Up on Science Exchange, I’ve written a post that describes the most ideal open notebook platforms and how they can be used for scientific documentation. Their design is certainly not intended for those purposes, but they are effective tools nonetheless. Here is a sample of the post:
There are consequently an array of open notebook platforms to choose from, and some better suited for certain applications than others. Five such platforms are discussed below, all capable of supporting scientific disciplines in varying aspects.
Originally developed as a blogging platform, WordPress has become much more than that. It is the go to Content Management System (CMS) in web design, and is used for online shopping, blogs, artistic portfolios, personal websites, and even open notebooks. Personally speaking, WordPress is the most versatile platform for open notebooks and should be the model that open notebook designers look toward.
I also go on to discuss Media Wiki, Google Docs, Evernote, and Github. And you can check out the whole post here:
I think each service has a lot to offer to open notebook scientists, and with services like Evernote and Google Docs, you could certainly get away with using multiple services. Think combining Google Docs with WordPress/Media Wiki.
The most intriguing service to me is Github. If the wiki was more powerful, Github would be the ultimate notebook in my opinion. The reason is because you can upload any file type to your repository, and there is a social network, and you have access to a wiki to supplement your notebook. I haven’t played too much with the social network component, but if it is even 10% as effective as facebook it could prove very useful.
Github also makes sharing repositories easy and collaboration very easy. Anyone can fork your repository (make a copy to their repository) and if you are collaborating, pushing updates is at the discretion of the original repository’s owner. And it is all versioned in case some files get deleted.
And I’m not sure how true this is, but I’ve heard that Github is open sourced in some capacity so you may even be able to self host your own guthub repository. This would be amazing for ONS and scientists could setup their own lab site to enable collaboration amongst only the members of the lab.
And to further supplement my ONS Platform post, I offer some alternative platforms/tools to aid your open notebooking skills:
Creative Solutions to ONS
There are too many tools on the internet to keep track of, but if you don’t like the options that I mention in my post, here are a few creative alternatives that you may appreciate.
- Flickr/Picasa – Do you want to keep writing with paper and pen? Try taking pictures of your handwritten notes and upload them to one of the many photo sharing websites. I’ve done this from time to time and upload the image files here to supplement my notebook, when I don’t want to rescribe all the work I’ve already done.
- Social Media – The real-time capabilities of social media gives you the outlet to post what you want when you want it. Steve and I have used FriendFeed to take notes in real-time before facebook had the feature, and essentially you can do this from any social media platform available. If you use a platform like WordPress/Media Wiki, you can even embed your FriendFeed posts into your notebook and people could see your notes in real time in your native platform.
- Tablets/SmartPhones – There are plenty of apps that let you take notes, share images/videos, bridge platforms and publish to the web right from your phone/tablet. Who says you need to be tethered to your lab pc?
- Blogs – I’ve already talked about WordPress, which is more than a blog. But blogging services like Blogger and Tumblr offer comparable features. Blogger is trying to be more like a CMS, but still doesn’t have all the functionality of WordPress, but the Google Suite of Apps helps ease the burden quite a bit. Tumblr however is more limited in its capacity, but if you are going with just text and images for your notebook then it will suit you just fine.
- Wikispaces – Quick and easy wiki setup in the cloud. No need to self install like Media Wiki, but also not as customizable.
And if you use a tool that I haven’t mentioned I’d love to hear about it and how you make it work for you. ONS doesn’t work if it is tedious and you don’t want to update. The goal of technology is to enhance your workflow and make life a little easier. And I’ve found that the tools and platforms I mention above and in my post at Science Exchange aid my quest for scientific domination.