How to Make Notes and Write, a handbook by Dan Allosso and S.F. Allosso

A new handbook on note making and writing

I wasn’t expecting it until next week or shortly thereafter, but just in time for the new academic year, Dan Allosso has finished a major rewrite on his and S.F. Allosso’s earlier edition of A Short Handbook for writing essays in the Humanities and Social Sciences. This expanded edition has several new chapters on note making (notice that this is dramatically different than note taking) using a zettelkasten-based (or card index or fichier boîte if you prefer) approach similar to that practiced by Beatrice Webb, Marcel Mauss, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Roland Barthes, Hans Blumenberg, Mortimer J. Adler, and Walter Benjamin among many others.

The focus of the book is on note making for actively producing tangible outputs (essays, papers, theses, monographs, books, etc.), something on which a few recent texts in a the related productivity space haven’t delivered. While ostensibly focused on the humanities and social sciences in terms of examples, the methods broadly apply to all fields. In fact, some of the methods draw historically on some of the practices fruitfully used by Bacon, Newton, Leibnitz, Linnaeus, and many others in the sciences since.

This isn’t your father’s note making system…

While many students (especially undergraduates and graduate students) may eschew this sort of handbook as something they think they “already know”, I can assure you that they do not and will benefit from the advice contained therein, particularly the first half. I’ve often heartily recommended Sönke Ahrens’ book How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking to many in the past, but I think Allosso’s version, while similar in many respects, is clearer, shorter, and likely more easily realized by new practitioners.

There’s more detail in Dr. Allosso’s announcement video:

Availability

How to Make Notes and Write is available at Minnesota State’s Pressbooks site for reading online, or download as a .pdf or .epub. If you’d like a physical copy, they’re also available for purchase on Amazon.

For those in the educational spaces, Dr. Allosso has given the book a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0), so that people can use it as an Open Educational Resource (OER) in their classes and work.

For teachers who are using social annotation with tools like Hypothes.is in their classrooms, Allosso’s book is an excellent resource for what students can actively do with all those annotations once they’ve made them. (Here’s a link to my annotated copy of a recent working draft if you care to “play along”.)

† Unless of course your father happens to be Salvatore Allosso, but even then…

Pen and paper publishing to your website? PaperWebsite is on to something.

Handwriting to Website #​​​FTW

While browsing today I ran across an awesome concept called PaperWebsite.com. It allows you to write on paper, take a photo, and then upload it to a website. Your handwritten words published to your website. A tactile writer’s dream.

My immediate thought—I need to have this now!

Articles written by hand in my journal to my website? Short notes that I write on index cards published as microblog updates.  How cool would that be? I was also talking to someone this morning about voice-to-text as a note taking concept. What about that too?

Of course, as you may know, I’ve already got a website. Do I need another one like this for $10/month? Probably not.

Value Proposition

But this has got me wondering “what the value proposition is for Paper Website as a company?” What are they really selling? Domain names? Hosting? Notebooks? They certainly seem to be selling all of the above, but the core product they’re really selling is an easy-to-use interface for transferring paper ideas to digital publishing. And this is exactly what I want!

The problem now is to buy this sub-service without all the other moving pieces like a domain name, hosting, etc., which I don’t need. Taking just the core service and abstracting it to the wider universe of websites could be a major technical hurdle (and nightmare).

IndieWeb and Micropub

Perhaps I could try find an OCR solution and wire it all together myself? I’d rather see the original developer run away with the idea though. So instead I’ll quietly suggest that they could take their current infrastructure and add a small piece.

Since PaperWebsite’s already got the front end up and running, why not add on Micropub support to the back end? Maybe Ben Stokes could take the OCR output and create a new Micropub client that could authenticate to any website with Micropub support? I have to imagine that he could probably program it in a couple of days (borrowing from any of the pre-existing open source clients or libraries out there) and suddenly it’s a product that could work with WordPress, Drupal, WithKnown, Craft, Jekyll, Kirby, Hugo, Blot, and a variety of other platforms that support the W3C spec recommendation or have plugins for it.

