In this area, I prefer using Zotero for collecting, ResearchRabbit for expanding scope, Hypothes.is for note taking/annotations which I then pipe into Obsidian for revising, cross linking, and further writing/revisions. Depending on the project, some of it may be more analog with index cards similar to Victor Margolin’s process.
To show the general benefits, I’m copying and pasting from my own prior notes and writing:
ZK is an excellent tool for literature reviews! It is a relative neologism (with a slightly shifted meaning in English over the past decade with respect to its prior historical use in German) for a specific form of note taking or commonplacing that has generally existed in academia for centuries. Excellent descriptions of it can be found littered around, though not under a specific easily searchable key word or phrase, though perhaps phrases like “historical method” or “wissenschaftlichen arbeitens” may come closest.
Some of the more interesting examples of it being spelled out in academe include:
- Thomas, Keith. “Diary: Working Methods.” London Review of Books, June 10, 2010. https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v32/n11/keith-thomas/diary.
- Webb, Sidney. Methods of Social Study. London; New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1932. http://archive.org/details/b31357891.
- Eco, Umberto. How to Write a Thesis. Translated by Caterina Mongiat Farina and Geoff Farina. 1977. Reprint, Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press, 2015. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/how-write-thesis.
- Sertillanges, Antonin Gilbert, and Mary Ryan. The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods. First English Edition, Fifth printing. 1921. Reprint, Westminster, MD: The Newman Press, 1960. http://archive.org/details/a.d.sertillangestheintellectuallife. (Particularly ch 7 if I recall correctly)
- Allosso, Dan, and S. F. Allosso. How to Make Notes and Write. Minnesota State Pressbooks, 2022. https://minnstate.pressbooks.pub/write/. (The first half of the book on notes is most useful in this context; see also https://boffosocko.com/2022/08/02/how-to-make-notes-and-write-a-handbook-by-dan-allosso-and-s-f-allosso/)
- Ahrens, Sönke. How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers. Create Space, 2017.
For academic use, anecdotally I’ve seen very strong recent use of the general methods most compellingly demonstrated in Obsidian (they’ve also got a Discord server with an academic-focused channel) though many have profitably used DevonThink and Tinderbox (which has a strong, well-established community of academics around it) as much more established products with dovetails into a variety of other academic tools. Obviously there are several dozens of newer tools for doing this since about 2018, though for a lifetime’s work, one might worry about their longevity as products.
I study many of these methods from the viewpoint of intellectual history (and not just for my own use), so I’m happy to discuss them and their variations ad nauseam.
Since you have other Fediverse accounts you’re using, you might be able to follow the same general pattern I’d documented with Twitter for threading comments between my site and Twitter: https://boffosocko.com/2018/07/02/threaded-conversations-between-wordpress-and-twitter/
Generally, you’d post on your site where it’s seen in the Fediverse via the ActivityPub plugin and/or optionally boosted by your native Mastodon account. Replies to your post (on Mastodon) show up on your site as comments and you reply to them there in your site’s comments section. Then you manually copy/paste the text of your reply from your website into your native Mastodon account and include the comment/reply permalink in that reply. If you’ve got Webmention set up with Brid.gy for Mastodon, replies to your replies on Mastodon should then make their way back to the proper threaded spot in your website’s comments section.
An example of this at work can be seen on my earlier mistake:
- The original post on my site;
- My own reply on my site;
- My manually copied reply on Mastodon;
- My Mastodon reply shows up on my site via Brid.gy;
- A like of that Mastodon reply shows up on my site (also courtesy of Brid.gy via Webmention).
Related, I’ve been playing around with mirroring my WP site as an instance with the ActivityPub plugin and have boosted posts with my more broadly followed mastodon.social account the same way you mentioned that you were doing with yours. Somehow I’m anecdotally finding that I get more responses/reactions with native posts that with these boosts. I’m curious what your experience has been with this strategy so far? I’m still just starting my experimentation here, but I do like the fact that I’m able to include richer presentation of wrapped links in my WordPress native posts which are seen in the Fediverse while Mastodon seems to strip them out or not allow them (see an example of this in the post above this reply).
I suspect that some version of this option I’ve done before will work, though I haven’t tried updating it recently: https://boffosocko.com/2018/07/02/threaded-conversations-between-wordpress-and-twitter/
I’ve also heard that @email@example.com is working on something for a public release soon: https://friend.camp/@darius/109521972924049369. He may still be looking for beta testers if you’re interested.
