Read & Respond week 16 (part 2) – Pick the winners

December 4, 2018

And here’s the last part of your final read & respond! You’ll be assessing your own work, based on the material you provided me. Based on the following examples, you’ll be voting (via this Google Forms ballot) on the following categories.

NOTE: If your name doesn’t have links, you need to provide them to me!

ALSO NOTE: You’re not expected to read all these links – you’ve already read a lot of your classmates’ work during reviews and commenting – just use them for reference!

Group Blog Honors

Note: You can’t vote for your own group unless otherwise indicated!

The Groups (group-selected posts are linked):

The Categories

  1. Best Post on a Group Blog (can’t vote for your own post, but can vote for a post by your group)
  2. Best Group Blog Headline
  3. Most Improved Group Blog
  4. Best Group Blog Overall
  5. Best Use of Additional Content
  6. Best Social Media Presence

Personal Blog Awards

Note: You can’t vote for yourself!

The Personal Blogs (best posts provided by you)

First Last Post 1 Post 2
Brie Autry Post 1 Post 2
Alex Balog Post 1 Post 2
AJ Barnes Post 1 Post 2
Taylor Brown Post 1 Post 2
Te’a DiNapoli Post 1 Post 2
Katie Forcade Post 1 Post 2
Brooke Hawthorne Post 1 Post 2
Aaron Host Post 1 Post 2
Megan Irwin Post 1 Post 2
Marshall Kesterson Post 1 Post 2
Patrick Kotnik Post 1 Post 2
Xavier Leroy Post 1 Post 2
Alexis Piatkowski Post 1 Post 2
Kenna Richards Post 1 Post 2
Christine Robinson Post 1 Post 2
Olivia VanHorn Post 1 Post 2
Dan Walsh Post 1 Post 2
Erica Young Post 1 Post 2

The Categories

  1. Best Post on a Personal Blog
  2. Best Personal Blog Headline
  3. Most Improved Personal Blog
  4. Best Personal Blog Overall


Nominate another blogger for best uses of audiovisual, non-audiovisual, and social media content.

Nominate another blogger for a “Most/Best ____” category (e.g., Best use of GIFs, Most Likely to Proofread Everyone’s Work)

Nominate yourself for something at which you think you excel (e.g., Best Interviewer of Homeless Persons) or perhaps are notorious for (e.g., Most Likely to Get Caught Texting)

The usual deadline applies, but you don’t have to respond as a comment. Instead, complete the ballot on Google Forms by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4.

How to create a thematic (data) map

December 3, 2018

Here’s a guide to creating your own heat map, adapted from this tutorial.

Getting the data into a Fusion Table

  1. Sign in to Google Drive
  2. Download this dataset (a .csv list of insects)
  3. In Drive, go to New > More > Google Fusion Tables (if you don’t have that option, go to More > +Connect More Apps, type “fusion tables” in the search bar and click the Connect button)
  4. Type “fusion tables” in the search bar and click the Connect button
  5. In the window, browse to find the .csv you downloaded to your computer and click Next. Review how the data looks and click Next
  6. Give it a name (“Butterflies”) and click Finish
  7. Check out your table of data and images

Map the data

  1. Click the “map of latitude” tab at the top of your table
  2. Click the dots in the map to view individual entries’ data
  3. The Google tutorial also provides directions for making those pop-up windows more readable. Scroll down to “customize the info window template” and try it out!

Make a heat map

  1. Download the “population” and “states.kml” files I’ve sent you
  2. Create a new fusion table with the “population” file (click Next and Finish)
  3. At the top of the spreadsheet this creates, there’s a map tab. Click this, and Fusion Tables will geocode the locations (states) you’ve provided as points
  4. In a NEW window (important), go through same steps to create a second Fusion Table with “states.kml”
  5. Go back into the “population” Fusion Table and click File > Merge
    • Select “states”
    • In the window, for “This table” select “Region” and for “states” select “Name” – click Next
    • Uncheck “description” and “id” and click Merge
  6. To change from dots to shapes, click “change feature styles” in the left menu and select Polygons > Fill color
  7. Select “Gradient” and in that window, select “show a gradient” for the “population” column”
  8. Click “use this range” and click the plus buttons so there are five categories
  9. You SHOULD get a map with states shaded in colors that are darker with higher population levels
  10. To adjust those categories, go back into “change feature styles” and switch to the Buckets tab, click the “Divide into ____ buckets” button, change the number to 5, and adjust the categories (you’ll need to change the colors for this – I like to use to find these)
  11. Try searching for other state data and mapping it (use the filetype:.csv to help out)

Read & Respond week 16 (part I) – Best of US

December 2, 2018

This one’s a two-parter, but don’t worry – both parts are easy!

