Read & Respond – Week 9 – Group Blogs

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).

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15 Responses to Read & Respond – Week 9 – Group Blogs

  1. The two blogs I chose to talk about is “#gradschoolproblems” and “Mountaineats”

    The #gradschoolproblems blog aimed to help WVU students in Grad School. They have posts including resources for grad students, databases and quirky posts like “what is a library”. The blog wanted to educated grad students at WVU, but also aim to catch the attention of future and “prospective” grad students. This blog has a very clear focus and how we talked about in class, it isn’t worried about excluding people (non WVU grad students). Their strongest and most unique post was “what is a library”. I found that the weakest was probably “A world of possibilities for international students”. I found that this blog was very structured and did a great job to get the point across. If I could have done it differently I would have added more of a “voice” instead of just straight facts and research. I would have bolded the “headline” of each list they make.

    The “Mountaineats” blog was another enjoyable blog to read. “Mountaineats” is Morgantown restaurant and bar news/reviews from the aspect of a student. Their focus was on point and almost all posts stuck to the central idea of reviewing bars/restaurants in Morgantown. The blog does a good job talking about food places in Morgantown and actually giving a review, rather than just talking about what they like. They order different things at each place so it’s not bias like some other review blogs may be. Their strongest post was “Jazz loves Pizza: Shift Ace” because it included a map, picture, link and their menu. That post was by far their best. The weakest blog post was “What’s the Wordle” because it’s interesting but doesn’t have anything to do with the blog. They just discuss what a site that creates a word picture based on what you highlight. If I had to change something, I would make sure to add a bit more links. Links are what keep people staying on the blog because they can link over to other sites. In some posts they do a great job linking, and in others they barely link at all. Also, they need an “About” page, which is on the very bottom, but doesn’t click to an actual “About” page. Overall, a very solid blog and I was interested while reading it.

  2. The Graduation Preparation group blog from 2012 interested me a lot since I am graduating in December. Reading through each post, I noticed that most of them discussed things that REALLY relate to most students that are amid the graduation season. Some posts included information about job hunting, internships, graduate school, and even how we consider college graduation to be the end of the world (but not really). There is a very clear focus – if you’re close to graduating college, here are some issues and tips to consider.

    I thought one of the weakest posts was ”Just Keep Trying.” This was a blog post describing why we shouldn’t get discouraged when we apply to a million-and-one jobs, and don’t get responses – or worse – get rejections. I thought it was weak because, frankly, I already know. I know that you have to apply to many, many places. I know that you’ll get rejected and ignored. What I wanted to see from the post was links to places that would help me find jobs. There was only one. Finally, I figured the last video would be helpful and interested, but when I clicked play, it said it was private.

    I thought one of the strongest posts was “Thoughts about Graduate School”. I liked how the writer interviewed someone who was experiencing the first stages of his decision to go to graduate school. It gave a lot of insight from someone who was an ‘expert’ on the subject.

    Overall, there were something that this blog did very well, and not so well, according to Briggs. First of all, they did a good job keeping up with their comments. They usually had at least one or more comment(s) on each post, and they always responded to people. Most of the time they included photos and/or videos, but they didn’t really benefit the writing. After looking over this blog, I plan to link a lot better to give readers other information about my topic, use visuals that compliment my writing and stick with a very focused topic.

    I also chose to look over Move-in Morgantown from 2010. I thought this blog was done very well. It is about “how to live in college,” including everything from prices to location to which apartment complex has a pool. There is a very clear focus – if you’re looking for a place to live in Morgantown, this blog will give you the information you need to know.

    One of the best posts that I saw was simply titled, ”Finding A Pool.” It was short, sweet and to the point. It even included a Google Map. Brilliant!

    I thought the weaker posts were the review posts. One example is ”Review: Bon Vista Apartments”. They posted sample comments from another review site that completely contradicted each other and said that the comments were mixed. That doesn’t seem to help me at all. Even though it was a weaker posts, they still used excellent pictures and included other details about pricing, location, utilities and more.

    They definitely did a lot of things right on this blog. They have a QR code on the side so people can access the site on their phones, they included awesome pictures and other resources (like Google Maps), and the blog was very organized and easy to read. On the other hand, they had very little interaction with readers. There was not that many comments, and they usually didn’t respond to people. Overall, after looking at this blog, I realized that I want my group blog to be very organized with a very specific focus. I also want to encourage comments and promote the blog via other social media sites.

  3. As a graduate student, I chose to read #gradschoolproblems as I thought it would probably be interesting and relevant to my life. Overall the blog was definitely focused on issues that pertain to graduate students, especially MSJ Students. However, some of the posts were less than effective. There were definitely issues with the blog, but like us, they were still learning. One of the strongest posts was “Databases and the Art of Search Engine-Fu” by Marshal Carper. The best thing about this post is the fact it was so conversational. Briggs says in order for blogs to be effective, they must be conversational and provide incentive for readers to participate and respond. In addition, the blog was relevant to graduate student life and provided some good tips for databases and research. I think some of the weakest posts included bad grammar and punctuation. For example, “Great Help From Senior Grad Students” appeared to be neglected when it came to proofreading. Other weak points included the fact that some posts weren’t substantial. Blog posts don’t have to be lengthy to be effective, but there were some posts like “What’s a library?” that I feel could have been more beneficial to the viewer if the author would’ve chosen a better angle and took a more in-depth look at it. Another weak point, is that almost every post that used a photo did not provide credit for the image at all. It didn’t even provide a caption for the photo. Overall I thought the focus of the blog and the conversation of the blog was nice. Everyone really achieved a “voice” and personality in their posts; however, I felt like some posts should have been more substantial and proofread more thoroughly. As a member of this group, I would have made sure all blog posts were proofread. Brigg’s mentions that the conversations we create through social media should seek to answer all questions. I think that’s one thing this blog does exceptionally well. With a clear focus and several posts, this blogs seeks to answer questions relevant to graduate students, and for the most part, it does so very nicely.

