Social Media Challenge: Best of the Blogosphere

February 22, 2011

It’s almost time to begin our group blog project. As a final stage of your preparation for blogging excellence, you’ll be taking a look at blogs that ARE excellent. Your assignments are drawn from a variety of rankings of the best, most interesting, and most influential blogs out there (and I’ve tried to align these with your stated interests to the degree that that’s possible). The result is not exactly scientific, but it gives us a list with some variety.

You have all been assigned, in pairs and at random, to one of these blogs. These blogs are allegedly some of the best of the best, so go to it, read it, and get to know all about it:

  1. Deadspin: Eric Waddon & Rodney Lamp
  2. HiLoBrow: Aaron Geiger & Shay Maunz
  3. Huffington Post: Andrea Sauer & Kristen Wishon
  4. Everything Everywhere: Kirk Auvil & Shannon Teets
  5. Boing Boing: Sebouh Marjarian & Jazz Clark
  6. Pitchfork: Derek Rudolph & Alex Wiederspiel
  7. The Consumerist: Deepa Fadnis & Melanie Hoffman
  8. Cake Wrecks: Lindsay Cobb & Corey Preece
  9. Strobist: Devanne DiBacco & Jon Vickers
  10. The Awl: Keri Gero & Toni Cekada

In next week’s (Tuesday, March 1) class, each pair will do a 10 minute presentation on your blog. You’ll need to address the following (providing on-screen examples):

  • Basics: Explain the blog, its content, its design and its voice
  • Audience: Who is this blog for? How easy is it to get up to speed (Mission statement? FAQ?)? Is information provided on traffic and business information? How does it connect to a community?
  • Comments: Is commenting allowed? If so, how (if at all) is it moderated?
  • Metadetails: What are some of the top posts? Has the blog been in the news? Does it advertise?

This should not be stressful (no, really). Approach the blog as a reader first and a student second. Think about what we’ve read thus far in providing your critique. What are your blog’s strengths and weaknesses? What can you and your classmates learn from it for your own projects?

Due: In class on Tuesday, March 1. Extras such as handouts, audio/video, or lasers are not required, but are certainly welcome.

That’s right, there are no assigned readings for next week. All the more reason to read your blog!

In-Class Assignment: Tweetup!

February 22, 2011

You’ll like this one. At (or before, ideally) the start of class today, head to Twitter and search for the #JRLWeb tag (or just click this link). For the next hour (1-2p), we’ll be conferring with our colleagues from Memphis and Lehigh on the state of all media social. The requirements are easy:

  1. Log in to Twitter
  2. Go to #JRLWeb
  3. Participate (instead of our course #WVUblogJ tag, each post needs to include the #JRLWeb tweetup tag)

We’ll have some specific topics, but the range will be dictated as we go (so don’t be afraid to bust out the Jaron Lanier). Once we get rolling, I’m going to vanish so I can follow along on Tweetdeck; after things wrap up, I’ll head back down to the lab for today’s class (so don’t cut out early on me). I’m looking forward to some active, lively conversation, and I hope you are too!

(By the way, I do realize this isn’t an actual Tweetup – that would require meeting our Twitter pals in the flesh – but it’s as good a name as any for what we’re doing, so I’m sticking with it. Along the lines of what a Tweetup is/isn’t, this timely link on the current mass demonstrations throughout the world seems appropriate.).

Read & Respond – Week 7

February 18, 2011

Welcome to Wiki Week! This week we’ll be applying the collaborative skills we’ve learned in the past few classes and apply them to a different kind of crowdsourced project. There’s a bit of reading here, so make sure your post addresses the complicated nature of this discussion.

First, we’re going to deviate from the syllabus and hold off on Briggs’ chapter 9 until next week (but feel free to read it now). Instead, we’ll check out some words on wikis. We’ve talked a lot about “The Wisdom of Crowds,” but sometimes those crowds can seem kind of, well, dumb. In his essay “Digital Maoism,” Lanier, writes about how the Wikipedia crowd has (inaccurately) represented him. He provides a useful skeptic’s perspective on the “hive mind,” as he calls it (he also calls it “The Wikipedia,” but we’ll permit him this eccentricity). How do Lanier’s ideas compare to the other ideas we’ve discussed.

After all that heavy thinking, have a look at this article on wikigroaning from venerable humor site Something Awful (there are later installments here and here) – if you like your information more traditional, there’s also a story on the phenomenon in the Wall Street Journal). The argument is that collaborative works like Wikipedia tend to emphasize trivia and pop culture over substantive information. Consider, for example, that the entry for television program Grey’s Anatomy is almost seven times the length of the entry for seminal health handbook Gray’s Anatomy. (If you’re not easily offended, you can also have a look at this informative but characteristically profane entry from Encyclopedia Dramatica).

