Saturday, 31 December 2016

Thing 15: Collaboration tools


Of the three tools described in the post, Evernote is the only one with which I was unfamiliar.  I have taken it for a spin, listing the roads one would use for a car journey from a Yorkshire place to a Berkshire place while adopting a selective approach to motorways. But I, like Librarian at Heart, know the value of "the very low-tech but aesthetically pleasing option of an actual paper and pen notebook".  I can whip out a notebook and pen quicker than I can do the login(s) necessary for reaching the Evernote app.  The notebook, being a stage removed from the online world, is a little bit more secure.  The "elephants graveyard of notes I can’t understand anymore" recognised by Research abc would, in a notebook, be likely to have at least the virtue of chronological order.

I hope my view does not sound too much like the claim, in a 1990s spoof, that undesirable results from a mythical Microsoft product were "a feature not a bug".

I will continue trying with Evernote and see if I get to like it any better.


I told of my enthusiasm for Doodle in the 2010 round of 23things.  I continue to use it today.  Doodle is not to be blamed for the user error of forgetting that anything requiring a Doodle poll probably needs more than a Doodle poll: a poll to set up a meeting will not necessarily ensure the meeting takes place, and is not a major action on the issue behind the meeting.

Google Drive

I use Google Drive extensively.  It is very helpful for the planning committee of an event, allowing details of venue &c to be circulated rapidly and acquire modifications and comments.  I'm not sure of the best answer to the data-protection questions that Google Drive can present.  Is there a place where private individuals can store things like a Christmas card list or address book online?

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Thing 14: Sourcing and using good images

Write a blogpost about reusing images and what you have done in the past 

I found myself nodding in agreement with Researchabc and Thelibrarianerrant, both of whom owned to a measure of restraint in the use of images.  I excuse my own lack of pictures, when necessary, by reference to television jokes about the Lord Privy Seal.

I have used images in the Haddon Library's PowerPoints for presentations at induction time and in the Alumni Festival.  I'm not posting these, as they would make no sense without the accompanying spoken text, but I can say that I've paid due respect to copyright, and enjoyed searching Flickr's Creative Commons area for images to use.

Find a really good picture that is shareable and embed it in your blogpost with appropriate credit

New Bridge by Cycling Man  CC BY-NC-ND
The picture shows Christchurch Bridge in Reading.  I haven't yet photographed this bridge myself, or cycled over it, but I have kinsfolk in Reading, and probably will do those things.

Write about how you found using the tools to find images and crediting the image itself

My exploration of the sites recommended in the blog post was unsystematic, with searches at different times for images of fire, demolition, rivers, cathedrals, and bears.  The picture I eventually chose for this blog was from none of those searches: I returned to the familiar Flickr Creative Commons area and looked for that specific bridge, a kind of substitute for pedalling a bike over it.

I hope the licence is correctly made.  It's not my first use of a CC licence, but as this post is an exercise, I looked at Creative Commons' own site for i's to dot and t's to cross, and believe I have done so.

Exploring the blog post's other recommendations was fun. I expect to use Pixabay, Unsplash, Morguefile, and Photopin again, next time I'm looking for pictures in earnest, and I may recommend them to friends making posters and church magazines.  I'm afraid I still can't see how to search Travel Coffee Book and New Old Stock, and am less likely to revisit them therefore.  I failed also with HaikuDeck; but PowerPoint, Open Office Impress, SlideShare and Creative Commons will between them probably do me what HaikuDeck would have done.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Thing 13: Creative Commons

My main use of Creative Commons licences, up to now, has been with regard to other people's work. For the 2011 round of 23 Things, I made the experiment of stitching a CC BY-NC-SA logo to a piece of artwork I embedded in my blog.  I expected then that I would be making more extensive use of such logos on artwork copied in the Haddon Library blog, but in fact I have not yet done anything of the kind.

For Alumni Festival presentations at the Haddon Library, however, I've made a point of seeking images first in the Creative Commons area of Flickr.  The reproduction has the CC keyboarded into the credits, even if the logo has been lacking.  And when readers have asked for images they can reproduce, Flickr CC is where I refer them.

