About Michael Piotrowski

Computational linguist, computer scientist, professor for digital humanities at the Université de Lausanne.

A Live Publication List For My Web Site

The main problem with Twitter is that everything you post there is publicly visible. Oh, wait—are you saying that’s intentional? Well, then. Anne Baillot recently mentioned on Twitter she’s numbering her publication list by hand. With Word.

This is, of course, wrong, and at some point I may actually blog about better ways. However, her post also reminded me that I’m not quite perfect myself, as don’t have a list of publications on my Web site—only a link to my list of publications on CiteULike. In principle, that would do the job, but it’s not quite optimal, because it requires readers to follow a link to get at the information. It would be much nicer to have the list of publications right on my own Web site—but of course without requiring any additional work to keep it current.

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Writing for Hypotheses in Org-mode

A fact that should perhaps be emphasized when promulgating academic blogging is: it’s not for everyone. If you can regularly write a sparkling essay in half an hour, say, during your commute or your lunch break, and you enjoy doing it—then it’s definitely for you. If, on the other hand, the only thing that’s regular about your writing is writer’s block, then you should feel free to either blog for therapeutic reasons—or to leave it. Well, and then there are some people who don’t have a choice because they somehow managed to win an award that contractually requires them to blog.

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Another Enthusiastic Review of Natural Language Processing for Historical Texts

I’d like to (belatedly) point you to another review of my book Natural Language Processing for Historical Texts. The review by Laurent Romary appeared in Computational Linguistics 40:1, 231–232, and I was very happy to find that Laurent considers the book a “compendium of information that […] has been heavily awaited by many scholars having to deal with corpora of historical texts” and that it “conveys a wealth of information on the various aspects where recent developments in language technology may help digital humanities projects to be aware of the current state of the art in the field.”

I think you could call this a recommendation, so go get the book now!

A Small Exercise in Computer Archeology

My first computer was an Atari 1040STF, which I used until about 1995, when I replaced it with an HP 715/50 workstation. I put the Atari away in the attic, where it remained for the last 18 years.

While staying with my parents over Christmas, I decided to finally get it out and determine whether it would still work (and thus whether to keep it or dispose of it), and to try and get the data off its hard disk. There wasn’t anything terribly important on the hard disk—otherwise I would have done this earlier—, so there wasn’t really anything at stakes, but I thought it might be an interesting exercise in computer archeology.

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A Review of Natural Language Processing for Historical Texts

LINGUIST List issue 25.292 features a review of my book Natural Language Processing for Historical Texts by Bev Thurber. I was very happy to read that she thinks that the book is “a good overview of recent progress and problems in applying techniques from NLP to historical texts” and that it “provides a valuable introduction to the field for humanists who want an overview of how NLP techniques have been used with historical texts and what promise NLP holds for the future.”

Read the full review on LINGUIST List.

Digital Humanities Defined

As I’m writing this, I’m on my way back from the conference “(Digital) Humanities Revisited – Challenges and Opportunities in the Digital Age,” which was organized by the Volkswagen Foundation and which took place from December 5 to 7, 2013 in Herrenhausen Palace in Hannover.

Organization and catering were excellent, Herrenhausen Palace is a perfect conference venue, the program was excellent, and I got to meet many great colleagues. There is one thing, however, that increasingly irritates me. It doesn’t have anything to do with this conference, but it is rather a characteristic of the field called “digital humanities.”

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Timeo Danaos… Or: Why I’m Wary of Google Docs

During the last couple of weeks I had to use Google Docs quite heavily in order to work on a large, collaborative document. Without any doubt, Google Docs is a convenient platform for collaborative work, offering collaborative real-time, browser-based, WYSIWYG editing for various types of documents. However, the experience was not a good one, as the 150-page document clearly tested the limits of Google Docs. Loading the document was slow; navigating even more so. I wasted a lot of time trying to export the document as PDF file; sometimes it worked, but most of the time, I could only download an empty file, regardless of whether I used Safari or Google’s own Chrome browser. For editing, however, Chrome eventually turned out to be required, and I was forced to use it, even though I have serious issues with Chrome.

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VARD 2.5 Released

Another short project note: Last week, Alistair Baron released a new version (2.5) of VARD. VARD is one of the most popular programs for normalizing or modernizing historical texts prior to linguistic analysis.

The VARD Web site has more information.