Read & Respond Week 12 – Images

October 30, 2013

This week is all about visuals (remember we’ve bumped back the syllabus a week after our guest speaker). In Briggs’ chapter 6 on visual storytelling, think about his advice and note the example experts he gives. Some of you have been incorporating visuals into your work from the start, and others have yet to do so. Regardless of your use of visuals so far, how might your blogs tell a story that is more visual than textual? Yes, photos are ONE possibility – what are others?

First, I’d like you to look at some photoblogs. What’s a photoblog? Find out for yourself; can you point us to an example in your response? A great home for this kind of thing is Tumblr. This site (and others like it) are becoming prominent examples of quick-hit, visual blogging (remember that Briggs refers to this as microblogging). Skim through these “30 Tumblrs you NEED to follow” and see what compels you. What ideas are here that we can use?

Next, graphics. We started down this road in our discussion of data, and you’ve already made some graphics with Google Maps. Skim through these examples and see what strikes you – what could you do with these resources?

  • Wolfram Alpha: We touched on this in class. Create an account and ask it a data-related question (e.g., “How long does it take to play Monopoly?“).
  • ManyEyes: This one might seem a little dense, but poke around for a bit. Look at the existing examples. Figure out how to upload your own data (past examples include things like data maps but also the full text of Grimm’s fairy tales).
  • Wordle: This is a simple tool for creating word clouds. What’s that? Have a look.

Finally, something a little lighter: GIFs. Yes, they’re light, often silly, and incredibly short, but can’t we say the same thing about tweets? Or Vines? As we discussed in our unit on microblogging, many of today’s formats have some pretty significant limitations on time and size built in (140 characters, six seconds, and so on). Rather than writing them off, consider how they could function as another mass communication tool. Have a look at this primer from Poynter on what you need to know. MediaBistro also provides a useful five-point guide for when (and when not) to animate. In what ways does this change your perspective? At the very least, they’re not memes.

Remember, your responses are due by noon Monday, November 4, as a comment to this post.

UPDATE (10/31/13): Bitstrips! Just for the hell of it, come up with an idea for how we could use these (or the idea behind them) for useful mass communication. No, you’re not allowed to complain about them being annoying.

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Read & Respond Week 11 – OUR group blogs

October 25, 2013

You’ll be doing a two-part response this week, but it’s an easy one. On Briggs’ chapter 9 (data journalism) and on the group blogs. In your response:

  1. Read through the first week of one of the other group blogs – AlmostHeaven Entertainment and Morgantown Problems will read each other, and Morgantown Man Cave and The Cap, the Gown & The Pursuit of Happiness. What’s their mission? What are they doing well so far, and what needs work? You need to critique honestly – everyone in this class needs advice in these early stages.
  2. Re-read Briggs chapter 9 and provide your thoughts on data journalism. What is it? Who does it? How can it inform your work? Notice I’m not giving you links to read this week; instead, I want you to provide an example of your own that you continue data journalism (if you use Google to find an example, please don’t be too obvious about it – I’ve seen the top search hits already).

Since I’m later than usual getting this up, I’ll extend the deadline. You have until the start of class, 11:30 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 29, to post your response in a comment to this post.


“In” class assignment: Headlines

October 24, 2013

Now that we’re a week into our group blogs (and 10 weeks into our personal ones), we’re going to start thinking a little more actively about drawing people in by means other than brilliant, stimulating content. We talked in class today about SEO – Search Engine Optimization – and its uses. Here’s that brilliant/awful Huffington Post example: What Time is the Super Bowl? Like it or not, it exemplifies how SEO works. Even almost a year later, it’s still one of the top hits for a question many people were asking Google in February 2013.

Your assignment is as follows (due before class next Thursday – 11:30 a.m., Oct. 31):

  1. Write an SEO-focused headline for a post on your group OR personal blog.
  2. Compose TWO tweets for the story
    • These should be meaningfully different
    • Try to emphasize a keyword from your post
    • Write them with SEO principles or retweetability tactics in mind
  3. Tweet each of these with the link to your story
    • The two tweets must be in the same block on the same day: Morning (9-12) or Afternoon (1-4)
    • They must be at least an hour apart (e.g., 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.)
    • NOTE: You can also post two updates to Facebook, or two to Twitter AND two to Facebook, for greater comparison (but you can’t post one to Twitter and one to Facebook)
  4. Post a comment to this assignment that includes:
    • The headline
    • The tweets and the day and time(s) you posted them
    • Why you wrote them the way you did and posted when you did
    • Discussion of the pageviews, retweets, and any other response you got.