    The second past group blog I chose to look at was “Mountaineer Life” because I grew up a native West Virginian. I thought different perspectives on mountaineer living would be interesting. However, I was wrong on what this blog was actually about. The tag line, “perspectives of what it’s like to live in Morgantown, WV” is actually a bit misleading. I expected the authors to talk about living in Morgantown, what it has to offer, and how it compares to other places around the globe. The first post displayed on the page, “Return of PSN,” talks about playstation—to say I was disappointed is an understatement. I would argue that the playstation blog is the weakest post for many reasons. One because it doesn’t really help reiterate the focus of the blog, 2 because the overall quality of the post was not great. The “Vintage Videos and Games” post was more of what I was expecting, and is arguably one of the strongest posts on this group blog. I liked this post. I enjoyed that it used several visuals, but I didn’t like that some of the shots included the photographer in the glass or the window. We’re journalists, even as a student you should know how to avoid this. I felt like this specific post illustrated the original intention and purpose of the blog the best. That’s the majority of the reason I found it one of the strongest. One thing this blog does well overall is incorporating images and videos into its posts. I think this can be really effective, especially when furthering conversation. Overall I just felt like the intended purpose of this blog was not met. The posts were all over the place as far as content. I understand one blogger was focused on pet owner, one on organizations in Morgantown, and local stores, but I felt like a majority of the posts weren’t as localized as they could be. If I were in this group I would have made sure the blog posts were more relevant and reflective of the blog’s tag line.

    I think both of these blogs had both strong and weak points as mentioned above. One lesson I can carry over to my group blog is to make sure there’s a clear and definite focus. As we mentioned in class last week, we need to tailor the conversation to people we want to include in our blog. Not everyone is meant to read every single blog. Other lessons I learned from reading these blogs are use meaningful visuals, but provide credit to these visuals when they’re not my own. In addition, it’s important not to overlook the small details such as proofreading the post before it’s published. Good grammar and spelling can mean a lot to the reader. The best point Briggs makes that both these blogs try to incorporate is the “We” factor. Briggs said it’s always been about the five W’s –who, what, why, where, and when—and now there’s a sixth W- “We.” These blogs all aim to focus on issues that involve everyone. When issues involve everyone then more conversation can come into play. People relate to one another.

  4. ebuchman5 says:

    Blogging has become such an important part of our culture, so I found it really interesting to read some of the group blogs from previous years. The first blog I chose to read was “#gradschoolproblems” from 2012, mainly because it appealed to me the most. Being in graduate school myself, I was intrigued to see what problems and advice former graduate students could offer for people in my class.

    This blog absolutely has a clear focus, and isn’t afraid to exclude part of a potential audience, like we’ve discussed in class. I also think this blog did a really great job at writing about something relevant and helpful to a specific group of people. While the blog was reaching out to current and potential graduate students, it was nice because it offered current, up to date advice and important facts to know when considering coming to West Virginia University for graduate school. I would consider one of their strongest posts to be “Databases and the art of search engine-fu,” because it explained something that likely a lot of people didn’t know, all the different databases we have access to in the library. This post is well-written and has substantive content that provides useful information. It isn’t just “opinion” based, or about something that nobody would really care about. Briggs discusses how easy it is to collaborate via the internet, and this blog post does a great job at passing along tips and resources to both current and prospective graduate students at WVU.

    Probably the weakest post was “Great help from senior grad students,” because I think some people could find it a little difficult to read. It does a nice job at being conversational and sharing a personal story, but it’s clear the author wasn’t 100% confident writing in English. I do like this post because it’s long and substantive, and I think other international graduate students could find it very helpful when trying to decide where they would go to graduate school.

    The second blog I chose to read was “Move-in Morgantown,” which I must admit, I think is a brilliant idea. This blog has a broader focus, because students across majors are always looking for apartments in Morgantown. One of the strongest posts is “Finding a Pool,” which utilizes both a Google map and a photo slideshow of pools at different apartment complexes around Morgantown. The use of visuals is great, and it definitely provides useful information when trying to find an apartment. Often times when searching out an apartment, students may not consider what it would be like living there during the summer months because they figure they’re probably going home. You never know, though, a job or a number of other things could keep you in Morgantown, when it would be nice to have a pool to relax at after a day’s work. I would argue one of the weaker posts is “WVU Off-Campus page,” only because it didn’t offer as many visuals, and wasn’t very long or substantive. The topic of the blog is great; I just wish they would have done more with explaining some of the features and utilizing more photos. As it is now, the post is short and not at all visually appealing, and I think something that is such a great resource for students looking for affordable housing should stand out just a bit more.

    Overall, I really enjoyed both of these blogs, and learned quite a few lessons I can carry over into my own group blog. The first thing I learned is how to be conversational. This happened more in the “Move-in Morgantown” blog, as they encouraged feedback directly on their home page when they asked “if you have had any interesting experiences concerning housing in Morgantown, please send us your story!” Something as small as this caught my attention, and I think it’s really engaging for the reader and offers a level of comfort with the site right away. The other thing I learned is how important social media interaction is via our blog. As Briggs notes in his text, sources can be developed through social media. Even for our blogs, we should be looking for people who are writing about similar subject as us, that way we can share ideas and stories, as well as build our online presence and maintain the online communities we are trying to build.

