Tux the Penguin reading books

FOSS Academic

FALD Updates

A few quick updates on the FOSS Academic Lifestyle Dream front.

Nextcloud FTW

A while back, I asked people on Mastodon about FOSS tools for academics. A clear winner was Nextcloud. Since then, I’ve gone pretty much all-in on Nextcloud, using it to sync my ODT files (those are like DOCX, but better) across my machines.

But I’ve gotten so much more our of it. The Talk app has worked flawlessly for one-on-one video chats with friends and colleagues. I think it’s easier to use than Zoom.

And there’s a downright magical add-on called Appointments. I am never, ever, ever, ever going back to emailing back and forth, back and forth with anyone who wants to meet.

“How’s your Monday?” “I’m free after 1.” “How about 1.30.” “Oh, wait, I can’t make Monday, after all. How’s your Tuesday?”

No, with Appointments I share a public link, whomever wants to meet fills in a form, and the meeting is on my calendar, and they get instructions on how to meet (a chat link, office address, etc). In addition, Appointments watches my calendar, so people will not double-book. And, I can set a delay (say, 8 hours from now) where people can’t schedule, so no one can schedule a last-minute meeting. It’s worked really, really well with student office hours. And none of it relies on the Googles.

Zotero Beta Progress

I also talked to people on Mastodon about ways in which academics like me – that is, ones who don’t really code all that much – can contribute to FOSS. The consensus was: bug reporting. So I joined the Zotero 6 Beta, did some testing, and reported bugs.

I have a strange, happy feeling today because Zotero fixed the issues I reported. The note-taking lag I reported is now gone. Notes are as smooth as before the beta, but with more features, of course.

This moment of bug-reporting joy has inspired me to report more bugs to other projects. And in turn, I feel a little bit more connected to the software I’m using to live the Lifestyle Dream.

The hunt for card sorting software…

I did have a recent FOSS failure, however: I could not find card sorting software.

Card sorting is a technique used in web information architecture and usability work. When I taught basic web design, card sorts were an integral part of the class.

Cart sorting asks you to write down every idea or bit of information associated with the website on 3x5 cards. The idea is to not censor one’s self – just write them down, one idea per card. Then, you can take the cards and sort them – these 5 cards relate to this central idea, those 6 relate to another, and so on. Eventually, the cards reveal the “information architecture” of a site, and this leads to creating top-level navigation.

Students seemed to get a lot out of web design card sorts. And I started to see them as quite useful for planning book projects. I used the technique during the early days of writing my soon-to-be-released book on social engineering (co-authored with Sean Lawson, and due out from MIT Press). Card sorting, it seems to me, is quite similar to the “maps” that Adele Clarke talks about in her book Situational Analysis.

There’s the obvious downside to 3x5 cards: they’re not searchable. Sorting them is easy enough, and I can take a picture of a sort – and other people could sort them, too – but I’m not sure how useful those sorts are in the long run.

So, I was on the hunt for FOSS tools to do card sorts and… nothing. The closest thing I could find are notebook tools or mind-maps, but both are not flexible enough for this task.

So, back to the stack o’ cards for me.

…But why hunt for card sorting software?

The answer is… Goal 2. One of my goals for this blog is to write a book about FOSS. But I can’t write about all the FOSS. That’s too much.

So, I have settled on a project to explore. I want to use it as a central “character.” I will reveal which one it is when I think the moment is right, which is… after I do a card sort!

Post Tags