The service could publish in “draft” form and allow editing after-the-fact. There’s also infrastructure for cross-syndicating to other social services with Micropub clents, so note cards to my website and automatically syndicated to Twitter, Mastodon, or micro.blog? Yes, please.

And maybe it could be done as a service for a dollar a month or a few dollars a year?

I made a short mention of the idea in the IndieWeb chat, and it’s already a-buzz with implementation ideas… If you’re around Ben, I’m sure folks there would lend a hand if you’re interested.

The website, commonplace book, note taking, stationery, and fountain pen nerd in me is really excited about where this could go from a user interface perspective.

How Moleskine, Leuchtturm, LiveScribe or the other stationery giants haven’t done this already is beyond me. I could also see serious writing apps like  iA Writer or Ulysses doing something like this too.

Read 25 Years of Ed Tech – Blogs by JR DingwallJR Dingwall (jrdingwall.ca)
This week I was able to catch up a bit on some podcasts I subscribe to. One of the casts I’ve been enjoying lately is 25 Years of Ed Tech, a serialized version of Martin Weller’s book by the same title. Now audio books are plenty good by themselves, but this particular podcast has an addition episode per chapter called “between the chapters” where a host interviews members of the ed tech community (those around Martin in some way) about the topic of the previous chapter. This week was all about blogs.
JR writes about some of his journey into blogging. I appreciate some of the last part about the 9x9x25 blogs. For JR it seems like some smaller prompts got him into more regular writing.

He mentions Stephen Downes‘ regular workflow as well. I think mine is fairly similar to Stephen’s. To some extent, I write much more on my own website now than I ever had before. This is because I post a lot more frequently to my own site, in part because it’s just so easy to do. I’ll bookmark things or post about what I’ve recently read or watched. My short commentary on some of these is just that—short commentary. But occasionally I discover, depending on the subject, that those short notes and bookmark posts will spring into something bigger or larger. Sometimes it’s a handful of small posts over a few days or weeks that ultimately inspires the longer thing. The key seems to be to write something.

Perhaps a snowball analogy will work? I take a tiny snowball of words and give it a proverbial roll. Sometimes it sits there and other times it rolls down the hill and turns into a much larger snowball. Other times I get a group of them and build a full snowman.

Of course lately a lot of my writing starts, like this did, as an annotation (using Hypothes.is) to something I was reading. It then posts to my website with some context and we’re off to the races.

It’s just this sort of workflow that I was considering when I recently suggested that those using annotation as a classroom social annotation tool, might also consider using it to help students create commonplace books to help students spur their writing. The key is to create small/low initial stakes that have the potential to build up into something bigger. Something akin to the user interface of Twitter (and their tweetstorm functionality). Write a short sentence or two on which you can hit publish, but if the mood strikes, then write another, and another until you’ve eventually gotten to something that could be a blog post (or article). Of course if you do this, you should own it.

This is also the sort of perspective which Sönke Ahrens takes in his excellent book How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers, though there he’s prescribing something for general note taking when I might suggest it’s a prescription for a pedagogy behind living and writing.

Read 15 rules for blogging, and my current streak by Matt WebbMatt Webb (Interconnected)

So here they are, my personal rules for blogging.

  1. Three posts a week, more or less.
  2. One idea per post. If I find myself launching into another section, cut and paste the extra into a separate draft post, and tie off the original one with the word “Anyway.” Then publish.
  3. No hedging, no nuance. If I’m getting in a twist about a sentence, take it out.
  4. Give up on attempting to be right.
  5. Give up on providing full links and citations.
  6. Give up on saying anything new. Most people haven’t read my old stuff. Play the hits.
  7. Give up on trying to be popular. I try not to filter myself based on what I believe will be popular. Some of my favourite posts get ignored. Some posts get popular and I have no idea why. Besides, terrible posts get buried fast if I’m posting three times a week. So post with abandon.
  8. Give up on trying to be interesting. Readers will come to my site for what’s interesting to me, or not, it’s fine, just say what I think about whatever I’m thinking about.
  9. But make it work for a general audience.
  10. Only write what’s in my head at that exact moment. It’s 10x faster.
  11. If it’s taking too long to write, stop.
  12. Don’t use a post just to link to something elsewhere. If there’s a point to make, start with that.
  13. Titles should be descriptive and have the flavour of the post. And rewrite the lede once the post is done so the whole thing gets to the point faster.
  14. It’s ok not to blog if it feels like a chore.
  15. Writing is a muscle.
Read Stop Giving af and Start Writing More by Joel Hooks (joelhooks.com)
In 2019 I wrote more than the previous 5 years combined, at least publically. There's several places that I write that aren't as obvious. I spend quite a lot of time writing and curating howtoegghead.com . I also write a lot of emails that…