I'm glad that the posts by other participants in 23 Research Things reflect a similar diffidence -- gladder still that the view is, for so many of them, "CC is great and now I've looked at it properly I'll use it more."  That's more or less what I said in 2011, I know, and I haven't used CC all that much more since then.  But I'm having to prove myself in a lot of areas at the moment, and greater mastery of CC licensing is clearly one that's worth it.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Thing 12: Presenting and sharing

The post for Thing 12 offers some helpful thoughts on presentation, independently of any electronic aids: think what exactly you're seeking to put across, who you're hoping to put it across to, what's the best structure for your message.  Indeed.  Those things are far more important than electronic aids, and may even lead you to decide that a given presentation should be done without electronic aids.  I follow public-speaking guru Max Atkinson on Twitter having first come across him, back in 2009, strongly disrecommending PowerPoint for facilitating presentation without skill.

I note that Max Atkinson's blog hasn't covered PowerPoint since 2011.  Has his influence led to public speakers being more skillful and restrained in their use of this tool?  It's only just occurred to me to ask on Twitter if people have noticed any such trend, and I have not set the Twitterverse ablaze thereby.

My subjective impression is that people are not using PowerPoint any less.  For the skill, I suppose I had better offer comparisons with my response to other media.  I can't recall a PowerPoint that frustrated me as much as an overhead projector presentation I remember from the 1980s (the presenter wrote her ideas on to the slides while speaking, and took each slide off before I had finished copying it into my notes).  But neither has a PowerPoint made me stand in the street and applaud (as a Carling Black Label ad once did, for its technique not its message) or moved me to tears (as an anti-drink-drive TV commercial once did, for everything).

My own offering is about washing up.  On my computer it has 5 slides, and on SlideShare, for some reason, slide 5 appears twice.  I'd better admit that I used Open Office Impress rather than PowerPoint, and perhaps there is some glitch between the open-source file and the other programs the upload led it through.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Thing 11: Communicating for free

The assignment this time is to nominate one YouTube video and one podcast and say why.

For a YouTube video, I propose the tour of Cambridge University's Social and Political Science Library, presented by Jenni Skinner. The SPS Library is a sibling of the library in which I work, and seeing what they could do, when they first loaded this video, inevitably gave me ideas.  In the Haddon, the ideas have so far come to nothing, but perhaps some day we might rise to the occasion.

For a podcast, I nominate a brief extract from David Hendy's documentary about BBC Radio 3: a recollection of continuity announcers Tom Crow and Patricia Hughes.  When they were active, I was in my teens, and much more drawn to radio than to television.  Podcasts are the 21st century's adaptation of that medium, and I can't think why I haven't explored them more.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Thing 10: Communicating complex ideas

I recognised much in the podcast for Thing 10.  I am married to a science journalist whose work is precisely about communicating research in field X to workers in field Y.  The part of my own life where I come closest to using such things is as an activist with Global Justice Now, often gathering signatures for petitions.

Yes, I know an activist isn't a researcher.

Glad to see the importance the podcast attaches to questions from the person one is communicating with.  I had once to write a piece about a part of the Haddon Library's collection with which I am not very familiar.  If you have experienced the symptoms of imposter syndrome at any time, you will have some idea how that felt.  I described the pain of this in a phone conversation with my brother.  He was most interested in the story of the collection, and plied me with questions.  When I'd answered several of these, he said: "Write down what you've told me, Aidan, and you've got your article."

It worked.  I have good sibs.

Another thing the podcast mentions is the elevator pitch.  An opportunity to practise that came recently, when a writers' group to which I belong solicited 50-word gobbets of individual news from members.  What do you think of mine?

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Thing 9: Alternative online communities for research

In their 23researchthings post this time, Georgina looks at Reddit, Wikipedia and GitHub.  I'd better leave GitHub out of the reckoning, as it is for sharing code, and I am not a coder.

Wikipedia I use every day, in the way Georgina and the other 23researchthings participants describe.  My experience as a Wikipedia editor is very slight, and dates from 2008, but it did happen.  I made some small modifications to the entry for the village in which I grew up, and described the experience in a poem. I can think of no instances since then where the urge to correct a Wikipedia entry has been so strong for me as to force such a use of time.  However, the ancillary parts of the entries -- the references, and the 'Talk', 'Contributions', and 'View history' links -- are of obvious use to research.

I don't think I'd looked Reddit before tackling this Thing.  I have now joined it, and posted my first question there.  The site is indeed very clunky, and I didn't like the fact that new members are not only expected to join subreddits (roughly equivalent to Twitter's lists), but even have a number of these subreddits assigned to them on arrival.

A couple of hours after posting, my question has drawn no attention.  Let me admit, however, that a shortened version of it has similarly drawn nothing on Twitter.  Present company will probably have seen me air the question before, in my coursework for Thing 5, and are statistically unlikely to have now the answers they didn't have then.

It may be that Reddit, like Twitter, will reveal its merits to me after a few months of inactive membership. Meanwhile, I can see the point of it, and may suggest it to others who don't mind a bit of untidiness when asking oddball questions.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Thing 8: & Researchgate

I use much as I use LinkedIn -- a means of tracking down library users whose contact details are fading from Cambridge University's corporate memory.  Both sites fulfil that purpose with far less distraction than Facebook; with perhaps the less distraction of the two, and I have the impression, not confirmed by a rigorous counting exercise, that many of the academics I've found there have not posted on the site for some years.

I have joined Researchgate on account of Kirsten's mention of its facility to request copies.  That might be useful, to Haddon Library users if not to me personally.  I may, in time, come to use Researchgate also for tracking people down, though its smaller membership makes that less likely.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Thing 7: LinkedIn

I have been a member of LinkedIn probably since 2011.  Following the 2010 23things, I blogged that I'd seen no reason to join the site.  I now have 169 connections, but I suspect I will never view this site with the same enthusiasm as Twitter.

For me, the best use of LinkedIn, as of, is for tracking people down and making contact with them -- a boon when acknowledging gifts to the Haddon Library from people who aren't based in Cambridge, or, conversely, seeking to levy fines from people who've left.

Following the promptings from 23 Research Things, I have polished up my LinkedIn profile, adding information mainly about my volunteering with AgeUK; joined an Open Access group which didn't seem to have the expected Cambridge people in it; and turned the activity alerts off.

Not the keenest endorsement, I know.  But keeping a sober profile on LinkedIn will be useful in sobering situations.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Thing 6: Creating new content

The course blog post points us in the direction of Storify, and .

Storify is one I have used already. I have made Storify collections for my musical, political and poetic interests, and indeed one on professional matters.  I have found Storify remarkably user-friendly.  It can't, of course, make amateur compilations look like the work of an experienced web designer, but it makes them presentable.  If I were more given to tweeting from work, I have no doubt that I would be Storifying from work as well. and I have experienced as a reader, and know them mainly by frustrations. has come my way via tweets that seemed interesting, but took an inordinate time to load. has likewise come my way via tweets; the tweets flagged up interesting material, but that material seemed inaccessible to me because I didn't know how to close a tab on my mobile's browser, and indeed thought the browser could have no more than one tab open at a time.

However, writing this post has spurred me to find out how to manage the browser's tabs.  Thus the frustration was not a fault of  And whilst I can't readily see myself finding a use for in any connection, I can say that exploring it has taught me something.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Thing 5: Twitter

I have been using Twitter enthusiastically since April 2009, not only from my own account but in tweeting for the Haddon Library, the Cambridge Philharmonic Society and Global Justice Cambridge.  What has changed since I blogged about Twitter in my coursework for those earlier rounds of 23things in 2010 and 2011?

Advanced search: this facility had dropped off my account, perhaps because of some Twitter re-setting.  I've now reinstated it, though I think in a slightly different form that requires me to open Twitter and search proactively rather than expect updates delivered to my email.  But the amount of material this search seems likely to retrieve is as small as I found it in 2010.

Twitter ban at work: in March 2010, I imposed a rule on myself that I should avoid Twitter at work when anything remained in my email inbox. I haven't had Inbox Zero since 2011.  My rule therefore now amounts, for practical purposes, to a requirement that I should not use Twitter at work.  I've kept to this pretty rigorously, and Twitterfeed continues to post to the Haddon Twitter stream from our blog.  Additionally, now, acknowledgment of some of the books we receive as gifts is made using Facebook and Twitter as well as email.

And what about Twitter's potential benefits to research?  It will do for sharing research once published, or semi-published: you can tweet links to journal articles, conference presentations and blog posts.  Searching Twitter will give some idea of what kinds of opinion are doing the rounds.

I did a few searches just now, to support amateur curiosity not research.  I wanted to find out if the inventor(s) of the 1935 Notificator, often likened to Twitter, had lived to see or support later developments in communications technology.  I wanted to know if other people were as much troubled by the sight of misplaced solicitude as I am.  I wanted to know if pre-emptive criticism, which I think we should all avoid, was a thing that troubled others.  I'll spare you blow-by-blow accounts of the search strategies I used, but I can say that I got no answer to the Notificator one, that tweets incorporating the phrase "misplaced solicitude" had been written by me alone, and that pre-emptive criticism is a thing.  Further research needed.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Thing 4: Pulling in information

In my blog post from the 2010 round of 23things, Thing 2 was to add the RSS feed for the 23things blog to our iGoogle page.  A couple of weeks later, participant @Skiddie2 recommended Google Reader as the way to keep up with all the blogs that the participants in 23things were making.  My own blog post admitted that RSS generically was something "I've always found less use for than I've felt was expected" but that "perhaps I'll find it necessary in order to keep up with everybody's cam23 blogging."  In the event, I have continued to find little use for RSS feeds generally, but Google Reader was absolutely fit for the purpose of following the blogs that other participants in 23things were writing.

I was not as devastated as some by the demise of Google Reader in 2013.  I had used it mainly for following my fellow 23things participants, and after the second run of 23things in 2011 that purpose was no longer there.  Google Reader was thus presenting me with lots of posts that were of less relevance to me.

This time round, I have signed up for Feedly, Zetoc and Pocket.

Feedly is fulfilling the same role for me that Google Reader did in 2010 and 2011: enabling me to keep up with the blogs of everyone else following this 23 Research Things programme. I tried clicking on those blogs' 'Follow' buttons.  Having done that for all of them at the end of an evening, I was a mite peeved to find that I would now need to set up a Wordpress account for most of the clicks to work. I called it a day there. Thing 4's exposition of Feedly was welcome.

Zetoc (and its rival JournalTOCs, which makes more of open access) are things I have recommended to Haddon users since I heard of them, and the users have been grateful.  The searches I set up for myself, be it admitted, expired in 2012.  I've now set up a new one, to help me keep track of publications about open access.

Pocket -- well, I've set my account up using borrowed computers, and have therefore not added the Pocket button to any browsers.  That may come.  Meanwhile, the first resource I have pocketed is the Scottish composer Chris Hutchings' page Choirs against racism.

Will Pocket come to displace Bitly as my grabber of choice?  Bitly has become pretty entrenched over the last 6-7 years.  I might come to see one-click pocketing as quicker than the string of clicks needed in creating a bitlink -- or I might see the string of clicks as a valuable slowing down.  Such things do exist.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Thing 3: Managing your online identity

I discovered in 1998, via an online search (AltaVista in those days, rather than Google) that I shared my name with a Canadian musician and writer.  Googling my name alone tends to bring up material about him rather than me, but a search for Aidan Baker Cambridge drew material that I recognized very well from my own life. The online directory told me there were 21 Aidan Bakers in the UK.

A search of showed that two sites I use fairly regularly -- LinkedIn and Patreon -- had been compromised.  I have changed my password on both.

Thing 1: Introduction to '23 research things'; Thing 2: Getting your blog started

This blog of mine was begun in 2010, when I took part in the Cambridge librarians' 23 things programme.  So in using it for my coursework in the 2016 '23 research things' programme, I'm taking it back to its roots.

