another interesting method for collecting data

Photo Credit: Peter Forret via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Peter Forret via Compfight cc

As you know, I’m bogged down in recording data in Bento for each letter scanned, which then populates a spreadsheet in both the app and the computer application when synced–and I mean it when I say bogged down. Nearing the end of scanning (of course, I am in need of more archival folders) I moved into an assembly line process and now have a huge stack of scanned letters that need to be cataloged, a job I try to avoid too often. I’m hoping that this database I’m building will help when creating an index of topics later, but I ran across this linked tweet on an inventive use of WordPress as a data collector, and it’s making me think about other uses for databases:

I do like the results that these plugins create; not sure if they would work for the kind of data I’m collecting, but it’s something to keep in mind for the time when digitizing the collection comes around. That seems far away right now, but I also know how quickly time collapses when you think you have a lot of it. Here’s the link to Martha Burtis’ post on the plugin project; follow the links in the post for interesting examples.

what’s the difference between a preface, an introduction, and a foreword?

Photo Dec 18, 10 15 19 AM I’m doing a presentation for faculty in January at the annual Faculty Colloquium at the college where I work, and this time I’m not presenting in my role of instructional technologist, but just as another scholar. The colloquium theme this year is Imagine the Future: Inspired by the Present, Informed by the Past, so this project fits in nicely. My presentation is titled “The Letters Project: Documenting and Preserving the Past with Mobile and Web-Based Technologies.”

I knew I wouldn’t be done with the project–HA–not even nearly done, but I wanted to have some pieces of all the eventual parts to demonstrate how technology can aid in a task that began with dusty, yellowed, seventy year old letters. I’ll be showing how a blog can be used to document a project, whether a faculty research project, a collaborative course project, or an individual student research project. Then I’ll be showing how database software, in my case Bento, on both the iPad and computer can help organize and make sense of all the pertinent facts of each letter, from basic information like dates and postmarks, to letter topics and keywords. And I’ll be showing how Dropbox lets me access my files anywhere–I’m sure you could similarly work with Google Drive to store images and scans of letters, as well as transcriptions that could be performed right in Google. I’m scanning to high quality PDFs and transcribing in Microsoft Word.

Finally, I want to show how it can all be put together in book form with iBooks Author, so even though I am still scanning, I have a few letters transcribed and a lot of ideas for putting a book together. I’ve had to learn about parts of a book, hence this post’s title, as well as about the limitations in the iBooks Author software to name parts. I find that some things can be rearranged, like chapters and sections, but not pages; pages are attached to chapters or sections for good. So, my current scheme looks like it has too many sections, but it is all starting to make sense as I get used to it. I will probably make a mind map of my organization to keep me on track, and the ability to preview your book in iBooks is a big help in seeing what others will see. I hope some faculty in attendance are inspired to try their own hand at bookmaking.

So what’s the difference between a preface, an introduction, and a foreword? Most agree that a foreword is written by someone else (preferably well-known) to tell people why they should read the book. The preface is similar, but written by the author and talks about how the book came into being. An introduction, like an introduction in an essay, is part of the text of the book, part of the subject matter and where you draw the reader in and present your argument or purpose. Here are a few sources:

Writers and Editors: Preface, foreword, or introduction

Kunz on Publishing: Foreword Vs. Preface Vs. Introduction


Taking the letters on vacation.

On vacation for a week at home, but I toted the box of letters, both those scanned and recorded and those still in the envelopes, with me, because now that they are more than just those letters under the bed, I was conjuring all sorts of scenarios of fire and smoke and water damage or vandalism if I left them for a week.

It’s funny how small a package of over 350 letters seems, maybe more so to you than to me now that I know what a time-consuming task it all is and what a huge body of work is represented in the text of the letters.

I hope the remaining letters enjoy their last weeks in their comfy envelopes before coming out into the light of day.

another section in the Bento box

I have added Bento for Mac to my technologies, supplementing and backing up the Bento 4 for iPad that I have been working with since the beginning of the project. Everything seemed to sync fine this morning, although the records on the iPad took on a slightly different arrangement on the screen. I have moved everything back into place and hope that is not going to be a regular occurrence. I like being able to see all my fields on one screen for each record. The sync also created a new blank page on each record called “untitled form.” I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with that!

I also attended a webinar on the new Bento 4 for iPad features. It did not answer all my questions, but I think I see a few interesting things I didn’t find on my own. I asked some questions, but the webinar was attended by an army of interested users and the primary direction of the speaker was toward business users, and my questions were not addressed. I have suggested that they conduct a webinar focusing on higher education research, and I asked the following questions in their web support forum:

Title: entering and sorting for keywords
Post: I have both Bento 4 for iPad and Bento for Mac.

I am recording data for a collection of historical documents (349 handwritten letters), including the dates of the letters and keywords. I would like to be able to sort them for the keywords, to find all the letters that contain a particular keyword.

–will I be able to sort for both keyword and date of letter?
–when a single letter has multiple keywords, should I put each one in a separate field (keyword 1, keyword 2), which creates separate columns in the spreadsheet view?
–will I have to export the final spreadsheet to Excel or Numbers for such sorting?

I am at the beginning of the project, scanning and recording basic information, and have only transcribed a few letters so far, so I’d like to know before I get too far into the project.

Thank you,

Hoping for answers soon.

process markers

Until I get those folder labels I should have ordered with the folders (duh!), I’m going to mark the folders with little dots–pink for scanned letters; green for transcribed letters. Today, I’m doing an assembly line chore of scanning letters and placing them in folders, as well as creating the database file for each one. At first I did the whole process per letter, but the transcribing is the task that slows everything down, and I really want to get them out of the envelopes and scanned.