  5. Ilyssa Miroshnik says:

    In this chapter 10 reading Briggs writes about how important conversation is in current and future journalism. The idea of news as a conversation is released and Briggs mentions how journalists used to prefer news as a lecture. I take this as that news was one-way, from the journalist into the hands, eyes or ears of the media. Briggs mentions how the future in journalism is very important on audience participation and managing online communities as well as using social networks to benefit the news organization. Briggs also mentions that news as a conversation is frequently trumped by the reality and this has a lot to do with audience participation in the form of comment sections and pages. Participants either are not as constructive or respectful as journalists and readers are or would like. Sometimes a news page can receive too many comments for journalists to filter through and manage, or too few comments, which fails at the purpose of audience conversation participation. In our case for this class, most of our news organizations (our blogs, and soon to be group blogs) do not generate so many comments that we cannot filter them, but it is still just as important for us to take note and learn from what Briggs talks about. In this class we need to focus on what makes a blog post strong or weak, but large news organizations also have to face the sharing issues we do, which include how, when and on what social platform to post and advertise on. Engaging an audience is the best way for a blog to expand and improve. Briggs says that to make conversation we must engage an audience and there are simple ways to do so. He mentions answering all questions the public media has, to address criticism in a fair way, respond to comments (privately or publically), share good responses (things we can do too) and always acknowledge news tips. Here is an idea that I think my group blog will certainly do, have a commentary section where people can comment any news tips. If we are going to appeal to a specific group, or have a specific focus in the Morgantown area, there will sure be someone who will be interested and alert of stories to help us generate more content. Of course as a blog post should have plenty of good content, Briggs mentions that to make news participatory journalists should include graphics, videos, pictures, message board posts, votes, recommendations and promotion on other social media sites. These are all concepts and things that every blogger should do to increase their blog rank and connect to the community. My group will share our posts through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and because we all have a different group of social media friends and followers, our blog will hopefully be shared and read among more users!

    The two blogs I looked at in depth are Move-in Morgantown (2010) and Mountain Eats (2011). I simply picked these two because their layout appealed the most to me, as well as their content based on their bog focus.

    Move-in Morgantown is a blog that addresses many concerns a person might have with living and moving in a college town (Morgantown). I don’t think their about statement is as accurate as their blog posts actually are. They do mention, “If you have had any interesting experiences concerning housing in Morgantown, please send us your story!” on their about page and this is something my blog should and will do. Every reader reads the about page or section and by adding a statement asking for feedback and reader engagement on the about part is very clever. It is apparent that this blog has a lot to do with the general focus of living in an apartment, dorm or house in a college town and that is a clear focus, but as I have mentioned their about page does not support their blog focus as strongly as it could have. This blog has plenty of pictures, maps and media and a good amount of reading content and links that make the posts informative, to the point, and interesting for the reader to read. Nothing about the blog is repetitive besides the housing theme as every post changes from an apartment review, how to sublease apartments or find extra roommates, how to stay organized, how to move into a dorm and even where to find housing with a pool. This blog is successful in that it has plenty of variety with one focus. The search bar, Twitter updates, and links to the contributors personal blogs are great easy and informative tools on the page that also let audience connect and participate. This blog leaves plenty of room for participation from readers as Briggs suggests. I will try to get a Facebook and Twitter share option and countdown on our blog posts for my group, which this group does not have on their blog. I want readers to be able to share and post our blog posts and stories, not just for us to share our own work! As for strong and weak posts, this blog had successful posts of 3-4 comments and weaker ones with no comments; if we are talking about success in ranking and Briggs idea of conversation in news. Living Cheap: Air Conditioning is a post that had 4 comments that where useful comments in content that related to the post. The concept of AC units and living cheap is something that all students have to deal with so I think this is a successful post because it fits under the blogs focus but appeals to a larger amount of people. On the other hand, I think their post Dorm Review: Summit is a weaker post. Unlike the post about air conditioning that effects everyone, not everyone at WVU cares about Summit, especially the students who are off-campus housing or simply, at another dorm. The post about Summit Hall does have a YouTube video made by a student but this post should have included what Summit has to offer and pictures of that, for example their exercise room. Why is there no picture or stats on the equipment or hours? This post is weak and had no replies. As well this post could have easily been improved by adding content like the monthly dinning hall food list into the post when they mentioned the Summit Café. This is an example of a weak post that had the potential to link more content and apply to more readers. My group will make sure to find content is everything we post about and try to leave no posts empty because without connections, more pictures and information no one really cares about a Summit review. Readers want to be able to see what Summit has to offer with facts and pictures so they can create a review themselves with the help of the Summit Review blog post, this post is weak because it failed to do so and failed to incorporate the readers.

    Looking into MountainEats (2011) I wish there was a quick go to About page, I think any blog, especially a group blog with more than one writer and contributor, should help out the readers by having an about page where they clarify and explain the blogs purpose and goal. This page failed to do so which made me think of it more as a college students opinion and less of a strong blog with important content. However, the layout of the blog is easy to read and simple which draws in my attention. This blog is about restaurants and bars in the Morgantown area, a focus that appeals to well, everyone who likes to eat in or around Morgantown. Actually this blog even brings in people, who are visiting Morgantown because it deals with a simple topic such as eating, something we all do. As I have mentioned the focus is obvious but not clear, I expect this blog to be very general and broad. Without a page describing the focus in detail I expect this blog to have a variety of food joints but do not expect this blog to include every dinning option in Morgantown. The blog post about Pizza Al’s only has one comment and I think this is one of the blogs weakest posts. Although this is clever: the post is tagged with Pizza Al’s as expected but then Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is also a tag. In this article the writer mentions the TMNT and associates it with pizza, and of course Morgantown pizza. This connection is witty and clever and something I will try to do. To expand connections that readers may have into my blog post is a clever way to attract more readers and attention to blog posts. However, this blog post fails to keep my attention because it has little content besides that the writer noticed about Pizza Al’s. The writer mentions other pizza places and compares them, but there are better ways to show comparison. For example a picture of coupons or direct quotes from people who eats at Pizza Al’s vs Lil creasers would have added more content to the blog than its simple picture of Pizza Al’s and a picture of the pizza pie. There are little to no tags in this post and if this were my post, I would absolutely add more media and content to it. A takeaway point I get from this blog overall is that I can incorporate conversation by adding relevant quotes about the subject I am writing about in the post itself. Maybe if my group incorporates pictures of people and direct quotes, more people will want to add their opinions and therefore we can generate more comments, readers and higher rankings. This is something I wanted to see in this blog but did not. More customer reviews would have been better than personal reviews. Maybe this is where the group blog should have re-thought their focus and included more of the people who eat in Morgantown, which would add conversation to their topic. On the other hand, the post on Shift Ace pizza is one of the stronger blog posts and has 4 comments. Both the Shift Ace and Pizza Al’s posts I believe where intended to be similar but one failed (Pizza Al’s) to be as successful as the other (Shift Ace). The reason this Shift Ace post is successful is because it has so much more content and information than the Pizza Al’s post. Also this post isn’t titled as a review and incorporates the writer into the subject. Readers are thinking why does Jazz love Shift Ace pizza? This posts links to other websites like Urbanspoon which food lovers, who are already reading this blog will enjoy. There is a map that locates the pizza restaurants location and even a description and information about what makes Shift Ace different from its name to drunken demographic. This post has more pictures than just the place and pizza itself, a picture if uploaded from the inside of the place and a picture of a menu that shows more variety in food. This post is just as lengthy and similar in focus to the Pizza Al’s post but so much more detailed and filled with better content. This example of the comparison of this blogs strongest and weakest post shows me how I can improve a blog post and make sure all blog posts are strong.

  6. kevinmduvall says:

    The first blog I looked at was #gradschoolproblems because its focus appeals to me as a graduate student. I also know most of the people who wrote the blog, so I wanted to check out their work. The authors stuck to their focus, writing a guide to graduate study, very well. I especially liked how every week had one theme the writers covered; that made the blog feel very cohesive. The authors did a good job of opening conversation with potential commenters, as many posts included questions at the end for readers to answer. They also replied to the comments, encouraging further discussion and adding value to the original comments with new information. As Briggs mentions, interaction with audiences can strengthen news content by adding information to make a story more complete.

    The only notable weakness I found in this blog is that the authors occasionally broke the “it’s not about you” rule a little too much. Two posts that stood out to me as strong were “Databases and the art of Search Engine-Fu” and “Help for #gradschoolproblems that are outside of grad school.” The reason these posts stood out was that they had a great balance of providing information readers can use and having a voice from the authors. One post I found weaker was “Great help from senior grad students.” The bulk of this post was about a personal story, and while I found that story interesting, the post did not have much content that readers would be able to use themselves.

    The second blog I looked at was “The Eclectic.” I checked out this blog because our instructions said not to use the word “eclectic” and other “something for everyone” kinds of terms. The blog’s focus was to cover “the basics of a thriving city” by having each writer cover a beat in Morgantown. This topic is a little broad, but the authors did a good job of covering events in town. Some posts are traditional news stories with little personal touch from the authors, but for a blog that isn’t run by people who are “established” enough to break the rules, that style of writing is preferable to being too personal. In addition to covering the facts of a story well, the authors also make effective use of pictures. In posts like “Morgantown History Museum” and “WVU Relay for Life,” the pictures help tell the story, shaping the facts into narratives.

    One major weakness I found with this blog was grammar, word use and editing. The authors frequently make mistakes like calling an organization “they” instead of “it” and using ellipses improperly. There are proofreading mistakes such as writing “Monongalia Arts Centre” in the title of an article but “Monongalia Arts Center” in the body of the story. Grammar is not this blog’s only problem, though. One post I found particularly weak was “Mountaineers celebrate the death of Bin Laden.” This post did not completely cover the issue at hand—to the point of being somewhat distasteful. It’s all about witnessing the fires and wild celebrations of Bin Laden’s death, but it does not address the controversy of such celebrations. The author never addresses the fact that WVU fans’ celebrations have been criticized for damaging the school’s reputation or the ethical concerns over holding parties to celebrate a political assassination.

  7. ryanglaspell says:

    The first blog I looked at was The Eclectic. Its name describes it well. The blog consists of an array of things to do with Morgantown. From cultural events like tea parties, to an overview of music venues, to outdoor adventures and SGA controversies, The Eclectic is host to everything Morgantown. While the focus is very broad, its common thread of things that could interest Morgantown residents gives it some saving grace. True, there isn’t a definitive focus other than a locational one. At the same time though, for someone like a college kid trying to find out more about what Morgantown has to offer, it works well.

    The strongest points to this blog are the posts that highlight things that you can do or cool places you can go. Features on things Cooper’s Rock and Earth Day festivities were informative and interesting. The use of original photos brought extra life to the stories as well. Actually taking photos gave articles a more authentic feel. Most articles I read linked well, too.

    There are two main weak points for me. The first may be the obvious one, at least this semester where voice and focus is emphasized. The lack of specific direction can be hard to deal with sometimes. I said that it worked well for people who wanted to know more about Morgantown, but the lack of consistency can be burdensome. Articles range from breaking news and more typical journalistic posts to features and highlights of Morgantown entertainment and culture-life. The second is the design. I couldn’t seem to get past the three stories on the main page. I had to go to “archive”, which its scroll-through design was more user friendly than the front page.

    For the different styled posts (entertainment, culture, events), I would have made the categories more accessible, via tabs on the page. Also, I think the focus could have been “what to do and where to go in Morgantown.” A more clearly defined direction could still be broad, but accomplish its motive.

    The second blog is Move-In Morgantown. This blog is all about how to find housing and how to make your living experience enjoyable. There are a lot of apartment reviews on the website. The focus is clear and precise. It doesn’t stray far from it, but it doesn’t give itself too little of a niche to have an appeal.

    I really like this blog. Some strong points are the friendly design. Something about the lines and arrangement of different shades of blues seems to fit the theme. The reviews are the other great thing about the blog. They provide enough of a balance between opinion and facts to really be useful. The blog really revolves around these posts, but it provides complementary posts to living as well. The review map is highly useful too.

    Weak points would be their use of photos. Sometimes I saw clip art and others I just saw a basic (assumedly Google image) photo of whatever they were talking about. About the reviews, which are great, there isn’t a sturdy structure to them. Sometimes they had amenities and sometimes it was more of a general overview.

    Any changes I would make would be to avoid tacky image choices and try and develop more of a structure for the main feature, which is the reviews.

    The Eclectic had some conversation going on in many posts. There was some back and forth and thoughtful comments. It was less for Move-in Morgantown, maybe because it was more of an explanatory and informative blog rather than an engaging, interactive place. Briggs talks of how conversation is vital to the new age of journalism, even with the crazy commenters. It’s through an interactive community that additional tips and potential leads are found, according to Briggs. MiM has a great focus, and there are some comments, but maybe a more open ended and inviting aspect could provide an opportunity to get others’ responses on reviews and tips, which is highly useful. As for The Eclectic, the conversation is there, and it is two-way.

  8. iamoore says:

    I was very interested to see what the group blogs from previous years looked like, along with what topics they would cover. The two blogs that interested me the most were Mountaineats and The Hitchhikers Guide to Morgantown.
    First off I looked at Hitchhikers Guide to Morgantown, because I was immediately drawn in by the creative name, and the reference to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. This blog is a very broad topic and simply covers what is going on in Morgantown. From music, sports,theatre, student organizations, and volunteering, this blog has a very broad topic and I’m not sure the focus is extremely clear. I think they needed to specialize their blog a little bit, however the creation of beats by the students is a nice way to ensure there is a consistency in the writing on each topic. The post that I thought was the most well done was called It’s Easy When You’re Big in Japan. This post focused on the Anime Cosplay and Asian Entertainment Club. What I really liked about this post was the fact that the writer actually attended a meeting of the club and provided pictures and quotes from the members of the club. The author found a way to put a nice touch of personality without intruding on his well researched and written story. My only problem with this post was the lack of substantial links. Besides the links to the club website all of the other links are to wikipedia. This may have been done to explain what things like manga or cosplay are to the audience but I feel like the author could have done this himself.
    The weakest post I found was called Throwing Down the Gauntlet. This post may not have been an assigned post and may have simply been a personal posting, however there is nothing really substantial content here. The post is about encouraging people to look into student organizations even though it is dead week. There were no links and the post was very short. Instead of a blog post it seemed like a promotion announcement from the student life office here at WVU.
    The Next Blog I looked at was Mountaineats. This blog is dedicated to food news and reviews in Morgantown. One thing I noticed was the design being very sparse. There was also no about page, and all of the widgets were hidden at the very bottom of the page. All of this made the blog seem very bland. Even with this I still found the blog well written. The post I thought was the best was Tea Extravaganza. In this post, part of the feature Tuesdays with Jazz, the author talks about good places to find tea in Morgantown. The author reviewed his experience with different types of tea including the Bubble Tea from the Lavender Cafe. What I thought was really done well was how the author provided info about tea all over morgantown, while providing pictures of the spots and the tea. Another really strong part of this post was the fact that it followed what Briggs said in chapter 10 by making conversation. Briggs claims that responding to comments helps build the relationship between a journalist and the community, and in this post there were comments that the author responded to. There was a comment about how someone found the bubble tea strange, and the author agreed with her and shared his experience. This is an excellent example of taking steps in order to make your audience feel more involved with your content.
    The weakest post I found was the several consecutive posts about pizza. When scrolling down the reader just sees a large amount of stories that are all about pizza. They should have broken up this content instead of putting it all together. I can learn from this for the group blog by making sure there is a interesting level of diversity when it comes to post topics.
    Overall I found the Briggs chapter interesting, and found that it provided useful information about how to make your stories the best they can be when it comes to interactivity. In the chapter I found a very helpful list from the Huffington Post. They are the “rules of engagement” and include important things like sharing good responses, publicly correcting yourself, and addressing criticism without spats. In the chapter the senior editor from the Knoxville News Sentinel says that, “we publish fewer than 200 letters to the editor a month, but online readers posy nearly 50,000 comments a month.” This shows just how important it is to provide a place for online viewers to interact with the content they are reading, and the need for it to be an interactive experience.

  9. frostedtsaar says:

    Mountaineats is a very strong, very enjoyable to read student blog. I was really impressed by the variety of content, from their contests, their videos, features, and even the occasional word cloud. It is apparent that the keepers of the blog did their research and went location by location to find the best eats in Morgantown. Some of their stronger posts include one on a gelato place, in which the writer interviews the owner and delves into the difference between ice cream and gelato – a really substantial post! Another one I liked was their Tea Extravaganza post, in which they visited a number of different places and clearly did some research.

    In terms of incorporating some of these ideas into our own group blog, I really like that they got out on the street and did their research. For the most part, they appear to not just be restaurant reviews, but really found some obscure places that a college student in Morgantown would be interested in.

    However, a weaker post was their word cloud post which, while likely fulfilling part of an assignment for class, has nothing other than the word cloud itself. They could have used this as an opportunity to define their blog and advertise what they are about to their readers.

    In contrast, look at Graduation Preparation’s word cloud post, where they really incorporate the cloud into the post. Gradation Preparation has some very nice posts incorporating lists very well, but they struggle on a lot of “advice” posts that read only as the writer’s own opinion and add little to the conversation. They also have a few profiles that cover people that the reader has little motivation to care about.

