How-To: Adding to your Blogroll

January 17, 2012

For Social Media Challenge #1, you’ll be creating a blogroll of the 10+ blogs you’re following in your RSS feed. A blogroll keeps your influences at your fingertips, and it’s a useful way to show visitors to your blog the places you use for information. It makes sense – if they like what you have to say, they might want to know who you like.

It’s easy to create and update this in WordPress:

  • Sign in to your blog and click “My Dashboards”
  • In the left column, go to Links > All Links
  • Click “Add New” (at the top next to “Links”) and fill in these blanks:
    • Name: What is the blog or blogger?
    • Web Address: The URL – be sure to include the http://
    • Description (OPTIONAL): Tell something about the blog
    • Categories: Default is “Blogroll” – you can create others if you like
  • Click the blue “Add Link” button on the left, and you’re done!

How-To: RSS feeds and Google Reader

January 17, 2012

Blogging means reading. How do you keep on top of everything you’re trying to read? Easy – you use an RSS feed! In class, you were required to start following at least 10 blogs with relevant information to your personal blog (and add them to your blogroll). Here’s a recap.

RSS stands for Rich Site Summary but is more commonly understood as Really Simple Syndication. From whatisrss.com:

RSS solves a problem for people who regularly use the web. It allows you to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites you are interested in. You save time by not needing to visit each site individually. You ensure your privacy, by not needing to join each site’s email newsletter.

People use feed readers (like Google Reader) to follow RSS feeds. You can add any site that syndicates content to your feed – sites with syndicated content will have an icon in their URL window that reads RSS, XML, or RDF. Here’s how to set up a reader for yourself:

We’ll use Google Reader, which you can access at reader.google.com

  • Click “Create an account” button to create a Google account (if you have a gmail account, you can skip this step)
  • Provide your email account and a password
  • Agree to terms of service and click “I accept” button

Once you’ve signed into Google Reader:

  • Add blogs – Click the big red “SUBSCRIBE” button in top left
  • Manage blogs – Your subscribed blogs show up in the left column under “subscriptions” (click one to read posts from just that blog, click “All Items” at the top of the left column to see posts from every subscription)
  • Hold the “All Items” button (at top) to switch to view only new items
  • “Mark all as read” is a useful way to clean house when your feed gets backed up
  • You can switch between “List” (just the headlines) and “Expanded” view with the buttons at the top right

Student blog listings – 2012

January 17, 2012

Below is this year’s listing of your personal blogs, including short descriptions of what readers can expect from each. Once I’ve gotten everyone’s address, I’ll post links to each of these in the “Students” menu on the right-hand bar. Have a look and get to reading and commenting.

Although I’ve posted the descriptions you’ve given me, some of you still need to refine your concepts (if you’ve heard from me about this but see someone here with a seemingly similar concept, rest assured they have also heard from me). We’ll continue to work on these this week. In a nutshell, remember the Don’t list we discussed in class last week: No diaries, no “my crazy life,” no expert advice (you’re not one), and no recipes/reviews (you’ll notice these are all one-way approaches to blogging). But also remember the Do list: Identify a focus that lets you connect to existing conversations and communities, that provides multiple external sources of information, and that is fruitful enough to maintain long after this course has ended.

Marshal Carper: A scrawny writer attempts to return to jiu-jitsu training after a major knee surgery.

Michael Carvelli: It will be a blog where WVU fans can go to get up-to-the-minute news and information about Mountaineer athletics.

Sarah Cordonier: My blog is about what life is like in a family with many children (allocation of resources, family dynamics, misconceptions, etc.).

Erin FitzwilliamsFocusing on animal rights and ethics news in West Virginia, but will also discuss/localize national and international news from time to time.

Breanne Hill: My blog covers the events and people surrounding the study of martial arts at West Virginia University, focusing on the college students practicing Taekwondo.

Hunter Homistek: The CoalFist is West Virginia’s premier mixed martial arts blog.  Come here for fight info, fighter profiles and places to train in the Mountain State.

