Read & Respond – Week 9

You’re all pretty busy at the moment, so this week’s reading will go in a different direction. You’re reading Briggs Chapter 10, on the newsgathering conversation, but beyond that, I just want you to take a leisurely read through what has come before. Scan through a few of the group blogs from the past few years and see what you think.

The blogs are:

Masticate Morgantown (2010)

Motown Entertainment (2010)

Move-in Morgantown (2010)

MountainEats (2011)

Mountaineer Life (2011)

The Eclectic (2011)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Morgantown (2011)

Pick two of these blogs (ideally one from each year) and respond in depth (similar to how we critiqued each others’ personal blogs). What are they about? Is there a clear focus? What are some of their strongest posts? Weakest? Finally, and most importantly, what would you have done differently (and how does that influence your own group blog plans)?

Don’t forget to incorporate how Briggs’ thoughts and suggestions on conversation factor into the work you read. Do you see a conversation in the group blogs you’ve read, or are they just talking to themselves? Your response is due as a comment to this post by noon, Monday, March 5.

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19 Responses to Read & Respond – Week 9

  1. Ali Young says:

    The Masticate Morgantown blog is about the food options in Morgantown, and where travelers may want to dine if their belly is growling. It also includes restaurant reviews, drink specials, and tasty food selections if you can’t decide where to eat for dinner in your own hometown.

    The focus of the blog is clear mainly because there is an appealing picture that goes along with each post. Not to mention, the bold titles pop up with words like ingredients, recipes, and healthy tips.

    I honestly had a hard time finding a strong post for this blog due to its frequent recipe posts that you can find anywhere, but I would say it’s the Morgantown Farmers’ Market. I get tired of going to local grocery stores all the time with the crowded shoppers, so it’s nice to know when a farmer’s market is in town with fresh and healthy food options. She also provides a map in case you don’t know how to navigate around Morgantown very well. Although I didn’t find the blog very informative, there are a lot of good visuals that make it enjoyable to read.

    The weakest post is probably the most recent one, Best Cookies EVER. It doesn’t offer much information except how to make the cookies. It’s straight to the point with no reasoning behind what makes them so good or why someone might want to make them. Not to be degrading, but there were many posts that just stated how to prepare a chicken breast or cocktail. You can find resources for recipes anywhere, so I don’t understand the idea behind the blog. In the Money Saving Recipe the price of chicken tortilla soup is made known along with how to prepare it, but why not compare it to expensive store items to make it more interesting?

    If I created this blog, I would’ve included more detail in my posts about why I chose to write about that particular topic. I put a lot of time into my posts, so when I think about how long it would take to type out a recipe that you didn’t create in the first place, it puts into perspective how hard I try to make my blog stand out.

    By seeing this blog, it influences me to write about what I would want to read and not just fill empty space. If you don’t put in your individual best efforts, it will reflect poorly on your group as a whole. With that being said, I don’t see much of a conversation. I would’ve worked harder to discover places that the community isn’t too familiar with instead of sticking to the techniques of cooking. There are a lot of students that frequent the same places so it would be nice to become acquainted with new cuisine options.

    The Eclectic is about local events taking place in Morgantown, which covers a variety of topics including public events, restaurants, companies, music, and pretty much anything else that might appeal to a WVU student or the entire community.

    The focus is clear because the structure of the blog is organized and has a lot of detail. The posts are very interesting, and seeing all of the pictures right away puts emphasis on what the post is going to be about before you even start reading.

    There are many strong posts in this blog so it was hard to decide. I really enjoyed An Earth Day 5k. It makes me want to participate with the community to raise money and bring awareness to the environment. In addition, it gave provided an assortment of photos that make you want to see the place for yourself. I also liked reading about The Upper Monongahela River Wastershed. I never realized how much trash just floats on the Morgantown Locks and Dam. I thought it was interesting that the post included the ‘Mon Man’s’ efforts to clean up because I had never heard of him before. It’s not only an informative post but it makes you want to make a difference. Several links are provided as well in case you want to learn more about the watershed and how to stop pollution.

    There weren’t many weak posts in this blog, but if I had to choose it would be WVU Relay For Life. The only reason I say that is because the event had already passed and it didn’t leave any room for someone who may have wanted to join the race. It does a good job explaining what the night entailed (through words and pictures) but it would’ve been nice to know about the event in advance. At the end, he does include a link to a future relay for life event so that was helpful.

    If I were an author of this blog, I would’ve included more details on a few of the posts. Some of them had a lot of depth to them, but others were mainly pictures with a few lines in between them. I’m not saying to remove any of the pictures because it makes the blog attractive, but just provide more details with words. For example, I’m sure there’s a lot of room for discussion regarding the Morgantown History Museum, but the post is a little vague.

    Seeing this blog influences me to incorporate a great deal of visuals in our future group blog because the photo’s and video’s make the posts more interesting. The conversation is definitely there and reaches out to everyone in the Morgantown community by covering a wide range of topics.

  2. The first blog I read was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Morgantown. One thing that I felt was really missing was visuals. While there are some photos, I think as a whole there should have been more. Since the blogs aim is to show people fun things to do in Morgantown, a ton of visuals would have really complimented this blog. Seeing how fun something is is a lot more fun than reading about how fun something is.
    This is why my favorite post was Student Recreation Center Challenge. There are plenty of visuals and the reading is pretty casual and conversational. One thing that is missing however is that there is comment on this post, but no reply from the author. Briggs talks about the necessity of being more conversational on the web and answering comments is a great way to do that.
    One post I didn’t really care for was Life Changing Words. The author writes on a very meaningful, very serious topic, but at a first glance it seems a little out of place for blog that talks about events and fun things to do in Morgantown. After reading an entire paragraph, the reader then discovers the post is about Relay for Life. If the author had mentioned that sooner and then talked about his/her experiences, I think this post would have been better. There are also no visuals which I think is a big missed opportunity. It is likely that there are plenty of pictures from last year’s walk that could have been used. Again there are unanswered comments, which misses out on joining the online conversation Briggs talks about.
    If I could have done things differently with this blog, I would have added a lot more visuals. If I want people to see how fun Morgantown can be, the best thing to do is actually show them. Also, because of my personal interests, I would have showed more about the outdoor activities there are to do and places to see in Morgantown, like the rail trails, Dorsey’s Knob, etc.

