Conway’s Law and Open Science: Why it feels like something’s fundamentally not right

Some very quick notes on some reading I’ve been doing today on Conway’s law

The law basically has to do with the way organisational structures reflect themselves in the products they produce (also known as “mirroring”). So, to give a common example, corporate websites usually reflect the interests and organisational structures of the corporation rather than the information needs of the website visitor: a statement from the president welcoming you (who ever goes to a website for that?), tasks and locations grouped by reporting line rather than relevance to topic or user, and so on (Nielsen also makes this point in Designing Web Usability).

There are many different formulations of this law, ranging from the very software-specific to the very general. One interesting one, however, is in Coplien and Harrison’s Organizational Patterns of Agile Software Development:

If the parts of an organization—such as teams, departments, or subdivisions—do not closely reflect the Read the rest of this entry »

Using Zenodo as a personal repository

More and more academics are using services like and researchgate as personal repositories. This is in part a way of ensuring your research gets wide exposure (and hence is more available for citation). But it is also part of an increasing sense among academics that one “ought” to put off-prints and pre-prints of research “out there” for others to find. This is being encouraged by Open Access mandates that encourage or require researchers to post copies of their work (i.e. so-called “Green Open Access”), either in last manuscript version or as soon as the embargo period is over at the journal of record.

As the University of California Office of Scholarly Communication points out, however, and ResearchGate are not really Open Access repositories: they are social networking sites for academics that use offprints the way Facebook uses pictures of your family—as a way of getting friends and colleagues to come to the site and click around. Read the rest of this entry »

Talkin’ ’bout my g- g- greatest generation? The Long November (Nablo, 1946)

The Long November is a novel about World War II by Canadian author James Benson Nablo.

The basic plot is that Joey Mack, a not-quite-so-young canadian soldier is reflecting on his life while lying wounded in Italy. His life runs from rum-running in the 1920s through mining, the depression, and then the war. The leitmotif in all his thought is Steffi, the young girl from a rich family of whose affection he has spent his life trying to deserve.

The novel really isn’t that well written. Or rather it is somewhat pretentiously written as a long first person interior monologue. But it is remarkable as a corrective on post-war “Greatest Generation” approaches to the WWII generation. Read the rest of this entry »

Galbraith on why Universities should be contentious places [1]

Good universities have always been places of contention and dispute… And the best universities in their greatest phase have always been places of the most energetic and uninhibited contention. That is because, in great universities, ideas are important and issues are taken seriously and scholars are not cowards—and no one is so silly as to suppose there is such a think as orderly, well-regulated debate which, in the manner of a motion picture script, can be carefully tailored in advance to the taste of the audience and the prejudices of the censors.

Poor universities composed of craven men are inevitably very orderly places and bad universities have the silence and tranquility of the desert.

University of California. 1967. “Warren Joins Others in Urging Greater Understanding of UC, Academic Freedom.” University Bulletin: A Weekly Bulletin for the Staff of the University of California, May 8. 161

Read the rest of this entry »

The Real Crisis and the U of L… and why the Board must Act [1]

Full disclosure. I am a professor of English at the University of Lethbridge and a member of the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association (ULFA) Executive. ULFA is a party to a labour dispute associated with the events discussed in this piece.

The opinions presented here concern the wisdom of the Board’s current actions and are mine alone. They are published under my contractual right as a Faculty Member to “participate in public life, to criticize University or other administrations, to champion unpopular positions, to engage in frank discussion of controversial matters, and to raise questions and challenges which may be viewed as counter to the beliefs of society” under Handbook Article 11.01.1. They do not advocate any specific remedy under the Association’s contract, beyond following well-established, previously negotiated procedures.

Read the rest of this entry »

How to accept an invitation to a SSHRC application

This is a quick guide for my non-Canadian partners on how to accept an invitation to participate in a SSHRC application.

  1. Look for invitation from SSHRC in your inbox
    1. You will need the highlighted invitation number later.
    2. First click on the login/register link and set up your account with SSHRC or log in (if you already have one).
    3. If you are setting up a new account, keep the password memorable: it is difficult to get a reminder if you forget.
  2. After you have registered and confirmed your registration (SSHRC sends an email to confirm), you need to sign in using your SSHRC user name and password (i. Read the rest of this entry »

Customized pronouns: A good idea that makes no sense (Globe and Mail)

Originally published as O’Donnell, Daniel Paul. 2016. “Customized Pronouns: A Good Idea That Makes No Sense.” The Globe and Mail, October 15.