I wonder if anyone is documenting the amount of course material that disappears and dies in LMSs the way that some track the loss of data and content when social media silos disappear? Our institutions need to do more to help us here.
Encouraging creative writers to keep and maintain a commonplace book is always a fruitful exercise. Most of the “greats” had one (or something close to it), but contemporary examples like Eminem’s may be more relevant/motivating. Blogger and creative writer Austin Kleon has a digital version as an example. Colleen Kennedy has an excellent and creative class assignment relating to this as well.
Musician and producer Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt created a set of 100+ “creativity cards” which they entitled Oblique Strategies that can be useful to introduce to students and have them use over a semester. All the editions’ cards can be found via links here: http://www.rtqe.net/ObliqueStrategies/Edition1-3.html, but there are also websites, apps, and even printable cards.
And finally, speaking of cards, it can be fun to do experimental creative writing using index cards, a practice used by Vladimir Nabokov, Jean Paul, Arno Schmidt, Michael Ende, and many others. Open Culture has a short piece on Nabokov’s process.
Should you care to mine it for other possible ideas, I’ve got a digital commonplace of my own. Here are some possible places to start:
Scott (@schopie1), you are not alone! There are lots of us out here doing these things, not only with WordPress but a huge variety of other platforms. There are many ways to syndicate your content depending on where it starts its life.
In addition to Jim Groom and a huge group of others’ work within A Domain of One’s Own, there’s also a broader coalition of designers, developers, professionals, hobbyists, and people of all stripes working on these problems under the name of IndieWeb.
For some of their specific work you might appreciate the following:
Incidentally, I wrote this for our friend Kathleen Fitzpatrick last week and I can’t wait to see what she’s come up with over the weekend and in the coming weeks. Within the IndieWeb community you’ll find people like Ben Werdmuller who founded both WithKnown (aka Known) and Elgg and Aram Zucker-Scharff who helped to create PressForward.
I’m thrilled to see the work and huge strides that Humanities Commons is making to ensure some of these practices come to fruition.
If you have questions or need any help in these areas, I’m around, but so are hundreds of friends in the IndieWeb chat: https://chat.indieweb.org.
I hope we can bring more of these technologies to the masses in better and easier-to-use manners to lower the technical hurdles.
Kathleen Fitzgerald recently asked about crossposting to Mastodon from her WordPress site and getting replies back. She’s documented some parts recently, and I’ve outlined a few pieces preliminarily including ways you can make your WordPress site look like it’s a Mastodon instance with a few plugins. I suspect Kathleen will have some further thoughts soon after she spends some time tinkering. If you had previously set up to syndicate to Twitter and get responses by via the Brid.gy service, that same sort of workflow will definitely work with Mastodon if you like. (Though it bears mentioning that some of the updates to Mastodon 4.0 this past week or so have introduced some bugs depending on which instance you’re on. I’m sure they’ll be sorted shortly.)
If you’ve not puzzled it out yet, the adding of the requisite
rel="me" class to your Mastodon URL link on your website (in the header, footer, via plugin, via menu item, other) is broadly described here (including some details for the classic editor): https://g13g.blog/2022/11/09/how-to-verify-your-wordpress-site-on-mastodon/. I’m personally using the IndieWeb Plugin to accomplish this and have added the URL for my mastodon instance into a field which gets added to my WordPress Profile at
/wp-admin/profile.php. I’m happy to help if you need other ideas about how to do it as there are maybe too many potential options—it was all the different options and ways of doing it that confused me when I did it.
In addition to the broader Domain of One’s Own ideas that the “Twitter migration” is spurring, I’m always glad to see more people exploring ways we can have “A Twitter of our Own“.
Also in reply to syndicated copy at:
On the deadnaming and related issues, it would be interesting to create a webmention mechanism for the h-card portions so that users might update these across networks. To some extent Automattic’s Gravatar system does this in a centralized manner, but it would be interesting to see it separately. Certainly not as big an issue as deadnaming, but there’s a similar problem on some platforms like Twitter where people will change their display name regularly for either holidays, or lately because they’re indicating they’d rather be found on Mastodon or other websites.
The webmention spec does contain details for both editing/deleting content and resending webmentions to edit and/or remove the original. Ideally this would be more broadly adopted and used in the future to eliminate the need for making these choices by leaving the choice up to the original publisher.
