Reconnecting with Zotero and Finding The Truth

In anticipation of next week’s Reclaim book club, which is starting on December 01 and being hosted by the lovely Amanda Schmidt, I’ve reinstalled Zotero. Zotero, if you’re not familiar, is a tool for collecting articles, web pages, and anything else you may want to save or cite down the road — designed for scholarship, but pretty useful in general.

My last experiences with Zotero were in college, when I used it for my student work with the Digital Humanities department. We were asked to keep a bibliography of all the resources we used/read/referenced, to be published at the end of the year (you can check out mine here!) Part of my job was to do a (nearly) weekly blog post on various topics related to digital ethics and digital scholarship, so my bibliography got long.

Revisiting it now, I’d probably want to export my old Zotero collection and pull it into a new account (and I’m a little scared it doesn’t exist anymore — it was at the time linked to my student email, and I can’t remember if I changed that).

Currently I use OneTab to keep, uh, tabs on things I’d like to save. It’s great for cleaning up browser clutter, and for projects and resources I want to revisit. But it’s not so good for archival work, or for saving PDFs or HTML copies in case something disappears from the web. Zotero’s got plugins to connect to Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Safari, to pull resources easily & snag something for future reference.

This is starting to sound like a sponsored post, but it’s not meant to be. It’s more a reflection on a tool I’ve let fall by the wayside, in the same way that I’ve let keeping up with digital ethics and scholarship news fall off my plate. It was a lot of fun, to do those weekly writeups; I’d trawl articles, collect a lot of different sources, and then distill them into a little “article” of my own that my supervisor could share with the department.

(I wonder suddenly how my former supervisor would feel about my exporting an archive of my Digital Scholarship posts, and pulling it in here. There’s a lot of linkrot from that era, since the DS blog changed URLs a couple times when Carleton switched to Domain of One’s Own, and there haven’t been redirects put in place yet. It took me a bit of digging and some Reclaim insider tools to find the new site, and it’d be nice to have the old archive of my work somewhere I own. She’d probably be fine with it, she’s great. I’d have to go through and edit a lot of the links, though — in the spirit of citing your sources and resources, I used to cross-reference my own posts all the time.)

I guess I’m thinking about this again not only in the context of the upcoming book club, but in the context of a book I’ve been re-reading: The Truth, by Terry Pratchett. It’s a Discworld novel, a satiric fantasy series that encompasses a lot of… sort of sub-series, following different groups of characters in different genres and situations, joined by the larger world everything takes place in.

The Truth is a standalone, but it does count as a part of what’s commonly referred to as the “Industrial Revolution” sub-series, a collection of books that focus on new inventions or major social changes and how they affect life on the Disc; it’s my personal favorite collection. The Truth is specifically about the printing press, the invention of the newspaper (and how it evolved from one character’s newsletter — a topic recently near and dear to my heart, courtesy of running the Roundup), and investigative journalism surrounding a major political conspiracy.

I often feel underinformed about the world at large, and I miss having a framework that made it easy for me to not only keep up but condense my findings and my thoughts. But I don’t have the time lately to do those heavily-researched blog posts anymore, or at least not the energy. They were never just for fun; they were fun, but they were work, and they were for a wider audience however small. Maybe with the book club, and with Zotero to help, I’ll be able to find something new to fill that niche in my life.

There’s not any big revelation at the end of this post. I guess it’s a meditation on how I process the world, wrapped in a meditation on how I keep up with the world, wrapped inside a book recommendation, wrapped inside a tool recommendation. Go read The Truth, everybody. It’s an awesome book, and once you’re done, you can add it to your Zotero collection. #NotSponsored

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