    The other blog I read was Masticate Morgantown. I’m a very visal person, and I might sound like a broken record, but again I think this blog really could have used more visuals. Their About page says the blog is to show people places to eat in Morgantown, yet there are very few photos of any restaurants.
    I think one of the best posts is Morgantown Farmer’s Market>. The tone is conversational and unobtrusive. While I would have liked to have seen a few photos of the market, there is a map which would be very helpful for someone wanting to check it out. There is a comment on this post that again goes unanswered, so Briggs’ web conversation is not taking place here either.
    After reading through the blog, I think the worst post was probably Best Cookies EVER>. I love cookies, especially chocolate chip, but this post is literally nothing more than a recipe. Even the photo is probably one of the first images that came up from a Google search. A photo of their batch and maybe step by step photos would have been a good touch. Another reason I didn’t care for this post was because it just didn’t fit. If I want recipes, I’ll go to a cooking blog, not a blog that is supposed to tell me good places to eat in Morgantown. There is also absolutely no conversation going on here.
    One thing I noticed with this blog was that there seemed to be a lot of recipes on here. If I was going to add a recipe, I would have only done it after talking about where I got whatever it was, and how I could (and so you could) make it at home. Posting just a recipe with no explanations doesn’t create any kind of conversation. I also would have added photos of actual restaurants in Morgantown, since that is what this blog was supposed to be.

  3. Just some quick comments from Briggs’ Chapter 10: Since I’ve been dealing with commenters for a few years now, whether it’s behind a newspaper or a blog, I’ve learned it’s not easy. It takes time to monitor, and there’s the issue of who’s allowed to comment. At one point, he talked about anonymous comments. I recently just changed the settings on my personal blog to not allow anonymous comments and require that commenters have a profile or email. Monitoring a blog and having to constantly defend yourself can take the passion out of blogging. But I didn’t want to prevent those wanting to engage in a meaningful dialogue. It’s helped weed out some of the unnecessary stuff, but I’ve still had people make up profiles just to comment on my blog.

    So of course the two blogs that are the most interesting to me are Masticate Morgantown (2010) & MountainEats (2011). Both are dealing with food.

    Masticate Morgantown’s last few posts are recipes, which seem slightly out of place. Unless there’s a tie-in to local food, I don’t get it. But then there’s a post by Paden about eating organic, which has some awesome tips about eating organic locally (if he talked in broader terms, no one would care. This is the niche). I even posted something similar. Austin, Julia, and Rachel had some solid posts about profiles of restaurants: Munchies, Regatta, and Chico’s. Rachel had some FABULOUS photos, too. These have a clear focus to me and cater to the local community. But the random recipes threw me for a loop. Why post these when anyone with internet access could do it? I’d post about recipes if they use a local product or specific to the area. For example, if a local chef has a famous recipe he gave up. But I really don’t need to know how to make a random zucchini cocktail. This reinforces my desire to stick to a local topic, and figure out how it fits into a broader area. When Briggs talked about engaging WITH the community, instead of talking at it, the recipes seemed to do the latter. Giving people information about organic options is more engaging, but putting out a piece of information with no real dialogue involved is not.

    MountainEats’ last posts revolved around a pizza week – which is awesome! Every college town has a ton of pizza joints, and profiling them is something that hits close to home (ahem, my blog). I see how this blog improved upon the downfalls of the last one. As I scrolled through, I didn’t see anything that wasn’t local. Many of the posts are very visual, and I liked how they incorporated timely posts – like when the College Eats (ABC) special came to town. This is exactly what I’ve been trying to do with my blog consistently for the past year. I also liked that they used Corey’s expertise (kinda?) with beer and help inform others! I love learning new things like this. Their overall focus was on local food. They do have a lot of restaurant profiles. I love those, but I think they could have done some more newsy posts, too. There are a ton of things going on. I liked when they had “best places to get a coffee” or “best places to watch the game” where they had to do some groundwork. I’d say the weakest posts were those where there was simply a video posted. I saw this at least twice. That doesn’t give people much to engage with, and honestly, I skipped by them for the most part. Without any intro text, why should I waste my time watching something for two minutes? Like with Briggs’ ideas on engaging, this is just putting it out there. Some intro text would give the readers something to ease into.

    FYI, I really like these two blogs, and they’re giving me more and more ideas for my own blog, now. Glad I checked them out.

  4. erinfitzi says:

    While online comments are a great asset to journalism, they are frustrating at times. Sometimes comments don’t make it past the DA’s comment screen, which finds “bad words” and doesn’t allow the comment to pass. Anonymity doesn’t make you a badass, it can hurt people, and not necessarily the journalists that write the stories. It’s crucial to have comments and when they are constructive they’re a great source of help and gauge how an audience is receiving a particular story.

    I chose to discuss The Eclectic and Motown Entertainment. The Eclectic was exactly like it sounds – a hodge podge of stuff about Morgantown. They had broken up the blog into beats like art/culture, local news, campus activities, community involvement and Morgantown music. I feel like too often in Morgantown all of these topics collide, and that’s kind of what how the blog felt, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was kind of picking up a local newspaper and reading about SGA, charity stories, the Mon River etc. A couple of the blog posts weren’t really thought out, the Relay for Life post, for example, was like a picture chronicling of the event, and while cool, it did nothing for me. While it was somewhat the focus of the blog, it was almost all regurgitated news stories/features.
    Motown Entertainment was a similar premise, “here’s a bunch of stuff about Morgantown because it’s kinda boring.” The latest post I saw was “Fire and Carbon Monoxide Safety” and I’m thinking “why,” because I really don’t care. It’s harsh I know, but what does this really have to do about Morgantown? The second post is about Morgantown during the summer, and already I’m seeing the “hopefully this will help you out/enjoy.” I feel like some of the things said are kind of like “duh.” Maybe it’s the news writer in me, but I prefer more news value over opinion-y stuff, despite what I said earlier about The Eclectic. That’s the hard part about blog posts, there’s a soft line about what’s opinion and what’s news. Neither of these blogs had many blog posts with real headlines. “Reviewing Something So I Capitalize Each Word” doesn’t reel me in at all.

