My latest at ProfHacker: Protecting Your Site with BackWPup

Old floppy disks used for backupRules of computing:

  1. If it’s important, back it up.
  2. Refer to Rule #3.
  3. See Rule #1.

Those are serious rules. Really. There’s nothing more horrifying than losing the only copy of something you’ve spent hours/days/weeks/months on.

The rules apply to websites as well as other information, and we’ve written a lot in this space about ways to back up a site. Julie introduced readers to a few methods of website backup, Kathleen wrote more specifically about backing up a WordPress site, and Mark reminded us of the importance of checking those backups.

I was reminded rather forcefully of the importance of making backups in late December, when I made an incredibly careless mistake on my personal site, and managed to delete just about everything (don’t ask — suffice it to say that I should have known better). Somehow I’d missed the memo about my hosting provider’s (I use Reclaim) excellent backup options. I panicked and submitted a support ticket, and they had me back up and running almost immediately. Lesson learned!

I also manage a website other than my own, however, and that site isn’t hosted at Reclaim, so after my December experience I immediately looked into backing that site up regularly — and I wanted a system that would run the backup automatically once it was set up, but that would also allow the backup to be triggered manually if needed. Like my own, the site in question is a WordPress site, so I started searching for a good plugin. I found one: BackWPup. It can back up both the WordPress database and files, and can send the backup files to a directory on your hard drive and/or to a number of different cloud storage services.

Configuration of the plugin will vary a bit depending on where you want to store the backup. I opted for Amazon S3, and set things up with help from a very helpful series of posts at StressLessWeb. Now, the backup job runs once a week in the middle of the night, then emails me to tell me it’s done. Knowing that backup is there is a great relief (and following Mark’s advice, I do indeed check the backup periodically).

BackWPup has a Pro version available, but I’ve found that the free version serves my needs very well.

What’s your strategy for backing up a website? Let us know in the comments!

CC-licensed photo by Flickr user jm3

from ProfHacker » Amy CavenderProfHacker – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education

My latest at ProfHacker: Managing references with Paperpile

A pile of journal articlesAh, research. No matter our field, we need to organize our source materials and keep track of our notes. As we write, we need a convenient way to insert citations and manage reference lists.

We’ve spilled a lot of digital ink over the years writing about reference managers, such as Zotero and Mendeley, that can help us accomplish those tasks.

I’m a long-time user of Zotero, and I’ve often recommended it to my students (sometimes I’ve even required them to use it for an assignment). I’ll continue to recommend it.

Recently, though, I’ve found that Zotero doesn’t always work well for the way I want to work with my PDFs: I want to be able to read and annotate them on mobile devices, across platforms. I found PaperShip, which syncs with both Zotero and Mendeley. It was slow for me, though — and it’s only available for iOS and the Mac. Sometimes I find myself on an Android device.

There are ways other than PaperShip to work with Zotero PDFs on a mobile device, but none of the options I found (Zandy for Android, ZotPad for iOS) worked quite the way I wanted them to. Yes, I could open a PDF from them and annotate it in my favorite mobile app, but then I’d have to remember to send the annotated file back to Zotero. That’s just not the sort of thing I’m good at remembering to do.

What I really needed for my workflow was something that would integrate with Google Drive, so I was happy to come across Paperpile1 recently (it’s been around for a while; I just hadn’t been aware of it prior to a few weeks ago). It won’t be for everyone. It’s designed to work with Google Documents, which may not please some (though Chromebook users will probably love it). Because it uses Drive for storage, it works very well with mobile annotation apps that can sync with Drive.

Here’s a screenshot of my Starred folder (click to enlarge the image):

Starred items in Paperpile

I star only those sources that I’m currently reading, and sync only that folder with my mobile apps. Any annotations I make to the attached PDF are automatically synced. I can mark up the PDF in iAnnotate, GoodReader, PDF Max, etc. on a tablet, or in any desktop application or web app that works with Drive. (That includes Paperpile’s own MetaPDF, which works well and which they’re working on integrating with the reference manager). It’s all seamless — which is exactly what I needed.

Not everyone, of course, does their writing in Google Documents. I do some of my writing there, but more and more I find myself writing in plain text using Markdown, and formatting my documents using Pandoc. That hasn’t posed a problem for me. I can simply add the references I need to a folder (or just attach a label to them) and export the list as a BibTeX file. It works well.

