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Tag: blogging

Who am I writing for?

I want to write.

I want to tell my story, help others, create knowledge, learn, grow, and everything else that one can do. I want to do it all - and writing is necessary for this. Therefore, I want to write.

The advice I have always been given (or, more accurately, have read) is to just write. Write anything that you want, but just keep writing and do so regularly. I'm not even going to find attributions for this because I think it may even be common knowledge by this point. Another bit of common advice is to know one's audience. (Kurt Vonnegut gives some advice for writing short stories, and many other authors have spoken or written on the subject.)

Well, who exactly is my audience? This website is a blog - my blog - and I write whatever I want. The name at the top isn't a cutesy title derived from a statistics or education term; it is my name. My audience is me. I'm writing to myself because I want to remember this time in my life. I want to remember the joy and pain, the triumphs and defeats of doctoral school (hopefully heavier on the joy/triumph than pain/defeat).

But I'm not solipsistic. I also have a 'real' audience in mind. It is fragmented, but it is still my intended reader. The groups I imagine comprising my audience are:

  • Graduate students (or soon-to-be graduate students) - We will undoubtedly share many similar experiences, and camaraderie (even if virtual) is a Good Thing.
  • Anyone at UF - I sometimes post things that are related to Gainesville and UF, and these might be good resources for anyone involved with UF (undergrads, grads, staff, faculty, etc.).
  • People interested in statistics education - Statistics education is what I'm studying, and I'll be posting things related to it pretty much for as long as this blog is around. This includes both researchers and teachers of statistics. Hopefully this audience will grow over time.
  • People interested in statistics/data - I attended statistics graduate school for two years because I love statistics - I just happen to love the educational aspects of it more. I still love data, graphs, R, analysis, visualization, etc. and will post on these things from time to time.
  • People searching the web for individual examples of statistical things - I get a good number of hits from people searching for misleading graphs in the news, and I'll try to keep posting things that people are looking for. This is an audience that I wasn't intending to have, but will try to be a good steward of.
  • People searching the web for specific computer issues - I know how frustrating it is when hardware or software goes awry, so whenever I have issues (or find what I consider a particularly good solution for a problem/task) I'll post it. The more quality explanations for problems the better.

So that's who I'm writing to. If you are a member of one of the above groups, what would you like to see more of? If you are not, do you still view yourself as my audience? Respond in the comments and we'll get a dialogue going!

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Statistics Education and Wikipedia

The summer before my freshman year of college I discovered Wikipedia. I had known about and used it for some time before (I thought the list of events, births, deaths, etc. for each day was both novel and fascinating), but I really discovered it through finally editing and contributing. Photographs, copy editing, mundane tasks. I performed them all and then some. What I did not do, however, was contribute meaningful content in the form of articles (new articles or expansions of existing ones). Once college began, the flurry of editing I had done stopped. A typo here, a broken link there, but I was no longer considered myself an editor of Wikipedia.

What I did still do was use Wikipedia (as so many millions of others do). For everything from linguistics to parts of the automobile, Wikipedia remained in my life. Of course, one should not cite Wikipedia, but it was a fantastic place to get a quick, broad overview of a topic and to find more search terms to use. When I tried this same technique with concepts in my new field (Statistics Education for those of you just tuning in), Wikipedia began to turn up empty. When it didn't turn up empty, the articles related to statistics and education (usually separate) were rarely adequate. I decided to do something about it.

Now, I haven't done much yet (in the grand scheme of things), but I am actively contributing to Wikipedia again. Some stuff has changed since 2006, but not all that much. I've even met a fine chap who goes by the name of Statistisfactions that is also pursuing Statistics Education and has similar interests to me! Oh, Wikipedia. (He also runs a pretty neat blog that I had discovered independently of his Wikipedia user page, so that is worth checking out.)