For our final week, we’ll be assessing our own work. For this first part, you’ll need to provide me that work! First, give yourself a quick refresher of your best stuff (personal and group) this semester. Take note of the following:


  • Best two posts
  • Best headline
  • Best added content (maps, podcasts, etc)


  • Best three posts
  • Best headline
  • Best added content (maps, podcasts, etc)

Submit your nominations using this Google Form ballot. We’ll finalize things and begin voting in Monday’s class. I realize this one came up pretty late, so do the best you can to complete it before class (as I said, it won’t take long). If you REALLY can’t swing it, you can finish up in class.

Read & Respond week 14 – Video

November 8, 2018

This week’s readings are mostly viewings. Once upon a time, this unit involved the late, lamented Vine (for those not in the know, Vine was an app that let you create and share six-second videos; Twitter bought them, and that was that). That time limit and focus on speed and sharing made it a tremendous place for creativity (and weirdness), and it might be why the app couldn’t last. Check out some of these applications:

(Why am I having you read examples from a dead app? Because I want you to see what journalists and mass communicators did with this weird little thing. Innovation is our focus, after all: When you see something new, your first thought could be “how could I do journalism with this?”)

Vine may be gone, but live video’s having a moment. My friend Mike is involved with the Purple Martin cam up at Presque Isle in Erie, Pa., which is a live camera pointed at a purple martin nest all day.

You may think a bird’s nest wouldn’t draw much interest, and you would be wrong – the cam was a surprise hit, with people logging on throughout the day to watch (and comment on) the activities of the birds (check the comments on that video if you don’t believe me). Elsewhere, scientists are livestreaming marshes, and entertainment like gaming has become big business largely thanks to streaming popularity on YouTube and apps like Twitch (as in this example for a mobile game).

Naturally, the big kids want to play. Facebook lets you livestream with Facebook Live, and Periscope, another app gobbled up by Twitter, now powers Twitter Live (not much for originality in naming over there). Facebook has even fiddled with letting viewers skip to the good part – think of it as semi-livestreaming. This is our current social media world: Ideas live, they die, they live again (but under new management).

Livestreaming is inarguably changing the media landscape. Do you livestream? Is it something you’d try? Consider these suggestions from Poynter on how to do it (have a plan, don’t waste my time, make sure you’re adding value…). How can we apply this to the practice of journalism, and what are its problems?

As part of your overall response, propose a livestreaming topic that would compliment your personal or group blog. When and how would you do it? What would you need to prepare in advance? We’ll discuss further in this week’s classes.

Post your responses in a comment to this post by 11:59 p.m., Sunday, November 11.

Read & Respond week 13 – Group Work So Far

November 4, 2018

For this week, we’re going to take a look at our own work. I’d like you to read through the first two weeks of posts by one of the other groups. Assignments are as follows:

ADDED: Take a moment and click through your classmates’ surveys to aid in their future work. They’re short!

For your responses, which you’ll post as a comment to this post as usual, I want you to identify the following:

  • Which posts were the strongest (and why they’re so good)
  • Which posts were the weakest (and how they might be improved)
  • Overall take on the blog and how it displays the group’s online journalism skills
  • What you’d suggest (general ideas; specific posts) for the rest of the semester

Post your responses by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4.

UPDATE: This post didn’t auto-post when it was scheduled to, so I’m extending this deadline until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Read & Respond week 11 – Audio

October 19, 2018

When we think blogging, we think writing. Recent weeks have emphasized images and other tools, but things still seem to come back to the written word. Briggs, in this week’s chapter on audio, proposes some ways to emphasize sound over sight. We’ll focus on one: Podcasting. Over the next several classes, you’ll be hearing from podcasters and planning out a podcast with your group to record in our own studio here in the Media Innovation Center. Read on, and think about what you might have to say.

What’s a podcast?