Beyond this, often on platforms that don’t have character limits (Reddit for example), I’ll post at the bottom of my syndicated copy of content that it was originally published on my site (along with the permalink) and explicitly state that I aggregate the replies from various locations which also helps to let people know that they might find addition context or conversation at the original post should they be interested. Doing this on Twitter, Mastodon, et al. is much harder due to space requirements obviously.
While most responses I send would fall under fair use for copying, I also have a Creative Commons license on my text in an effort to help others feel more comfortable with having copies of my content on their sites.
Another ethical layer to this is interactions between sites which both have webmentions enabled. To some extent this creates an implicit bi-directional relationship which says, I’m aware that this sort of communication exists and approve of your parsing and displaying my responses.
The public norms and ethics in this area will undoubtedly evolve over time, so it’s also worth revisiting and re-evaluating the issue over time.
There are some well built and not overly complicated pathways that allow syndicating from your WordPress website to a Mastodon instance and getting responses back from them, just as I think you’ve done with Twitter in the past. Most of these can be done with plugins like Syndication Links or Mastodon Autopost or a handful of other similar plugins in conjunction with Brid.gy (which does the work for bringing back responses). Personally, I prefer Syndication Links for this and it particularly dovetails well with other IndieWeb infrastructure like Micropub clients.
There are a small handful of methods for “mirroring” your WordPress site so that it will look like its own (single or multi-user depending on your configuration) instance within the Fediverse running ActivityPub, meaning that those on Mastodon or other related platforms could follow your site directly. Most of them are configured as publishing only, so you won’t have a built in reader interface and would have to rely on other (available) infrastructure for those portions.
(More technical, and with a few less features) Brid.gyFed, which has options to do the syndication to a separate instance mentioned above, as well as making it look like your website appear to support ActivityPub.
More details on this here: https://indieweb.org/Bridgy_Fed
Our friend Matthias Pfefferle, a genius engineer and longtime opensource advocate and WordPress developer who has also written significant pieces of other IndieWeb code you’re already using on WordPress, has written a handful of plugins which will make it appear as if your WordPress site supports ActivityPub out of the box. You’ll broadly want the following plugins: ActivityPub plugin, WebFinger plugin, NodeInfo(2) plugin.
They don’t have very many configurable options though some may be hiding a bit, so try:
/wp-admin/options-general.php?page=activitypubwill give you options for how your posts appear;
/wp-admin/users.php?page=activitypub-followers-listwill show you who is following your site so you can more easily subscribe back via a reader if you like;
/wp-admin/profile.phpand look under “Fediverse” where your profile identifier will be found. It is based on your username within WordPress.
The documentation for these plugins are scant and I’ve got the intention to write up something explaining the subtleties and a few quirks, but it will have to wait until the holidays I’m afraid. In the interim, they’re not as complete as they could be, but the following two blogposts have some useful details and hints, though its obvious to me that they’re much newer in the space:
There are one or two quirks still pending for how things display if you’re using the IndieWeb-based Post Kinds Plugin, but the developers are generally aware of most of them and will hopefully get them ironed our shortly.
As a result, mostly of these plugins, WordPress is already the fifth largest number of instances in the Fediverse with an (under-)estimated 878 as of this morning.
Help & Questions
This is a lot to consume and potentially implement, so, as ever, I’m happy to help guide and lay out the sub-branching options or even hop on a call to walk through bits with folks who have questions. David Shanske and I have been thinking about doing some group sessions and some training videos to walk people through some of this within the next few weeks. There’s also the IndieWeb chat which welcomes questions and conversation which is sure to give you some additional perspective: https://chat.indieweb.org/wordpress/.
For the social reader portions I briefly mentioned, I outline some of those options last year at OERxDomains in A Twitter of Our Own.
Separately, congratulations to HCommons having stood up a Mastodon server so quickly!
It looks like it’s running Hometown, which has local only (unfederated) posting, though I’m not sure how many are aware of that useful feature (hiding on the link in the posting interface) which is sadly missing from most Mastodon instances, particularly for smaller communities. It might be something useful to add to the welcome email? I think this could be a great feature for Universities to allow more private class-based social networking while providing some safer spaces that don’t reach the broader internet and which might comply with FERPA. Obviously it would need some testing and some of the barriers for standing up and maintaining these servers to come down a bit.
There’s a lot of messaging and potential education to be had to roll it out well, but it could be interesting to see the WordPress offerings from hcommons.org include some of these IndieWeb and Fediverse tools as well.