Right now, there isn't much to show for 'it all,' but there is plenty of time. I view editing Wikipedia as engaging in the Scholarship of Service (from Boyer's Domains of Scholarship, a model that my department adopted some years back). Wikipedia's power to inform the public and possibly shape discussions is tremendous, and I don't want to sit by idly while others write the story of Statistics Education. (Of course, avoiding conflicts of interest, self-promotion, and other related issues that arise from writing about one's own field is on my mind. I don't think it is that big of an issue for the time being.)

A few final notes on a long overdue post: I'm trying to be productive while procrastinating this year, and I think I can do a lot worse than watching TED talks, editing Wikipedia, and doing this blog. Also, hello to the 130 visitors this website had on Valentine's Day from Palo Alto. Anyone care to share why I was so popular then? (I only had 151 visitors total that day, and that is an order of magnitude more than I usually have.)

 

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Highlighting source code in posts

In an earlier post I had mentioned that I didn't know how to highlight source code in blog posts (syntax highlighting) or even offset code with a monospace font/typeface. Apparently, this is a feature of WordPress.com that I didn't know about, and is available as a plugin called SyntaxHighlighter Evolved for WordPress.org. I installed it, and it seems to do what I want. It supports a variety of languages, but not all that I use (for instance R is supported but not SAS). I'll keep my eyes open for a different plugin, but this works for now.

Of course, if one doesn't want or care about the syntax highlighting, then <pre> and <code> tags should suffice. A useful post from StackOverflow concerning some subtleties of the tags is here.

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Moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org

Because my new department doesn't provide web hosting in the same way that my old department did (and does), I decide to make use of a hosting I bought last year. Back in 2011 Hostable.com offered three years of unlimited hosting for $0.99. I caved and signed up, but haven't used it yet.

Hostable.com uses cPanel, an apparently popular website manager. It seems simple enough to use, and installing WordPress.org (the open source platform for blogging that many sites including WordPress.com use) was a breeze. Importing and Exporting my WordPress.com site was also easy. I picked a new theme (Catch Box), and tweaked a few settings (display name, permanent links, etc.). Nothing fancy.

Some things I did change were making the Pages based on "Disable Sidebar Template" and instead of "Default Template" (using the Screen Options, Discussion Checkbox) disabling comments on the pages. Also, pages are ordered using numbers that are all defaulted to 0. Quick Edit from the All Pages... page is the way to go for this.

Oh, don't change the WordPress URL and Site URL options if you don't know what they do. I did, and broke the site. I ended up uninstalling and reinstalling, which went quickly. Also, make backups when things are working.

Moving on, I updated the DNS servers at GoDaddy.com (where I bought my domain name) to point to Hostable's (ns1.hostable.com, ns2.hostable.com) and used the "Add on domains" option in cPanel. Now, douglaswhitaker.com redirects here. Changing the WordPress Address (URL) option in the settings page to http://douglaswhitaker.com and... nope, that doesn't work yet. Apparently Site URL had to change, too. Either way, it's working now. So, yeah. New website. Updates coming soon. Maybe.

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Begin first blog entry #17.

I'm not even sure that was hyperbole. I've tried and failed at starting blogs before, but this time something has changed: I actually have something about which I wish to blog.

Tomorrow is orientation for the School of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education at UF. My new home. In less than a week I formally begin the pursuit of a Ph.D., and I would like to document it. The first two years of grad school were extremely challenging, and I partially regret having no documentation of the journey. Moreover, I've been noticing discernible changes in my attitude toward life and key aspects thereof. For lack of a better term, I think I'm really growing up in a substantive way. Eventually, I would like to have this blog transform into more of a statistics education blog, but that's down the road.

To recap, this blog will include:

  • Graduate school things (anecdotes, key events, milestones, etc.)
  • My professional progress
  • Things which I find relevant to my academic life (software workarounds, fixes, etc. - more for my future reference than anything)
  • Experiences with growing up (but in a fact driven way)
  • Statistics education postings (examples, data, etc.)

This blog will NOT include:

  • Pictures of my food
  • Where I am 24/7
  • Political/religious ideology/rants
  • Things of a solely personal nature
  • What pleasure books I'm reading

If I stick with this blog (I will! I will!) the creation of another blog for the aforementioned exclusions might be in order.

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