    The takeaway from Graduation Preparation for me is the lists. In class we have been told again and again that lists are great, but I never really believed it inside. Graduation Preparation does a lot of lists and does them well, and those posts have the greatest response from readers in the comments section. They, like Mountaineats, follow the advice from Briggs regarding responding to reader comments and sharing good comments (p. 266).

    If Graduation Preparation had cultivated their news conversations better, they could have had better subjects for their profiles; subjects the audience actually cares about (p. 271). If our group blog incorporates profiles, polling the readers for whom they want to read about might be a good strategy.

  10. ryanfadus says:

    The first blog I looked at was MountainEats from 2011. This blog looks at different restaurants around the Morgantown area and then posts a review on them. Everything from service, to cleanliness, to how the food tastes and the approximate price of the food. These are all key pieces of information that people want to know and this blog does a very good job of going into detail about each restaurant. There are even a few posts that explain how to make things at home when you don’t feel like going out. Some of the strongest points of this particular blog are the amount of details the author goes into when describing the restaurant, not only giving their personal opinion, but also suggesting ideas to make it better. While it is unlikely that an owner of one of these places would see these posts, if they did however and they saw some things they could change, then it could be in their best interest to make those changes. As for the weaknesses, one is that the author does a good job of linking in certain articles, but fails to keep it up in other ones. This makes it seem a bit inconsistent and by linking more the author could better connect with the audience. Another thing the author could have incorporated in this blog was get quotes from people that were either at the restaurant or we going to it. This would allow readers to get another perspective on it and see what they thought as well as the author. With these two weaknesses in mind this something that I would consider using in the group blog. While what we come up with will probably be very different than this by adding a few more elements to it could make the blog very interesting as well as entertaining.

    The second blog I looked at was Mountaineers Connect from 2012. This blog takes a look at different places and events going on in Morgantown area. It has everything from school related activities such as the radio station to a Relay for Life event that some students put together. Some articles are longer than others and usually a decent amount of information is in each. This I feel is one of the weaknesses of this blog, some articles have more information for readers while others are short and contain a lot less information. While being straight forward is sometimes a good thing in other cases it is good to give the audience a bit more background on an event or place as well as anything that will be happening in the future. However, there some strengths that this blog has. For starters it incorporates some of things that I said the past one was missing; this blog has actually interviewed some people for some of the posts. Even though they may be short they do enough to give the audience the perspective of what is going on. While some articles are short and don’t contain a ton of information, they are easy to read and don’t overwhelm the reader. Sometimes longer posts get fatigue a reader, especially if they don’t add anything new after a while. By keeping them short the readers are able to connect more and may read more posts since they are less fatigued. As I said in my last review by adding interviews to the posts it can make them more interesting for readers. Another thing I would probably do is add a little more information to the posts to make sure readers understand it clearly.

    In the Briggs’ reading one section he talks about is getting a conversation through the comments. Both of these blogs do a good job of doing that, more so though with the Mountaineers Connect blog than MountainEats. There were several posts on the Mountaineers Connect blog that people commented on and the author responded with their own opinions. Much like Briggs talks about in the chapter, by commenting it doesn’t just allow the readers to connect with the author, but with others as well. Both of these blogs seem to do a good job of reaching people and while some posts have more comments than others it is still good to think that people have an important opinion to get out there.

  11. samanthacart says:

    I chose to read “#Gradstudentproblems” and “Move-in Morgantown” this week.

    The graduate student bog from 2012 is a compilation of issues faced by grad students and some posts on how to solve them. As a grad student myself, of course I enjoyed the focus of the blog. While every blog had an intended focus, of all the blogs I looked at, I thought this one did the best job of sticking to that original topic.

    I thought one of the strengths of the blog was that each week there was a theme chosen, and each person wrote within that theme. For example, during the week of April 9-13, each student focused their post around the theme “Where to Go From Here?” Post topics included teaching, fellowships, going back to work in journalism, how to land a job and international opportunities. This is a tactic I really want to take away from this blog and encourage my own group to follow. This will give our group blog cohesion and organization.

    While there were many enjoyable and relatable posts, I found that many of the posts incorporated un-sourced lists and how-tos. This is something we have talked about several times in class and something I have already been corrected on in my personal blog, so it is definitely something I would have done differently.

    One of the weaker posts I found was called “A Stranger in A Strange Land.” I originally stopped scrolling to read it because I thought it was going to be funny—it was about getting a graduate assistantship in a department you are unfamiliar with. Instead of a personal story that led to a greater insight, I found that it was just one of many posts that ended in a list. However, I think it had the potential to be a really good if it would have been expanded upon.

    A post I really enjoyed reading and that had a lot of good content was “Help for #GradSchoolProblems That Are Outside of Grad School.” In this post, Matt Murphy talked about how grad school can be all consuming and cause you to forget real world responsibilities. I thought the post was witty, related to the topic without being just another post about grad school and provided good information with good links.

    This blog coupled with its blog roll, which includes several other relevant and interesting grad student blogs, helped create and add to a greater conversation about graduate school.

    “Move-in Morgantown” is a blog about how to find a place to live in Morgantown, which I thought was a great idea for a local focus blog. The students did a good job of sticking with the focus, which I think can be attributed to the fact that they chose a topic so narrow, there was really no room to venture outside the focus. While I think this served them well for this assignment, I can also tell where they started to run out of ideas for new posts. However, I do want to find a very focused topic that my entire group can agree on, while also having enough content to post for the rest of the semester.

    Once again I found that this blog relied a lot on lists, and while I know everyone loves a good list, it seemed to be lists of ideas that the writer came up with. I chose a story about subleasing, because that is a huge issue in the Morgantown community. However, I thought the post could have gone more in depth about how to sublease instead of simply providing a list of things to consider when subleasing.

