Show and Tell — 29 October, 2018

Web discoveries for researchers, students and writers

Research Tools

‎Case Medical Research | the App Store

I intend to do this justice by covering it in more detail. In the meantime, Case uses machine learning to track medical research. Technically it is aimed at research beyond my own wheelhouse, but I have personal reasons for keeping up with specialist medical research so I have had cause to play around with the app. It is still developing, but the underlying technology is interesting and the app is very promising. If you are doing research in this area, Case is a worthy addition to your workflow.

Turn the Web Into a Database | Mixnode

An interesting idea, and a potentially excellent research tool for analysing data from the web. You can get free credits to check it out, before you start blowing your funding.

Transcribe Interviews | oTranscribe

Here's something I had forgotten about. A self-contained, and feature rich web app for transcription. It works pretty well for transcription on the fly, but don’t get clearing your browser cache or your work is hosed.

Markdown Tools

Zettlr | Home

Yet another Markdown editor, this time with a specific focus on academic writing. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if this is necessary given the excellent tools already out there.  For academic writing in markdown, I recommend the powerful MultiMarkdown Composer 1. Still, Zettlr might suit others who don’t mind Electron apps quite so much.

HackMD | Collaborative markdown notes

I wasn’t aware of this one until a fellow traveller brought it to my attention. It looks a little different to the now defunct Editorially, but one can only hope this will last longer than that platform did.  I am yet to properly put it through its paces,  but I'm looking forward to doing just that.

Draft | Write Better

While we are on the topic, Draft has been my preferred option for online Markdown collaboration. If you can actually convince another academic to collaborate in earnest using Markdown, Draft is free to use. Although, it is still very basic.  Penflip, is another option, or if you want something with client apps, Quip is probably the best option.

Create a Webpage With Just Markdown | Oscarmorrison/md-Page

If you want to create a simple online bio without coding or dealing with a database, this ought to work.

Web Tech

GitHub Actions | GitHub

Github is opening the beta for their new workflow automation platform. More evidence that Microsoft sees a move toward open collaborative systems as profitable.

Hello P5.js Web Editor! | Processing Foundation

This looks like a lot of fun. P5.js is an online editor for learning to code in a visual way. It helps students learn JavaScript, HTML, and CSS by creating graphics with code.

Photo by henry perks on Unsplash

  1. Also writing by an academic

Show and Tell — 8 October, 2018

Collected links for academics, students, and other nerds

Markdown Converter | OU Libraries Tools

I shared my Docverter Workflow recently. When I have the time, I will update it with a Stylesheet. In the meantime, here is a web service using Pandoc that has a few different styles for converting Markdown documents

Times Newer Roman Is a Sneaky Font Designed to Make Your Essays Look Longer | the Verge

File this under amusing. I’m not advocating you use it. In fact, it’s a shame to think of classes so boring the inspiration can’t be found to write the minimum. My problem was always the opposite, how to keep under the word limit.

Sans Forgetica | RMIT

Apparently it's fun with fonts week. I find this more interesting. It is designed to help you remember by making you work at reading your notes. Maybe an antidote to handwriting being the best cognitive medium for notes? Come to think of it, looking at my handwriting, illegibility may always have been the real advantage.

Firefox Monitor | Mozilla

 1Password  runs a service called  watchtower, which is built in to their apps. A basic version is available from their website, but the public version will only scan for affected sites, and not email address. This, from Mozilla, is more like a proactive version of Have I Been Pwnded. Mozilla's contribution to privacy and security has to be admired, the improvements to Firefox are making it more an more attractive give the developments with Chrome,  and Apple's decision to cash in on user security.

Why I'm Done With Chrome | a Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering

Speaking of Chrome,  here's Google again. It appears the time has come to delete Chrome. Sadly, like so many of these things that will be easier said than done

Bypass ‘Safari no Longer Supports Unsafe Extensions’ in Macos Mojave | George Garside

As for Safari, not that long ago I praised its new security features. Unfortunately, for all its convenience I'm now looking at the browser sideways. Say what you like about Apple's commitment to user security, but they are not without choices in how they enact it. If you have extensions you already trust but no longer work, workarounds are available. About that convenience….

Troy Hunt: Mmm… Pi-Hole…

If you want a more nuanced approach for controlling ads, and you enjoy tinkering with Raspberry Pi, this could be for you. Incidentally, there are ways to do something similar on some routers (such as the Synology), or a blunt force approach can be to edit your hosts file.

How to Build a Low Tech Website | Low Tech Mag

Another one for the tinkerers, I fancy this idea for a class project.

A Visualized History of Philosophy

More fun with web design and philosophy. This is an interactive, summarised and visualised history of philosophy. I will spare you the comments on auspicious absentees, or indeed on the philosophical decisions involved in drawing lines between names.  Although, for philosophy nerds that will be half the fun. Enjoy.

 

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Show and Tell — 13 September, 2018

An almost regular collection of useful links for students, academics and other nerds.

Show And Tell Appademic Web Links

 

Markdown, Pandoc and Make

This is pretty neat. A navigable demonstration of nerdy research tools. It’s essential a fancy archive of bookmarks put together as a presentation.

Markdown Here

Some forgotten moment of madness led me back to Apple Mail, but as always happens, I’m starting to tire of it. This extension isn’t about to solve my troubles, but if you deal with your email from the browser, or with Thunderbird it might help yours.

Python Environment in Web Browser| PyPy.js

One of my aims for this year is to learn to code with Python. To be fair, I’ve barely even started yet. I can think of a few use cases for this. Sure on iOS you have Pythonista, but sometimes all you have is a web browser.

Think Julia | How to Think Like a Computer Scientist

Even if your aims are modest. Perhaps you want to do a little Workflow automation, or learn some scripting. The first challenge is always conceptual. This is the kind of resource that can help get you started.

Markx

This project hasn’t been updated in a very long time, so I’m surprised to say it still works as advertised. If you’re unsure about markdown and want to play around, this is ideal. I have forked the project to see if I can’t do something with it. No promises though, time is not exactly abundant.

ZoteroBib | Zotero

There are any number of ways to get formatted references quickly online, but as a service, Zotero stands out for me. It is a wonderfully open project that enables all kinds of tinkering. Zoterobib is not new, but there may be readers who will find it useful for creating a bibliography on the fly. Just don't go clearing your browser cache while you're building one.

Photo by Christophe Hautier on Unsplash

Giveaway: Notebooks iOS for Writing and Research

best note taking app for study

For more detailed content on Notebooks:


Notebooks Giveaway *

I have spent more trying out note taking apps that I would like to admit. You could say I’m picky. Through all the trialing and testing, one app stands out for combining almost everything I want in a note taking app with a number of features I hadn’t even thought of. That app is Notebooks. The more I use it, the more I am convinced Notebooks is the best note taking app for study, research and academic work.

My enthusiasm for Notebooks is its own reward, so it’s a huge bonus to have that enthusiasm met with generosity. The developer of Notebooks, Alfons Schmid, is kindly offering readers of The Appademic the chance to pick up one of ten free copies of Notebooks for iOS.

Notebooks Best Note Taking App For Study
Notebooks has the ability to view and edit two documents at once

Aside from being an excellent general purpose notebook, Notebooks has a host of features uniquely suited to academic work and study — or any kind of research for that matter. I recently highlighted the way I use Notebooks’ task management, and URL scheme features to collect material, and organise reading lists. I have a more detailed review on the way, which will include more worklows that make use of Notebooks' unique features. In the meantime, if you are unfamiliar with the app here are some of the highlights.

  • Markdown support
  • Deep URL scheme automation
  • Internal linking for wiki notes or zettelkasten
  • Support for almost any document type you can think of
  • Private Wifi syncing, WebDAV or Dropbox
  • Future proofed by plain text and html
  • Document processor, ebook compiler and PDF converter
  • Task Management, including GTD contexts
  • Integration with OmniFocus, Things 3, Todoist, 2Do and more
  • TextExpander
  • Customisable keyboard
  • Customisable style sheets
  • PDF annotation and sketching
  • Voice memos

Notebooks is a powerful tool with a clean, and slick interface. It is easily one of my favourite apps on the iPad. It is the best note taking app I have found for my own purposes.  If you want a chance to pick up a copy, signup for the Appademic Mailing list below. If you are already a subscriber, you’re in the draw already. The draw will close on Friday 24th of August, and winners notified via email.  There are 10 copies to be won.

nb. *Sorry this giveaway has now ended. However, developers occasionally donate promotional licenses to The Appademic, and subscribers to the mailing list are automatically included in all future giveaways. You can signup for the mailing under the menu on the left,   ⟵ That Way