As a follow-up to the chaos of Internet humor, Philosopher Martin Cohen writes about who edits Wikipedia, what they edit, and why. With the above perspectives in mind, let’s consider the concepts of “wikiality” and “wikilobbying” (below; the last 30 seconds are an ignorable user-added rant on Fox News):

Finally, have a look at the Wikipedia page for our own P.I. Reed School of Journalism. Pay particular attention to those three little windows at the top of the page. These are Wikipedia standards alerts that indicate our entry isn’t up to snuff. How can we improve it?

What is your take on the function of wikis and wiki-like processes in communication and journalism today? Just how wise are those crowds we keep talking about? How do concepts like wikiality and wikigroaning impact on the positive qualities made available by this new way of communicating? If you see it as a problem, how could the process be improved? And just what can we do about that J-school page? (hint hint …)

Respond by commenting on this post noon Tuesday, Feb. 22 (I’m giving you an extra day since I’m a day late posting this).

In-and-Out-of-Class Assignment

February 15, 2011

We spent last week talking across location in our interactions with different campuses. This week, we’ll incorporate location into our blogs via Google maps.

In-Class Assignment

Head to my friend Grant’s blog, where you’ll find a simple tutorial on creating a map in Google and adding it to your website or blog. Have a look through (we’re only dealing with step #1, unless you feel like going further), and use it as your guide for this assignment. You’ll use this guide to do the following steps:

  1. Create an individual map with three locations (use the pin colors indicated):
    1. Your city of birth (blue)
    2. The city where you grew up or have lived (yellow)
    3. A city you’d like to work in (green)
  2. In the class collaborative map, “Birthplaces,” you’ll map these three spots once more. Be sure to label them with your name and what they show so they are counted.

Out-of-Class Assignment #1 – Personal

Using the same process, you’re going to design a more complex map to add to your blog. It should consist of at least 5 data points (with detail included in their pop-up windows) and will follow these steps:

  1. Write a post that incorporates location in some way (e.g., restaurants I like, places I’ve seen WVU b-ball players). It does not need to be hard news (yet), but it should be a full-fledged post. (you may use lines or shapes in place of some of your points, but it’s not required)
  2. Using the above guide, create a map in Google Maps with a marker for this location. You’ll use the same login you use for Google Reader.
  3. Attach the map to your blog post just like you would an image (directions are included with the how-to link).
  4. Publish!
  5. Post the link (with a description of what’s being mapped) to the comments of this post.

Out-of-Class Assignment #2 – Collaborative

Using your new collaborative skills, your Twitter scavenger hunt team will map two locations in the “WVU Scenic Spots” map (I’ll send you an invite): Your scenic location (blue) and your little-known fact (green). Be sure to provide information in the box about who your team is and what you’re showing.

Both due: Noon, Monday, February 21

General Tips

I don’t want you to overcomplicate this, but here are a few tips:

  • Add markers by clicking on the name of your map in the left bar, then click the “Edit” button. The tools for markers and drawing appear in the top left corner of your map. If they don’t, you may need to re-click the map name (you MUST add these pointers).
  • Test your post. If the map doesn’t look right, try re-copying and pasting the link.
  • If the map is incorrectly zoomed on your page, click “link” then “customize and preview embedded map.” In the window that pops up, zoom the map in or out as necessary, then copy the text in the window below and paste it to your site. You can also change the size of the map here.
  • You can see a sample post that shows what I want at my personal blog via this link.

Read & (literally) Respond: Intercollegiate Crosstalk

February 9, 2011

In keeping with this week’s Twitter Mega-assignment, we’ll be reading up on the work of your peers from around the country. All of the links provided are to classes who’ve either just completed a Twitter scavenger hunt of their own, or who are about to embark on that selfsame journey in the near future.

The other participating schools are:

There are three parts to this assignment (15 points in all):

  • Retweet at least five posts from students at these other schools. They can be scavenger hunt items or something else relevant to the course. It is preferable that you add some of your own (brief) perspective where possible, so you’re adding to the conversation.
  • Respond to at least five separate posts from students at these other schools. This is different than retweeting – you’ll need to make contact and open up an actual conversation.
  • Post an overview of the Twitter experience – with specifics regarding the scavenger hunt and inter-school interaction – to your blog. Post a link to that post here, and share that post via Twitter with the #WVUblogJ tag.

All these things must be completed by noon, Monday, February 14 (Valentine’s Day!).

