Conference Note Taking: Is there a Goldilocks Method?

Boogie Board SHEAR

Notes on my Boogie Board Sync

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What tools do you use to take notes at conferences?

You may recall that I am a huge fan of Boogie Board Sync, an eWriter that has the tactile feel of pen and paper and saves directly to Evernote. Over the last month, I have taken my Boogie Board to two conferences with the hope that I had stumbled upon the perfect conference note taking tool.

In this post, I share my experiences using my Boogie Board Sync at professional conferences and why I think the eWriter is an extremely useful tool for historians.


The Search for the Perfect Conference Note Taking Surface

Legal Pads

Have you ever gone to a conference and tried to take notes on a legal pad?

Legal pads and pens served as my first conference note taking tools. They seemed like the perfect choice: dark ink and a paper pad that doubled as a sturdy writing surface. However, by the end of my first conference these note taking implements had let me down.

Legal pads involve noisy page turns. Its writing surface becomes flimsy the closer you get to the end of the pad.

Frustrated, I took a Moleskine classic notebook to my second conference.

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What Would Ben Franklin Do?

WWBFD1What would Ben Franklin do?

July has turned out to be an exciting and stressful month.

I am traveling a lot: I visited Bermuda at the start of the month and I just came home from the SHEAR conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. Next week, I am off to Podcast Movement, the national podcasting conference, in Fort Worth, Texas.

On the home front, I am working a LOT.

Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History continues to do well, it just surpassed 225,000 downloads. It has also started to grow in ways that I hadn’t anticipated. I must create plans to handle this growth. (I promise to explain once my plans are in place.)

I am also trying to find time to work on my book. Yes, I am still working on turning my dissertation into a book and I really want to finish it so I can start my next research project.

With all of this going on, I need to find more time. Which brings me to my new mantra: What would Ben Franklin do?

I am confident that Ben would cut all non-essentials from his schedule and focus on finding an apprentice and funding for his publication.

Therefore, I will not be posting “Book of the Week” or roundup posts until I can figure out how to outsource more podcast work. I have a couple of plans to find/attract funding. I promise to share these ideas soon.

Additionally, my posting on this blog will likely be a bit more sporadic over the next few months, or perhaps not. I have several posts in my draft queue. They cover topics such as 18-Second History: How Historians Can Use Clammr to Spread History & Promote Their Work; Podcast Workflow; Crowdsource Funding Your Digital History Project; How to Tweet a Conference Panel; To Conference or Not to Conference; and Tick-Tock the Academic Publishing Clock.

Thank you for your understanding and support.


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Link Roundup #103

1422128096_thumb.pngWednesday Link Roundup: Links to the most interesting history, news, and writing posts that passed through my RSS and Twitter feeds over the past week.



David A. Hollinger reconsiders Perry Miller’s Errand Into the Wilderness (1956).

The Junto continues its series on the use of graphic history with a “Q & A with Ari Kelman about Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War” and insights into using graphic novels in the classroom.

Steven Conn discusses why heritage is not history.

Keith Harris considers what to do about confederate ancestors.

John D. Wilsey meditates about Ta-Nahisi Coates’ book Between the World and Me and David Brooks’ article “Listening to Ta-Nahisi Coates While White.”


Profession & Funding

Ann M. Little shares writing, publishing, and career advice in “Crossing Over Part 1” and “Crossing Over Part 2.”

The AHA “Grant of the Week”: Fulbright U.S. Scholars Program. Deadline: August 3, 2015.


Vector internet marketing conceptSocial Media & Writing

Megan Kate Nelson shares that she’s a “Social Media Sexist” and why you may be one too.

Former publishing executive, Michael Hyatt reveals “how to write a book proposal that will leave publishers begging to sign you.”


What Are You Reading?


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Announced: History Communication Twitter Chat No. 2

2637715-1Jason Steinhauer released details about the second History Communication or #histcomm twitter chat.
When: Friday, July 24, at 1pm EST
Duration: 30 – 40 minutes
Hashtag to Follow: #HistComm

Questions for Chat

1. How has history communication evolved to meet the needs of today’s digital audience?

2. On which networks (Facebook, Twitter) are you most likely to seek out history info? Least likely?

3. Which history accounts do you follow that deliver excellent social content?

4. What historical subjects do the history accounts you follow cover? Which do they omit?

5. Which non-historical accounts are doing great work on social media? How can historians learn from them?

6. What is a history project you’re working on/excited about?


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Book of the Week: Frontier Seaport

Amazon ImageThis week’s read is Catherine Cangany’s Frontier Seaport:  (University of Chicago Press, 2014).

Description from

Detroit’s industrial health has long been crucial to the American economy. Today’s troubles notwithstanding, Detroit has experienced multiple periods of prosperity, particularly in the second half of the eighteenth century, when the city was the center of the thriving fur trade. Its proximity to the West as well as its access to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River positioned this new metropolis at the intersection of the fur-rich frontier and the Atlantic trade routes.

In Frontier Seaport, Catherine Cangany details this seldom-discussed chapter of Detroit’s history. She argues that by the time of the American Revolution, Detroit functioned much like a coastal town as a result of the prosperous fur trade, serving as a critical link in a commercial chain that stretched all the way to Russia and China—thus opening Detroit’s shores for eastern merchants and other transplants. This influx of newcomers brought its own transatlantic networks and fed residents’ desires for popular culture and manufactured merchandise. Detroit began to be both a frontier town and seaport city—a mixed identity, Cangany argues, that hindered it from becoming a thoroughly “American” metropolis.


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