What do I hope to get out of participation in '23 research things'? Not a nostalgic wallow in the joys of the first time round.  Firstness can never be recreated, by definition.  Instead, my hopes are these:

  • to update my knowledge of things I tried in 2010 and didn't adopt
  • to get a fresh perspective and fuller understanding of things I've used, with greater or lesser enthusiasm, since 2010
  • to expand my knowledge of things I really ought to have adopted by now, and make myself more useful

In 2011, a second Cambridge series of  '23 things' was aimed mainly at people who'd not done such a thing before, but some extra posts were included for participants who were veterans of the 2010 round.  I confined myself to those extras.  Time will tell whether, in 2016, I follow the entire course, or blog only about those things that are new to me.

Blogging reflectively will be quite an exercise.  I managed it in 2010 and 2011.  But my most reflective writing since then has been in the log I keep for my MCLIP revalidation, and that is not public.

Wish me luck in this balancing exercise!

Monday, 10 October 2016

Street collection

This was my entry in the competition for the 2017 desk diary published by Rhyme and Reason, a fundraising arm of Rennie Grove Hospice Care.  The theme was 'Magic and mystery'.  My contribution is based, with minimal poetic licence, on an encounter my wife Clare had while collecting house-to-house for the charity Christian Aid.


The street's sunny side --
evens – housed one who opened
an odd-side door.
His reason for not giving
was his distrust of money.

His volunteer work
had ended when volunteers
fundraising called him.
"Data protection", I said.
He'd fit a children's story:

all those oddities, 
and he had a Gandalf beard.
Would you like to try?
Neither copyright nor -left
stops your riffs on an idea.

Money from the street
a magically large sum?
Something's redemption?
His peace with those volunteers?
I don't write for kids myself....

As in previous years, my poem won no prizes, but was among those published in the diary. £5 via this link.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

70 + 3

This was written in response to Radio 3's appeal to listeners for 3-line poems, to be read out on National Poetry Day in honour of the station's 70th anniversary.  I sent it to them via Twitter.  My poem wasn't read out, so far as I know, and the tweet has had a remarkably low number of. views.  However, the tweet amounted to publication, so the poem is now ineligible for entry in most competitions; it earns its place in this blog.  It's another recollection of my teenage mania for listening to foreign radio stations.

70 + 3

Learnt in my teens, the 1970s: 
short-wavers called good wishes 73s. 
At 70, 3, receive all mine of these.

Saturday, 24 September 2016



Camera, action.
Steep climb, slip, grasp stakes, barbed wire –
won't do that again.

Level streamside path,
climb, the half woods' length ridgeway,
nearing Byton now.

But we're going north,
shadows say, and waymarks gone,
no landmark certain,

no mobile signal.
Stumble on that steepest climb
we'd not do again.

Slippery, barbed wire
again down, walk unfinished;

back to start point. Wrap.

This poem was written for a project from 26 Characters, as were two pieces by me in 2015: 'Kirkconnel's bard' and 'The hang of the stones'.  The 26 Steps project behind the present poem was edited by Sandy Wilkie and Michelle Nicol.

26 Steps marks a hundred years since the publication of John Buchan's novel The thirty-nine steps.  The project identified 26 short walks in the UK between places whose names began with alphabetically adjacent letters.  I landed the walk from A to B, Aymestrey to Byton, a stretch of the Mortimer Trail.  Clare and I did this walk, partially, on Saturday 16 April 2016.  

It had its pains.  I take great pride in map-reading, and errors such as that described here are rare.  Also, since 1997, my feet have been happier cycling than walking; I took diminishing pleasure in a trek whose length was eventually some 12 miles.  But the weekend also led to my first visit to Tewkesbury Abbey, and lunch in Tewkesbury with friends and kin.  And some good tweeting from the train on the way home. 

The project has its own posting of 'Aymestrey to Byton', complete with photograph and sketch map.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Two haiku

These are a fruit of Haiku Poetry Day 2016: a response, during a long train journey, to stimuli received via Twitter.

Firstly, one about QR codes -- those things like crossword puzzles that you see on some notices or packages.  My take on them, from the 23things course I pursued in 2011, is at . Some maintain that the life of this technology is already limited, but you can follow for a story about the codes' use on gravestones.  My response was:

QR codes to stay 

on, enshrined by enshrining, 

half a life longer?

And then there was this. takes you to photographs of a royal train arriving at Brecon, in South Wales, in 1955.  Brecon Station closed many years ago.  One afternoon in 1975 or 1976 (I've checked both diaries; the incident isn't mentioned in either), on a family holiday in Brecon, my parents, my sibs and I mistook the disused railway track, as shown on the map, for a footpath, and followed it.  Despite that foundational map-reading error, we made it back to where we were staying.

20 years apart:

royal train, Brecon Station; 

brambles, barbs, no path.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Clare and the allness of all things


O little rondure, swimming at the gym,
your husband's not Walt Whitman so this image pleases him.

That couplet was written in 2001, taking its cue from Walt Whitman's 'The explorers' -- one of several Whitman poems set by Ralph Vaughan Williams in his Sea symphony.  My couplet's only claim to publication before this blog post is that I tweeted it on Sunday 20 March 2016.  I was led to do so partly by the fact that the Cambridge Philharmonic Society, in which I sing tenor, is preparing a performance of the Sea symphony, as it was when I wrote the poem.  Part of the score cover appears in the photograph above.

Clare, as many readers of the blog may know, is my wife Dr Clare Sansom.  The brooch in the picture is by Jane Bower, another Cambridge Philharmonic singer, and was made to commission as my valentine to Clare in 2002.

"The allness of all things" is my phrase for one of Whitman's favourite themes.  A classic instance is another Whitman poem in the Sea symphony, 'On the beach at night alone'.  In some moods one might say that the theme is instantly self-exhausting, but Vaughan Williams' setting of Whitman's texts, here and elsewhere, is very fine.

The Cambridge Phil's performance of the Sea symphony will be at 19:30 on Saturday 9 July in Ely Cathedral. 

Friday, 19 February 2016

Solids and gaps


(National Galleries of Scotland, )

The bridge, though in no Bible, often makes
a Christian symbol, as in pontifex.

Painting the Forth Bridge, though outfacted, still
means the done staying not done that always will.

Photographing the Forth Bridge in stereo,
when the bridge had had thirteen years' existence,
conjures? allows? depicts? recreates? -- though

monochrome, steel -- a looking in the distance.

The above poem was written early in 2010 for the 'Inspired? Get writing!' competition organised by the National Galleries of Scotland.  Entrants were invited to write poems relating to art works in those galleries.  I did my exploration online.  The image I picked on was a stereoscopic photograph of the Forth Bridge, taken in 1896.  Follow the link in the title note to see it and the NGS notes on it.

The poem has now found publication in StAnza's Poetry Map of Scotland, and, for the duration of the StAnza Poetry Festival, in shop and business windows around St Andrews.  I had better say that StAnza was drawn to my attention by music librarian Karen McAulay.

Some readers will have heard me declaim a poem about another Scottish estuarine bridge, at various times in the last forty years.  The Poetry Map of Scotland gives the Tay Bridge a modern Scots poem by Fran Baillie, who accords William McGonagall his rightful place, and nothing more, with a name-check in the opening line.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

The hang of the stones


The archaeologist, seeing the child brought here  for healing, sadly remembered the excavated child sacrifice. “Not cast in stone,” people say. They muddle casting the first stone and commandments cut in stone. Stonehenge was thirteen centuries in building, every change perhaps an altered purpose. And this was long before the Bible retold kings, rebounded transgression lines, gave new fulfillings of the law.

This, like 'Kirkconnel's bard', was my contribution to a project from 26 Characters26 Postcodes asked each participant to produce a 62-word composition inspire by the address corresponding to a specified postcode.  My postcode was SP4 7DE; the corresponding place was Stonehenge.

The rest of the creative journey is described on the project's post, which went live on 19 December 2015.