  5. I chose to critique Masticate Morgantown and Mountaineer Life.

    Masticate Morgantown is about food in Morgantown. From grocery shopping to eating out, everything about food was covered. I’d say there’s a pretty clear focus. I was never confused as to what they were talking about and nothing seemed to come out of nowhere. All the topics were coherent and flowed. I thought some of the stronger posts were the “Dollar for Dollar: Grocery Comparison” and the “Food Destinations Along Interstate I-79” posts. These posts were quick and to the point. They clearly provided some fast options that demonstrated cost and location and you didn’t have to read through a bunch of boring garbage to get to it. I also really like “Featured Restaurant: Chico’s Fat”; I thought this post had some really great photos with it. It made me want to go in and experience the restaurant. I thought the weakest post was “B-Is For Bar”. Yes, it had good information in it, but the post was choppy, scattered, and I got lost while trying to read through it. It was not at all aesthetically pleasing. I think they did a great job of integrating the community. This really got the conversation going. Not only did they discuss Morgantown restaurants and grocery stores, but they also asked the readers for their opinions. I thought all the little survey boxes were delightful. They give the reader something to look forward to. And people left comments, as if they actually cared about the topics; I was surprised. They, however, gave almost no personal touches to the posts. I felt like, “What’s the point in putting this information in a blog, if you’re essentially only going to tell me what I could find out by visiting any of these places’ websites. I wanted the bloggers to give me a little flavor of their own tastes in each blog. But, by the end of it, I was willing to try some of these places I’ve yet to dine at. As far as what I would do differently, I would pay more attention to who has access to my blog, as some incredibly inappropriate photos appeared on the April 4th post, “Comfort Food”. I don’t know how that happened, but if it were my blog, it’d be taken down immediately.

    Mountaineer Life is about how four very different mountaineers like to spend their time in Morgantown. They each have a different passion and it shows. We get to see gamer life, community service opportunities, something for the hungry mind, and pet information. Yes, these things have nothing to do with eachother, but as a whole I thought it was an interesting take on life as a mountaineer. So, the blog may not have had a clear focus, but certainly, all the individual bloggers were very developed as bloggers and were clear on each of their paths. I thought the best post was “Books Through Bars”. The pictures and quotes used in this post inspire me to get involved with the Appalachian Prison Book Project. I also enjoyed “Women Against Rape”, “Neuticles”, and “Friday’s Featured Pets.” This were all interesting; they were able to catch my attention. And they were both informative and entertaining. I thought the weakest post was “White Park Baseball.” Although it was very well written, there were no visuals. And blogs without visuals scream, “SNOOZER!” I think all four of these bloggers had a great balance of personal input and conversation. They talked about themselves and their involvement enough to convince me that people do these things because they’re fun and interesting, and not just because they have to blog for a class. There is definitely conversation going on in here. The bloggers integrated all kinds of quotes and opinions that it’s clear other people had input into what information was deemed worthy enough to post on this blog. I honestly wouldn’t change anything (other than adding visuals to the few posts that didn’t have them). Even though they weren’t coherent, I didn’t really care. I enjoyed what each of the bloggers had to say about their specializations.

    And as far as anonymous commenters are concerned, I don’t really care. A comment is a comment, no matter who’s making it. I’d say that if someone took the time to read your goofy blog, at least be decent enough to let them comment on it.

  6. bre7714 says:

    The first blog I looked at was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Morgantown. I have to admit that I picked this out of the list because I enjoyed the movie, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” I guess that says something about choosing names for blogs that will draw readers’ attention.
    This blog is about providing a guide to college students about the varieties of activities/things to do around Morgantown. As a Morgantown native, the idea of this blog doesn’t appeal to me much overall. I’ve grown up in this town and I have a pretty good idea about what there is to do, right? That’s what I thought at first, but as I looked over the posts I realized there is a lot going on that I never had an inkling of.
    The strongest post is “Hitchhiking Goes Global.” As a student, this topic is relevant to me as it deals with the diverse population of students at WVU and how my university integrates them into my community. There are also some decent links, original pictures and an interview with the president of the ISO Organization.
    The weakest post is “Student Recreation Center Challenge.” The writer wanted to use the university’s Challenge! Week as a peg, but could have done much more with it. Instead, he wrote a play-by-play of a day at the rec, something that Briggs might consider talking at people, rather than with tham. I just can’t see the “why do I care?” part of this topic being answered. This writer described a day at the Rec Center, which I can’t see being a very engaging post ready to inspire conversation.
    Overall, this post has very little focus but makes up for it by covering each writer’s individual beat with some interesting posts.
    The next blog I read was Eclectic, which is definitely unfocused, but in a way that works because it’s a lot like a special-interest newspaper. Which could be another way to describe blogging, really. However, I could see this as an overall major weakness for the blog because readers tend to look for specificity when deciding on blogs to follow loyally.
    The strongest post is “Mountaineers Celebrate the Death of Bin Laden.” A touchy subject, but a newsworthy one. Since WVU is well-known for its partying, this post could draw a lot of interest from outside the university from the curious alone. There are also some interesting pictures of the illegal festivities (damning evidence for the students featured, but good for sparking reader interest), and even a video (I was just there because my friend needed a ride, officer!).
    The weakest post is “Morgantown History Museum.” This post seems out of place in a blog that is meant to draw a line between its topics and college students. Where is the draw? Unless you’re a history buff, this post has little to do with WVU students.

  7. Mary Power says:

    For this weeks assignment I read through Masticate Morgantown and Mountaineats.
    Both blogs were sort of similar and a collection of restaurant reviews and some talk of local places and food options.
    Within Masticate Morgantown there were a lot of recipes, which I don’t have a problem with but I was looking for more content than “I found this weird way to make a margarita.” Maybe its because I love a normal margarita. Ether way I felt like this blog often left me just choosing to skim over recipes. There was definitely an attempt at interaction with polls, which was certainly a good idea. I loved the visuals on the post about Chico’s Fat and there were some comments outside of the other bloggers that contributed on the posts which is good.
    MountainEats definitely had some strong points. The use of tools like maps, good visuals, and youtube clips gave each writer a voice and I really enjoyed some of the posts. I loved the videos and thought there were more attempts at interactions within this blog. The links to menus and basic restaurant review blog stuff were great but I really loved how much personality they put into the entire creation.
    I felt of the two MountainEats was trying to reach and communicate with an audience; the articles were well researched and tailored to a specific community. That community seemed to be college students, which makes sense; its what the writers are and what they know. I felt like Masticate Morgantown often would make a last ditch effort to reach out to the same community, but that it was more of an afterthought and less of an attempt at conversation.
    Comments that were left on the blogs seemed to be either classmates or sort of spammy, but you’ll have that. I think the potential for conversation makes anonymous commenting valuable but I understand peoples hesitation to embrace it because the lack of responsibility. We’re in an age where anyone can pretend to be an expert or just be cruel for no reason with no repercussions so controlling commenting seems valid in certain cases.

  8. Anan says:

    Masticate Morgantown and Mountaineats are the blogs interest me most, and they are all about food.

    The first one, Masticate Morgantown is about the food, drinks, new restaurants, suggestions for where to eat and all food related news in Morgantown. Its focus is very clear – food! I think the strongest one is “Featured Restaurant: B W W in Mo-Town!” It provides the detailed information about the operation hours, website, specials, writer’s personal experience, famous food and the procedures of eating there. A survey chart is also included in this post which asks viewers to vote for their favorite wing sauces. This survey is very new to me, as I never read a blog with surveys in our class. Then, the weakest one I think is the “Best Cookie Ever.” It just has the ingredients and directions to make this cookie without any other information and writer’s opinions. That is somewhat too simple, compared with other posts in this blog. If I were one of the authors of this blog, I would include the suggestions and the interviews of these restaurants’ owners or chefs and WVU students. Writing something other than their personal ideas might make this blog more diverse. Then, I would like to write some restaurants which serve foreign cuisines. For our own group blog, using the surveys like this blog might give our blog a fresh look and attracts more interactions and conversations with viewers. Most of the posts in this blog have comments which provide comments from viewers, suggestions of food information in Morgantown. Sometimes the viewers share their own eating experience in the comment area.

    The second one, Mountaineats, also deals with food, bars and new eating places in Morgantown area. The strongest post is the “Tuesday with Jazz: Tea Extravaganza!!” It is not just talking about one certain restaurant; instead, it introduces several different kinds of famous tea in Downtown Morgantown. It both introduces the café and its famous tea. Thus, we can get the café information for those who are not that interested in tea. Blue Moose, Lavender and Sozo are the three cafes that have most attractive tea in the town. This post shows the pictures of tea and the cafés. The weakest one is the “Treat Yourself: To an easy and exotic dinner.” Although it’s easy to learn to cook from a youtube video, adding some personal opinions or just few words might be better than a post just with a single video. This Mountaineats is better the previous food blog. It has more words, pictures and with a more attractive design. I think this group may use more time to write blog than the previous group… It’s good enough, if I must say something to do it different, I would add some surveys like the previous one, and more videos with its enough pictures can be more interesting. I think this blog is a good example for us to learn. It’s well organized and has a nice design with attractive photos of food (which make me feel hungry:D ).

    About Briggs’ opinions about conversation factor, for me, I actually like read comments below the news story more than the news story itself. As comments provide more information we don’t know and show the topic in different perspectives. Conversations with audiences are good sources for journalists to get more ideas and be inspirations.

  9. amarie1025 says:

    I chose to view the blog pages “The Eclectic” and “Masticate Morgantown”…

    I took interest to the page automatically, not because of it’s name, but to see if it really was eclectic. I wanted to see if these 4 or 5 authors could really create a page that was diverse enough to capture at least 2 or 3 of my interests out of their x number of blog posts. I felt as though the title of it was a bit misleading. Although they did cover a variety of topics, it was sort of like a big pot, but nothing was melting. I guess you could say it was more like a layer cake; each page/topic was it’s own layer and had nothing to do with the page/topic before or after it, but they were put together to make this blog or in this case…cake. I did find different topics that seemed interesting, but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t find in the local paper or online from a more credible source…that is if I wanted an actual news story. It seemed kind of generic for being so eclectic. If I could change anything to improve it, it would just be to have something really POP about the page to make it different. Maybe instead of focusin on the town “news” with this style, I would focus it to group in that community. For example; I would communicate with musicians/music lovers and keep them updated on local shows/artists/entertainment news in Morgantown. With doing that it makes the page flow better and still will attract an eclectic group of people if I kept up with different genres of music. I do like how each author had executed their topic with their individual posts. I thought some of the strongest posts came from the “Community” archives. The author put a lot of effort to include different types or formats, media, tools (such as maps), etc., while keeping the audience informed. Some of the weaker posts were harder to find because a lot of the posts overlapped categories and that was kind of annoying too, this cake is starting to get messy. I was kind of disappointed when I realized that a lot of the weaker posts came from the “news” category. Most of it wasn’t news, it was different reports on random topics, they didn’t’ have that “what’s in it for me”, “why do I care” thing going on, and for something to be news that is a requirement.
    Masticate Morgantown wasn’t what I was expecting at all. I didn’t know what to expect actually. I thought it would be cool to see the restaurant reviews, hoping they would introduce me to new or different restaurants hidden in the city. That really didn’t happen. I think some of the weaker posts came from the posts that were restaurant reviews because it’s obviously opinionated but that’s not what made me lose interest. There was no reason for me to care what they though of this restaurant. If I wanted a better example of results for a restaurant review I would rather look at the poll results of a random survey. I didn’t care if they thought Chico’s Fat was better than Qdoba, I wasn’t aware they were judges on Top Chef.
    Their stronger posts were mixed in between recipes and restaurant reviews, but one that I saw was titled “Healthy Grilling Tips”. I thought it gave good information about grilling outdoors…in Morgantown, I guess. I don’t where I would begin to change about this because this was a risky topic, there are a lot of barriers when creating a blog with a focus like this one.

