“Any fool can learn from his own mistakes. It takes genius to learn from the mistakes of others” (Albert Einstein)
A cautionary tale inspired by TWO of my students having their computers stolen over the last four weeks.
Imagine this scenario. Tomorrow you have an assignment due for submission. You have been collecting research for the last six weeks, making notes on your computer. You have a satisfactory draft almost ready for submission. Tonight you intend to polish the draft expecting to raise your anticipated grade from a B to an A grade.
You return home to your apartment. To your horror, your computer has been stolen. The backup drive you hid under the bed has been stolen. Even the TV and hair-drier have been stolen!
Tomorrow you face a bad hair day. But wait … there is worse. If you fail to submit the assignment you will fail the course as a whole. You will require to enrol in the course the next semester. You have wasted a semester of effort and a semester of study fees. If you are fortunate, your tutor MIGHT grant you a Special Assessment Circumstance (SAC) allowing you to submit your assignment a week later…. However, you must provide your tutor with evidence of having completed some work towards the assignment.
The good news is you kept an off-site hard-drive backup in addition to your on-site backup … the drive you thought you had hidden cleverly under the bed. The bad news is that you rotate the on-site and off-site backup on a weekly basis. That means your backup and notes for your assignment are one week out of date. Good news: at least you can prove to your tutor that you had completed some work towards the assignment. Furthermore, you can probably recover your writing over the forthcoming week… as long as you can remember those brilliant creative insights you had last week…. But you won’t get that A grade you expected, just a C grade pass,or ‘eligible to complete’ status and NO grade for the assignment!
The better good news is that you also kept your working draft ‘in the cloud’ on a remote server somewhere on the interweb!. You used DropBox or Google docs to save your draft. Having that ‘cloud’ backup means you can access your draft from ANY computer in the world. That is very good news….
But what about all those references that you have not yet cited correctly in your assignment? What about all those little scruffy notes you made about each of the research papers and web pages your read?
Fortunately, you save a reference to everything you read into your Zotero database. And Zotero is where you save copies of documents, notes, quotes, and ideas for your assignments. Like DropBox, all your Zotero records are stored ‘in the cloud’.
Unfortunately, the two students I mentioned that gave me inspiration to write this warning had NO off-site drives, NO DropBox, and NO Zotero. They lost EVERYTHING! They have no means to recover the semester of work they have completed … for ALL their courses.
I am fortunate that I have NOT had my computer, hard-drives, or hair-drier (?!) stolen. However, in the last 24 months:
The lessons I hope you take from these TRUE cautionary tales are:
I recently installed an Apple TimeCapsule to provide hour-by-hour incremental backups for the two Macintosh computers we have in our home. The Timecapsule is located remote from the two computers, but I need to really, really hide the TimeCapsule from the possibility of thieves. Of course, a house-fire is still a possibility, hence the need for cloud storage AND an off-site/on-site rotation system.
Selecting cloud based services
The two cloud-based services I mentioned earlier are fit for overlapping, but different purposes. If I had to choose just one, it would be Zotero. However, I use FOUR cloud based services:
DropBox - I use mostly for current working documents, such as course syllabuses, student gradebooks, research papers I am writing, and travel documents. DropBox also has a full sync capability, so that I can choose to carry selected documents from my DropBox on my iPad. Plus I can ‘send’ documents to other people merely by emailing a URL link to the document (picture, or spreadsheet, etc). VERY easy to use, just like a folder of files that rests on your computer desktop. As I mentioned earlier, you can access the folders and files in your DropBox cloud from any internet-connected com puter anywhere…. provided you remember your login id and passoword.
Dropbox App (Photo credit: Funkbreaks)
Zotero - I use for recording the bibliographic details of EVERYTHING I read, whether online or offline. I store working notes, documents, pdfs, and images associated with the documents as required, plus my finished publications and blog postings. When I wish to create a bibliography section for an article, I just ‘drag-and-drop’ the selected bibliographic items from the Zotero user-interface window into the document. Zotero formats the bibliography in APA style, or whatever preference you set… And sorts the list alphabetically. There are many advanced Zotero features, such as being able to share a bibliographic collection with a private or open group of users. All members of the group can add to the collection, and make notes. An excellent collaborative tool for working jointly on a publication or research project. My Zotero profile is here: http://www.zotero.org/pmellalieu
For a quick video outlining the tremendous capability of Zotero, watch: http://www.zotero.org/support/screencast_tutorials/zotero_tour
Zotero 2.b07 Beta interface & Mock-ups (Photo credit: Emre Ayca)
Zenfolio - I use for presenting and sharing photographs. This is a specialist site providing a range of services from freemium to the demanding needs of top-end professional photographers. You can make your albums public, private, or password protected. You can choose to limit the quality of photograph downloads and make available a quality print service. There are very convenient extensions to iPhoto and Aperture for uploading photos to Zenfolio. Plus convenient facilities for creating embeddable slideshows on blogs, websites and Facebook. A very convenient iPad app makes it easy to show, edit, and delete photos. My public Zenfolio site is here: http://petermellalieu.zenfolio.com
Academia.edu - A ‘Facebook for Academics!’ This is where I place every publication I have produced in my academic life since 1972! Academia.edu provides the ability to present an abstract, quickly-viewable article, and tag for each of my articles. Since placing my articles on Academia.edu, my publications have become very visible in Google searches, which is a satisfying for an academic to learn. For every article, I know how many times the article has been identified and viewed from a search, and who has viewed it. My scholastic papers http://unitec.academia.edu/PeterMellalieu/Papers
I have now set up Google Scholar to track who is citing my work in their publications, herehttp://scholar.google.com/citations?user=oq_kacMAAAAJ.
It will be interesting to see if I get a lift in citations now that the publications are more easily accessible via my Academia.edu portal.
My most highly cited papers so far are:
Year of publication in (brackets).
For advice on setting up Google Citations, see: