Challenges with self-directed learning tools

I would like to propose a session where we discuss self-directed learning, its challenges, and where existing tools such as Microsoft Onenote and Evernote; reference management tools such as Zotero; knowledge management tools such as NVivo; etc… fall short to support learning and/or mastery of a given subject.

Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory and CWRC Writer

This session will introduce participants to the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory (CWRC), significantly its innovative and user-friendly in-house system for TEI mark-up. Using semantic web protocol CWRC will enable scholars to explore digitally the intricate connections between data—people, places, organizations, cultural works, concepts, and events—across a multitude of scholarly projects. In order to facilitate contribution by users of all levels of ability within the Digital Humanities, CWRC has developed CWRC Writer, a unique system for semantic web mark-up of texts. Presently, a common application used for TEI mark-up is OxygenXML; CWRC Writer has been designed to simplify the mark-up process for users who do not want to climb up the XML learning curve. (Although, if you want an introduction to TEI today, you might want to take part in Connie Crompton’s session…)

Our session will compare the data import and mark-up process in Oxygen with that of CWRC Writer. Participants will be able to use the CWRC Writer beta version to discover its possibilities (so do bring your laptop).

THATCamp Vancouver this Saturday, April 5th!

Dear THATCamp Vancouver participants:

We’re looking forward to seeing you this Saturday, April 5th, starting at 9am. For now, we just want to send you a few reminders and also give you a sense of what to expect.
**If you can no longer attend, please let us know: **


THATCamp Vancouver 2014 will be held on the Simon Fraser University – Burnaby campus (8888 University Drive, Burnaby, B.C. Canada V5A 1S6) at the Halpern Centre and W.A.C. Bennett Library. For directions and travel details, see Please note that the Burnaby campus is NOT in downtown Vancouver. Please also note that the event will begin at Halpern Centre.


The event will begin at 9am and conclude at 4:30pm. It will include four sessions, a light breakfast, lunch, and closing remarks. The actual agenda will be determined during our first session (details below).

— FIRST SESSION (9am-11am, in Halpern Centre) —

At Halpern Centre, our first session will be held from 9am until 11am. During this session, we will collaboratively create an agenda for the day. For an example agenda, see Once the agenda is set and shared (via a public Google Doc) with all participants, we will conduct a series of “dork shorts”.

Dork shorts, or lightning talks, are brief (2-minute or 3-minute) presentations in which attendees discuss current or upcoming projects, demonstrate new tools, or call for collaborators. Like most of THATCamp, they are meant to be informal (e.g., you don’t need to prep a slidedeck or paper). They can also be a lot of fun, and let you learn a lot in a little bit of time.

The first session will be facilitated by Jentery Sayers (U. of Victoria).

— SECOND (11:15am-12:30pm), THIRD (1:30pm-2:45pm), AND FOURTH (3pm-4pm) SESSIONS (across the Halpern Centre and W.A.C. Bennett Library) —

After we set the agenda and conduct dorks shorts, we will hold our second, third, and fourth sessions. Sessions will consist of workshops, facilitated discussions, and hackathons (among other possibilities), the topics and directions of which will be determined by the group during the first session, with possible revisions to the agenda during lunch (details below).

During these sessions, we encourage you to take and share notes via a public Google Doc, the URL for which will be shared on Saturday.

— CLOSING REMARKS (4pm-4:30pm, in Halpern Centre) —

Closing remarks will begin at 4:00pm. The aims of this discussion include: a) reflect on the day (what went well, what we learned, what surprised us), b) take notes for future work and collaborations, c) mention what we didn’t discuss or do, and d) reconvene as a large group to share perspectives. The closing remarks, and the event itself, will conclude at 4:30pm.


Coffee and a light breakfast will be provided, starting at 9am, during the first session, in Halpern Centre.


Lunch will be provided, starting at 12:30pm. During lunch, we will also determine whether the agenda needs to be revised. If so, then we will revise it.


During the event, there will be two workshops: “Digital Scholarly Communication with Scalar” (with Jentery Sayers) and “Introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for Humanities Research” (with Justin Song). For details, see Please note: these workshops will be included in the agenda for the day.


Reminder – When you have a moment before Saturday, then please submit a proposal for a workshop, facilitated discussion, hackathon, or the like. During the first session, we can then build our agenda with these proposals in mind. You can propose one or more ideas by logging in to the site, clicking “Posts –> Add New,” writing out your idea, and then clicking “Publish” (on the right) to publish to the site. See for more information about how and what you might propose, not to mention a little bit of explanation about why things work this way at THATCamp.