    • aaaaaargh says:

      As I’ve been re-reading some of the class’ posts, I came upon your phrase “it was sort of like a big pot, but nothing was melting.” Don’t know how I missed this the first time, but it’s pretty terrific.

  10. For the most part, I really enjoy when people comment on something I do. Sometimes it’s not always positive, but that’s how it goes sometimes. Since I’ve been receiving comments and feedback from people and have gotten some negative things back from readers, I’ve found that the best way to handle things with them is to address them. Usually, the people who say those kind of things are doing so on a knee-jerk reaction to something they didn’t necessarily agree with and, in my experiences, when you respond to them, they tend to be a little better about things and usually back off a little bit.

    People who comment like that to you really just want to be heard. They want you to know that they’re there, and if you acknowledge them and treat them in a professional way, they aren’t THAT bad for the most part.

    As far as anonymous people, they often tend to be really rude at times and you can monitor them for the most part but I think that, when it comes down to it, they’re going to find a way to comment like that anyway. Overall, I love comments. They’re a great way to continue conversation if they are used the right way, and that’s something that is on both us as writers/reporters and our audience.

    Now, for the class blogs, I read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Morgantown and Motown Entertainment. The only real common theme that I saw in both of these blogs was that they didn’t really have a solid common theme. It’s kind of like you’ve been telling us in class, you have to have a solid premise around what you want to do in order to make people want to continue coming back to your blog. If today I want to write about sports, and tomorrow I decide to write about movies and the next day I’m going to write about local restaurants, I’m not going to attract a solid audience that will keep reading long-term.

    Both of these just kind of said, ‘Hey, here’s what I like and it’s in Morgantown so it works!’ but it really didn’t.

    They had some redeeming qualities, but overall I didn’t really get a whole lot out of reading anything on the blogs. Motown Entertainment tried doing something interesting with a post about getting ready for finals, but we all know that you need to study and get sleep. You’re not telling me anything I didn’t already know. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Morgantown had things like the Student Rec Center challenge that was basically just a running diary of a day at the Rec. OK? It’s interesting I guess, but it’s not going to make me come back to read the next day.

    The thing that attracts people to blogs like this is that you bring something new and interesting to the conversation.

    Those are sites that you’ll keep coming back to.

  11. Matt Murphy says:

    Move-in Morgantown:

    This blog is about moving into Morgantown, specifically, what college students who are unfamiliar with the city should expect when moving into on-campus and off-campus housing.
    At least as far as the “About” page and some of the posts, the blog should have a clear focus – various off-campus living opportunities as well as new developments and trends related to off-campus housing. However, noting what I found the blog was about on first glance, it seems that the authors didn’t stick as well to what the blog is supposed to be about. I think that a some of the posts strayed too far from the blog’s original purpose (at least to me) by posting about on-campus housing, like the post about Summit Hall, or writing too frequently about what first-time freshmen should bring to college. Furthermore, I wish that the blog looked at more options from landlords or companies closer to downtown that aren’t as big or flashy as the newer complexes in the county (The Ridge, West Run, etc.).
    That being said, there were many posts I did like. My favorite was the post on tips for grad students when moving to Morgantown, particularly because that’s a problem I faced when I moved back from Indiana. I had no idea which neighborhoods to avoid, and so I was apartment-hunting blindly (fortunately, I got lucky and found a great apartment in a good neighborhood). I also liked how there was a lot of information about off-campus housing in one place. When I moved, I found it too time-consuming and difficult to try and find all of the different housing options in Morgantown.
    For this blog, I would have done two things to improve (yes, I know this is only for half a semester and we’re all busy, but I’m thinking ideally). First, nix the posts about on-campus housing. The point of the blog (I think) is to focus more on off-campus housing. Writing about Towers and wearing flip-flops in the shower is irrelevant. Second, many of the apartment complex information seems to be drawn just from information on the complex’s website. It would be nice for the author(s) to go on a tour of a unit, and/or talk to people currently living there. Based on people I knew who went to WVU, that’s how I knew I didn’t want to live in West Run or anyplace off Van Voorhis (mostly because of traffic).

    Mountaineer Life:

    I decided to look at this blog because of the wide variety of opinions presented by the authors, and also because of the blog’s potential.
    Mountaineer Life is about four different aspects of the Morgantown community, mostly for WVU students: gaming culture, finding like-minded bibliophiles, volunteerism and living with pets.
    What I like about the blog is that it covers very different topics, while attempting to tie all those topics together. I do like how in the “About” page, each day is dedicated to a different author and a different focus. I think that’s a great way to present a group blog into the blogging world. The posts I enjoyed most were the ones dedicated to volunteerism, since that is something that could apply to nearly all WVU students.
    However, despite the great variety of opinions on the blog, I think that such variety is also a major issue. Although it’s great to have different authors with different perspectives, those perspectives are way too far apart. There needs to be a more reined-in focus with the blog. Also, I think that any time a blog has different focuses, the titles need to reflect that. So, for example, blog posts about pets should have some sort of tag in the title (think like how columns in newspapers have names). This helps tie the blog together as one unit rather than choppy. I think that for our grad school blog, this is something we need to do – make sure our posts stand on their own, but remain closely tied to the purpose and topic of the blog as a whole.

    I thought about intertwining the Briggs reading with each blog review, but it seemed apparent that I would just end up repeating myself. The biggest problem that each blog has (more or less) is the lack of participation in the blogging world. Move-in Morgantown does a much better job of involving others in reporting than Mountaineer Life, due to Move-in Morgantown using blogs written by others to add to their own posts in addition to providing new content. Mountaineer Life, on the other hand, doesn’t do quite as good of a job connecting with other bloggers, mostly, I think, because the topics are way too far apart.
    Both blogs need to work on seeking comment from other bloggers, but Move-in Morgantown does have much more potential to do so, because, like I said, it’s more focused, and a lot of WVU students are looking for housing (i.e., students can ask the bloggers questions about certain properties, etc.).

