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.

In-class assignment: Linking around

February 1, 2011

We’ve been reading and talking about links and connections, and today you’re going to make some of your own. But first, some things you might find useful.

QR codes> (such as

These are those black and white boxes of gobbledegook you’ve seen around. Scan one, and it’ll take your phone to a site.

– Why to do it: It lets mobile users quickly access your site or a specific post without typing.

How to do it:

  • At a QR code website, enter your site’s URL (including “http://”)
  • Get the permalink and/or <img src> code
    • To include it in a post, you’ll paste the <img src> code into the relevant spot in your HTML view
    • To include it in your blog, add the “Image” widget and paste the permalink under “Image URL” (change dimensions to 100 x 100)

Link Shorteners (such as

– These take lengthy links (like those of your blog posts) and shorten them into more manageable ones.

Why to do it: It’s especially useful when sharing on Twitter so you don’t eat up your 140 characters, but they’re great for anywhere you don’t want to gum up the works with a long URL

  • Note: If you use shortened links on Facebook, it won’t display a preview of the site. Also, some people don’t like that you can’t see where the link goes.

How to do it:

  • At a link shortener site, enter your site’s URL
  • Copy the resultant code, and paste it where you want it.

Advanced HTML linking

– By this time, you know how to select a swath of text and click the link button, but sometimes (e.g., in comments) that button won’t be there. Knowing the basic code for makes you a more savvy journalist and user.

Why to do it: In addition to the above, pasting the entire URL is a little tacky.

How to do it:

  • To add a link in comments, enter the following code:
    <a href=“”> Text </a>
  • You can also link to specific parts of your text. Follow these two steps:
    • Select a word at the start of the section you want to link, and code:
      <a name=“Whatever”>Some words</a>
    • Create a link the usual way, but with one addition:
      <a href= “> Text </a>

AND NOW, your In-class Assignment: Use HTML to add at least one tag to a section of an existing post of yours (best to use a longer post with subheds), and post a comment to this assignment post that includes an in-text link to that section. This is due by the end of class today, Tuesday, February 1.