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!

Books vs. Blogs

I’m not sure whether this is a contribution to the #wbhyp blog parade of de.hypotheses (see Wissenschaftsbloggen: zurück in die Zukunft – ein Aufruf zur Blogparade), but it does relate to some of the topics suggested in the call, such as “personal assessments of academic blogging” or “opinions on the recognition of academic blogs.”

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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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Yet Another Publication List?

Cerstin Mahlow recently had a very good blog post on storing your publication list online with services such as ResearchGate, Mendeley, or Academia.edu. Cerstin expressed a preference for CiteULike, and I agree with her on that, and I also agree with the rest of her post. I’d like to add a few thoughts of my own.

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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.

tranScriptorium

This is just a brief project note:

tranScriptorium is an EU-funded (FP 7 STReP) project, which aims to “develop innovative, efficient and cost-effective solutions for the indexing, search and full transcription of historical handwritten document images, using modern, holistic Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) technology” (from the Web site).

The tranScriptorium project is scheduled to run from January 1, 2013 until December 31, 2015. The project consortium consists of the Universitat Politècnica de València (Spain), the University of Innsbruck (Austria), the National Center for Scientific Research “Demokritos” (Greece), University College London (UK), the Institute for Dutch Lexicology (Netherlands), and the University London Computer Centre (UK). Targeted languages are Spanish, German, English, and Dutch; the project Web site does not state if tranScriptorium focuses on a specific period or a particular type of document.