  12. thecoalfist says:

    I chose to look at Mountaineer Life and Masticate Morgantown. The former blog deals with four distinct lifestyles one can find in Morgantown, while the latter discusses dining/where to buy different foods in Morgantown.

    Mountaineer Life, I think, is the stronger of the two blogs, but to be honest, neither of them “did it” for me because each failed to connect to an audience and create a conversation. Through my Personal Blog, I know this is difficult, but it is still a problem.

    I feel Mountaineer Life is slightly stronger because it had a more defined focus. In the About Section, it is clearly stated that on Monday so-and-so is writing about “x,” on Tuesday so-and-so is writing about “y,” and so on. This made the blog more cohesive and the definitive layout in this way was its strongest point.

    My favorite post on this blog talked about racquetball, a sport which I have never played, but now want to. The writing style was entertaining and informative, and the writer touches on rules, strategies, where to play and how to get equipment. Basically, for someone like me, the post was perfect for getting into the game and, even better, getting into the game on campus. Because of this, I thoroughly enjoyed Alex’s post on racquetball.

    I don’t really have a least favorite post in particular so much as I have a “least favorite idea” in the blog. I said earlier that I like the fact that this blog has a defined focus, what I don’t like is that focus. I understand that, for the purposes of a group assignment like this one, each person will have certain strengths and interests, so dividing into four makes sense to that end; it just doesn’t make sense for a blog in my opinion.

    Strolling through the blog, I was left wondering, “what is this blog about?!” because of the varying topics. I know that the “about” page clearly explained the cause of my woes, but I don’t think one should have to scroll through an about page to really get the feel of a blog. It should be obvious, and I think this is where Mountaineer Life fails.

    Masticate Morgantown was a similarly weak blog in my opinion. I found its posts to be 80% (madeupstatistics.com worthy) irrelevant and 20% relevant to the area. To maintain a positive spirit, let’s start with the 20% that is relevant :D.

    Posts on healthy griling and eating organic in Morgantown made sense to me and, although the former didn’t explicitly tie to Morgantown life, it is pretty obvious how one can apply the info to his/her life. These posts are informative, well thought out and well executed. I personally think they are some of the strongest posts I’ve read from any of the group blogs.

    The remaining 80% is made up of restaurant reviews and recipes. I’m not trying to be completely rude (especially before I even make my feeble attempt at the group blogging experience), but why do these posts matter? I can Google this stuff and get authorities’ reviews/advice and spare myself the added fluff of a blog post. I appreciate what they were going for, I just don’t think it was a niche that needed filled.

    Overall, I think Masticate Morgantown could have been better had it developed all its posts in a similar fashion as the two I pointed out as being strong, but it did not, and for that it faltered in my eyes.

    As for commenting (if you’ve read this far), I think it is crucial to our modern online experience. Almost every website I frequent has a section for comments, and I always read them. Do I always take them seriously? No, but I still read them, and when different options are but a click away, there is something to be said for that.

    I like that we can engage immediately with an author or creator of some material (YouTube videos, sports articles, etc.) and oftentimes get immediate feedback from him/her. Anyone can express his/her opinion, and I really, really…really like that.

    The responsibility of the comments is an entirely different story, though. Anonymous comments, in particular, tend to be abrasive and do nothing other than stir up a battle of internet wit (because that’s always productive). While I do not promote anonymous commenting, I get it; it allows those with highly controversial and/or grating opinions to still be heard and essentially acts as a safeguard for those who do not want their names attached to these views.

    Overall, I find commenting to be useful and fun if, like anything else in the internet world, it is done responsibly.

  13. What are they about? Is there a clear focus? What are some of their strongest posts? Weakest? Finally, and most importantly, what would you have done differently (and how does that influence your own group blog plans)?

    Masticate Morgantown is a blog all about food based in Morgantown. It does everything from give reviews of local restaurants to give cheap rainy day recipes. It has a pretty clear focus which is the food scene in Morgantown.

    The stronger posts in this blog I feel are the reviews. They give a detailed description of what is there and what is good and bad. They also use a lot of links to the websites of the restaurant they are reviewing and also to restaurants that are comparable.

    The weaker posts are some of the recipes. They just look like a list of ingredients and directions that was just taken from somewhere else. They don’t have any story or something else to draw the reader in.

    If I had to change one thing in this blog it would be just that. For the recipes, I would throw in a story of my personal experience making that recipe.

    Move-in Morgantown is a blog all about housing in Morgantown. It gives insight into all aspects from apartment reviews to tips for freshmen moving into the dorms. It has a clear focus and that is what to do about housing if you are a WVU student.

    The strongest post i thought was the one on tips on subleasing for the summer. A lot of leases in Morgantown are year round, so many students are stuck paying for their apartments when they aren’t even there. This post gives people an alternative option to having to pay and what is the best way to do it. It also provides a link to a site that has a lot more helpful tips as well.

    I feel that the weaker posts are the reviews. I’m not saying that they are bad posts at all, but reviews are just more boring and less interesting then some of the ones with helpful tips. They do give good facts about the apartments so they are helpful.

    If I had to change anything with this site, I would add one more page. There is a separate page to see reviews which is nice, but it would also be nice if you could go to a page with all of the tips as well.

  14. greerhughes says:

    I’m gonna go ahead and jump on Candace’s bandwagon about online commenting (from Briggs) since this is something we’re both working on for another class together. Yes, Briggs, some comments are mean and ugly, but personally I think that people are starting to stray away from that sort of online bullying. A lot of online communication has evolved since the early days of chatrooms where anonymous users could just attack other people without any rhyme reason. With online news content, most people (arguably) people can supplement the news story and actually ADD to the substance of the story. In this case, you just kind of have to take the good with the bad. In most ways, this could be applied to the blogging world of comments as well.

