Spencer writes in the library, part 12: Making my own Mac apps

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This episode of Spencer Writes in the Library took place Friday, August 8th around 10:45am.

The Spot

Where am I working today?

I am once again at the East Lansing Public Library. I was planning on spending the whole day in the MSU Library, but got halfway to the bus stop and realized that I had forgotten my lunch on the kitchen counter. I couldn’t get back to my lunch and to the bus stop in time for the 7:40 bus I usually take, so I decided to work from home and from some of the community libraries today. Today I’m at one of the circular tables in between the comics and the large print books.

What’s a perk of this spot?

Being around other people. I know that I complained about people being on the phone in my last two “writing in the library” posts, but I’m usually not too grumpy about being around other people. It’s fun to see the kids and parents and everyone else who is in the ELPL – it’s a different kind of group than I see in the MSU library, which makes for some nice variety

What’s a problem with this spot?

No electrical outlet here. I’m only planning on being here a couple of hours, so it’s not a big deal, but I’m not sure that I could work here all day.

What have I learned in this spot?

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It’s time to come clean: I’m cheating on some of these “what I’ve learned” sections. Some of the time, I’m sharing a tidbit that I already knew but that suddenly became relevant and worth sharing. This particular “tidbit” is more substantive than usual – I actually considered writing an entire post about it, so I hope that the Mac users out there will consider using this.

I recently mentioned that I was really enjoying listening to Swiss radio from my browser, but since making that discovery, I’ve found a couple things about this that annoy me. Simply put, it’s tough to get to the tiny little browser window that’s playing the music, which makes starting the thing up difficult, not to mention hitting play or pause. There are a few different solutions to this, but I remembered one this morning that was particularly satisfying.

Fluid is a free Mac app that lets you turn any URL into an independent app that you can then drop into your OSX Doc. That’s actually not as impressive as it sounds when you read about how it does it, but it’s still really useful. Like many grad students, I often get a bad case of tab explosion with my browser, so keeping certain tabs in a separate “program” makes them easier to get to, launch, and find. Fluid is a really easy app to use, so I won’t bother with a walkthough – just head over to the website, download the app, and you’ll be creating your own Mac apps in less than a minute!

How would I rate this spot?

6 out of 5 dentists. (Why dentists?)

The Work

What am I working on today?

Quite a bit, actually! I’m looking forward to the SITE 2015 conference, not least because I might be able to sneak up to my old stomping grounds in Utah for a day or two afterwards, and so I’ve been preparing a number of different research projects that I could turn into presentations at SITE. These potential projects range from analyzing Twitter data to looking at teacher portfolios, so I’ve been active this morning!

What’s the highlight from today’s work?

Game researchers have a notoriously difficult time nailing down definitions for the concepts they work with. For example, the game design textbook Rules of Play spends an entire twelve page chapter comparing definitions of the word “game.” It’s clear, though, that not having standardized definitions or frameworks can make things difficult for scholarly research. One of the SITE projects that I’m exploring is an analysis of game ratings and comments from the website VideoGameGeek, and I’ve been trying for a while to hunt down a taxonomy of game attributes that I could use with my research partners to lend some structure to our analysis. Today, while looking for other game-related research, I just happened to stumble on just that!

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