Creating Smart Reading Lists on iOS with Notebooks

Ios Workflow Notebooks Tasklist Reading

If Notebooks isn’t best note taking app for iPad, it is definitely the most underrated.  If you're looking for a markdown notes app, a writing app, or a document storage container with a few unique tricks, you won’t find many better. Part notebook, part storage locker, and part GTD task management system. That might sound like a janky combination, but not only does it work well, it looks pretty too. It has been around for a while, so in lieu of a comprehensive review, I want to highlight a particular feature I haven’t seen anywhere else. The ability to turn notes into tasks.

If you have a lot of reading to keep up with from a variety of sources, this is very handy. For planning and tracking big reading projects I still use TaskPaper on macOS, with its counterpart TaskMator on iOS. That system works well, with the outliner style lists making it easy to break up books, journals and so on with due dates. Using Notebooks has a distant advantage over that system, as it can collect the reading material itself. Web pages, notes, PDF documents, Word files, you can read them all directly in Notebooks. It will even let you index epub files to open in a third-party reader, like Marvin. Remember, at its core this is note taking app, while reading you can highlight text, make annotations, take clippings, and more. You can also take notes.

Notebooks Reading List Workflow

Ios Workflow Notebooks Reading List
The Notebooks URL scheme is simple to use, and does a great job of importing multiple data types

This is a simple idea that in practice will help keep track of reading lists, note revisions, or really anything text based. It’s true you can fashion a similar system by chaining apps like DEVONthink and Things 3 together. To my mind this is more elegant, or at least less confusing.

It works like this. As I collect reading material, I drop it into a Notebook that has been setup as a task list. When I’m on the clock I can setup due dates, reminders and so on. More importantly, I can tick items off as I go, meaning a quick visual guide is available to measure progress. It’s easy enough to use Notebooks’ share extension for this — or bookmarklets on the Mac — but there are two alternative methods I prefer. First, Notebooks has a very hand URL scheme which is clever about capturing all kinds of data, which makes setting up a custom action extension for Workflow trivial.

You can download the workflow here

Notebooks Drag and Drop

Notebooks Best Note Taking Ipad
Multitasking with drag and drop makes collecting articles trivial

The Workflow action above is especially handy on the iPhone, but the iPad has another option that is easier still. Notebooks has excellent support for the drag and drop feature of iOS 11. So if you don’t fancy using Workflow, you can use multitasking to simply drag links and files directly into a reading list. Or, you can use something like the excellent shelf app Gladys to hold the material you collect before dropping it into Notebooks later. Gladys now has a Mac version too, which adds some continuity to the workflow.

Best note taking apps for college
Using a shelf app like Gladys gives you a chance to triage material before it is adding to the list

Among the Best Note Taking Apps

If you follow this site, you probably know by now that all my data ends up in DEVONthink, one way, or another. Whatever passes through Notebooks still ends up there, but DEVONthink’s super power is search. It has passable editing and annotation tools, but I prefer doing the interactive work before it ends up in what is essentially a personal research database. For a lot of users Notebooks might even be enough. While the task management features were no doubt conceived for GTD nerds, they end up making Notebooks among the best note taking apps for college, or university users. The caveat being it's not a handwriting app. In fact if anything holds it back, that would be it. I would get around that by using Nebo as a capture tool myself, they complement each other well.

If DEVONthink’s not your jam, or you’re looking to replace Evernote with something private and local, Notebooks is a handsome and feature rich app. It has relative feature parity across macOS, and iOS, and a lot of unexpected touches. GTD purists could configure tickler files, and contexts until their head is sufficiently empty of all that arduous, excess thought. 1. It can even run its own local WebDAV server for private local sync. It sounds strange, but it’s really not.

  1. I’m joking, you beautiful nerd you.

Create Smarter Presentations with Deckset for macOS

Deckset Macos Presentation Software

Presenting complex ideas in a clear, and simple way is as undervalued as it is difficult to master. It doesn’t help that established presentation software is mostly dated, awkward, and time-consuming. Just as we have with writing apps, we have painted ourselves into a corner with presentation tools. Keynote can standalone as an alternative to Powerpoint. And yet, if you pressed me for a list of cool presentation tools, you wouldn't find either of those. It would be a short list, but you would definitely find Deckset 2.0 there.