You could think of a podcast as an audio blog post. Instead of reading, you can download and listen, which is helpful if you like to do your “reading” while exercising, cooking, or doing something else. The process can be simple or complex, but it boils down to four basic steps:

  1. Plan
  2. Record
  3. Convert/Upload
  4. Promote

This guide from DigitalTrends gets into more detail, but at minimum you need a theme (and usually some guests), a topic, a mic, and a (free) copy of Audacity; anything more can give a cleaner, more polished product but isn’t absolutely necessary.

With special guest, Trey Kay!

We’ll be joined this week by Trey Kay of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, host and producer of the “Us & Them” podcast. In preparation, I want you to check out some of his pods from Us & Them and Red State/Blue State.

The best part is, you don’t have to sit at your computer for this assignment. Cue them up on your phone and go for a jog (or brisk walk)!

Want more?

Audiences listen to podcasts via apps such as Stitcher (free), iTunes, or just listening to them streaming online. If you’d like some examples beyond the WVPB ones above, consider these examples of the form:

Your response this week should be enjoyable: Listen to some podcasts, especially if you never have. Pick some from the links above, or find some of your own. How do these (and Briggs’ other audio subject) inform your work? Have you now decided blogging is dead, and you’re going to become a podcaster instead?

In addition, what’s a subject (ideally one relevant to your group blog) you could see running an approximately 10-minute podcast on? Would you have guests, or would it just be you and your groupmates? What are some questions/topics you can set up in advance to avoid the dreaded Dead Air? Post your responses by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, October 21.

How to write a simple chatbot (part II)

October 17, 2018

Last time you learned the basics of making a rule-based chatbot that can respond to some basic triggers (hi, yes, no, maybe, what is the meaning of life). Nifty but not too journalistic, so now we’re going to progress toward making a simple on-the-rails explainer using buttons.

For a great example of this, remember the Quartz News (nee Quartzy) chatbot from class. The bot may seem complex, but if you walk through a story, you actually have very few options – many checkpoints only provide a single option, and the ones that provide more quickly return to the main story. This simple engagement, coupled with a distinctive voice and an interesting story, provides a way to relate the news via your bot, and it’s pretty much all done with buttons. Let’s make one!

Your first button

Select your bot from last time and go into Edit mode (the pencil icon). We’ll keep our hi/Hello There! first interaction, but we’ll have our bot follow it up with a button to direct the reader’s next step.

Your first two lines of code should say:

+ hi

– Hello there!

Hit return twice and add the following:

+ intro button


Add a space after the – and leave your cursor there. Do the following:

  • Click the button icon at the top of the edit panel (second from the left).
  • This adds the button code, which will look like this: ^buttons(First Choice, Second Choice, Third Choice)
  • The text is all placeholders. The only things you can’t change are the punctuation marks ^ and ()
  • Delete everything in the parentheses and replace it with “What are you?
  • Back at the top, after “Hello There!” add a space the code {@ intro button} so the button will show up after the robot is triggered with “hi”

Right now you’ve created a button that doesn’t go anywhere – give it a try! Next, we’ll make it do something.

  • Add a new trigger: “what are you” (no quotes)
  • Add the response “I’m a bot!

Publish and try it out! Your code should now read:

+ hi
– Hello there! {@ intro button}

+ intro button
– ^buttons(What are you?)

+ what are you
– I’m a bot!

Did it work? If not, go through our troubleshooting list (is it published? are there capitals or punctuation in triggers? did you add the {@ intro button} code in your bot’s first response?). If not, check in with me and we’ll see.

Adding more buttons

This is the simplest button scheme you can have – there’s only one choice! What I’d like you to do now is add in a second option for the reader who already knows what a bot is. Back in the response to + intro button, add a comma after What are you? and add a second option, Who made you? At the bottom of your code, add this new trigger/response pair:

+ who made you

– You did, silly!

Publish and try it out! If it fails, run through the usual steps, which you should be getting pretty good at.

Tell me a story

Now you know how to write button code with ^buttons() and how to call that code with { }. From here, we’re going to turn this to something more practical. Identify a simple story related to your interests that can be told in three stages (plus an introduction). Think again of the Quartz News example – we’d call this an explainer – and don’t overthink it!

  • Keep it short and conversational!
  • Each stage should progress via a single button
  • Try at least one stage with two buttons

When you’re done, go to the deploy menu, click the switch that deploys your bot (it won’t work otherwise, as we learned last time), paste the code at and give it a try. If it works, go to this link (it’s a Google Doc) and add your chatbot (with your name and description) to the list. Let’s see what you come up with!