The latest thing on campus is to introduce yourself by name and “preferred pronoun.” “Hello, my name is Dan and I prefer he/him. Read the rest of this entry »

The bird in hand: Humanities research in the age of open data (Digital Science Report)

Originally published as Daniel Paul O’Donnell. 2016. “The Bird in Hand: Humanities Research in the Age of Open Data.” In The State of Open Data: A Selection of Analyses and Articles about Open Data, Edited by Figshare, 34–35. Digital Science Report. London: Digital Science.

Traditionally, humanities scholars have resisted describing their raw material as
“data” 10.

Instead, they speak of “sources” and “readings. Read the rest of this entry »

“Nudge nudge, say no more”: What I think needs to happen next in the Scholarly Commons Project

In the follow up on the Force11/Helmsley Scholarly Commons Working Group workshops in Madrid and San Diego, participants (and steering committee members) have been asked to write a brief description of what we think is the “best direction to develop the principles.” Here’s my two cents.1

I think that the lessons we’ve learned over the last year are the following:

  1. There is (or perhaps could be) such a thing as a “Commons” in scholarly communication;
  2. This approach to scholarly communication could have an immensely disruptive potential, as it could provide a way of completing the always-threatening development of research communication into a Common Pool Resource;
  3. The disruption (and the commons) will not happen without leadership; somebody needs to propose a definition of the boundaries of the commons; explain how this defintion can be used; and create the mechanisms by which it is.

Given this, I think the next step is to work on (3): providing the le Read the rest of this entry »

But does it work in theory II

(A very inside baseball posting. Probably not of interest to anybody but me and a couple of people on the committee I refer to below).

Yesterday, I published some principles and rules that I thought might govern a “Scholarly Commons,” the topic of a Helmsley-funded Force11 Working Group that I am a part of.

Here they are again:

P. The Scholarly Commons is a consensus among knowledge producers and users that
    P1. research and knowledge should be freely available to all who wish to use or reuse it;
    P2. participation in the production and use of knowledge should be open to all who wish to participate;
    P3. Read the rest of this entry »

But does it work in theory? Developing a generative theory for the scholarly commons

…It is said that a learned professor of Heidelberg forbade his students the repetition of a certain experiment.

“But,” they protested, “it has always been successful.”

“Nevertheless,” he said, “its position among experiments is absolutely untenable from an intellectual point of view.”

The boys stared.

“The thing may answer very well in practise,” said the professor, “but it is not sound in theory.”

Read the rest of this entry »

But does it work in theory? Developing a generative theory for the scholarly commons

The “Scholarly Commons Working Group”

I am part of the Scholarly Commons Working Group at Force11. The goal of this working group is to “define and incubate” a “Scholarly Commons”—something we define as being a set of “principles, best practices, interfaces and standards that should govern the multidirectional flow of scholarly objects through all phases of the research process from conception to dissemination” in any discipline.

As part of this work, we have been working on developing the actual principles that can be said to… well, this is a bit of an issue, actually—govern?, describe (?), organise (?), define (?). Let’s just say, right now, “develop a set of principles that will help in some way identify and establish the Scholarly Commons in some useful, non-trivial fashion.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Auschwitz I and II (Birkenau): Some thoughts on a tour

Last week, I was in Krakow for DH 2016. Because it is so close to Auschwitz, I took a day trip to visit the camp.

Mixed feelings about “touring” a concentration camp

I had very mixed feelings about the whole idea. On the one hand, it seems almost an obligation. As I’ve written of the Diary of Anne Frank: “the enormity of Nazi crimes requires documentation. We want and need first-person accounts of what happened to keep reminding us that it in fact did happen” (54). Read the rest of this entry »

The uleth ezproxy server

Paperpile allows users to put in their library’s ezproxy server. This allows the system to search for PDFs licensed through the university library, especially when off campus.

Although Paperpile has proxy addresses for a lot of Canadian universities, it doesn’t have one for Lethbridge. After doing some digging, I think I was able to find out ours:$@

I found information on the server here (specifically about how to log in to JSTOR using it). Read the rest of this entry »

Using find and rsync to extract files from a directory and move them

The context

I use for annotating PDFs (and websites). This works best, however, if the PDFs are online somewhere.

I use Zotero and Paperpile for citation management. Zotero in particular, stores all the PDFs that I collect via my bibliography locally in a very fragmented directory structure (each entry in the bibliography manager is its own directory, meaning in my case, the PDFs are spread over 7000 sub-directories.

The problem

So what I want to do is the following:

  1. find and extract all downloaded PDFs in my Zotero folders
  2. upload them to a (private) bibliographic server, where I can use hypothes. Read the rest of this entry »


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