Greer Hughes: I would like to focus on iPhone photography and specifically Morgantown photos and apps.

Matt Krauza Midnight Writer is all about the life of a graveyard shift worker and how working that shift affects their life.

Autumn Lonon: It is the broke girls guide to getting the most out of your college years.

Matt Murphy: Explore Route 40 exists as a guide for locals and non-locals alike to introduce local restaurants and attractions along America’s first federally-funded highway.

Candace Nelson: My blog will focus on local food culture in Morgantown, which includes people, events, ideas and community that all have a passion for food and drink.

Mary Power: Though Ramen Noodles, Easy-Mac, and fast food are all subpar culinary creations, it is possible to live on a college budget and eat well (if your definition of well involves slabs of butter, which mine does).  This blog aims to detail that struggle as well as different student diets while providing easy, quick, and wonderful creations.

Ben Scott: My blog will be discovering and exploring the wilds of West Virginia through original photography and recordings.

John Simson: My blog is basically about the progression of extreme sports and the individuals that are progressing them.

Katie Sloane: I will be writing about preparing for life after college, how to cope with the changes that my peers and I are going to face, and resources that are available to aid us in this journey.

Anan Wan: I’ll focus on the daily life of the international students in WVU, especially on the biggest Chinese traditional Spring Festival celebration.

Matt Wolford: My blog will focus on the latest tech buzz and I’ll give my opinion of why I think it’s positive or negative to today’s world and the consumer.

Samantha Young: The blog will address ideas for students who want to eat healthy and are on a budget.


Read & Respond – Week 2

January 12, 2012

Here’s your first read and respond. These will serve as supplements to the assigned readings listed in the syllabus for the week (Briggs’ introduction and chapter 1 this time around). They’ll most typically be links to articles; we’ve got two here.

It’s common to struggle with coming up with a specific focus for your blog. You want to pursue your interests, but you need a theme that connects with a community and has the potential for updating long after you’ve left this course. Remember the rules for what to avoid:

  • Diaries/”My Crazy Life” themes (you’re writing for a community, not family and friends, so don’t assume they think you’re inherently fascinating. feel free, however, to link who/what you are to a larger world, so long as the focus isn’t you and your shenanigans)
  • Themes that depend on you positioning yourself as an expert or advice guru (even if you are, you have no/few readers at the moment – you need make yourself part of the conversation before you start handing down life lessons)
  • Reviews of games, restaurants, movies, etc. (but you CAN engage with the larger discussion about these things)

Briggs has further suggestions for you. In particular, check out his interlude by innovator Greg Linch. See that last point in Linch’s list of innovator traits? “It’s not about you.” What can you write about that gets beyond yourself and joins a meaningful conversation?

Briggs also discusses the value of RSS readers, which we’ll be getting into this week in class. Start looking for blogs to follow NOW. Who’s writing about your interests? Who’s writing and reporting like you’d like to? Beyond this, there’s some useful discussion of coding and HTML. Don’t Panic! The next time you create a blog post, note those two tabs in the top right on the window; take a deep breath and click the “HTML” tab to see the code behind your post. It’s not so bad, is it? Give his simple coding exercise on p. 27-28 a try.

Once you’re done with Briggs, I want you to take a look at this link from 10,000 Words on nifty ideas for RSS feeds. We’ll just be using them for reading (at first), but it’s useful to know how much potential they hold. In essence, RSS feeds deliver the Internet to you in a digestible, scannable form. What could be bad about that?

Well, Ted Koppel has some thoughts on the subject in “The Case Against News We Can Choose.” Granted, Koppel’s more directly addressing 24-hour news stations, but his ideas certainly are relevant to the online world of information. How do his points inform our work in this class?

Finally, I want you to shift gears to the bigger internet picture with this useful overview of the current “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) debate. It may seem wonky, but read the whole thing because its outcome may well directly affect you. Not merely from the act itself, either: Companies such as Google and Facebook have threatened to go dark if SOPA goes through. Think that might affect your life?