    I did enjoy the weekly reviews of different apartment complexes. I thought these were strong posts, a great idea for creating reoccurring, weekly content and a great way to use Google maps!

    Briggs talks about how journalists have grudgingly relinquished the “journalism as a lecture” concept for “journalism as a conversation” motto instead. Blogging is the perfect example of that (p. 264). Overall, I think this was a great idea for a local focus blog. However, I don’t know if it had the capability of adding to a larger conversation in the blogosphere. I think that Morgantown is really the only potential audience. However, I think that if this blog garnered a following in Morgantown, customer feedback could have helped it flourished.

    Briggs writes that “what began as comments on news stories and blog posts has mushroomed into full social networking tools on news sites” (p. 266), and I think this is also true for local focus blogging. If these students would have/could have taken this blog to the next level, comments and feedback from students who had actually lived in these places, had bad experiences with landlords, etc. could have led to more and better content, contributing to the larger “news as a conversation.”

  12. karleapack says:

    The first blog I chose to look at was “Move-In-Morgantown” (2010). I understood the title, at first, to be about stories of moving into places around town. Move-in days are the devil here, and I assumed it would be funny stories from people. I’m not sure why I thought that. I went on to read the about page where they briefly state the focus will be to write about the best and worst places to live in Morgantown, and later on will be investigating housing trends, prices, and new developments. As I read down through the blog posts, I was starting to get a feel that the about page really didn’t do a good job at covering all the bases that the posts covered. I struggled with my about page when I started my blog as well, hopefully seeing this happen on someone’s group blog will really help us avoid the same mistake. They stuck to where to live in Morgantown, and gave a lot of different reviews about the apartments/dorms available, but then they strayed out to how to eat and live cheap. I think if they would have placed more detail about this on their about page, it wouldn’t have been awkward stumbling upon a post about electricity. I really like the integration of maps, like we learned to do in class, along with videos and plenty of pictures of the places being reviewed. “Finding a Pool” was an awesome post and utilized visuals very well. Everyone loves a pool, and having one in a college-town apartment complex is sometimes hard to come by. They did a nice job at laying out how many places had pools, I had no clue we had so many here. The Street Review: Grant Avenue had five comments on it and that post seemed to get people voicing their opinions. Pretty much everyone in Morgantown knows where this street is and what goes on from house-to-house there, so this was one of the best posts to me. It appeals to majority of the school, and is very easy to engage in conversation, seeing as how most of us students have probably had a crazy night affiliated with that street. Also, the tips and lists on how to pack properly and early were some of my favorites because they appeal to everyone. All freshmen are assigned to their dorms so I’m not sure if the reviews for the dorms were really necessary. I have to pick this group of posts for the weakest of the whole blog due to the fact that it doesn’t appeal to everyone. I understand that it fit with the topic of reviewing places to live, but like I said before, I’m pretty sure we’re always assigned dorms because we have no clue what’s good or bad coming in to this town. I feel as if the reader of those posts would be an incoming freshman, which poses the problem of how they would even come across the blog.

    The second blog I chose to look at was “Mountaineats” (2012) because I just love food, and their simple layout seemed to keep my attention, which at times is very hard to do. My favorite post right off the bat was “Casa Revisited”, just for the sole purpose that it gave the funniest tip, “If you eat at Casa, you leave smelling like Casa.: Yes, I said it, it smells bad. If greasy isn’t your cologne of choice, then be sure to avoid eating here before any big public appearances.” It’s so funny, because it’s so incredibly true. Other than that, the post right after Casa seemed to utilize things we’ve learned in class the best. The author uses pictures very well and even incorporates a map, which makes it simpler for students who don’t go very far away from High St. to locate it. “Treat Yourself: To an easy and exotic dinner!” had a good idea behind it, but the only thing on the post was the video, which makes this the weakest post in my opinion. Hearing someone go through the very broad steps of making guacamole, and the other dishes so quickly may not be very appealing to some students who may not know the first thing about cooking. If I had written that post, I would have perhaps posted written recipes out below the video, in a step-by-step format like any recipe found online would do. Overall, I really liked the concept behind this group blog, it was fun reading the opinions of the authors and what they thought about the places to eat here. I liked how they kept it interesting with pictures, though I feel as if some of the authors linked, and others didn’t. We all know that linking is just another step to further the conversation, and I hope my team and I will be able to link effectively and get more traffic.

    Ever since news has become all about conversation, as Briggs states, “one of the greatest challenges facing journalists is how to manage, and leverage the conversation.” More interaction with readers by allowing them to analyze, share, comment, etc. the work can really benefit journalists, though sometimes this isn’t the easiest thing to do. As a whole, these blogs did pretty well at utilizing linking, making use of photos, videos, event listings, etc. as Briggs points out on making news participatory.

  13. rachelwvu says:

    Mountaineats
    http://mountaineats.wordpress.com/

    The Mountain Eats (2011) blog featured restaurants and bars in Morgantown. Its focus was very clear and they stayed on topic. I loved how they designated specific “weeks”, such as “pizza week”. Each of the contributors posted about a pizza place in the area.
    Strongest posts:
    http://mountaineats.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/jazz-loves-pizza-shift-ace/
    This post did a good job at adding voice along with useful information. I learned a lot, and the visuals were awesome. He had a picture of the entrance, which is helpful to people who can’t find it. He had photos from inside and his actual pizza. Also, I didn’t realize their hours were until 3:00 a.m. on weekdays. I’ll remember that the next time I wonder out of the bar on weekday…STARVING.
    http://mountaineats.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/gelato-in-morgantown/
    This post about the gelato stand contained a lot useful info such as bullet points explaining what gelato is and prices. It was easy to read because I didn’t have to read through half a page to get to the details.
    Briggs says it’s important to converse through comments. The two posts, Shift Ace and Gelato, had the most comments. People responded to the conversational approach of the contributors. In turn, they engaged with their audience through their post and comments. Briggs also notes the importance of making news participatory. These two posts, in particular, were interactive. I think that’s what makes them so popular.
    Weakest post:
    http://mountaineats.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/i-scream/
    This post about ice cream started off as a post about stink bugs. That’s not really adding voice. Everyone doesn’t relate stink bugs to ice cream. This could have been a really informative post, otherwise. The stink bugs kind of ruined it for me.