Paperpile probably isn’t a good choice for those who prefer to do their writing in Word, or for those who need to be able to access their references offline.2 Everyone’s use case is a bit different. For now, it seems to be working better for me than the traditional desktop applications do.

What do you look for in a reference manager? What features are most important to you, and which reference manager do you find works best for you? Let us know in the comments.

CC-licensed photo by Flickr user Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier

  1. Unlike Zotero and Mendeley, Paperpile isn’t free (though the pricing, especially for academic use, is reasonable). If you’re considering it, you’ll probably want to take advantage of the 30-day trial before making a decision.?
  2. Those who use Google Drive’s offline capabilities will be able to access the PDFs themselves, but not their notes or other information.?

from ProfHacker » Amy CavenderProfHacker – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education

My latest at ProfHacker: Making a WordPress Site Multilingual

A parade of flags from many different countries.WordPress is a favorite tool of many of us here at ProfHacker. It’s great for running a course website, maintaining a professional portfolio, running a blog (ProfHacker runs on WordPress), or managing almost any other sort of website, really.

Every once in a while, there’s a need to present a site’s material in more than one language. If the material in question is really short, the solution is simple enough: just make the page or post a bit longer by including the additional languages right there.

That isn’t exactly an elegant solution for long pages or posts, though. Nor does it work well if, for whatever reason (e.g., a course website for a language course, or a site for an international publication or scholarly association), a substantial portion of the site needs to be available in multiple languages.

I’m currently working on a project in which much of the content will eventually need to be available in English, Spanish, and French — far too much for the simpler solution mentioned above. The site I’m building is going to have to be a (near) fully-fledged multilingual site.

When I first came to that conclusion, I had a moment of near panic, because I had no idea how to build one. Then I did what most of us who work with WordPress regularly end up doing: searching the plugin repository. Surely there must be a plugin to facilitate the process of creating such a site. Right?

My hopes weren’t in vain; I fairly quickly found WpGlobus. It looked promising, but it didn’t play well with the theme I was using (because it provides alternate content for each page based on the language selected, rather than requiring each language to have its own page).

Since WPGlobus didn’t work for me, I went searching again, and this time, I found something that seems to be working well thus far: Polylang. I won’t go into detail about how to use it; the plugin’s FAQ and documentation provide all the necessary technical information.

What I will say is that it’s very easy to use, and works as advertised. Of course, it’s still necessary to get the actual translating work done, but the plugin makes managing that multilingual content much easier than it might otherwise be.

Have you had reason to work on a multilingual site? What platform do you use (we like WordPress, but it isn’t everyone’s preference), and what tools have you found useful for creating and maintaining it? Let us know in the comments!

CC licensed photo by Flickr user Rona Proudfoot

from ProfHacker » Amy CavenderProfHacker – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education

My latest at ProfHacker: Security Housekeeping

Cloud-shaped padlockIn the last few years, we’ve written quite a lot about online security in this space.

One of the keys to security is to use secure passwords. Since really good passwords can be difficult to remember, password managers are really useful, and we’ve reviewed a few, including LastPass (which is being acquired by LogMeIn) and KeePass.

But secure passwords aren’t enough; it’s also important to change your master password regularly and to use two-factor authentication whenever that’s available (as I learned when LastPass got hacked this summer).

A downside to using a password manager (for me, at least) is that it’s easy to become complacent; since the software generates secure passwords for me, I don’t think very often about changing them. Yet even secure passwords should be changed regularly.

Fortunately, I recently spotted a tool in LastPass that would check whether I had any compromised, weak, duplicate, or really old passwords. It found several, including some for accounts that I hadn’t touched in years (and in some cases, didn’t even remember that I had). I updated passwords as needed, and closed some inactive accounts. No doubt other password managers have similar tools.

From now on, running a check on my passwords will be part of my end-of-semester routine.

Do you have a favorite password manger? Are there other steps you routinely take to keep yourself secure online? Let us know in the comments.

[Creative Commons licensed photo by Flickr user FutUndBeidl]

from ProfHacker » Amy CavenderProfHacker – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Separating Content and Form

Increasingly, I find myself doing most of my writing in Markdown in a favorite text editor. (In my case, that’s Sublime Text 3.)

In combination with Pandoc, Markdown’s incredibly powerful. It’s also very easy to learn. Trust me on that, and check out this excellent tutorial from The Programming Historian.

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