Social Media Challenge: Twitter scavenger hunt

February 8, 2011

The best way to learn about Twitter is to use it. For the remainder of class today, you’re heading out into the world in teams of two (at least one of you needs a phone with Twitter – I prefer the TweetDeck application for mobile use, but you may use whatever works) to find 10 things. This is part of our Twitter Mega-Assignment. You’ll need to complete the bulk of the assignment by the end of class, but you can have until noon tomorrow (Wed., Feb. 9) to wrap up any loose ends. DO NOT FORGET THE HASHTAG #WVUblogJ

  1. School spirit. Photo and quote from someone (not you or your partner) revealing school spirit (what exactly that means is up to you.)
  2. Eating up. Photo and quote of/from somebody (not you or your partner) at your favorite eating spot on campus.
  3. Professor on the street. Photo and quote from a professor on campus. Ask them what they think the role social media plays in social change, such as Egypt. Be sure you include the professor’s title and department.
  4. Student on the street. Photo and quote from a student. Ask them where they get their news and if they use social media to keep up on the news. Be sure you include their year in school and major.
  5. Academic excellence. Photo and quote that reveals (you are going to have to be creative) how WVU contributes to cutting edge research and/or learning.
  6. Scenic spot. Photo of your favorite scenic spot on campus.
  7. Little-known fact. Photo and quote of something you think many people might not know about West Virginia University, even some of those of us that go to school here.
  8. Fanatic fans. Photo/quote from somebody asking for their thoughts on the WVU/Pitt game outcome, prognosis on the remainder of the basketball season, or other sport of your choice.
  9. Personal favorites. Photo of you and a photo of your partner in your favorite spot on campus.
  10. Extracurricular extravaganza. Photo and quote that exemplifies some of the huge variety of clubs, organizations, etc. available to students at our university.


  • Think like a reporter. Have an eagle eye for the interesting, the important, the relevant, the unique, and the immediate. Double check your facts.
  • Think like a public relations professional. Show other people what’s cool about West Virginia University.
  • Think like a storyteller. You may only have 140 characters in each Tweet, but you can say a lot in a few words or using an image.
  • You may use more than one Tweet for each of the items below. Don’t overdo it, though. Less is more (and don’t forget the #WVUblogJ hashtag!)
  • You will want to offer an introductory Tweet or two explaining what you are doing and introducing your partner. You may use either of your accounts or both. Doesn’t matter as we are using the hashtag to organize the Tweets.

This is going to seem a little strange to some of you, but the goal is to reveal to you the journalistic applications of Twitter. You need to be an observer, a reporter, and you can’t be afraid to accost people on the street for their opinions. You’ll provide perspective and voice, and you’ll tell a larger audience something about your subject (WVU, in this case) – make sure you’re thinking of them!

(Props to Dr. Carrie Brown-Smith of University of Memphis for this fantastic idea)

In-class assignment – Twitter

February 8, 2011

For the first part of our Twitter Mega-Assignment, we need to get to know Twitter. This in-class assignment will get you started (if you’re not already). The requirements are simple:

  • Create a Twitter account (you may use your existing account if you have one) and post it as a comment to the Mega-Assignment page (due in class)
  • Add the Twitter widget (in your Dashboard under Appearance > Widgets) to your personal blog. If you’d rather keep your existing account private, create a separate account for this. (Due by noon, Wednesday, February 9)
  • Find at least 30 people/organizations/whatever to follow (these should include @rww and @mashable – you may also follow your classmates, but not ONLY them) (due by noon, Friday, February 11)
  • Post at least 10 tweets in addition to the Scavenger Hunt assignment (these can be anything, but try to incorporate links, hashtags, and retweets) – at least a few of these should include the #WVUblogJ tag (and be relevant to this class!) (due by noon, Monday, February 14)

That’s it!

Mega-Assignment: Twitter Week!

February 8, 2011

Get ready to Twitter like you never have before! Starting in Tuesday’s class, we’ll be working through an integrated array of projects designed to get you thinking about the connective and journalistic potential of Twitter. I’ll post each assignment individually, as usual, but will also link to them via this post.

In-Class Assignment: Getting Started in Twitter (posted 1230p Tuesday) – 5 pts

For this simple in-class assignment, you’ll get your feet wet in Twitter. You’ll create an account, start tweeting, follow a bunch of people, and experiment with the nomenclature (@, #, RT) of Twitter. Easy stuff.

