Open Notebook Science – “Revision History” & Disappearing Posts

I have apparently lost a notebook entry to the ether.

Incredibly frustrating as I have no idea how this happened, but I believe it may have resulted from the “pop-up” wordpress publisher.

Was I distracted and made an error, or was this a technology failure?

Also frustrating is this was one of my original, “born digital” notebook entries, detailing some open notebook techniques for revision history – in other words – not a notebook entry that was forwarded from e-mail or copy and pasted.

I might need to keep a paper notebook to confirm that a draft entry was successfully published to eliminate the possibility that some kind of anti-spam filter did not slurp away my research notes.

I posed this question my friend and “open notebook science” inspiration, Carl Boettiger:

how did you handle editing your notes? In a real lab notebook, you can go in and write on your earlier notes. In a digital one you can’t really do that and there is a timestamp anyway. Is it ethical to add in new information to an entry logged with an earlier time stamp in an open notebook? Did you ever edit your notebook entries retroactively, or make a new entry and then reference the older post when you review notes? Thanks for any tips.


Carl Responded with some tips that I discussed in an earlier post that was lost.

I’ll attempt to reconstruct that discussion of “the immutable and verifiable open notebook” below. ย Here’s a link Carl sent me for his post, “Notebook features: SHA Hashes – Providing an immutable and verifiable research record,” see below:

And here is an example of evision history for his post above:

Accessed from the hyperlinked series of numbers on the right hand side, called an “SHA hash.”

SHA hash for “preserving integrity” of the open notebook discussed here:ย

While he no longer uses WordPress to run his open notebook, Carl also clued me in to this:ย

Which is, unfortunately, not an option for me as I do not have control of this particular wordpress platform. ย I can make the case to the site administrator, however, to include it, (along with the post via e-mail option)


About Tanner Jessel

I am a graduate research assistant funded by DataONE and pursuing a Masters in Information Sciences with an Interdisciplinary Graduate Minor in Computational Science. I assist scholarly research efforts supporting the Sociocultural, Usability and Assessment, and Member Nodes working groups within DataONE. I am based at the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee School of Information Science in Knoxville, Tennessee.

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