Assignment #8: Best of the Blogosphere

February 23, 2015

As a final stage of your preparation for blogging excellence, you’ll be taking a look at blogs that ARE excellent (that’s not the same thing as the most popular blogs). You’ve been teamed up (see below) and assigned a category from this list of 100 exceptional blogs. Choose a blog from your category (each category has 10 choices), making sure it’s got meaningful content and is regularly updated. Your goal is to identify WHAT makes this blog good, whether it’s about U.S. Politics or Funny Cat Pictures. Tell us how it does what it does, and what we can steal learn from that.

Here are the teams:

  1. Mind-Meltingly Awesome Blogs & Websites: Joe & Logan
  2. For Guys: Dillon & Steven
  3. For Girls: Sierra & Carley
  4. News & Current Events: Abdulaziz & Collen
  5. Viral Sites: Mike & Lauren
  6. Super Interesting Blogs: Sara & Paige
  7. Technology: Alex & Karly
  8. Design, Art & Photography: Kristen & Renata
  9. General Lifestyle: Ryan & Matt
  10. Boredom Killers: Chad & Tyler

In next week’s classes, each pair will do a 5-8 minute presentation on your blog. Teams 1-5 will go Monday, and teams 6-10 will go Wednesday. You’ll need to address the following (providing on-screen examples):

  • Basics: Explain the blog, its content, its design and its voice. What does the About page tell you? Is it a stand-alone blog, or affiliated with a larger publication?
  • Audience: Who is this blog for? How do you know? How does it connect to that community?
  • Metadetails: What posts get the most hits? Has it been in the news? Does it advertise?
  • Overall: How well does the blog do what it sets out to do? Show some of its strongest posts (and its weakest)
  • Takeaway: What ideas from this blog can you incorporate in your own?

This should not be stressful (no, really). Approach the blog as a reader first and a student second. Think about what we’ve read thus far in providing your critique. What are your blog’s strengths and weaknesses? What can you and your classmates learn from it for your own projects?

NOTE: There will be no Read & Respond for this week. Instead, read your chosen blog!

Due: Presentations will be in class on Monday, March 2 (teams 1-5), and Wednesday, March 4 (teams 6-10). Extras such as handouts, audio/video, or lasers are not required, but are certainly welcome.

Read & Respond week 7: Data

February 19, 2015

This week we delve into data. You’re surrounded by it, but do you know how to use it as a blogger? As a journalist? As we discussed in our Mobility week, we’re increasingly devoted to technologies that track our movements, habits, and preferences; these trackers produce a wealth of data.

Consider Wikileaks, arguably “The game-changer in data journalism.” Approached with this massive wealth of data, The Guardian compiled phenomenally complex accounts of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and a collection of cables (communication dispatches) from the U.S. Embassy. Not only this, they made the data itself available to readers to make their own stories out of it.

Oh, and also the guy who gave them the data threatened to sue them.

What can you do with data in your own writing? What, if anything, have you done already? Here are a few more supplements to give you some ideas:

  • SKIM the Data Journalism Handbook, paying particular attention to the Introduction and Case Studies (I use this in my data visualization class – offered this fall!).
  • Poynter offers a “getting started in data journalism” guide with some good links and examples.
  • Have a look at the sample version of Paul Bradshaw’s Scraping for Journalists (free PDF) for some ideas on gathering data (Bradshaw’s Online Journalism Blog is a good resource too!)

Be sure to post your response to Briggs and the readings as a comment to this post by 10a Monday, February 23.

Assignment #7: Blog-a-Day Week

February 19, 2015

After blogging for several weeks, you should have a feel for what works, what doesn’t, and how to plan your attack. So far you’ve been doing sprints, but this week will be a 5K. Beginning with Monday, Feb. 23, you will post something EVERY day to your personal blog for a week (yes, this includes Saturday & Sunday). This will not be easy, but you can do it, and at the end you’ll have a newfound respect for those who do this every week.

Some rules and tips:

  • The first rule of Blog-a-Day Week is: We do NOT talk about Blog-a-Day Week! This means no posting about how hard it is to post every day, or other such metacommentary.
  • Likewise, no posting about how you don’t know what to post. Use the skills from previous challenges, ideas from your blogroll, synthesis posts, comments from other students … ANYTHING that leads to a substantive post!
  • As always, good posts will have rich content (links, videos, images, maps, etc.) and be connective. Now might be the time to check out that “Add Poll” button up at the top of your New Post window.
  • Scoring (10 pts total): Your Monday and Thursday posts count for your required weekly posts (5 pts each) and are NOT part of the assignment. The remaining five are worth 2 pts each.

DUE: Every day from Monday, Feb. 23 – Sunday, March 1 (seven posts in all)

So that’s it. Daunting, but I promise you’ll survive and learn some new skills. THIS is what a full-time blogger does. I strongly recommend writing a few posts in advance to keep from going insane. You might also want to check out the National Blog Posting Month website for advice and support – you can even sign up to win prizes.

Read & Respond week 6: Mobility

February 12, 2015

Here’s a vivid thought from @GeorgeBray:

The concept of Mobile First is informing considerable mass media practice. One of the up-and-coming areas in mobility is wearable technology, and its poster child was once Google’s Glass.

Do you find this fascinating, or do you want to slap the guy? The company pulled the plug on Glass in early 2015, but wearable technology is not going anywhere (get a load of the hedgehog-like iGel). Consider these perspectives:

Naturally, there are naysayers as well:

So how do you see wearable tech influencing the future of mobility? Be sure to post your response to Briggs and the readings as a comment to this post by 10a Monday, February 16.

Assignment #6: Storify

February 11, 2015

In Monday’s scavenger hunt, we used Twitter to report. Today, we’ll use another app, Storify, to condense that content into something that can accompany a news story or serve as a stand-alone narrative (this assignment is adapted from Dave Burdick’s tutorial)

The Assignment

Storify your scavenger hunt with the following:

  • All your own Tweets
  • Your top three favorite Tweets from clasmates
  • Your top five Tweets from other schools
  • At least five responses you made to students from other schools
  • Your Vine
  • Don’t just add all this content and think you’re done! You must also include a narrative (text) about the experience. Make it interesting, and make it worth reading.

Due: 10a Monday, Feb. 16. Publicize, adding #WVUblogJ and #JRLweb tags, and post link in comment to assignment post.

The How-To

Getting Started

  1. Go to and log in with your Twitter handle
  2. Browse through the stories there to get a feel for what’s possible
  3. Click the “Create Story” button at the top right of the screen and create a Storify page (choose Public Story) of your team’s scavenger hunt – each member creates one.
  4. This must be curated – not just a list of tweets – so include explanatory written detail, links, maps, and other information that fleshes things out

Adding content

  1. In the left panel, add a title and description for your story in the blanks, then write some intro text in the main frame.
  2. In the right “Media” panel, click the Twitter icon (the little blue bird) and type in “#WVUblogJ”
    • You can search users and keywords too, but start with this for now)
  3. Drag tweets and images from the right panel to where you want them in the left panel
    • You can click “Images” to just display images to use, “Timeline” for tweets a single user sees, and “User” for tweets from that user
  4. You can also include elements from Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram & Google by clicking the relevant tab on the right panel
  5. You can embed links to specific sites as well – just click the little chainlink icon, enter the URL, and drag it to your story (OR highlight the text to link, click the chainlink icon, and paste in the URL)
  6. Add text by mousing over blank areas before or after your content links. A yellow bar will appear. Click on any of these to enter text

Publishing your story

  1. At the top right of the left-hand window is a big, friendly blue “Publish” button – click it
  2. You’ll get a window with a Publicity message that lets you send this to Twitter or Facebook and also inform people you quoted
    • You can change these from their defaults to something better
    • You can skip this and send it later by clicking “Notify” at the top of your story panel
      • This is a great way to publicize what you’re doing to the people who helped you do it!
  3. If your Storify is associated with an actual news story (e.g., something in the DA or WVU News), and you’re embedding the Storify at the end, switch the default link to that of your story
    • NOTE: You can’t embed this code in a WordPress-hosted blog, but you can post to there by clicking “Export” (at the top)
    • To embed: Click “embed” (below the headline of your story) and copy/paste the resultant text to your story (or blog post).

Assignment #5: Twitter Scavenger Hunt

February 9, 2015

You’re all Twitter users (or so you’ve told me), but have you ever used it for non-personal ends? It can be a powerful tool for newsgathering as well. For the remainder of class today (Monday, February 9), you’re heading out into the world in teams of two (at least one of you needs a phone with the Twitter app) to find 10 things. You’ll need to complete the bulk of this assignment by the end of class.

IMPORTANT: To count, each tweet MUST include:

  • The number you are doing (e.g., 1. Joe Smith: “I love WVU”)
  • The hashtags #WVUblogJ and #JRLWeb
  • EXAMPLE: “3. Prof. Biggins (Econ): It’s made protesting easier, but also more identifiable. #WVUblogJ #JRLWeb”
  •  Restrictions: Stay out of Martin Hall, no College of Media profs, and no more than half can come from Mountainlair

And now … the list!

  1. School spirit! Photo and quote from someone (not you or your partner) revealing school or civic spirit (what that means is up to you. Be creative.)
  2. Eating Up: Photo and quote (not you or your partner) from your favorite eating spot or watering hole on or near campus.
  3. Professor on the street. Photo and quote from a professor on campus. Ask them what role they think social media plays in our society today. Be sure you include the professor’s title and department.
  4. Student on the street. Photo and quote from a student. Ask them where they get their news and if they use social media to keep up on the news. Be sure you include their year in school and major.
  5. Academic excellence. Photo and quote that reveals (you are going to have to be creative) how your school contributes to cutting edge research and/or learning.
  6. Scenic spot. Photo of your favorite scenic spot on or near campus.
  7. Little-known fact. Photo and quote of something you think many people might not know about your school or campus or city.
  8. Fanatic fans – Photo/quote from somebody asking for their prognosis on the remainder of the basketball season, or other sport of your choice.
  9. Extracurricular extravaganza: Photo and quote that exemplifies some of the huge variety of clubs, organizations, etc. available to students at our university.
  10. Freestyle: Your very own final unique tidbit of information/photo about our campus or city. Be creative.

When complete (these must also include both hashtags):

  • VINE CHALLENGE: Submit an interesting/funny/relevant Vine about your school (don’t forget the hashtags)
  • INTERCOLLEGIATE CROSSTALK: When you are done, or even while you are going, respond to at least 5 students at other universities.
  • STORIFY: We’ll start this in Wednesday’s class, but if you’d like to prepare in advance, it will include the following: a)All of your own Tweets b)Your top three favorite Tweets from your classmates c)Your top five Tweets from other schools. d)At least five responses you made to students from other schools. In this Storify, reflect on what you learned and observed from the experience.


  • Scavenger hunt: Majority must be done by end of class today
  • Vine and Retweets: Due by 10a Wednesday, Feb. 11
  • Storify: We’ll make this in class on Wednesday, Feb. 11

A Few Tips:

  • Provide an introductory Tweet or two explaining what you are doing and introducing the members of your team. You may use either of your accounts or both. Doesn’t matter as we are using the hashtag to organize the Tweets.
  • Think like a reporter. Have an eagle eye for the interesting, the important, the relevant, the unique, and the immediate. Double check your facts.
  • Think like a public relations professional. Show other people what’s cool about WVU.
  • Think like a storyteller. You may only have 140 characters in each tweet (actually 120, minus the 20 for your hashtags), but you can say a lot in a few words or using an image.
  • You may use more than one Tweet for each of the items below. Don’t overdo it, though, and don’t forget the #WVUblogJ and #JRLWEB hashtags!
  • 140 characters isn’t much. Try using tricks like Vine, , and others to make it easier.

This is going to seem a little strange to some of you, but the goal is to reveal to you the journalistic applications of Twitter. You need to be an observer, a reporter, and you can’t be afraid to accost people on the street for their opinions. You’ll provide perspective and voice, and you’ll tell a larger audience something about your subject (WVU, in this case) – make sure you’re thinking of them!

Read & Respond week 5: Twitter and microblogging

February 5, 2015

This week is about all things Twitter, so Briggs’ chapter on microblogging fits nicely with a platform where you’re limited to 140 characters or less. You’re probably familiar with microblogging but may never have heard the term. Check out these examples – did it surprise you to learn you’ve been a microblogger for years?

Twitter’s the most widely known venue for microblogging, so poke around in some of these links:

As always, post your response a comment to this post by 10a Monday, February 9.

In-Class #2: HTML2

February 4, 2015

This week, we start with the foundation from last time and add lists and styles (learned this in this week’s Codecademy module: Web Fundamentals: HTML Basics II):

Remember these basics for coding and previewing your work:

To preview in TextWrangler:

  1. In Chrome, go to File > Open File… and open “index2.html”
  2. Command-Tab to select TextWrangler and write code
  3. Command-Tab to select Chrome and Command-R to refresh your webpage

You’ll do the following:

  1. Use/create WWW folder; create “index2.html”; add structural tags
  2. Create a comment inside that says “In-class assignment #2: HTML2”
  3. Create a first-level heading and an intro paragraph
  4. Create a second-level heading and an ordered list of your top three books, movies, or bands
  5. Create a fourth-level heading and an unordered list of skills you possess
  6. Add a fourth item to the ordered list (step 4) and add an image to it
  7. Change background color of page
  8. Change style of top headline to Verdana font family, a different color, and centered alignment
  9. Change style of your intro paragraph to 30px, a different color, and centered alignment