Deckset is a presentation making app with an entirely different user experience. Especially if you’ve only ever used Powerpoint or Keynote. It seems Focus has become common currency in creative software of late, but Deckset delivers it in an unexpected way. Taking all the fuss, and fiddle out of presentation design by creating slick presentations from text files. With Deckset you can get back to what you should be doing, focusing on ideas.

Presentation Software or Powerpoint by default

In 2013, Microsoft estimated there were 30 million Powerpoint presentations given per day. That figure is likely to have moved on considerably. Everywhere there are presentations, there is Powerpoint. Just as Word has become synonymous with writing, and other text-based productivity, Powerpoint is the de facto byword for slide deck presentations. At the same time, Powerpoint is time-consuming, confusing and frustrating. Despite efforts to trim the product, it carries the compound baggage of an ageing codebase, run through with compromise. Like most users of Word, I strongly suspect Powerpoint users are in the application by default.

Deckset has the pedigree to follow the recent success of writing apps like Ulysses, which continue to popularise a previously niche medium. A similar user base will find in Deckset an ideal alternative to Powerpoint, or Keynote. Even if you’re a wizard with one of those apps, I’d wager you could save yourself time, and get to the point quicker if honing the words, and not tweaking transition animations.

I expect Deckset users will be largely self-selecting. Then again, I’m confident that many potential users don’t yet realise they should be part of that group. If the point is communicating ideas, then eliminating friction in the design of a presentation is paramount.Deckset’s neat trick, is to build polished slide decks from the raw material of your content, the text itself. You create the presentations from Markdown files, in a text editor. The slide deck itself literally gets out of your way while you concentrate on the message.

Plain Text is Simply Plain, Text

Cool Presentation Tools
With Deckset, you create presentations in Markdown. It comes with pre-loaded with example based tutorials like this to get your started

Despite the growing popularity alluded to above, there still exists a curious irony around the uptake of plain text utilities. Many prospective users seem concerned that plain text software will be difficult to use. In reality, the program left behind is often more complicated. Applications built around Markdown are some of the most simple and effective apps you will find for any purpose.

I was latecomer to the joys of plain text. If only I could reclaim all the years flushed by grappling with rich text, word processors, and bloated slide-deck programs. A small amount of time learning to write in Markdown can save you hours upon hours. The obvious gains are from time spent dealing with constantly shifting design elements, configuring and adjusting styles over and again. But then, there are the more intangible gains from working with words in their raw form.

Everything written about the focus of writing in plain text applies to slide deck presentations with Deckset. This is what makes it such an ingenious app. Just the same, if you’re still unsure about creating in Markdown, nothing can make this point better than a quick demonstration. The beauty of learning Markdown is you only have to see it to know how it works. It’s not code, it’s a clever markup language that translates into code. With an app like Deckset, you can simply open up the template files, and you’re away. If you want a primer this is everything you need to know to get started using plain text productivity apps like iA Writer, Ulysses, or Deckset.

Markdown in a Minute

Create headings with the hash symbol (#): 1

# Big Heading
## Slightly Smaller Heading
### And so on...

Use two asterisks on either side of words, or either side of a sentence to emphasise words in bold, like so:

**bold type**

Likewise, place an underscore on either side of a word, or sentence to emphasise in italics, like so: 2

_italics_ 

Unordered, and ordered lists are intuitive. Each line starts with a hyphen, or numeral + period, like this:


- Something
- And, something else
- Make up an unordered list


1. First item
2. Second item
3. Item number three

If you want to turn a word into a clickable link, place it in square brackets, followed by the link itself in parentheses:

[Anchor Word](www.yourlink.com)

Explaining how to format a footnote is more complicated than making one, so it looks like this:

[^1]: This is a footnote

Or, you can do the same with a name

[^Bentley-Payne, 2018]: Something Completely Different

With this, you have everything you need to get started with Markdown. There is more you can do with it, of course. There also exists a few variations on the original syntax, with flavours that support additional elements. The differences are always minimal, but the foundations always remain the same.

User Experience, and Careful Decisions

Cool Presentation Tools
Deckset has everything you need for ecuational presentations

Enthusiasts and geeks like to talk about responsive developers. By all accounts the builders of Deckset, Unsigned Integer, have taken a user-centric approach to developing their app. There is nothing more responsive than improving an app with user feedback. Much requested customisation features in the new release allow users to create and share themes, or tweak existing one to suit their needs. And, it’s not just about the nerds.