Instead my approach now is to publish my thoughts more freely with less premeditation. Particularly in this space, which is mine, for me, by me. 

a good philosophy for a personal website
Annotated on August 12, 2020 at 11:21AM

Look, nobody was flipping through pages on your blog to find anything anyway, so it’s fine. 

so true…

but I do search on my own site frequently…
Annotated on August 12, 2020 at 11:22AM

Read Writing is a process of discovery by Doug BelshawDoug Belshaw (Discours.es)
Unable, or perhaps unwilling, to do my usual exercise due to not being able to wear contact lenses at the moment, I sat down yesterday evening with my back to our bedroom radiator to read Stefan Zweig’s Montaigne. It’s a short book, and quite odd, in that it doesn’t really quote much from Mont...
Annotated Dear Bob, by Jeff Jarvis (BuzzMachine)

I learned long ago in my career that shorter is harder. When I started Entertainment Weekly, I decreed that long reviews usually waste readers' time with critics showing off. Shorter can be smarter.

One doesn't measure comprehensiveness with a clock or a ruler. Longer is not deeper.

I was particularly struck by two quotes in the comments which are very similar to a popular saying by Blaise Pascal.

Are these truisms proven out on a daily basis by Twitter?

📑 Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin | Project Gutenberg

Annotated Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin (gutenberg.org)
About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator.[18] It was the third. I had never before seen any of them. I bought it, read it over and over, and was much delighted with it. I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it. With this view I took some of the papers, and, making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the book, try'd to compleat the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to hand. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them. But I found I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness in recollecting and using them, which I thought I should have acquired before that time if I had gone on making verses; since the continual occasion for words of the same import, but of different length, to suit the measure, or of different sound for the rhyme, would have laid me under a constant necessity of searching for variety, and also have tended to fix that variety in my mind, and make me master of it. Therefore I took some of the tales and turned them into verse; and, after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the prose, turned them back again. I also sometimes jumbled my collections of hints into confusion, and after some weeks endeavored to reduce them into the best order, before I began to form the full sentences and compleat the paper. This was to teach me method in the arrangement of thoughts. By comparing my work afterwards with the original, I discovered many faults and amended them; but I sometimes had the pleasure of fancying that, in certain particulars of small import, I had been lucky enough to improve the method of the language, and this encouraged me to think I might possibly in time come to be a tolerable English writer, of which I was extremely ambitious. My time for these exercises and for reading was at night, after work or before it began in the morning, or on Sundays, when I contrived to be in the printing-house alone, evading as much as I could the common attendance on public worship which my father used to exact of me when I was under his care, and which indeed I still thought a duty, thought I could not, as it seemed to me, afford time to practise it.  
Even the greats copied or loosely plagiarized the “masters” to learn how to write.The key is to continually work at it until you get to the point where it’s yours and it is no longer plagiarism.

This was also the general premise behind the plotline of the movie Finding Forrester.


Annotated as an example during a webinar when a teacher mentioned that students were sometimes plagiarizing work in a composition class. Sometimes starting with someone else’s words can actually help us. The key is getting to the core and eventually using our own words and thoughts.

👓 Webinar: Research on Annotation in English and Composition | Hypothesis

Read Webinar: Research on Annotation in English and Composition by Jeremy Dean (Hypothes.is)

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an article entitled “The Fall, and Rise, of Reading” arguing, in part, that digital annotation can restore discipline to college students’ reading habits (annotate it with us at that Hypothesis-enabled link). While we agree, at Hypothesis we are less concerned with whether students have read — reading compliance — than in how they read, with how their reading and annotating practices inform other skills like critical thinking and writing.