Social Media Challenge: Twitter Scavenger Hunt (posted 2p Tuesday) – 20 pts

Now that your feet are wet, let’s get them good and soaked. You’ll head out into the world in teams of two (at least one of whom has a phone with Twitter capability) to collect a list of “items,” which you’ll report via Twitter. This assignment requires you to talk with people – it is a class about journalism, after all – and you’ll need to label each post with the #WVUblogJ tag.

Read & (literally) Respond: Intercollegiate Crosstalk (posted Wednesday) – 15 pts

This assignment spans at least four other colleges and universities, with students just like you scavenging for the same list of items. It’s a great way to get to know others, their practices, and their universities … and that’s just what you’ll do. You’ll need to retweet and respond to a set number of students at other participating schools, and you’ll post a comment (to that assignment) summarizing what you’ve learned from the experience.

Total points: 40

Man that’s a lot of Twitter! Oh, and one more thing: Post the Twitter handle you’ll be using (e.g., @thebobthe) to THIS blog post so we can follow along. See you in class!

Read & Respond – Week 5

February 3, 2011

This week, we’re all about location, micro-updates, and (perhaps most importantly) checking in. Briggs (chapter 4) starts us off with a first look at microblogging and Twitter. Some of you have never used Twitter, some of you used it for the first time during our State of the Union assignment (notice the use of an anchored link there … and here!), and some of you have been resisting … but NO LONGER.

Once you’re through Briggs’ introduction to the subject, let’s look at some recent interactions of Twitter and location. FACT: You are students at West Virginia University. FACT: You are not currently in Egypt, yet you are able to get up-to-the-minute information on the recent uprisings via the #Egypt and #Jan25 tags. FACT: You are currently living in a city that was somehow not (yet) hit by last Tuesday’s massive snowstorm, yet you can see what’s happening through (floridly written) tags like #snowpocalypse (if you know of a better one, let me know). Take a look through – what’s being reported, and re-reported, and what does this tell you?

(UPDATE: Speaking of Egypt hashtags, check out this massive social media FAIL by Kenneth Cole)

What’s happening here is the ability to “check in” with information from all corners of the world, and in turn we have the ability to “check out” those check ins (check, please!). At its core, each user is delivering a little grain of information – of limited use on their own, but together they make up an interesting pile.

The idea of the check-in is also behind mobile apps like Foursquare, which I’ve asked you to start using this week. Far from just entertainment, Foursquare is now being for newsgathering and investigative journalism. Foursquare is easily the most popular location app – it just hit 6 million users (after reaching 3 million users just this summer) – but it doesn’t have a monopoly on the check-in. You can check in to what books you’re reading, how many miles you’ve run, what beers you’re drinking … just about anything! What ways do you see to incorporate the idea of the check-in with the future of journalism?

Last, but surely not least, check out this important video on the art of checking in:


I am truly sorry about that.

Read & Respond posts are due as comments to this post no later than noon, Monday, February 7.

Social Media Challenge #3 – Blog-a-Day Week

February 2, 2011

After blogging for three weeks, you should have a feel for what works, what doesn’t, and how to plan your attack. So far you’ve been doing sprints, but this week will be a 5K. Beginning with Tuesday, Feb. 1, you will post something EVERY day to your personal blog. This will not be easy, but you can do it, and at the end you’ll have a newfound respect for those who do this every week.

Some rules:

  • The first rule of Blog-a-Day Week is: We do NOT talk about Blog-a-Day Week! This means no posting about hard it is to post every day, or other such metacommentary.
  • You may, however, post a schedule of what you have planned, but this means you’ll need to actually plan what you’re going to do.
  • Likewise, no posting about how you don’t know what to post. Use the skills from previous challenges, ideas from your blogroll, comments from other students … ANYTHING that leads to a substantive post!

Your final post (Monday, Feb. 7) should be an overview of the blog-a-day week experience. What did you learn? What was difficult? What got easier over time? Post this link to the comments section of this assignment by noon, Monday, Feb. 7.

DUE: Every day from Tuesday, Feb. 1 – Monday, Feb. 7 (seven posts in all)

EXTRA CREDIT: Now that you’ve finished your 5K, try for a marathon! For every week in February that you post every day, you’ll earn two points of extra credit. Post for the entire month – that’s February 1 to February 28 – and you’ll earn 6 extra points total.

All the above rules apply – no metacommentary, no garbage posts – with two exceptions:

  • In Week 3 (Feb. 13-19), you may make one post about the blog month experience so far.
  • On February 28, you may post an overview of your blog month experience.

You might want to check out the National Blog Posting Month site for advice and support – you can even sign up to win prizes.

Mainly, though, you should have fun as you learn firsthand just what goes into regular blogging. I promise, you will survive.