For a seemingly geeky app, Deckset is welcome respite, either as a Powerpoint and Keynote alternative, or as a first slide deck app. The user experience scales from simple automated layout based workflows to more bespoke, and sophisticated presentations — and all without sacrificing itself to complexity. One gets the impression that behind every feature lies a careful decision.

The considered approach is evident beyond the interface itself, with clarity a feature of the product on the whole. For instance, clearly Unsigned Interger recognise the relevance of Deckset to education. Among the documentation there is a deck outlining features inherently important for teaching presentations. Tabular information, equation formatting, captioned images and videos, it’s all there. As is rehearsal mode, speaker notes, and a PDF export function for class handouts. Taking the decision to leave the Mac App Store, means more flexibility in pricing. Deckset 2.0 is now available to education users for a discount.

Goldilocks and the Slide Presentation Tool

Deckset Macos Presentation App.png

Having run Deckset 2.0 through its paces, I almost wish I had more presentations to give. It would easily make my lists of current favourite macOS apps.  The revelation that slideshow software had become a sinkhole into which ideas themselves could easily fall persuaded me to all but give up on slide decks. Powerpoint is especially guilty. Although I find Keynote still has its uses, they’re mostly off-label, and fewer all the time. For the past couple conferences, I’ve gone analogue, delivering from a piece of paper to the room. Deckset has turned my head back the other way, by finally providing a happy medium.

If you want to take a look, Deckset offers a free trial. A single license is available for a one-time cost of USD $29. Or, if you’re an education user, you can request a generous 50% discount.

  1. Octothorp
  2. Sometimes a single asterisk on each side

Say Hi to Deckset 2!

I’ve never enjoyed preparing slides for presentation. Even allowing for the improvements of Keynote over PowerPoint isn’t enough to make me enthusiastic. Deckset, however, is an all together different proposition. If you write in Markdown, and want to simplify your presentation workflow, trust me this is for you.

With the new release, Deckset has also gone sans App Store, which means it now has an education discount. 1

The main reason for us to leave the App Store is greater flexibility in pricing. For example, we are now able to offer a 50% discount to students, teachers and other members of educational institutions. That is something we simply couldn’t do before, and we feel it’s essential to reflect the realities of how and why people use Deckset.

Time willing, a full review is in the works.

  1. Incidentally, as if the 30% tax isn’t obscene enough, it is absurd that Apple doesn’t facilitate this.

Get 40% off Marked | BrettTerpstra.com

I have tried to stay away from Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals as much as possible. However, I want to mention the discount on Brett Terpstra’s wonderful Marked 2 app. Given the only other deal I mentioned was DEVONthink — for its relevance to the overarching concerns of this site — that should give you some idea of the esteem I hold Marked in. I'm confident Marked will be relevant to a number of readers of this site. It is one of those apps that you don’t necessarily know you need until you have it, then you wonder how you ever worked without it.

If you don’t know about Marked, it is an essential tool for writers working with Markdown, but it is so much more than that. Marked comes loaded with a stack of advanced tools for formatting, proofing, checking, and analysing your work. Highlighting keywords, checking for repetition, and analysing readability; Marked will give you a Fog Index and Flesch-Kincaid scores. It is essentially a powerful Swiss army knife for text, I honestly don’t know what I used to do without it. That’s not true, actually, I either didn’t have access to tools for improving my writing, or I had to go here, there and everywhere to use a fragmented and forgettable system that gave me a headache.

If you want to see the full list of features, check out the documentation . The details on the deal are these:

For today and tomorrow only, you can get 40% off the direct version of Marked 2. That’s the non-sandboxed version that allows more full-fledged running of your own custom scripts and processors, but is otherwise the same as the Mac App Store version. Use the coupon MARKEDMONDAY at checkout and get Marked for $8.39, 40% off the usual price of $13.99.

The easiest way to grab the deal is to follow the link through Brettterpstra.com. That way the discount will be applied auto-magically. Otherwise, you can head there directly and apply the coupon yourself.

You can also get Marked as part of the Setapp suite.