Last fall, we shared a research project on the impact of Hypothesis annotation in teaching reading and writing. That group has since conducted their research, presented at the Conference on College Composition and Communication, and is in the process of writing up their findings and conclusions for publication. Since then we’ve learned about or been involved with several other research projects looking at the role of annotation in the teaching of composition and literature. Next Thursday, we will host a webinar bringing together scholars doing this research in conversation.

Join our free webinar, 12–1pm PT/3–4pm ET on Thursday 9 May 2019, focusing on current and future research about how annotation is being used in the English and composition disciplines, and what research shows — or could show — about the impact digital, collaborative annotation can have on student success.

Hosted by Hypothesis Director of Education Jeremy Dean, you will hear from multiple scholars about their research and outcomes:

  • Alan Reid, Assistant Professor, English, Coastal Carolina University
  • Julie Sievers, Director of Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship, Southwestern University
  • Michelle Sprouse, English and Education PhD Candidate, University of Michigan
  • Noel Brathwaite, Assistant Professor of English, SUNY Farmingdale

There will also be time for presenters and attendees to discuss questions and future research directions together.

I’m in for this… I was just talking to a composition teacher the other day and wondering exactly how one would use Hypothes.is in such a setting.

👓 Five Newsroom Tips for Better Website Content | Andrea Zoellner

Read Five Newsroom Tips for Better Website Content by Andrea Zoellner (Andrea Zoellner)
This post is adapted from a talk given at WordCamp US 2016 in Philadelphia.
To say journalists have a bad reputation is an understatement. In a recent poll of least trusted professions in Canada, journalists had an 18% trust rating, ranking them somewhere between Financial advisors and lawyers. So w...
Originally bookmarked on April 10, 2019 at 12:27AM

🔖 Hemingway Editor

Bookmarked Hemingway Editor (hemingwayapp.com)

Hemingway App makes your writing bold and clear.

The app highlights lengthy, complex sentences and common errors; if you see a yellow sentence, shorten or split it. If you see a red highlight, your sentence is so dense and complicated that your readers will get lost trying to follow its meandering, splitting logic — try editing this sentence to remove the red.

You can utilize a shorter word in place of a purple one. Mouse over them for hints.

I could see some serious value in this if I could use it as a web app with Micropub support, which would allow it to almost any CMS or platform. It’s a bit reminiscent of Quill, though that doesn’t have the grammar and writing help.

There’s a $20 desktop version that can publish to WordPress and Medium.

Possibly missing for a full editor experience: the ability to add images.

As a sample, I tried putting in some prior writing. Apparently I overuse adverbs. It said I was writing at grade 13 and I should aim for grade 9! (It was something I had already attempted to “dumb down”.)

👓 Words I wrote in 2018 | Adactio: Journal

Read Words I wrote in 2018 by Jeremy KeithJeremy Keith
I wrote just shy of a hundred blog posts in 2018. That’s an increase from 2017. I’m happy about that. Here are some posts that turned out okay…
I’m thinking I should sift through my 2018 and highlight a few things as well.

👓 I Used to Write for Sports Illustrated. Now I Deliver Packages for Amazon. | The Atlantic

Read I Used to Write for Sports Illustrated. Now I Deliver Packages for Amazon. (The Atlantic)
There’s a certain novelty, after decades at a legacy media company, in playing for the team that’s winning big.

👓 National Poetry Writing Month #NaPoWriMo: 3 Days In! | Silence and Voice

Read National Poetry Writing Month : 3 Days In! by Jeffrey KeeferJeffrey Keefer (Silence and Voice)
I have been successful with writing poems for the first two days of National Poetry Writing Month, the annual celebration of poetry writing that coincides with National Poetry Month each April. Since I have been writing poetry as one of my 2018 goals (the goal is specifically to publish a poem this year), I thought this was a wonderful opportunity to generate some first drafts of poems in a communal setting as others who are engaging in the same process are sharing their progress via the tag .
I’ve been considering that I ought to write more poetry. Perhaps NaPoWriMo would be the way to go?