The Twitter hashtag for the event is #thatcamp. You can also follow @thatcamp ( ). Feel free to tweet about the event before and after Saturday!

— FEE —

Remember that there’s a small fee of $20 ($10 for students) to defray the costs of catering; we’ll collect that at the door (cash or checks only, please).


While certainly not required, you are encouraged to bring your own computers.

— WIFI —

Throughout the event, participants will have complimentary access to a WiFi connection at SFU.

— THATCAMP 101 —

For more on THATCamp, check out .


Please email us if you have any questions: . Also feel free to start discussions via Twitter (using #thatcamp) or at

See you soon!

Getting started with text/data mining …

I am proposing this session to facilitate the sharing of current knowledge about research in text/data mining. What projects are being carried out? How did these projects get started, how have they been funded, and what tools are being used? What skills are needed to carry out these projects, and how were these skills acquired? What kinds of collaborations are necessary/effective in carrying out this work? How are the results of this research being disseminated?  Please note that while I am able to facilitate a discussion about these questions, I am unable to “teach” text/data mining; rather, this session is being proposed as a forum for sharing experience/knowledge of the field.

Teaching NVivo: The Digital Kaleidoscope

I like to think of NVivo as a digital kaleidoscope. Much like the cherished toy, this computing technology enables scholars to view, decode and capture different facets of various kinds of digital objects. I would be happy to facilitate a teaching session about the nature and applications of NVivo, as well as how you can use it to examine various objects in a digital environment. At its core NVivo is a tool that aids with qualitative data analysis, but it  is also embedded in an environment of creating, sharing and disseminating digital social science. My personal exploration of this user-driven computing technology introduced to me to a vast spectrum of uses in the social sciences. If the session goes ahead I will share what I know and hopefully you will share too.

Tentative topics could be:

  • What is NVivo
  • Working with texts
  • Working with pictures
  • Working with sound
  • Working with video
  • Telling a story / visualize your data

Pandoc: Swiss-Army Knife for Document Production

Pandoc ( is a free and fantastically flexible tool for processing/converting/producing structured documents of all kinds. Not TEI, perhaps, but for most kinds of scholarly documents, this is the key to serious efficiency and fluidity. I’ve been seriously exploring the use of Pandoc in professional publishing workflows, but in the meantime, it’s completely taken over my writing, as well as my thinking about document- and bibliography management. Come to this session and I’ll share what I know. Maybe you’ll share too!

For starters, here’s some notes for a presentation I gave to publishers last month:


Propose a Session!

We’re looking forward to seeing you in THATCamp Vancouver on April 5, 2014. We are also happy to see that some adventurous Campers have begun posting their proposals for sessions for THATCamp Vancouver 2014!

Now is the time to start thinking about what you’d like to do or discuss at THATCamp Vancouver. From now till THATCamp begins, you can propose one or more session ideas by logging in to the site and posting your idea(s) as a blog post by clicking Posts –> Add New, writing out your idea, then clicking Publish on the right to publish to the site. See for more information about how and what you might propose, not to mention a little bit of explanation about why things work this way at THATCamp.

Getting Started With TEI

I should start with a special thanks to Rebecca for suggesting this session — if folks are interested, I would be happy to facilitate a discussion about what TEI is and why you might want to use it to represent research objects in a digital environment.  TEI is the digital archival standard markup language in the Digital Humanities, and a very intellectually satisfying markup language to boot.
If the session goes ahead we will want to have some resources to hand. At the risk of jumping the gun, I am going to go ahead and start a list below.

Learn TEI
What is TEI? (a very gentle intro, if a bit dated)
TEI by Example
TEI Guidelines
TEI-encoded Projects
TEI listserv
Digital Humanities Summer Institute, University of Victoria
Women Writers Project Encoding Workshops, Brown University/ Northeastern University

Publish Your TEI
TEI Archiving Publishing and Access Service (TAPAS), set for public release in spring 2014.

Text Parsing for Fun and Glory

Not available: Blood, sweat, tears, money, love, etc.

I’m sure that most people have their own thing-they-think-everyone-should-learn-regardless-of-whether-it’s-actually-at-all-useful-to-other-people crusade. Mine is text parsing. I’m the sort of person who frequently has to go prodding around massive databases or web pages of unstructured text, pulling out things that look like they’re home addresses or phone numbers or twitter handles, and because I’m a bit of a nerd (see:, I don’t want to do it all by hand. One of the simplest ways of doing this, that doesn’t involve any programming per se, is regular expressions — weird little textual logic puzzles that can be implemented in Excel as easily as they can be implemented in Python.

There are plenty of other simple little parsing techniques we could work on in addition to regular exrepssions; this is just a starting suggestion.