The placement of things

Where’s my stuff?

The placement of things is important. As with medieval manuscripts, what is not stored properly is essentially lost to all humanity. After 20 years working online, I here report on where I keep things at present.

Public ok or intended: Google

My syllabuses are on Google Docs anyone can view, department business and drafts are Docs for others to share and edit, student surveys are in Google Forms. My slide presentations for class are Google Slides (it’s a damn shame you can’t do music easily on the slideshows – they really are letting it, um, slide). My talking head videos are on YouTube with captions.

MiraCosta College only: Canvas

As all our college’s instructors move to the Canvas LMS (more’s the pity), this becomes the default. Of course, once everyone has 143 course cards showing on their main screen, scroll weariness is bound to set in and many won’t be accessed. The extremely limited discussion functionality of the system will also discourage open discussion (as will the fact that admins can access it on request at any time). Nevertheless, campus projects as well as courses are popping up like so many daisies. I remember this happening with Blackboard. The college has a server where I kept my home page, but they declared these are being deleted due to security issues (which my pages didn’t have, BTW).

The only LTI I use in Canvas consistently is Perusall, where I have uploaded the primary sources for students to read and discuss. Hypothes.is is always on the back burner, as I wait for automatic group logins and an easier interface.

Stuff I want to control: Reclaim

My shared hosted account at Reclaim Hosting is where I am moving (or have moved) everything which I want control, including privacy settings. This blog is there.

It also serves my zillions of web pages that make up my class content (lectures, information pages, etc.) which I embed or link to from Canvas. I have left Dropbox and use Owncloud via the Reclaim server installation; I have left Netvibes and use TinyTinyRSS via the Reclaim server. I am still seeking a substitute for Diigo (which will import it as well).

Mail: Various + Gmail aggregation

MiraCosta has its own mail server, which uses Outlook, a system I find needlessly cumbersome and relatively feature-free. I POP that into Gmail — it’s only inconvenient when people use the Outlook groups. I have two Gmail accounts, one personal and one professional, inside Google, so that’s obviously Gmail. My main personal email is run from Reclaim with my domain, and IMAP’d into Gmail. All mail comes in with tags so I know what’s what. I also back up my Gmail to Apple Mail (which I don’t otherwise use).

Research

After much flailing around, it’s Zotero for gathering resources and bibliographical entries, and (at last) Scrivener for drafting. Manual backups to hard drives. Diigo still for gathering web resources (I’m still working on that – any suggestions for self-hosted?).

Things That Mustn’t Get Lost

Everything crucial is on hard drives: one for work, one for household, one for work media files, one that backs up the others. Dreamweaver to ftp back and forth to the Reclaim servers.

Bric a brac around the web

I’ve had more services close down on me than most people ever used, which helped foster my natural cynicism about web services. I still have a Tumblr account with things I have stored, though I rarely access it – it’s like a time capsule now. I have zillions of accounts (Slideshare, Blabber, things you’ve never heard of going back to the beginning of the millennium) that won’t let me delete them.

Videos that YouTube won’t serve, or for which I want excellent quality, are on Vimeo. I have a Pinterest account I sometimes use for collecting web images, and once used for an Honors class. I have a Flickr account that won’t be used anymore as they have created limits and pricing and I’m not sure why I need it, so it’s a time capsule too. I’d rather sort out how to do galleries on this blog.

Phones and downgrading

In several areas, I have remained static while others have moved on, because some things just work: Microsoft Word and Excel, Dreamweaver. The changeover to Canvas LMS left me unlikely to jump at new shiny technologies for teaching.

Privacy issues play havoc with my calendar. For decades I carried a paper calendar, first small, then large, then small again. Now I use the Calendar on my mobile phone, which is Google and Android, so it tries to force everything into the first category: Public. I don’t want my Calendar public. After trying to make different apps and reminders work on my phone, and being encouraged by this recent NY Times article, I am about to downgrade back to paper. I carry a paper notebook anyway, after (again) trying to use my phone. For notifications, I’ll set them manually — it’s a lot easier to do that for a few things than adjust them all for the rest of the crap.

Ethical issues are a problem with Facebook, where I belong to several groups and run the Online Teaching Group. For the latter, I have people asking to join for purposes that have nothing to do with sharing online teaching problems and solutions: I get requests from highly questionable “education” organizations, people who want to advertise, people soliciting sex or money. Combine this with Facebook’s privacy problems (I stopped using it for student groups long ago), and I am encouraged to downgrade (thus the new listserv).

Since I’m sure I’ve forgotten things here, I have not solved the medieval manuscript problem. But the things I need on a daily basis are much fewer than they used to be, when I spent much of my time exploring tools on the web. Call it the downgrading of my time, if you will.

Thus my best tech winner for 2019: the MUJI double-ring A6 notebook.

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