazing resource for me.

Then along came Google+, which launched in June of 2011. I don’t know the exact date that I joined, but it was within the first few weeks. I connected with quite a few academics early on and now I have a substantial network of people interested in mathematics, teaching, and technology. In fact, nearly all the people that I enjoy most on Twitter are also on G+. Since my network on G+ is so much larger than on Twitter, I often encounter content on G+ that I don’t see on Twitter, but I rarely see content on Twitter that doesn’t pop up on G+. Moreover, the interaction that happens on G+ is often much more substantial than what I’ve experienced on Twitter. I regularly cross-post content on Twitter and G+ and it’s not uncommon for one of my “popular” posts on G+ to see zero attention on Twitter.

I’ve been wondering for a while now whether maintaining my Twitter presence is worth my time. One of my weaknesses is that I’m not very good at doing things part-way. I’m an all or nothing kind of guy. As a result of this, I find myself feeling anxious when I’m not caught up on surfing Twitter, G+, Facebook, etc. posts. The reality is that I don’t have time to even come close to keeping up. The rate of new content is overwhelming. My first semester at NAU has been successful, but I need to find ways to be even more efficient and effective at work, family, and play. In this vein, I’m looking for ways to trim unnecessary things from my life. I don’t plan to give up social media, but I think that I can save myself actual time and certainly some mental and emotional bandwidth by walking away from Twitter.

I’ll treat this as an experiment and see how it goes after a few months. I don’t think that I’ll miss it. I will likely continue to advertise my blog posts (from this blog and my Elevation Gain blog) on Twitter and respond to @mentions.

Inspired by a recent discussion on Facebook about accepting friend requests (on Facebook) from students, Matthew Leingang (Courant Institute), Ron Taylor (Berry College), and I decided to write a short article about the issue with the intention of submitting the article to MAA FOCUS. Also, I must give credit where credit is due. The idea for writing the article actually came from Karl-Dieter Crisman (Gordon College).

For some time now, I’ve been wanting to experiment with coauthoring a paper using GitHub. Since our paper about potential Facebook policies for teachers is going to be relatively short and simple, I figured that this would be a good project to experiment with on GitHub. In case you are wondering what the heck GitHub is, according to Wikipedia:

GitHub is a web-based hosting service for software development projects that use the Git revision control system. GitHub offers both paid plans for private repositories, and free accounts for open source projects.

Most people use GitHub for collaborating on software projects, but the service is becoming increasingly popular for hosting teaching materials, including open-source textbooks. I currently use GitHub to host a few of my inquiry-based learning (IBL) task sequences. For example, you can check out the LaTeX source for my IBL introduction to proof notes by going here.

In my view, there are lots of advantages of using GitHub to host such things. First, it makes the source public. Not only can someone always find the most up-to-date version of something, but they can also contribute to its improvement. GitHub makes it easy to do this sort of thing and it isn’t as scary as it sounds. Basically, you fork a repository, make changes, and then submit a pull request. The biggest advantage to using something like GitHub (and git) is that you can have multiple people contributing to a project and the tools make it easy to merge all of these changes together. In addition, there is an extensive history of these changes. Another advantage is that each repository has a built-in wiki, which can be used to further collaborate on a project. Moreover, each repository comes with an issue tracker. This is one feature that I think is extremely useful for collaborating on articles. The issue tracker can be used to assign various tasks and provides a way to keep track of who has done what and when it was done. Each issue (i.e., task) also has the ability to add comments, so collaborators may have a targeted discussion about that specific task.

If you’ve ever coauthored a paper with multiple authors, then you’ve probably lost track of all the emails and files flying around. I think using GitHub goes a long way to address many of the complications. Of course, the price to pay for this is that the process may seem “technologically advanced” for most users.

It is worth mentioning that SciGit has the potential to replace GitHub for coauthoring papers. According to their webpage:

SciGit is a collaboration system for researchers to work on the same paper with version control easily.

The only problem is that SciGit is not yet available. I’m looking forward to SciGit’s release and I’ll definitely be giving it a try once it is released into the wild.

Update: SciGit is now available for beta! To sign up, you can go here. At this time, there is only a Windows version of the desktop client available. However, the developer has told me that a Mac version is in the works. I’m looking forward to checking this out. I’d also like to here from others about there experience.

I don’t use vim very often, but when I do it would be handy to have some syntax highlighting. Over on Google+, Vincent Knight shared a link to a post on Geekology that describes how to turn on syntax highlighting and autoindenting for vim on a Mac. Here is a summary.

Open the Terminal and type the following commands.

cd /usr/share/vim
sudo vim vimrc

Press the i key and then paste the following lines of code just below the set backspace=2 line:

set ai                  " auto indenting
set history=100         " keep 100 lines of history
set ruler               " show the cursor position
syntax on               " syntax highlighting
set hlsearch            " highlight the last searched term
filetype plugin on      " use the file type plugins

" When editing a file, always jump to the last cursor position
autocmd BufReadPost *
\ if ! exists("g:leave_my_cursor_position_alone") |
\ if line("'"") > 0 && line ("'"") <= line("$") |
\ exe "normal g'"" |
\ endif |
\ endif

Lastly, type Esc followed by :x. That’s it!

Alfred and Evernote

November 6, 2011 — Leave a comment

I’m a big fan of using the Mac productivity tool Alfred and I use Evernote to store all sorts of snippets of information. Alfred is free, but if you purchase the Power Pack, you gain the ability to add custom scripts via Alfred extensions. While browsing the extension gallery, I stumbled on the Evernote extension by Kristian Hellquist that allows you to use Alfred to create a note in Evernote with the subject and tags that you specify. However, using the default script, you cannot add content to your note via Alfred and Evernote does not come to the front.

Typically, when I want to create a new note in Evernote, I have something specific that I want to make a note about, and it seemed that having to then click on the note you just created in Evernote to add content defeated the purpose of using Alfred. Within a few hours of asking about this, Kristian was kind enough to create a new script that brings the note you just created to the front for you to add content to. To use this alternate script, copy Kristian’s gist found here and then update the original Evernote script by going to the Extensions tab of Alfred’s preferences.