So have at it! You will need to respond to these readings in a comment on this post no later than noon on Monday, Jan. 16. A few things to make sure of:

  • Post as your WordPress/Blogger identity so I know who you are.
  • Specifically address the readings, but don’t summarize them – build on them!

Starting your blog: The “About” page

January 10, 2012

In class Tuesday, we created our personal blogs. To recap, you need to create a personal blog (not a diary, not a set of movie reviews) that has a tightly specific topic and connects with a community. Some good examples from class are a focus on the college taekwondo community, another about outdoor photographers in northern WV, and still another about working the graveyard shift. If you’re still searching, find your focus and identify the community you can connect with.

Your first assignment is a simple one: Rewrite the WordPress boilerplate on your personal blog’s “About” page to say something more specific about what you’ll be doing. You will need to:

  1. In your dashboard, go to “Pages” on the left bar.
  2. Select “All Pages”
  3. Choose the existing “About” page and select “Edit”
  4. Enter your new text and click the big blue “Publish” button
  5. Send me the link (by Sunday) to your “About” page (not the main blog page) and a one-sentence description of your blog. DON’T FORGET THIS STEP!

That’s it. This must be posted by Sunday, January 15.


Welcome to Blogging and Interactive Journalism

January 6, 2012

Hi pre-bloggers

Welcome to Blogging and Interactive Journalism. We’ll be meeting for the first time next Tuesday, but if you haven’t yet, you should check out this, our course blog (which mirrors the email I sent you earlier). You can use the right-hand menus to check out past reading assignments (some will change, some will not), assignments, and projects.

Back on the course blog, you can also see your predecessors’ work, and this is something you should probably do. Recall that you’ll be posting twice a week in a personal blog on a topic of your own choice, and that at the midpoint of the semester you’ll also be designing and maintaining a group blog focused on some interest to a community in Morgantown (there will be changes here; restaurant reviews are now off-limits, so plan to do ACTUAL reporting).

I’d like you all to come to our first class prepared with a few ideas for your personal blog (and some names!). This will be focused on some specific topic of interest that could realistically be maintained beyond the semester, and something that would attract followers who are not your friends or mother. It will NOT be a diary, a collection of movie/restaurant reviews, or a weekly post about your favorite sports team or TV shows. That doesn’t mean you can’t pursue your interests, only that you’re covering a community, not writing for yourself. Valid past concepts have included gaming culture in Morgantown, rock climbing and outdoor photographers in Appalachia, art culture for the college audience, literary culture for the new author, and even one on the community of cat owners in college housing (this last might seem a bit silly, but the author developed an excellent rapport with like-minded individuals through commenting and responding).

Notice what all of these have in common: Words like “culture” and “community.” Your job is to find a way to set yourself apart. I have no reason to read your Baltimore Ravens fan blog when I can get the same information from ESPN or Deadspin from far more established commenters. However, a Lehigh student in a similar course parleyed her fandom into “A Chick Who Digs Baltimore Ravens Football,” a thriving blog on the culture of female Ravens fandom, and even wound up getting to do sideline reporting at some games! She did this by identifying a unserved community and covering it. That’s what I’m looking for from you (sideline coverage not required).

Finally: Grad students. You’ll be required to do an extra component for this class. Past students have had the option of doing original research for submission to AEJMC (deadline: April 1) or leading a course lecture on either an applied subject (e.g., creating a YouTube video account and editing with FinalCut) or other area of interest (e.g., a case study on anonymous commenting policies). Any presentations need to align with a given week’s content, and you’ll be required to submit your proposal by the second week of class.

So that’s it for now. Looking for other things to get a jump on? Start a Twitter account (or start using it again). Create a Google+ page. If you’ve got a smartphone, start looking for apps that might have a journalistic use (and experiment with location apps like Foursquare and SCVNGR). Bookmark Mashable and Read-Write Web and read them regularly. And go have a look at the course blog, come prepared with a few ideas for your personal blog, and I’ll see you next Tuesday.

Dr. Britten