    So, first I looked at The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Morgantown (because I liked the name) and quickly realized it’s quite an eclectic one. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, if it’s done in the right way. It’s hard to take a group of people who may not know each other very well, figure out what they have in common, and then write a blog about it. Not an easy task, but that’s how the real world goes. What are they about? This blog attempts to offer some advice on appealing events to attend in Morgantown. Is there a clear focus? Yes. Each blogger has their own beat and each beat/writer is clearly labeled. To me, it seems like this is done really well! Strong points? It seems like this blog has covered all the things we have learned in this class so far: linking, substance, photos, etc. They also do a good job of actually news reporting. The stories are well written and focused. Weak points? The only weak point I could spot is the whole “eclectic” aspect. While each writer has their own beat, they still seem to cover very different topics (although there is an underlying theme. Actually, maybe that doesn’t seem to make to much sense. I don’t like to be critical). On the other hand, I can empathize with them because I know it’s not easy to hurl a group of students together and tell them to write about the same thing. What would I have done differently? A post about someone actually hitchhiking in Morgantown. THAT would be cool… Sorry Bob, I know that’s not the answer you’re looking for, but it’s true.

    The other blog I chose was “Move in Morgantown”. I REALLY liked this blog. What are they about? Basically, the best places to live in Morgantown. Is there a clear focus? Even though people write about this topic often, it’s with good reason. This is a college town and the topic of where to live (and complaints about living places come up often in conversations everywhere. It’s a topic that everyone in this town can relate to and learn from. Strong points? This blog is SO easy to read and navigate. It’s well written, focused, informative, and reaches a broad audience. Weak points? Couldn’t really find any! I wish that someone could have kept this blog going… I wish I had seen this before I moved to Morgantown because I probably could have found a better place to live (although that’s no fault of these bloggers). What would I have done differently? Tried to find a way to keep it going… but I know that no one has the time to do that, including myself. Well done to both blogs!

  15. What are they about? Is there a clear focus? What are some of their strongest posts? Weakest? Finally, and most importantly, what would you have done differently (and how does that influence your own group blog plans)?

    The first blog I reviewed was Move-in Morgantown. I was particularly interested in this blog because I am still new to the Morgantown area and am not familiar with the living options available to students. The writers of Move-In Morgantown have a clear focus, and their content demonstrates glimmers of potential, but the emphasis on apartment reviews bogs the content down, hiding the truly interesting posts.

    When the writers of Move-in Morgantown synthesize content, like when they write about the various pool locations in Morgantown, providing a map and a neat in-post photo viewer, the value of student bloggers begins to shine. Without the blog, it would be difficult to find a listing of every Morgantown pool in one place, and the map makes it easy for me to pick one closest to me. There’s not much substance to the post beyond that, but it is unique, and the graphic elements make it stand out.

    Picking the weakest post for Move-in Morgantown was not easy. The writing overall is not bad, so I looked for the post that was the biggest missed opportunity. The post on the worst-rated apartments in Morgantown took that trophy. The comments on the post, made by the writers themselves I believe, note that bad reviews are not always believable, suggesting that the compilation of negative ratings should be viewed critically. If that is the case, why didn’t the writers view them critically? Why didn’t they interview the landlords or previous tenants? Why didn’t they visit and tour the grounds? This post had the potential to have much more depth, but the writers missed it. I don’t need to come to a blog to read apartment reviews. Plenty of websites do that already. Give me something different.

    The second blog that I reviewed, the Eclectic, was difficult to critique. The broad focus, which is a sneaky way of saying that there isn’t a focus, makes it difficult to comment on the unified conversation of the blog. There are already plenty of news sources covering the general news of Morgantown and covering it well. The Eclectic doesn’t add to that conversation in a meaningful way, and it missed out on an opportunity to do what the general news sources can’t: explore a specific community or issue on a deeper, more intense level.

    The strongest post covered the Morgantown festivities over Bin Laden’s death. The the tone was a little unnerving, the photos and on the ground reporting elements were unique, and offered a perspective that felt original. Given the timeliness of the post, I was surprised, however, that there weren’t any comments on the story.

    The weakest post was the article on the WVU Relay for Life event. The numerous pictures are nice, but they don’t offer anything that every other reporter at the event didn’t print, and the layout of the article makes it read like a series of photos with captions. I’m not sure why I should care about this event, or why it was important to cover, or why it was a significant event for Morgantown in general. A profile of the organizer or interviews with student participants could have turned this into a gem.

    As for blog commenting, I’m seeing a lot of my classmates discussing anonymous comments versus some less anonymous options. When I relaunched my blog, I set it up so that comments could only be made from a Facebook account. I have not had any spam, and the comments I’ve received have all been substantial, but I am concerned that the Facebook-only commenting could discourage some people from posting. I have not yet decided if that’s a trade off worth making.

  16. KLSloane says:

    Starting off with the Briggs’ reading, I believe that online comments are an essential element that helps foster the relationship between a site and its readers. By enabling commenting on one’s blog, it can help build off of topics, shed light on new information, that perhaps, the writer wasn’t even aware of, and it also opens the door to networking opportunities. Furthermore, reader feedback allows blogs to receive praise or constructive criticism. By utilizing these types of comments, the writers will know what to keep doing and what on their blog needs improvement. In terms of anonymous comments, these can be monitored, but seem to be inevitable. Yes, you will always have someone who disagrees with your opinion, and can be rude at times; however, various viewpoints are also beneficial because they can squash certain biases that the author or reader may have. Nowadays, I believe that you come across extremely harsh comments less than in the past because people can be reported for doing so.

    The two blogs that I decided to review were Matiscate Morgantown (2010) and MountainEats (2011). Both blogs focus on food, but differ from each other with the various realms of topic that they explore.

