I received the following email today: I am preparing a thesis … I need to conduct the widest possible poll, and it occurred to me that perhaps you could guide me toward an internet-based way in which this can be done easily. I have a ten-question questionnaire prepared, that I wish to have an random sample of the population respond to. I have no budget for this, so I hope you can suggest a way in which a good number of responses can be harvested using blogs or sites you may be aware of. Here is my response.
Posts Tagged ‘technology’:
Whether travelling to a seminar or conference, or just having a holiday, using a travel organizer can make the process simpler and easier. A good travel organizer keeps all your travel details (flights, hotels, car rentals, meetings, weather forecasts, etc.) organized and synced to whatever devices you use (two computers, an iPad and an iPhone in my case).
Gmail can be even more awesome with a few extensions (for either Chrome or Firefox).
Every researcher collects large numbers of papers, references, and notes, and it is important to have a good system to keep them all organized. For many years I had several thousand papers all numbered and stored in filing cabinets, with a JabRef database providing an index to them. These days, it’s much easier to have everything stored electronically, and so I have accumulated many pdfs (about 1300 so far) of published articles. But the problem of being able to find something fast is still important. Mendeley is a free software tool for managing your reference database. It actually solves many problems simultanéously and is likely to become an important part of how I work.
It would be nice to have a place to share ideas, links, comments in a very informal way with others involved in research in statistical methodology and data science. CrossValidated.com is great for specific questions, but is not suitable for commenting on papers or sharing ideas and links.
I’ve extolled the wonders of Dropbox before. It is truly wondrous software, that synchronizes my computers, provides a complete online backup of all my files, allows access to all my files from any device connected to the internet, provides a simple way to share documents, allows me to roll back to previous versions of a file, and more. All done seamlessly and smoothly in the background.
Every couple of years, a new technology has a big impact on how I work. Gmail was one. My iPhone was another. And I rank Dropbox in the same category. I get three huge benefits in using Dropbox: All my files are backed up online. The house can burn down and I know I can still get my files. Also, if I’m away from my desktop or laptop, I can still access my files on my iPhone. Online backup is the only sensible backup strategy. My two main computers are kept in sync. When I finish work in my uni office, I can go home knowing that everything I’ve done during the day will be already on my home PC when I arrive home. And when I go to my uni office, everything I’ve done on my home PC will already be on my uni PC when I get to work. I never have to think about what files I will need; they will all be there. Dropbox provides a simple version control system. Other people use services like github and bazaar, but I find them far more complicated than I need. When I edit or delete files, Dropbox keeps previous versions in case I wish to restore them (up to 30 days normally, but forever if you pay a bit more).
Your best ideas don’t necessarily come while sitting at your computer ready to type. They might come while playing sport, taking a shower, lying in bed, or enjoying dinner at a restaurant. So you always need something to write on to capture the ideas before they float away. For about twenty years I carried a little spiral notepad and pen just for this purpose. When iPods became popular, I named my notepad my “iPad”. Then Apple stole my brand name! Although they were low-tech, my iPads were extremely efficient and functional. In an interesting parody, you can now get a real notepad that looks like an iPad or iPhone! (Click on the image below for more information.) However, I’ve sold out to Apple and use an iPhone, so it makes sense to keep my notes on the iPhone. But the native notepad app is not so useful because it doesn’t sync with my computer. I’d like to jot down some ideas and then have them available on my PC without any re-typing. The native iPhone notepad app does sync with MS Outlook but who wants to use that when there is gmail? I’ve tried about half-a-dozen note taking apps with syncing capabilities and have deleted most of them
I recommend Gmail to everyone who asks, and many who don’t, as it is far superior to every other email platform around. But being paranoid, I don’t like all that valuable email in someone else’s hands. What if Google goes bust one day? Or the Australian government’s internet filter stops gmail? Or I move to China? So I need a local backup just in case. I also need the backup to be painless and not require much attention. The solution is Thunderbird, but there is a bit of setting up to do at first, then you can sit back and let it do its work. The instructions are here. You need to follow them — simply setting up Thunderbird to access your gmail is not enough as Thunderbird won’t download your mail for local storage by default. Once you’ve set up Thunderbird to download everything, all you need to do is open Thunderbird every few weeks and leave it to do it’s stuff. If that’s too much work, you can always have Thunderbird open automatically at start up but stay minimized to the tray.
I love my iPhone and I thought it might be helpful to others who use iPhones to list the top 10 apps that I find useful for research. Gmail. It is easy to sync the native iPhone email app with your gmail account and this works pretty well for most purposes. But if you want to search more than the last 50 messages, or you want to see the whole conversation, it is also helpful to have the app from Google. See http://www.google.com/mobile/mail/ Google sync. It is also very helpful to sync your iPhone calendar with Google calendar, and the iPhone contacts with Google contacts. Some instructions are given here. (This is not an app, but a suggestion for how to use the contacts and calendar apps more effectively.) While we’re discussing all things Google, reading research blogs is becoming an important part of my day and having a good app for that is important. The web app from Google itself is pretty good, but it has no facility for reading offline. For that, you’ll need a native app with syncing to Google Reader. I’m using Byline. I use my iPhone as a notepad and I like to have my notes available on my computer as well.