We’ll look into the numbers behind these in Thursday’s class


Introducing the group blogs for 2013

October 21, 2013

Here they are: This semester’s group blog projects. Today is the first day of posting, so there’s not yet much content, but I’ve provided links and synopses below. As in the past, they’ll also appear in the right-hand sidebar under “2. Group Blogs.” Have a look at what’s on the way.

AlmostHeaven Entertainment: We’re aiming to bring you information on all things related to arts and entertainment in and around Morgantown.

Morgantown Problems: Our blog is about the issues facing Morgantown and how residents and local officials are working to solve these issues to make Morgantown an even better place to live.

Morgantown Man Cave: Six of Morgantown’s manliest men have joined forces to inform readers about people, places and events in sports, gaming, music and other areas of entertainment in Morgantown.

The Cap, the Gown & The Pursuit of Happiness: A blog designed to educate senior undergraduates and graduate students on the well-known and little-known steps to get to graduation.


Read & Respond week 10 – Comment Culture

October 17, 2013

This week we’ll be talking about the people who talk about us (online): Commenters! Let’s get right into it with the worst of the worst: YouTube comments. Watch this seemingly harmless (and adorable) clip of President Obama calming a crying baby. Scroll down a hair to the top comments. Now take a deep breath and wade into the rest of the comment thread – try to get through a few pages, if you can. Yikes. Why does something like this seem so familiar?

Briggs this week talks about building a digital audience, but what do we do with that audience when it starts responding? A number of organizations – including YouTube – are toughening up on commenters. Popular Science actually shut OFF its comments. The first line of its announcements reads “Comments can be bad for science.” Harsh, or realistic?

Like them or not, reader interaction is part of mass communication today. Consider these two research fact sheets examining how reporters engage with uncivil commenters and potential differences in a “like” versus a “respect” button. There are clearly reasons to rethink anonymous comments, but on the other side of the “NymWars” (warning: Wikipedia source), we’ve got the argument that pseudonymous comments (e.g., BlogMastaB) actually tend to be better in quality! So what do you think? How important is it to connect individuals with their words?

Finally, there’s the question of identity. You might use the same name across multiple sites (for example, I show up as either “Aaaaaargh” and “The Bob The” in most places I go), you might have different identities in different places, or you might be one of the dreaded unregistered users. Read this Jeff Jarvis post on the role of identity – it’s not as simple as we tend to treat it. The more you use a name, the more history that name develops, allowing those who’ve never met you in the flesh to nonetheless know something about you, or at least about your persona. Your online identity(s) may not be identical to who you are at home, but to what extent are you responsible for it?

ALSO: For class discussion on Tuesday, I’d like you to take a look through the blog and social media presence of our guest speaker, Marshal Carper (a former student in this class). You don’t need to respond to those here, but be prepared to discuss his work in class.

Remember to respond to these readings (including Briggs) in a comment to this post by noon on Monday, October 21. More importantly, come prepared to discuss these examples and, ideally, some of your own.


Introducing the Group Blog Project!

October 10, 2013

Beginning in two weeks (Monday, October 22) and continuing through the end of the term, you’ll create, maintain, and promote a group blog that tackles a local and contemporary trend, topic, or theme in a “journalistic” way. You will:

  1. Provide original content through your own reporting and analysis
  2. Connect with and engage your “community” of interest

This is a team project. It’s up to your group to make sure everyone’s strengths are brought into play. The result should be not just an interesting conversation piece, but a robust and engaging addition to your portfolio that will set you apart in the job market.

This is not a general interest assignment. You will avoid words such as “eclectic” and phrases such as “something for everyone.” Your task is to develop a clear focus on some specific topic of interest to a Morgantown-based community. If everyone does their own thing and there is no cohesive focus to the blog, you will do poorly.

There will be no restaurant reviews. No advice blogs. Unsourced lists are frowned upon.