    Matiscate Morgantown’s posts cover various food and drink recipes, organic food facts and locations where these items are available in Morgantown, restaurant reviews and meals that won’t break the bank for us college students. I really enjoyed reading Matiscate Morgantown because of the seamless flow from each post, which made the blog work well as a whole. One thing in particular that I loved about this blog is that on the “Easy Recipes: Chicken Parmesan” post, one reader commented with a request for a simple seafood/pasta recipe and the blog actually followed-up. Three days later and Matiscate Morgantown shared with its readers an easy recipe for shrimp pasta salad. Furthermore, the same reader commented on this recipe thanking the blogger for providing the recipe she asked for previously. This is a great example of how blogs can connect with their readers and maintain followers because they provide them with the information and entertainment that they are seeking.

    In my eyes, the “Food Wars: Battle Sushi” post was the strongest because of its vibrant pictures and multifaceted content. The author not only shared their opinions on the taste of the rolls, but also the comparing costs, freshness, ingredients and overall quality. You can really tell that the author put a lot of thought and work into this food war/ review of two different restaurants.

    One weakness about Matiscate Morgantown is that the writers rarely respond to their readers’ comments. If they did this more often, then perhaps they could establish a stronger following and loyalty from their readers. Another weakness about this blog is their restaurant reviews. I would not trust a college student as a valuable food connoisseur, or listen to their opinions about where the best places to eat in Morgantown are. I think that this was a good idea to include in their blog; however, they simply just do not have the expertise or background to advise the public with these reviews. I believe that “Best Cookies EVER” is the weakest article featured by Matiscate Morgantown because the post is merely a list of ingredients and directions. The author never elaborates on why these cookies are the “best”, the amount of cookies the recipe yields, or the total time for preparation and baking. However, what really shocked me was that the author never even says what the name of the cookie is!

    One suggestion that I would make for this blog is to always respond to their readers’ feedback. Although they may utilize ideas and requests from their comments, they rarely respond to what their followers say. If they did do this, then perhaps the blog would have had a greater following. Everyone likes to feel appreciated and recognized, and although the majority of comments seem to be from students, I still think that this could help enhance the blog’s content and its relationship with its readers. By responding to comments on my personal blog, I have been contacted by numerous readers on other social media sites and increased my networking opportunities. On another note, I loved how Matiscate Morgantown used polls in their posts to receive feedback, for example, in the entry “What To Do and Where To Shop When Your Broke!!” I never thought of using these and think that it would be a great element to use in my group’s blog! However, one flaw in the same entry is the grammar mistake in its title. “Your” should be spelled “You’re”. Taking the time to edit and spell-check is crucial, and I think simple errors like this causes the author(s), and the blog as a whole, to lose its credibility. Another suggestion that I would make for Matiscate Morgantown is to include more links in their entries. This could further build on the topics presented in the blog, share more in-depth information with its readers and link to credible sources; thus, helping the blog’s reputation also.

    One notable thing I would like to mention about MountainEats is the blog’s terrific use of links. I believe that the blog’s strongest post is “Best Burrito Revisited”. The entry uses five different links, vibrant pictures, locations and hours of operation for multiple venues, and it really calls upon the blog’s readers for their feedback. I thought it was amazing that the owner of Chico’s Fat actually granted Eric, the post’s author, a coupon for their customers who mentioned the blog. Not only was Eric allowed to display his artistic and creative side in the coupon’s creation, but it helped promote the restaurant and MountainEats, which is ingenious. I also liked how the author revisited this topic because of the amount of feedback he received on his previous post “Dine on a dime: Burrito Style”. This shows that the blog really cares about its readers opinions, and rewards them for their loyalty with the 10% off deal that Eric created. The author also includes an interactive poll and does a fantastic job in comparing the two locations. He goes into specific details, such as the plastic toy featured at Black Bear Burritos, which shows that the author put a lot of time and effort into researching information for this post.

    MountainEats’ weakest post was “MountainEats in a Nutshell”. The post featured a word cloud and one measly sentence beneath it stating, “Apparently this is what our blog is about.” Thank you? I do not think that the authors should have published this as a post; rather, perhaps used it as an advertisement to promote their blog. I love the idea of word clouds because they are eye-catching; however, they should not stand alone, especially with only one brief statement describing them. One suggestion that I would make about this blog is that they should have covered more food and dining events, or competitions, going on in Morgantown. I think that if they covered more news stories, this could have strengthened their blog by opening their eyes to a vast amount of other story ideas and tied in the community aspect even more.

    After reviewing both of these blogs, I could definitely see improvements made in the more recent, MountainEats, blog. I think that each one of the authors stayed true to all that is Morgantown, and made sure that each post related to the community and included them in their entries. Referring back to comments and reader feedback, MountainEats did a much better job in calling on their readers’ input and interaction by using polls, links and asking for their insight. Because of this, they got ideas for future posts, engaged their readers and were able to improve their blog. MountainEats caters to the community and keeps them in the spotlight, which is what readers want. MountainEats’ posts are also well-researched throughout its entirety, unlike Matiscate Morgantown, which had multiple entries that seemed to be thrown together last minute with the sole purpose of meeting a deadline, or quota.

  17. mwlfrd says:

    I decided to critique Move-in Morgantown and The Eclectic.

    Move-in Morgantown is a blog about the easiest and best ways to move to Morgantown and what is the best housing options. Some of their strongest posts include a post about moving into the dorms and some good ideas about what to bring for the new move-ins. They also had a few posts about apartments or houses in town and their opinion and review of them. I would say their weakest post was one about ads they had found; the ads were just places in the post and that was the extent of the post. I think they could have put more of their opinion into the post.

    The Eclectic is a blog that seemed to focus on Morgantown places and events. The focus was very broad and not a very clear focus in my opinion. There were many strong posts; I think the strongest being a post about Morgantown’s reaction to the death of Osama Bin Laden. It was a strong post because it had photos and videos of downtown the night his death was announced and just had a clear focus.

    For both of the blogs it seemed that comments that were made on posts were either constructive or supportive, with not much negativity. As Briggs says, this is very important in starting the conversation. These constructive comments caused the original poster to interact with the reader and help them improve. In one of the comments a person gave a second source for information about what the post was aiming to cover; this shows exactly how the conversation starts and how it adds more for the consumer of information to consume.

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