    • I think I would have designated one person to introduce the topic for the week more clearly. I had to guess about certain themes for certain weeks. I really like the concept of a clear topic that can branch out. Having themes for the week seemed to be easier to follow.

    The Eclectic
    http://morgantownlocals.wordpress.com/

    I had to go look at the “about page” to figure out what this blog’s focus. It was about all things Morgantown, which is very broad. Briggs says it’s important to collaborate with your community, and they do a good job at allowing the community to provide the “what”, while they answer the “why” and “how” questions. I think this is an important topic to cover, but their blog is too broad for my attention span. Contrary, the page design is nice. It stands out from the other blogs. I like that they added the RSS and Archive tabs.

    Strongest Post:
    http://morgantownlocals.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/morgantown-history-museum/
    This post about the Morgantown Museum was very interactive and received the most comments—Briggs would approve. I really enjoyed the historical photos. This posts also includes information on how to visit the museum, contact information, and how to schedule a tour. On the other hand, the writer seems to get off topic. She begins by talking about the World War II memorabilia then transitions to something about the items from the old theatre in Morgantown.

    Weakest Post:
    http://morgantownlocals.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/wvu-relay-for-life/
    This post about Relay for Life just doesn’t work. It’s a relevant and timely topic, but it only covered the event. The post would have been more substantial if the writer had featured the organization and mentioned the upcoming event. Also, the dark pictures are confusing and hard to see. Granted, he does indicate that the event started at 7 p.m. I think a two-part post would have been better. One post could feature the organization and the other post would follow up with the event.

    • I want our readers to know exactly what the blog will be about when they click on the home page. A descriptive name with a brief statement would serve the purpose. An about page should be secondary. I don’t know what the word “Eclectic” means, and the posts were too random.
    • If we have a broad topic, it might be a good idea to make separate tabs for each subtopic. For instance, they could have created tabs that linked to all the health posts, all of the event posts, all of the business posts—and so on. Another solution would be to assign the contributors specific beats. That way, the audience could seek out their interests more efficiently.

  14. cricha18 says:

    The first blog I decided to look at was “Mountaineers Connect” and in particular the blog post “Animal House.” From my understanding this blog is about places or things to do around Morgantown that helps connect WVU, in particular the students, with the Morgantown area. I like the concept of creating a blog that connects the university with the area by talking about aspects around town or on campus that creates those connections. I decided to read the “Animal House” since it was, honestly, the first blog I found on site. The blog talks about the pet shop, Animal House, and how it is very different from other pet shops in that it allows the animals to run more freely around the store. What this post does well is paint a picture of how the pet shop is operated and what types of animals people can expect to find there. I had a vivid image in my head of how the shop looks and all of the activity that goes on there. I think where this post falls short is creating a channel that opens up conversation. In the Briggs text it talks about how news and the media are putting more of an emphasis on allowing for conversation between reader and sender. This article talks about the pet shop, what goes on there and how you can volunteer there, but there is no real room for conversation. This post is great for telling a visual story with words and that is something that I hope to have in my own group blog.

    The second blog site I decided to look was the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Morgantown. It seems this blog site was created to help people, who may be new to the Morgantown area, get to know the place better (it seems really geared towards WVU students). I decided to read the Theater Art Challenge blog post mostly because of the length of the post. The post was a challenge to the readers to go out and attend certain events that were listed in the post. The post even has an interactive map and allows for the readers to see where things are. I really liked the concept of this post of trying to get the reader involved and get them out on the town to explore. The author even encourages the participants to tweet or Facebook their photos. All of this really encourages the readers to communicate with them and establishes a two-way channel between sender and reader. My only complaint with this blog post is that it’s very short, but given the nature of the post it’s not really a bad thing. I would love to apply similar methods to my own group blog by creating post that will encourage reader participation and opening up a communication channel.

  15. AbbyCampbell says:

    I was drawn to the blog Move-In Morgantown because I actually came across it last year when looking for apartments in Morgantown. I think this blog can be extremely useful to those looking for apartments for rent in the Morgantown area. Looking for a new place can be stressful and overwhelming especially in Morgantown due to shady landlords and run down buildings. I think the strongest posts on this blog are the posts that review specific apartments. I find these posts to be the most interesting to the audience of the blog and the most helpful. The weakest posts are posts about how to find a roommate and where to find a pool. I think these two especially do not offer as much information as they could. For example, the post on how to find a roommate could explore the use of social media. As far as keeping the conversation with the audience open, I think this blog would really benefit from incorporating feedback about specific apartments and allowing reviews from readers. Overall this blog has some really rich content with Google Maps, pictures, and lots of lists. There are several different kinds of posts that offer variety and different perspectives on the process of moving.
    The second blog I looked at is Graduation Preparation. Overall, this blog covers interesting content that appeals to a large and specific audience: college students. The strongest posts were posts with lists, links, and other rich content. For example, Graduation Blues offers a list of steps to take to reduce stress and depression about graduation. This post also includes a funny YouTube video and good use of links. I found that were many weaker posts that did not include enough outside information. For example, the post First Steps to Managing Money only includes one link and is too centered around the thoughts and opinions of the writer. Overall, the blog could use more outside content and less personal input. The conversation could be opened up with the audience by allowing them to offer their own experiences and then feeding off of this input. I think what I could take from this blog is making a blog that appeals to a large audience but on a local and relatable level.

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