The Appademic has a year's Subscription for Setapp to Give-away, you can find the details here..
Permalink

Deciding to Move from Squarespace to WordPress

This site is still in its infancy. While it was created in March, I only started posting in earnest in May, and have steadily increased the frequency of content over the past couple of months. I’m managing a couple a week, along with relevant link posts. It is still early days, but the traffic is increasing, and interest is growing.

The site is currently built and hosted with Squarespace, which is a fine platform for any number of use cases. The advantages of using Squarespace are obvious, it is quick and easy to build a site, the templates are visually appealing, and you don’t need to concern yourself with scaling hosting for spikes in traffic. I have been reasonably happy with Squarespace, for starting out. Something that comes with the territory, however, is learning certain things about your preferred workflow. As you start to develop your blogging style, you are more likely to pick up on shortcomings in the tools at your disposal. As I get further into this, there are some examples for the way that I work – or rather the way that I wish to work – that are starting to get in the way.

The first, and probably the biggest annoyance, is I write in Markdown. While it is possible to use Markdown with Squarespace, the service only supports a very basic implementation, which means adding nice touches like fancy looking footnotes [1] requires both implementing awkward hacks, and converting your posts to HTML before adding them to the site. Both of which undermine one of the platforms major selling point – i.e., ease of use. Further awkwardness is encountered when working with images in your posts.

Squarespace has its own content delivery network (CDN), which for the most part is great, but in some cases it is another double edged sword. The CDN takes care of compression, and makes the media assets of your site load easily, regardless of where your audience is. However, working with Markdown or HTML on Squarespace you lose some of the benefits of those formats when working with images. Essentially, you have to leave the images out of your composition and load them separately, and the file management is by far the poorest feature of the platform. If you want to use the Squarespace editor and work with images in the manner that the platform is designed form, then it is great. Unfortunately, that doesn’t suit my workflow at all. What I am left with is a fiddly process of uploading images after the text, and dragging them into place. This might not sound too bad, but the reality is a degree of trial and error that can be frustrating. Dropping the images into the post splits up the text [2] in seperate blocks, which don’t always line up the way you want them to. Often I have to adjust the wording of the post to make the image sit right. Or I can use another workaround by inserting what Squarespace calls a spacer, but that results in excessive white space through the post. There is more, the Squarespace interface shifts your whole site top the right to accomodate its sidebar as you edit design elements. This may well be a by-product of the template that I use, but something to be aware of, you can get things looking the way you want them, only to have them move out of place again when you leave the style editor.

Delivering mixed content blog posts is one thing, and to date I have been willing to persevere with it, but the most vexing side-effect of that is the way it pushes me to do so much of my work for this site on my Mac. Don’t get me wron, I love working on the Mac, but these days I am doing more and more serious work on the iPad Pro, and I want to be able to manage the site on the go. Sure enough, Squarespace has an app for creating and managing your posts on an iPad, but it has some bothersome problems. First, the images problem is made worse by the fact that the app considers those mixed content posts to have complex layouts. If you edit posts that have images placed alongside or wrapped by text, it will collapse their layout so the images are at best inserted between paragraphs – the images are then increased in size to fit the margins. The app will warn you before doing this, but if it happens you have little choice but to return to the Mac. You can of course access the web editor on the iPad, but it is designed for precision use with a mouse, so you are asking for trouble trying to use it with a touch interface.

Unlike WordPress, there is no longer a posting API for Squarespace, meaning the only way you can use a third-party editor for composing your blog posts is cut and paste. This applies to working on macOS just as much as it does to iOS, but it provides nothing like the same degree of difficulty. Crafting a Workflow, or a similar process in Editorial or 1Writer on the iPad will allow you to manage the Markdown to HTML problem, but the app’s integration with the iOS share sheet is poor, so you are still left with cut and paste at the end of it – and that is before you get to the images. It is true that you can just simplify things, and working with simple layouts in the app does work well enough.

There are design elements on Squarespace that are dependant on the site template, but even when available might not work very well. The nature of The Appademic, as a site for bringing together tech and education, lends itself to link posts. I have separated them out from the main blog, as I’m not a big fan of sites dominated by link rolls [3]. Unfortunately, the template that I use doesn’t render block in a sensible way – there is no indentation, for example. This leaves me with another awkward workaround, among the bad options for this I have landed on adding a rich text block, but this adds yet more layout complexity – and to posts that should be the simplest of all.

