Alerts!

It’s been a bit, and for that, Oh Internet, I apologize.

One of my 2019 SCA resolutions is to post here at least once a month, so hopefully you will start seeing some “regular” content. My last post is from over 2 years ago, and in that span of time I have done quite a bit, including bringing another child into the world. Much of my current research has been on garment construction in Tang Dynasty China, as part of the Epic Timey-Wimey Garb Project. Don’t fret, though. I have been equally neglectful of the SCA Reference Desk, if not moreso.

But today I want to talk about Google Scholar Alerts. Google Alerts, you may know, are searches you can set up to email you (either individually or in a digest) when the search engine discovers a new page relevant to your search terms. It’s super great for staying on top of stuff.

I have two alerts set up for “Tang Dynasty” – one is a straight Google Alert and one is a Google Scholar alert. The Google Alert mostly pops on articles from Chinese news sources, and the content is rarely relevant to me – it lacks citations, and is often just a historic nod in a “this has been going on for this long”sort of way. Not the sort of thing you’d want to include in your reference list for documentation.

On the other hand, the Google Scholar alerts get me some really interesting stuff – some of it is modern (those historical nods again), but I get a fair bit of archeological articles. Today’s alert included an article about cultural exchange between China’s Tang Dynasty and the Sasanid Empire as seen in ceramics.

So how do you set up a Google Scholar alert? Super easy. But I’m going to let Richard Byrne do it, because he covers some other cool stuff Google Scholar can do to help you find and save articles.

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The WayBack Machine and Curing your Defunct Website Woes

It’s happened to you. It’s happened to all of us.

You’re chugging along doing your research, and you see a site that looks promising. Best of all, it’s by another Scadian. You gasp with joy and excitement! Someone else is interested in the Weird Thing You’re Researching and has already done some of the legwork! And sometimes, what you’re looking at is an image – in a search engine, Pinterest, or some other place – that is spot-on the kind of thing you’re looking for.

Eagerly, with much anticipation, you click the link.

But then your hopes are broken when the site is either not there, broken, or otherwise doesn’t live up to your expectations of Glorious Research Breakthrough.

It probably did, at some point. But we Scadians are really bad about webpage upkeep, it seems.

Feel better, my fellow Catalog Crawlers. For I have a tool for you. It carries a +5 to Research bonus to boot!

Introducing – the WayBack Machine.

Enter a web address, and you can see a timeline of when it was last archived – and more often than not, you have some choices.

Case in point: The Purple Lotus and Leah’s Attempts to Research Sasanian Persia.

I found a series of delicious, delicious pins of metal plates depicting women in the Sasanian period. But when I clicked on them, they took me to a site that had information, but no pictures. Pictures mean context! It was clear to me that the author was changing her website around, and the HTML that pointed to the images was broken. I didn’t lose faith though!  I waited a bit to see if she was in the middle of fixing it, but after a few weeks, I went to the WayBack Machine.

Not only is thepurplelotus.org archived, but it has been archived several times. The earliest snapshot had a PDF of the information I wanted, but it wouldn’t load – but I wasn’t surprised. A snapshot from 2011 had what I wanted – the article, plus images. One print-dialog later, where I chose to save the “print” as a PDF instead of sending it to the printer, and I’m home free.

So take heart, my Delvers of Dusty Dissertations! The WayBack Machine will resurrect that old dead website (most of the time) and get you the information you seek!

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