You will be judged on the frequency and quality of your posts, comments, and other demonstrable contributions to your online publication. In addition, if your teammates report you’ve become a significant asset (or weakness), that matters as well.

Weekly requirements:

  • Individual posts: Every person is expected to post at least once per week. Your groups must each arrange and follow a posting schedule to ensure regular updates throughout the week (Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.). If you miss your deadlines, you will get lowered (or no) credit for that post.
  • Weekly budget: Every Sunday (beginning October 20), your group will email me a single budget for the current week and following week (this is part of your group’s grade). It will include the following:
    • Current week: Which stories are you going to run, when (day, date & time), who will write each, and a brief description of each story.
    • Following week: Same information as above.
    • Longer term: Identify which big or longer-term stories you are pursuing.
    • Promotion: What will your group do this week to publicize your blog and connect to a larger community? (This might involve posting to social media but should also involve HOW you post – experiment with time, wording, etc.)
  • Comments: You should be reading your group’s blog every day. You will make 5 meaningful comments per week (not all on the same day!), divided between your group blog, other class blogs, and some outside blogs of interest (which is good way of attracting like-minded bloggers to your site).
  • Added Value: A plain-text post adds only one level to the conversation. That’s not enough. I expect to see you using your skills with links, images, maps, audio, wikis, and more, as well as integrating the site and its promotion into other social media like Facebook and Twitter.

How You’re Evaluated:

Each Sunday (beginning October 27), each student will send me an e-mail memo with links to your posts and comments from the previous week. You’ll also include short updates on your experience from the past week and your blogging plans for the week ahead.

You’ll get a grade for each week’s worth of work (√, √+, √-), which includes your weekly post and any extra work you do (note this in your memo). If you like to think in terms of points, imagine that I score in roughly the following way:

  • 40%: Content — Is it interesting? Relevant to your blog’s focus? Fresh?
  • 30%: Connection — Quality and relevance of the link(s) you included in the post
  • 30%: Mechanics — Grammar, spelling, punctuation and appropriate style
  • * Bonus points* For HTML, outside comments, etc. — beyond-the-call stuff. If you’re the editor-in-chief or have other special duties, let me know!

Because you’re each only expected to post once a week (more is allowed), I’ll expect the writing and ideas to be especially sharp – we’re not looking for long reviews. What matters more than the number of posts is the overall quality of the body of work.

Bottom line: Be passionate about blogging. Learn from your mistakes. Just have fun in the process. And you’ll be fine.

First due dates:

  • A blog concept statement and list of five possible ideas for your first posts (from each student) – due in-class Thursday, October 17
  • Your group blog’s URL and first budget: Email me this list of topics and dates for your first two weeks of postings (see above for explanation). It’s your first week, so this may change, but it must be thorough and complete – due Sunday, October 20
  • Your group’s first post: A focused mission statement and About page for the blog must be posted by noon, Monday, October 21 (this is in addition to weekly posts)

Group Assignments

  • Group 1: Eva, Zak, Ian, Rachel, Ilyssa
  • Group 2: Whitney, Emily, Karlea, Maddi, Bryan
  • Group 3: Kevin, Tim, Trent, Ryan F. Mike, Ryan G.
  • Group 4: Samantha, Abigail, Natalie, Charles, Dan

One more thing

In addition to creating a blog, you’ll need to add all your group’s members as authors (you may all be administrators or just choose one member for this role). Follow these steps:

  1. In Dashboard, select “Users” from the left bar
  2. Under “Invite New,” enter the new user’s preferred email address
  3. Choose the new user’s role (contributor, administrator, editor, or author)
  4. Click “Add user”

Read & Respond – Week 9 – Group Blogs

October 10, 2013

As you prepare your group blogs (announced this week), I thought it would be a good idea for you to see what’s in store. You’re reading Briggs Chapter 10, on the newsgathering conversation, and I want you to combine that with 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)

Graduation Preparation (2012)

A “J” in the Life (2012)

Mountaineers Connect (2012)

#gradschoolproblems (2012)

Pick two of these blogs (ideally from different years) and respond in depth. What are they about? Is there a clear focus? What are some of their strongest posts? Weakest? (yes, you have to pick one – be constructive) 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, Wednesday, October 16 (later than usual due to fall break).