I want to be clear, this is not a post bagging Squarespace. There is so much to like about the platform – both for functionality, and the company’s support of content creators more generally. For a lot of people, it is an obvious choice given how easy it is to use if you are happy to work as the platform wants you to. The visual design aspect is pleasing, one thing I have been very happy with is the way the site looks. It took no time at all to get everything setup. For photography sites, the CDN, and template the gallery designs make for one of the best experiences going around. This site, however, is not a photography blog. Neither is it a store front, another area that Squarespace excels in. Squarespace also gets a hard time about search engine optimisation, which I would urge you to take with a grain of salt due to the army of affiliate marketers working on WordPress selling would be bloggers on themes, plugins, and all manner of other snake oil to ‘make it rain’. The free source and extensible architecture of WordPress is its biggest strength, but it also opens it up to the current zeitgeist of internet sharks.

Having said that, I do have a genuine problem on Squarespace in that my use of Markdown and HTML seems to create errors in the data that Google and other search engines index [4]. If you are going to use the platform in the way it was designed – composing and posting with rich text, using a simple structure, and so on – you will not encounter the same problems. If you are an edge case for the way you work, like it appears I am with this site, it is worth considering how this might affect your discoverability [5]. The other side of that equation is that you are more likely to have readers stick around if they land on a slick looking site than if they find a dog’s breakfast on the end of those search results. Squarespace is not going to let you down in that regard. But more than that, Squarespace is in some sense a set and forget situation, you don’t have to concern yourself with more moving parts — there is hosting to manage, so you don’t have to deal a server. You don’t even have to go outside the platform for your domain management, everything is self contained within Squarespace. These are compelling selling points for the service. Again, be wary of affiliate marketers when choosing between WordPress and Squarespace, while WordPress is not difficult to use or to learn, it still takes time to master, and to my mind not only will Squarespace will get you up and running a lot quicker, but nobody is getting a cut to tell you that [6].

Why post any of this? Well, the workaround I mention above have created enough friction for me that I have made the decision to migrate to a self-hosted WordPress installation before the site gets too big to contemplate that. The main reason is the workflow, I need the flexibility that WordPress can offer for working with Markdown, and on iOS. If you have made it this far through this post, you can probably tell it hasn’t been an easy decision – even now I have my doubts. This site is paid in full for another six months on Squarespace, which is another reason to not take this decision lightly. As I have gone back and forth, reading innumerable frustrating and vapid articles, sifting through the noise of resellers, affiliates, hosting companies and self-appointed gurus, I have continually come back to the one thing that matters to me most in this, my ability to work in the way that I want to. Ultimately, The Appademic is a site about doing your best work – whether as an academic, a student, or any kind of creative nerd – and I feel it is bordering on disingenuous to be writing about that via a means that contradicts the message. I looked seriously at static engines, particularly Jekyll, which is not only a brilliant solution, but is perfectly adaptable for mobile use. Inevitably I settled on WordPress for the flexibility and better ability to eventually open out the site to other writers.

The Appademic will still operate as usual for the moment, as I clone it and test it elsewhere. However, any content going up in the next few days will be basic by necessity. There are bound to be mistakes, although I am working hard to mitigate them. If you happen to find any, please contact me to let me know. I will post an update on the other side to report on how it all went, but it should be obvious when the site design changes that the switch has been made.


  1. Such as this  ↩

  2. The Markdown blocks as the platform calls them  ↩

  3. There are notable exceptions, and they are not without their place  ↩

  4. You can address some of this by switching on Developer Mode to gain full access to the code, or using code injection hacks, but neither is an ideal solution  ↩

  5. Note, this is a contentious point too, there are plenty of people likely to say it won’t make a difference  ↩

  6. To be clear, this site uses affiliate links, in fact the only source of revenue – a very loosely applied term, as trust me this site runs at a loss by a long shot – is by way of links. However, not only is that is far from its reason to exist, but nothing is linked without personal experience and more often than not, considerable personal expense. I would hope the difference is pretty obvious. You can learn more on the disclaimer page  ↩

Zapier’s Markdown Guide

Zapier has posted a handy introduction to Markdown. There are a lot of these guides around, but they look to have done a good job here. If you are still mystified by how to use Markdown syntax, this might help. I am working on a bit of Markdown for academic work content, in the meantime, if this guide whets your appetite I also posted some links very early on to a YouTube series on using Markdown for academic writing